Corrections or additions?
This article by Kathleen McGinn Spring was prepared for the April
2, 2003 edition of U.S. 1 Newspaper. All rights reserved.
Volunteers Prepare for Disasters
The title of this year’s New Jersey Conference on
evokes grim memories of the recent past as well as present-day
"Let’s Roll — A Symposium on Disaster Preparedness and
The day-long event take place on Friday, April 4, and Saturday, April
5 at the Atlantic City Convention Center. Call 800-286-6528.
Emergency preparedness is plainly in the air. A similar event
by the American Red Cross takes place Monday, April 7, at 7 p.m. at
Rider University (609-951-8550). And two weeks ago the Red Cross
together representatives of a dozen U.S. 1 area companies to explore
ways in which the business community can participate in emergency
response — see the cover story in this week’s issue starting on
While the majority of workshops at the conference will put the
on planning for and reacting to disasters, other topics range from
fundraising to professional development for the volunteer manager
to the cornerstones of board development.
The workshops addressing the role of the government, employers, and
non-profits in disaster situations cover a broad range of topics.
Harry Sheppard, president of the New Jersey County Emergency
Management Coordinator’s Association, speaks on "How to Design
a Disaster Plan;" Dr. Edward Bresnitz, a New Jersey
speaks on "Bio Terrorism;" George Anthony, president,
Peace Dynamics, speaks on "Teaching Tolerance and Understanding
in Times of Crisis;" Richard Dalfonzo, field representative,
Monmouth County Office on Aging, speaks on "Thinking Outside the
Box: Seniors Fighting Terrorism;" and Michael Schneider,
director of public relations, the Cherenson Group, speaks on
Getting the Message Out."
In a Disaster, Non-Profits Must Coordinate
Think about the co-ordination required to respond to
a disaster. One non-profit has food to distribute, another has a
of volunteers, a third knows where to find trucks. Meanwhile, each
non-profit is receiving urgent calls from clients who need to know
— right away — where they can get help in finding food, paying
the rent, and getting prescriptions filled.
To better coordinate a response to all kinds of disasters, the state
formed the New Jersey Voluntary Organizations Active in Disasters
(NJVOAD) several years ago. Brenda Beavers, state director for
human services, the Salvation Army, is secretary of the organization.
She speaks about NJVOAD at the April 4 New Jersey Conference on
"It had a resurgence after Tropical Storm Floyd," Beavers
says of NJVOAD. The organization, which meets once a month, was active
after 9/11, too, and that unprecedented disaster pointed up areas
in which coordination could be improved. The post-9/11 climate has
also created new challenges for member volunteer organizations, and
a more urgent need for coordination.
As Beavers ticks off the names of organizations that belong to NJVOAD
the scope of volunteer groups come into focus. Members include the
Bar Association, the Humane Society, the Red Cross, Catholic
the Civil Air Patrol, AARP, Lutheran Disaster, the Salvation Army,
the Food Bank, and the AFL-CIO Community Service. On the public side,
members include the Office of Emergency Management and the New Jersey
Commission on Community Service.
"We’re looking at systems issues," says Beavers. This is an
area that could have been better during the days and months following
9/11. "We’re working on people’s ability to access services for
next time," she says. She adds matter of factly, "there’s
going to be a next time." That doesn’t mean, she hastens to add,
that the disaster will be of the type and scale experienced on 9/11.
It could well be an act of nature or a large-scale accident. But
an almost life-long member of the Salvation Army, has seen enough
to know that disasters have a way of continuing to come down the pike,
one after another in a relentless procession.
While some people may include the Salvation Army in career plans from
childhood, Beavers is not one of them. "Growing up, I had two
memories of the Salvation Army," she says. One was of her
sending her to its offices with a donation envelope once a year. The
other was of the Salvation Army bell ringer who stood beside the
on the Green at Morristown at Christmas.
