While Long Valley has never been under attack or been physically affected by a terrorist threat, the events that took place on Sept. 11, 2001 were an eye-opener, and urged a change in how preparedness is created here.
Washington Township is now better prepared for a terrorist attack than it was 10 years ago, according to some of the town’s officials.
“We were complacent back then,” said Washington Township Mayor Ken Short. “We learned that bad things certainly do happen, and we need to be prepared for them.”
Over the past decade, the Washington Township Office of Emergency Management has become much more proactive in being prepared for an attack, Short said. Meetings between the township committee and the OEM are more structured and focused on how to be prepared in all situations, Short said.
Short also said the township has created a STRIKE team of firefighters that would be able to respond in case of an emergency, and pump water for neighboring towns in the event of a major fire.
“There’s a much better communication for infrastructure,” said Washington Township Police Chief Michael Bailey. “There’s more information sharing and training.”
Four of the department’s officers take part in six to eight training sessions each year regarding attacks, Bailey said. “Since 9/11, we’ve done a lot. The training is ongoing and we’re better equipped to handle something like that now,” Bailey said.
Those officers–Det. Bratus, Det. Fellini, Officer Hade and Cpl. Burns–have been trained on equipment designed to handle a radiation attack and other forms of terrorism, Bailey said.
While Washington Township’s fire department is made up of all volunteers, they too have taken part in different training exercises over the past decade, according to Fairmount Fire Company Chief Dave Steinel.
New and veteran firefighters alike have taken terrorism training and learned how to respond to an attack, in addition to understanding how to react to a bomb situation, Steinel said.
“We now have to have proper identification when responding to a call, which began after the (9/11) attacks,” Steinel said. “Fortunately, because we’re in such a rural area, those kinds of situations haven’t presented themselves or affected us.”
The township has created a medical volunteer camp consisting of registered nurses and doctors in the area that would make themselves available for aid in the event of an attack, Short said.
As with any emergency, the Long Valley Middle School has been designated as a town shelter, and would be used in the event of an attack. The township has coordinated 56 buses to bring residents to the shelter if roads needed to be closed, Short said.
“A lot goes on behind closed doors with this type of coordination,” Short said. “We’re definitely better prepared now.”