Chatter about Hurricane Irma increases in volume and density as the storm closes in on southern Florida. Toms River emergency staffers and police employ an ounce of prevention, with free sand for bagging and reminders for being prepared well ahead of time.

Courtesy Toms River Emergency Management Facebook
Courtesy Toms River Emergency Management Facebook

Township Emergency Management Coordinator Paul Daley says that while closely monitoring Irma's path, he and his staff have placed a sandpile near police headquarters on Oak Avenue, and stocked a supply of about 11,000 bags as well.

The bags are free of charge, and can be obtained at the Toms River OEM office, Monday through Friday, 8:30 AM until 4:30 PM. Reserve them at 732-341-3267. "All you need to bring with you is a shovel," Daley said. "Pick them up at police headquarters, and if you can't get out, we'll deliver them to Toms River residents."

At this point, Daley and the staff are updating their Facebook page about twice a day. It's a useful page to bookmark as Atlantic hurricane season crests.

"Pay attention to weather forecasts," he advises. "We've been in touch with fire and EMS [coordinators], making sure that our equipment is up to date and our plans our in place. That's what residents should do also."

At the foundation is a family emergency plan, with methods of staying in contact, designated meeting spots, and predetermined destinations if evacuation becomes necessary, such as relatives in driving distance who are out of harm's way.

Take a few precautions before leaving, beyond attaching plywood to the windows. For example, enclose any lawn furniture, decorations and gadgets that can become mini-missiles in strong winds.

"Bring important papers with you," Daley suggests, "medications, phone lists to contact friends and relatives."

But, since even "mandatory" evacuations legally can't involve forcible removal from home, sheltering in place is the other, sometimes not advisable, option.

In that case, Daley says, a water supply is essential. "If you can, fill you bathtub, fill your sinks, fill jugs with water," he said.

Also, "Be sure your phones are all charged. Have a supply of batteries, and if possible, a hand-cranked radio. Have plenty of food on hand, be sure you've got emergency contacts, so your family members know where you are and what you're doing."

Paul has been, and will continue to be, a fixture on our web and Facebook pages if Irma becomes a shore crisis, and for future emergencies as well.

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