Legislation Would Facilitate Administration of Assistance to Vulnerable Individuals During Emergencies
(TRENTON) – Legislation Assembly Democrats Craig Coughlin and Jamel Holley sponsored to advance disaster preparedness by helping ensure that New Jersey’s seniors, people with disabilities and others in need of special assistance receive aid during emergencies was signed into law Monday by the Governor.
“In an emergency situation, time is of the essence. The faster authorized personnel can find and assist those who need help, the better,” said Coughlin (D-Middlesex). “If they have a directory with the names and addresses of individuals in need of special assistance, municipal police, fire and first aid and rescue units will be better equipped to locate these members of their community quickly, deliver the necessary services and save lives.”
The bill (A-2741) would authorize municipal governing bodies to pass ordinances requiring the municipal clerk to create and maintain confidential contact lists to help ensure the safety of residents who may require special assistance during an emergency.
The municipal list would include the name, address and special circumstance of each resident who voluntarily self-identifies as being in need of special assistance in case of an emergency. The clerk would provide copies of the list, which would not be a public record, only to police departments, fire departments and first aid or rescue squads serving the municipality.
Under current law, counties already are authorized to maintain such registries.
“A disaster can be catastrophic for everyone in a community, but when it comes to vulnerable individuals – for example, our seniors and those with disabilities or illnesses that may limit mobility – not being to leave the situation or call for help may be particularly tragic,” said Holley (D-Union). “When municipalities know to be on the lookout for these individuals, it can help ensure that no one in the community gets left behind.”
The measure gained unanimous approval in the Assembly in September and approval by the Senate in December, 36-0.