From the Cities: Meet David Berez, OEM HT Coordinator

The mission of the Office of Emergency Management (OEM) is to protect life and property in the event of an emergency. It is responsible for reducing the vulnerability of communities to hazards and disasters by creating a framework that promotes safer and less vulnerable communities. It helps them increase their ability to deal with actual or impending natural disasters, acts of terrorism or other man-made disasters. The Emergency Management Coordinator prepares detailed response plans for all natural and man-made disasters and works with other local, county and state authorities to protect the community. (NJOEM 2019)

Hopewell Township OEM is led by OEM Coordinator David Berez. The station also serves the boroughs of Pennington and Hopewell. The OEM Coordinator, along with the Assistant Coordinators, communicates directly with Borough OEM Coordinators for contingency planning and real-time emergencies.

Berez was hired by the township in October 2021 to serve as OEM coordinator and to lead the office of emergency management. His work experience includes a 20-year law enforcement career with the East Windsor Police Service, which he retired from in January 2020. He was also an EMT volunteer with the East Windsor Rescue Team. East Windsor for 10 years and the Uniondale Fire Department in New York for four years. In addition to being an OEM coordinator, he is the founder and president of Six 4 Consultants, LLC, a public safety consulting firm. He holds degrees from Hofstra University, certificates from Texas A&M, and completed the NJ OEM Basic Workshop in Emergency Management.

Hopewell Township OEM is also made up of three assistant coordinators; Matthew Martin, Hopewell Emergency Services Chief; Hopewell Emergency Services Lt. Joshua Wilson; and Will Mullen, of the Hopewell Police Department and former Hopewell Borough Fire Chief. All are NJ certified emergency handlers. Rounding out the Hopewell Valley team are Pennington Borough OEM Coordinator Ken Baker (retired US Army Colonel and former Director of the US Army War College, Center for Strategic Leadership) and Hopewell Borough OEM Coordinator Michele Hovan (trustee of Hopewell Borough).

Over the past five months, the team has worked hard to review the Municipal Emergency Operations Plan, which must be completed every five years, to gain county and state certification. This review process has been completed for the three municipalities of the Valley and has been accepted by the State. We also worked with Valley residents affected by Hurricane Ida to request FEMA assistance. The OEM team has practiced using the new statewide system, EMMIT, and will participate in drills in late March.

Hopewell Township OEM is part of the government’s emergency management system, which includes county, state and FEMA. This is a “whole community” approach, as preparedness is a shared responsibility. By working together, everyone can protect the nation from harm and remain resilient, especially when hit by natural disasters, acts of terrorism, pandemics, etc.

In summary, even though the Hopewell Township OEM is part of a larger system, it is important to recognize that all disasters start and end locally. Municipal government is the first line of formal public responsibility for emergency management activity. Resource support will come from county, state and federal agencies only when local resources are exhausted. At the local level, they are responsible for planning, activating, coordinating, and conducting emergency management operations within the municipality (NJSA App. A:9-40.4). They work with local government departments and private sector organizations to develop plans and capabilities that address the hazards most likely to threaten our community. They generally cooperate and coordinate with the county to prepare, review and update the municipal emergency operation plan. If necessary, they will declare a local state of emergency, coordinate resource requests and provide situation reports to the county emergency management office. Additionally, they are required to “take appropriate steps to inform the public of the resources available in the event of an emergency and the importance of emergency preparedness planning.” (NJSA App A:9-43.1c)

If you want to learn more about the Emergency Management System, visit the NJOEM website, https://nj.gov/njoem/index.shtml. To contact the Hopewell Township Emergency Management Office, call the OEM Coordinator at 609-439-8775 or email me at dberez@hopewelltwp.org. In case of emergency, please dial 9-1-1.

Submitted by the Township of Hopewell

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