When it was time for her social work internship at Kean University,
then Newark State College, from which she graduated in 1973, her
suggested that she work at the Salvation Army. She was not keen on
the idea, but soon saw the connection between the Salvation Army and
social work. "They hired me before I graduated," she says.
She has worked there for most of her career, and is now in charge
of all of the organization’s human service outreach, including
special needs, day care, homeless shelter, a camping program, services
for the Armed Forces and their families, and, yes, disaster services.
"No two days are alike," she says. And neither are any two
disasters. The range of issues is mind-boggling, and Beavers is full
of stories. During the Kosovo crisis, when thousands of fleeing
ended up on military reserves in New Jersey, she recalls that the
government made an appeal for clothing. "Everyone and his brother
wanted to donate," she says of the response, calling it typically
generous. But there was a problem. "The women didn’t wear
This example points up a job for NJVOAD. "There is a need to
the public and politicians," Beavers says. The message? "We’ll
let you know what we need, and when we need it."
There are any number of situations in which cold, hard cash is
— by a wide margin — to baskets of clothes or cans collected
from household cupboards. Yet, Beavers emphasizes, it is important
that non-profits be sensitive to the human need to do something to
help. The trick is to help a stricken population heal by rounding
up toys, beef jerky, and warm sweaters, while, at the same time,
sure that those offerings are not wasted.
A prime example occurred during the 9/11 response. Hearing of rescue
dogs working at the site, "everyone donated dog food," says
Beavers. From all around the country, dog food rolled in. "We
had pallets of dog food," she recalls. But, "the search and
rescue dogs only ate Science Diet and chicken breasts." Thousands
of dogs in animal shelters can not afford this culinary hauteur. So
agencies receiving the dog food called the shelters to haul away the
bounty of dog chow.
Again, coordinated education comes into play. The need to donate must
be honored, but, says Beavers, "we have to let people know that
the leftovers will go somewhere else."
A more common need is to help households keep functioning after a
disaster. Substantial help in doing so comes largely from the Federal
Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), and Beavers says the non-profits
have had some difficulty in helping clients to request and receive
the help they need. NJVOAD is working to help its members
how FEMA works and how best to serve clients."
Another important, and universal, issue involves the best use of
during a disaster. "There are long-term trained volunteers,"
says Beavers, "and then there are spontaneous volunteers."
The latter have no knowledge of a non-profit’s operating procedures,
but they do have an urgent desire to do something to help their
Acting on their generous impulses is "necessary for their
By acting together non-profits can best find a task suited to every
volunteer. Equally important, the non-profits can develop guidelines
suited to post 9/11 concerns. "It’s a whole new dynamic,"
says Beavers. "Who’s going into your building?" In August,
2001 few non-profits would have thought to question the good
of the spontaneous volunteers who show up after a disaster. Now, there
is a new level of security. Says Beavers: "Life has gotten
Assessing the Risk
Charlie Maney, a chartered property and casualty
underwriter, works for American Re, but he addresses the April 4
conference in his role as a volunteer. The title of his talk is
Matters!," but he says that he is speaking not so much on the
need to insure against disaster, but rather on the need to be aware
of all the sources of liability and to assess risk tolerance in regard
To help organizations of all kinds think about the ramifications of
a disaster, he uses the example of an explosion in a school chemistry
lab caused by a leak in a propane tank. "Four students are killed,
12 are injured," he says, setting up his hypothetical. "There
is smoke damage, and students lose $10,000 worth of personal property.
A fire escape collapses during the evacuation, and others are injured.
The property has to be fenced and equipment removed. A computer
is lost." He goes on, saying that the school immediately contacts
a grief counselor, holds a special memorial service, and deals with
Following the disaster, it is discovered that the school was not
for the leak, and a product liability suit is filed against the
tank’s manufacturer. However, the teacher had stepped just outside
of the classroom door to take a message right before the explosion,
and the school is sued for negligent supervision.
