From the Towns: Meet David Berez, HT OEM Coordinator

The mission of the Office of Emergency Management (OEM) is to protect life and property in emergencies. It is responsible for reducing community vulnerability to hazards and disasters by creating a framework that promotes safer, less vulnerable communities. It helps them increase their capacity to cope with threatened or actual natural disasters, acts of terrorism, or other human-caused disasters. The Emergency Management Coordinator prepares detailed plans for response to 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 run by OEM Coordinator David Berez. The position also serves Pennington and Hopewell Boroughs. The OEM Coordinator, along with the Deputy Coordinators, communicates directly with the Borough OEM Coordinators for emergency planning and real-time emergencies.

Berez was hired by the Township in October of 2021 to serve as the OEM Coordinator and to head up the Office of Emergency Management. His professional experience includes a 20-year law enforcement career with the East Windsor Police Department, from which he retired in January 2020. He also served as a volunteer EMT with the East Windsor Rescue Squad for 10 years and the Uniondale Fire Department in NY for four years. In addition to serving as 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 have completed the NJ OEM Basic Workshop in Emergency Management.

Hopewell Township OEM is also staffed by three deputy coordinators; Matthew Martin, Hopewell Emergency Services Chief; Joshua Wilson, Hopewell Emergency Services Lieutenant; and Will Mullen, Hopewell Police Department and former Fire Chief in Hopewell Borough. All are NJ Certified Emergency Managers. Rounding out the Hopewell Valley team is Pennington Borough OEM Coordinator Ken Baker (retired Colonel of the US Army and former Director at the US Army War College, Center for Strategic Leadership) and the Hopewell Borough OEM Coordinator Michele Hovan (Hopewell Borough Administrator).

Over the past five months, the team has been hard at work reviewing the municipal Emergency Operations Plan, which must be completed every five years, to earn County and State certification. This review process has been completed for all three Valley municipalities and has been accepted by the State. We have also been working with Valley residents affected by Hurricane Ida to seek FEMA aid. The OEM team has been training with the use of the new statewide system, EMMIT, and will be participating in exercises in late March.

Hopewell Township OEM is part of the government Emergency Management System, which includes the County, State, and FEMA. It takes a “Whole Community” approach, as preparedness is a shared responsibility. By working together, everyone can keep the nation safe from harm and stay resilient, especially when struck by natural disasters, acts of terrorism, pandemics, and more.

In summary, while Hopewell Township OEM is part of a greater system, it is important to recognize that all disasters begin and end locally. Municipal government is the first line of official public responsibility for Emergency Management activity. Resource support will come from County, State, and federal agencies only when local resources have been 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 departments of local governments and private sector organizations to develop plans and capabilities that address the hazards most likely to threaten our community. In general, they cooperate and coordinate with the county to prepare, review, and update the municipal Emergency Operation plan. When necessary, they will declare a local state of emergency, coordinate requests for resources, and provide situation reports to the County Office of Emergency Management. Additionally, they are required to “take the appropriate steps to educate the public regarding 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 Office of Emergency Management, call the OEM Coordinator at 609-439-8775 or email me at dberez@hopewelltwp.org.  In an emergency, please call 9-1-1.

Submitted by Hopewell Township

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