Citizens’ fleet proposed for emergency planning

Dr. Michael Weinstein, president of The New Jersey Marine Sciences Consortium (NJMSC) has proposed the development of a Citizens’ Fleet comprised of volunteers whose private vessels would transport people, equipment, and supplies to and from Manhattan in case of an extreme emergency.

Under the auspices of the NJMSC and its New Jersey Sea Grant College Program, and with assistance from a steering committee of key stakeholders, plans are under way for an emergency preparedness fleet for the New York-New Jersey Harbor. The fleet would operate under the guidance of the captain of the port (or assigned incident commander) and the U.S. Coast Guard, and would be mobilized to serve as an added resource to emergency preparedness personnel.

The captain will also be able to tap members of the fleet for logistical support such as transporting personnel and supplies, as communications relay platforms, as waterborne ambulances, and for external vigilance outside the immediately affected area.

Plans for the fleet also include an outreach component coordinated in partnership with the Marine Trades Association and the Coast Guard Auxiliary to educate recreational boaters in maritime vigilance and heightened awareness of potential threats.

Recreational boats will not, however, serve directly as fleet members. Tugs and pilot boats will be involved, but will serve as separate command and control platforms to operate under the Coast Guard’s evacuation plan for the harbor that will include mostly ferry boats.

The concept of the fleet was presented to several senior-level state and federal officials, the U.S. Coast Guard, and Harbor Operations Committee earlier this year and was well received. The steering committee has scheduled a one-day workshop for June 26 at Stevens Institute of Technology, Hoboken, to introduce the fleet concept and program to invited participants.

Local steering committee members are the NJMSC’s New Jersey Sea Grant Extension Program, and the Sandy Hook Pilots Association.

Dr. Thomas O. Herrington of Stevens Institute of Technology and the coastal processes specialist for the NJMSC’s Sea Grant Extension Program has compiled a how-to guide, "Manual for Coastal Hazard Mitigation," to help reduce the risks faced by homeowners and coastal managers due to hazards such as violent storms and beach erosion. The guide is available on CD for distribution to both specialists and the general public.

The manual includes a major chapter on tools and techniques for coastal hazard mitigation, and covers such topics as nontraditional shore protection structures, coastal resource management, and community maintenance and preparedness.

The CD is available for a $2 handling and mailing charge to municipalities, educational institutions, libraries, and coastal residents and property owners. For more information, call New Jersey Sea Grant Communications at (732) 872-1300, ext. 18.