Covering the fallout from the explosion would require, Maney says,
multiple coverage, workers comp, general liability, business
extra expense, employment liability, and environmental liability
Employers of all kinds, he says, should postulate a worse case
and then to do a cost assessment. In other words "how would you
pay for what would happen?" In some cases, the answer, is that
money could easily be found in an operating budget. Some companies,
he says, "spend $15,000 on a $100 problem." An example could
be insurance on computers. There was a time when replacing a brace
of computers was a budget-busting expense. This is no longer the case.
An analogy, suggest Maney, can be made to a 1990 Dodge van. "Do
you really want to have comprehensive and collision?" he asks.
Look at business insurance with the same eye. There may be some areas
where coverage can actually be cut, while other areas may need to
be added or beefed up.
The damage from a disaster extends beyond the monetary, Maney points
out. There are some things that no insurance policy covers. One is
the goodwill of employees. An employer has no duty to house his
should they be unable to go home following a disaster, he says. But
the more effort the employer makes to ensure their safety and comfort
— and that of their families — the more likely it is that
he will retain them after the smoke clears.
Organizations need to examine everything from insurance coverage to
contingency housing plans to company policies. And not just once.
"You have to do more than one scenario, and you have to do it
every year," says Maney. Businesses change, and risk needs to
be reanalyzed. Perhaps executives are traveling more. Should their
itineraries be checked against State Department warnings? Should key
executives make separate travel plans? Does chartering a plane make
No organization can prepare for every contingency, but a quick read
of the high school explosion scenario points up areas to consider.
Some require insurance, while others call for nothing more expensive
than regular checks on property maintenance checks or company policy
reviews with employees.
On a trip to Nevada, lured by guidebooks praising its
historic district, we detoured some four hours to visit Brigham
summer home. Stretching after alighting from our rental car, we stood
before two or three houses. That was it? We had driven across the
desert to see fewer houses than are shoehorned into any number of
corners in central New Jersey?
In fairness, there may have been more than three houses, but not many
more. Taking a gander at what there was to see, we marveled at how
little it took to create a historic district west of the Mississippi.
Of course, New Jersey has no natural wonders to match the dramatic
splendor of the red rocks through which we had driven to visit the
historic district, but the state is chock-a-block with fascinating
On Friday, April 4, at 8 a.m. Preservation New Jersey holds its
Annual Historic Preservation Conference" to look at some of the
issues involved in keeping our past alive. The first part of the
takes place at the auditorium of the Department of State building
on West State Street in Trenton. This segment includes a keynote
by Anthony Tung, author of "Preserving the World’s Great
Cities: The Destruction & Renewal of the Historic Metropolis;"
a panel discussion on "Historic Preservation: A Catalyst for
a tour of Trenton’s revitalization successes and opportunities, which
visits Mill Hill, Warren Street, and the Sovereign Arena areas; and
a panel discussion entitled "Crossroads of the Revolution Heritage
Area," which looks at how to create a heritage area.
The second session, beginning at 2:30 p.m., takes place at Thomas
Edison State College and features six panel discussions. Topics
developing community centers around rail stations, preserving the
historic character of our communities, creating a sense of place
road projects, and urban revitalization.
There is a closing reception and exhibits at the Masonic Temple on
West Front Street in Trenton at 5:15 p.m. The cost of the conference
is $45. Call 609-392-6409 for reservations.
Is the reminder that a dental check-up is on your
less painful when it arrives via E-mail? Maybe. And if not for you,
then certainly for your dentist’s receptionist, who surely must tire
of "waiting for the beep" to leave voicemail reminders for
hours each day.
The Internet can make life easier — and more profitable —
for professional offices, but so far few are taking advantage.
Hung is ready to help doctors, dentists, accountants, and other
professionals make the leap into cyberspace. She speaks on
Business Efficiency Through the Internet" on Saturday, April 5,
at 3 p.m. at the Plainsboro Library. For free reservations call
fax, 530-937-7220 (E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org).
Hung is the owner of BixKonex, a startup specializing in setting up
professional offices with the hardware and software they need to move
clerical, recordkeeping, and customer management tasks onto the
"Some offices still have appointment books," says Hung. It
is a fair bet that most people who have forgotten (subconsciously
or otherwise) the date of an upcoming root canal procedure know this.
