It doesn’t seem possible, but with water at New Jersey beaches still a very chilly 62 degrees, it’s hurricane season again. There have already been hours and hours of news coverage of Hurricane Alberto. The fact that the storm was relatively tame, and in fact well below hurricane strength when it hit central Florida, makes no difference. Not after last year. We know the worst a hurricane can do, and, as the Red Cross of Central New Jersey reminds us, New Jersey, the only state surrounded on three sides by water, needs to be ready for the worst.

Here is the Red Cross’s plea to all families and businesses in central New Jersey:

There is no way to know how many hurricanes will make landfall this hurricane season or how much damage they may wreak. However, we do know that New Jersey is vulnerable to severe storms that may bring flooding, damage from high winds, and power outages. Last year it was a merely a thunderstorm sitting over Middlesex County that caused flooding in the Jamesburg area and heavy rains caused the Delaware to spill its banks and flood parts of Mercer and Hunterdon counties.

The American Red Cross of Central New Jersey asks that we all use the beginning of hurricane season as a call to action to get prepared for any disaster — especially one that may separate you from your family. If you haven’t already, the time to prepare is now. Create a personal disaster plan and build a disaster supplies kit, it won’t take much time or cost a lot of money.

“Should Central New Jersey be threatened by a hurricane this season we would prefer that residents are making sure that disabled and elderly residents in their communities are taken care of as opposed to spending hours frantically searching for critical relief supplies in crowded stores,” Paul Carden, director of emergency services for American Red Cross of Central New Jersey, said in a prepared statement. “Wouldn’t you also find some peace of mind in the fact that you have a family communication plan — a plan detailing where you and your family would go should you need to evacuate your home during any time of disaster and how to locate family members should you be separated?”

Knowing what to do in an emergency situation is your best protection. Details on preparing a disaster plan and disaster kits follow.

Prepare a personal disaster plan.The American Red Cross, the National Weather Service, and the Federal Emergency Management Agency urge each and every family to develop a family disaster plan.

Get your family ready. Meet with your family to create a plan. Discuss the information you have gathered and why it is important to prepare for a disaster. Show and explain to each family member how and when to turn off the water, gas, and electricity at the main switches, and how to use a fire extinguisher. Remember, if the gas is shut-off, only a professional can turn it back on.

Plan a rendezvous. Identify ahead of time where you would go if public officials told you to leave your home. Choose several different places — a friend’s home outside of the affected area, a motel, or a shelter.

Ensure communication. Have a battery-powered radio in an easy-to-find place, and make sure that it has fresh batteries. Then listen to local media broadcasts or NOAA Weather Radio for the latest storm conditions.

If you are told to evacuate, do so immediately.

Pack ahead of time. In case you have to evacuate, be sure to bring your disaster supplies kit, including medications, extra clothing, pillows and blankets, and other hygiene and comfort supplies, along with copies of essential papers and documents.

Plan for your pets. Be sure to make advanced safety preparations for your pets. Be aware that pets are not allowed in Red Cross shelters. Contact your local humane society or veterinarian for suggestions.

Designate a contact. Ask an out-of-town friend or family member to act as “family contact” for everyone to call in case of separation. It is often easier to call long distance after a disaster than to make local calls.

Assemble a disaster supplies kit. Gather enough emergency supplies to meet your needs for at least three days. Store these supplies in sturdy, easy to carry, water resistant containers. It’s also a good idea to keep a smaller kit in the trunk of your car. Your disaster supplies kit should include:

A three-day supply of water (one gallon per person per day) and ready-to-eat canned goods, such as tuna fish, peanut butter, crackers, canned fruit, juice boxes, etc. Please remember that you want to replace stored water and food every six months.

A battery-powered radio, flashlight and plenty of extra batteries.

A manual can opener

Copies of important documents, including birth certificates, insurance policies, and social security cards. Your original documents should be secured in a locked box or safety deposit box.

Comfortable clothing and footwear.

One blanket or sleeping bag per person.

A first aid kit, including prescription medicines.

Emergency tools, including tools to turn off utilities.

An extra set of car keys.

Cash/credit cards.

Special items for infant, elderly, or disabled family members

An extra pair of glasses or contact lenses.

Rehearse. Practice and maintain your plan. Ask questions to make sure your family remembers meeting places, phone numbers and safety rules. Conduct drills.

Unite with your neighbors. Something else to keep in mind is the value of neighbors during a difficult time. Working with neighbors can help save lives. Know your neighbors’ special skills and consider how you could help neighbors who have special needs, such as disabled and elderly persons. Make plans for child care in case parents cannot get home — that way, all of the children in your neighborhood can be safe.

Look at your insurance coverage. Speak with your property insurance agent about purchasing flood insurance.

For more information about how individuals and families can prepare for disasters, visit www.njredcross.org. For information in Spanish, visit www.cruzrojaamericana.org.

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