MEDIA CONTACT:  Julie Willmot
(609) 278-7137

TRENTON, N.J. - Mercer County Executive Brian M. Hughes gave a tour today of the nerve center of the County’s emergency response capabilities in the wake of the confusion between towns one month ago during a water supply emergency.

The tour of the County’s Central Communications dispatch facility in Lawrence, which handles 911 and emergency incident calls for all 13 towns, and the Office of Emergency Management served as a follow up to a meeting Hughes conducted with some mayors several weeks ago.

In attendance with Hughes and county staff today were: Hamilton Mayor John F. Bencivengo; Lawrence Mayor Michael Powers; Princeton Borough Mayor Mildred Trotman; West Windsor Mayor Shing-Fu Hsueh; East Windsor Mayor Janice Mironov; and representatives from Robbinsville, Hightstown Borough and Princeton Township.

The purpose of the tour was to demonstrate how the County’s emergency management infrastructure functions in a crisis and also to highlight the County’s role as a coordinator during local emergencies.

The Trenton Water Works issue made it “clear that no single agency or department – state, county or municipal – can be relied upon to single-handedly distribute accurate information about the potential health issues. This [failure] can never happen again,” Hughes said.

Hughes stated in early October, when the Trenton Water Works facility was shut down due to a potentially contaminated water supply, the issue was exacerbated by communication failures between Trenton Water Works and the towns it serves.

Mercer County has been reviewing its own policies and procedures for dispatch and emergency messages during the past month, seeking to button up gaps and identify where problems in communicating between agencies could arise. That process is continuing.

Enhancements to the County’s ability to reach residents during an emergency are coming soon, Hughes said.

The County’s Reverse 911 system will soon be expanded to allow 36,000 simultaneous calls, up from the 500 calls the system currently allows. The County also plans to add a component to allow residents to register their mobile phones to receive text or email message from the County, and GIS mapping of utility systems in Mercer is also planned.

Moreover, Hughes told the mayors that the County will sponsor emergency management courses for executives at the Office of Emergency Management so that mayors and top municipal leaders can fully understand their role and Mercer County’s role in a crisis.

Hughes told the mayors that the County holds training for its emergency responders and municipal emergency responders throughout the year. This training consists of a variety of drills, table top exercises and tests at the county level, dealing with scenarios from health emergencies such as bubonic plague to terrorism, such as incidents at Trenton-Mercer Airport. On Nov. 5, the County conducted a COOP and COG table top exercise – which included more than 70 employees from the Administration, prosecutor’s office, sheriff’s office, health, DOT, MCBoss, and others – for a drill on how county government would continue to function in an emergency.