Page flipping, accompanied by heavy sighs, is frequently audible over
the phone line when a call is placed. The poor souls entrusted with
entering the information into those extra-long, ruled books
are not thrilled to hear: "Well I think the appointment was
around Easter, or maybe Mother’s Day."
With a software package, a professional office can send out reminders,
have patients see what time slots are available, make appointments
online, and check the date of the appointment should they forget.
The information is then accessible from any place a doctor happens
to be. This is a boon to doctors doing hospital rounds, Hung points
Rescheduling also can be done online, a function which saves untold
hours of the office staff’s time, as a cartoon prominently placed
in one dentist’s office reveals. In the cartoon, a bored looking
leans on her desk as a serial canceler speaks through the phone. She
says something like, "No, it doesn’t matter what date you pick.
We don’t even bother to write it down anymore."
Beyond appointment chores, a professional can profit from the Internet
by expediting the horrible task of obtaining insurance verification,
approval, and reimbursement. "They can submit claims
says Hung. "That way there are no rejections because a form is
not correctly filled out." As anyone who has tried to register
for anything online knows, if any blank is not filled out to the
satisfaction, red arrows signal the error, and it is impossible to
go further without putting in satisfactory data. Getting the
in correctly increases cash flow. "You get real time responses
on eligibility and claim services," says Hung. A number of major
insurance carriers are now set up to offer services online, she says.
Internet communication is also a good way to maintain solid
with patients or clients. A website can offer directions, office
staff biographies, news about the practice and about its area of
and even special offers. (Probably not two root canals for the price
of one, but maybe $10 off a cleaning.)
Hung lists her company’s range of services as everything from hardware
purchase and set up through installation of software and advice on
subscriptions to Internet services. How about training for the staff?
Listing another plus of doing business on the Internet, she says,
"with the Internet, there is very little training."
Hung, whose office is at 9 Perrine Path, West Windsor, studied food
engineering at the National Chun Hsing University in Taiwan (Class
of 1979) before emigrating to the United States, where she obtained
a master’s degree in computer science from Stevens Institute. She
has worked for large technology companies, including AT&T and
Technology. When she arrived in the United States, she sought the
excitement of New York City, but when she started a family, she moved
to central New Jersey for the school system. She has two daughters,
who are students at West Windsor-Plainsboro High School North.
The Internet is good for a whole lot more than taking
orders. There is a laboratory company, for instance, that helps
scientists by letting them price out the supplies they will need.
The scholar goes through the company’s web-based catalog, picking
out what he expects to need to complete the work he hopes to fund
through a grant. He fills out a pseudo shopping list, and gets a price
total. After the grant comes through it is a good bet that the
his shopping list already made out, will purchase his supplies on
that laboratory company’s website.
Nunzio Cernero, assistant dean for training and development
at Mercer County Community College, chuckles as he tells this story,
clearly thrilled by the ingenious use of the Internet the lab supply
house had come up with. Cernero has been helping small businesses
to get off the ground for 27 years. He started the Small Business
Development Center, formerly based at MCCC, and now working from the
College of New Jersey, and also the Center for Training and
an MCCC initiative targeting the training needs of large companies.
Cernero moderates a full day seminar, "Starting/Expanding a Small
Business in the Age of the Internet" on Thursday, April 10, at
8:30 a.m. at the Conference Center at Mercer on the West Windsor
of MCCC. Cost: $149.
Cernero has another Internet anecdote. "This is one of my
he says. "There is a company that sells decorative stone. It has
a network of people looking for stone mined locally. It uses the web
to let its agents show the stone to potential customers."
The web, declares Cernero, "is not for putting up a picture of
your product anymore." It is now a strong operational tool, and
in his opinion, every business needs to be taking advantage of it.
