In light of the recent articles concerning Atlantic City and its emergency sheltering operations, I would like to set the record straight.
Any facility that is designated as an emergency shelter must meet a strict set of standards. These include emergency lighting, food, water, sleeping accommodations and medical care.
Atlantic City identified five locations that would serve as long-term emergency shelters and shelters of last resort. Shelters of last resort are intended only for individuals who are unable or unwilling to evacuate to more permanent shelters off the island and cannot otherwise be accommodated. However, these locations were presented to Atlantic City residents as an option to offshore evacuation.
In an Oct. 28 Press article, Tom Foley, director of the city's Office of Emergency Management, said: "Last year, our residents were on buses for hours, and taken to shelters all over the state. That was unacceptable and won't happen again."
The story went on to note that the city can accommodate 3,000 people at its own shelter sites that opened at noon the day before the worst of the storm was predicted.
This message assuredly encouraged many residents to seek shelter on the island rather than deal with the difficulties inherent in evacuating offshore.
Most of the shelters Atlantic City established were unable to meet the needs of those who were being housed there. Problems that occurred during and after the storm included flooding around the site and inside the facility, and no backup generators or emergency power. Other locations lacked enough food, water, cots, blankets and other basic needs. Many of these people were relocated. These difficult conditions prompted supplies to be brought in by the state and county during the storm.
The situation in Brigantine was much different. Its shelter of last resort was just that. It was properly stocked, supervised and had a backup emergency generator.
Atlantic City's plan and emergency operations will be reviewed to ensure the same deficiencies do not occur during another storm.
Director , Atlantic County Office
of Emergency Management
Egg Harbor Township