The Internet is a perfect vehicle for sharing information, for keeping
in touch with customers, for cutting costs, and for doing essential
"I just worked with somebody to get a trademark over the
says Cernero. "You can do a search, submit an application, and
get the trademark. All over the Internet."
Large companies started integrating the Internet into their businesses
five to ten years ago, Cernero observes. "What I see happening
now," he says, "is that small business owners are seeing lots
of ways to use the Internet."
Cernero gives three how-to-start-your-business seminars a year, and
he says that questions on how to build a website, how to sell over
the Internet, and how to best to take advantage of the Internet are
frequent questions. Every business, he says, needs an E-business plan,
even if it does not yet have the resources to execute on every part
of it. The seminar guides entrepreneurs through many phases of
planning and discusses website design choices. But is also covers
business basics, including marketing, financing, and accounting.
The demand for information on forming a small business is tremendous,
says Cernero, who had to hold two sections of his small business
in January to accommodate everyone interested in taking it. "There
is a movement away from employment to self-employment," he says.
And, happily, there is a market for many more entrepreneurs.
are such that we still don’t have as many small businesses per capita
as there are in Germany or Japan," he says. "We have 25
small businesses, but there is a lot more room."
In the course of his work at MCCC and at the Trenton Business and
Technology incubator, Cernero sees every type of new small business
— from a collections agency to an indoor soccer center. He and
his wife also keep an eye out for new enterprises during weekend
around the state.
"We’re seeing more small retailers," he says. "In Spring
Lake and Chatham and Belmar, the stores are filling up. We were in
Morristown yesterday," he says during a Monday interview. "We
saw a new toy store, a bridal gown shop, and a couple of
He reports that 21st Century, the upscale discount department store
that sells designer clothes, has moved into the anchor location on
the Morristown Green once occupied by Bambergers. "That space
had been empty for 40 years," he says. "Morristown is coming
The big store creates customers for the small ventures, and vice
A new business, Cernero points out, can be any size. "It’s not
how much money you have," he says. "It’s how you use the money
and plan. People fail with $1 million, and people succeed with
But what about the stock advice that start-ups need substantial
to get through their first couple of years? That is true, says
but the key is a good business plan. You can’t start a $20,000
with $2,000, but you can start a $2,000 business with $2,000.
"I’ve read over 300 research studies," says Cernero. "It’s
hard to draw a correlation between start-up capital and success."
The biggest factor is how you overcome challenges. The successful
entrepreneur, he says, does not look at problems; he looks at how
to get around problems.
The medical and dental staff at the Medical Center
at Princeton have donated $100,000 to support community education
and training for healthcare professionals. The money will be used
to strengthen the medical center’s community education initiatives
and to develop and implement a new Clinical Simulation Lab used in
training programs for nurses and other healthcare professionals.
The community education and outreach program promotes wellness by
providing health-related programming to the public at little or no
cost. This includes lectures, screenings, health fairs, and other
lifestyle-related programs targeted to the needs of women, seniors,
minority groups, parents, and children.
The medical center will be the first hospital in New Jersey to have
a comprehensive simulation lab for hospital education that is equipped
with Laerdal SimMan Universal Patient Simulator technology. The new
state-of-the-art Clinical Simulation Lab will provide personnel with
ongoing hands-on training in the latest procedures and techniques.
The lab will also be used to enhance the clinical experiences of
from the College of New Jersey, Mercer County Community College, and
Mercer County Vocational School. The lab is slated to open by June
For more information about the medical center’s community education
and outreach programs call 609-497-4460.
and middle school students will be introduced at the Cadwalader
School in Trenton. The program, part of the Kids Financial Coalition,
is being rolled out statewide by the Center for Financial Training,
a non-profit association, with support from Fleet , which is
sponsoring the distribution of the financial literacy curriculum.
the Ford Foundation in support of a study on the public sector
response to 9/11. The project will be conducted through the John S.
Watson Institute for Public Policy.
The grant will fund supplemental research to the college’s study of
philanthropic response to the events of 9/11. The initial study, also
funded by the Ford Foundation, largely focused on the lessons learned
from the efforts by foundations, corporations, and other private
funding sources. The follow-up study, under the direction of Thomas
Seessel, will examine the response by the public sector. The study
will compile and analyze the experience of government agencies at
all levels so that policymakers may have a framework in planning for
future urban emergencies.
a dinner at McCarter Theater honoring donors. The theme of the evening
was "A Conversation with McCarter Divas."
SUVs are cycling out of fashion, but accountant Stuart
Rosenblatt of Wiss & Company offers businesses a good reason
to consider purchasing one of the vehicles, and not only that. He
says the bigger the SUV, the bigger the tax break.
According to Rosenblatt, the IRS has just issued its 2002 version
of Publication 463 — Travel, Entertainment, Gift, and Car
Under the tax law, passenger automobiles are subject to annual
depreciation write-offs, generally referred to as "luxury car
Normally a vehicle is defined as a passenger auto if its unloaded
gross vehicle weight is 6,000 pounds or less. Therefore, virtually
all cars fit within this definition and are subject to the annual
depreciation limitations. In the case of SUVs, trucks, or vans, the
"unloaded gross vehicle weight" rule is ignored and a special
rule "gross vehicle weight" is used instead. SUVs are only
treated as a passenger auto when the manufacturer’s maximum loaded
weight rating for the vehicle is 6,000 pounds or less. As a result,
several SUVs, including the Cadillac Escalade, Chevy Suburban, Lexus
LX470, and Lincoln Navigator, are heavy enough to escape the
of a passenger auto.
The weight of a vehicle, says Rosenblatt, is written on a metal
plate or sticker on the driver’s door.
If the SUV is heavy enough, and therefore not classified as a
automobile, there is no annual limitation on depreciation. For the
years 2002 and 2003, the maximum depreciation that can be claimed
for a new car is $7,660, no matter what the cost of the car. But the
most gigantic SUVs bring in a much greater deduction. An SUV with
a $50,000 price tag could earn the tax payer a write-off of as much
as $36,000. The deduction kicks in if the SUV is used more than half
the time for business.
Rosenblatt does not weigh in on the cost of gasoline.
Workout to Work is Greater Mercer TMA’s newest incentive
program, designed to help area workers stay healthy by walking or
biking to work or to a transit link to work. The program is funded
in part by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. It provides
and resources to employees who bike or walk to work and support to
employers who promote healthy commutes. Employee incentives include
eligibility for prizes and discounts; employer support consists of
on-site programs and materials.
Workout to Work is designed primarily for the person who lives within
five to ten miles of the worksite or public transit and wants to
daily exercise with a commute. Participants are provided with
and information they need to get started, including suggested routes,
safety information, and commuting tips. Each month that employees
track their healthy commute miles, they are eligible for prizes.
Employees can register and track their miles online at
The GMTMA points out that short car trips — up to five miles —
are the most polluting type of trip, adding ground level ozone,
oxides, carbon dioxide, soot, and noise to the environment. The
also reminds us all that biking or walking to work enables employees
to fit exercise into their busy, but often sedentary, work routines.
People who get to work on their own steam are healthier and more
also more alert and relaxed.
To promote a more healthy commute, GMTMA stands ready to arrange
Brown Bag Lunches and Bicycling Education courses at no cost. Call
Sandra Brillhart at 609-452-1491 for more information.
Banks can once again lend small businesses up to $2
million, guaranteed by the Small Business Administration, which lifted
a $500,000 loan cap imposed five months ago in response to federal
The cap caused a 14 percent decline in dollar loan volume for the
SBA’s first fiscal quarter ended December 31, although the number
of loans was ahead of the previous year. New Jersey had a record year
for SBA lending in the fiscal year ended September 30, and is once
again on track for a strong year.
The SBA imposed the cap at the beginning of the federal fiscal year
last October 1, in part because Congress hadn’t yet passed a budget
providing funding for the SBA. President Bush signed the new budget
Corrections or additions?
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