NJIT’s Michael Chumer has been hard at work since Sandy struck, helping hard-hit area urbanites cope with devastation. Chumer, who has worked on homeland security projects and directs the NJIT MS in Emergency Management and Business Continuity (EMBC) program, is familiar with relief efforts. For years he has organized a distribution network out of his GITC Crisis Communications lab, working with his MS EMBC graduate students.During the latest crisis he organized a group of devoted NJIT graduate students, who were also serving as emergency management interns in his Business Emergency Operations Center, (BEOC) Alliance, supported by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), which he founded at NJIT eight years ago. Chumer, who is BEOC president, along with his graduate students, worked round-the-clock last weekend—and are still going at it--to combat Sandy’s devastation. They dubbed their effort Rails 4 Recovery. Their work complimented the response from FEMA and New Jersey and insured that donations from Louisiana, streaming into Newark’s Penn Station via AMTRAK, could reach Hoboken, Bayonne and Newark’s neediest residents. The volunteers are now interfacing with FEMA private sector liaisons during what, Chumer said, will be a long recovery period. (ATTENTION EDITORS: To observe this effort, which is still in action, contact Sheryl Weinstein, 973-596-3436.)
Last weekend, the mayor’s offices in each of the three cities pinpointed for the NJIT volunteers people who needed help and where to send donated goods. Diapers, toiletries, jackets, blankets, canned goods, cleaning products and children’s clothing--all from New Orleans--were delivered to these thankful residents.
Earlier, during the actual hurricane, Chumer’s group worked even harder. “NJIT graduate students were embedded in Newark’s Office of Emergency Management for up to 18 hours a day,” he said. “This work fits into NJIT’s applied, not basic research focus.” Students helping this past weekend were Jeffrey Reaves of Plainfield, Mark Edwards of Newark and Yousif Nasr of Wyckoff.
Through the BEOC membership and partnership arrangement, Chumer has developed a meta model used in 26 states and at FEMA headquarters. “We test and evaluate collaborative technologies in our lab to enable collaboration between response and recovery organizations during crisis situations,” he said. “We, of course, used some of those technologies during the Sandy response.”
Chumer retired this past June as an NJIT research professor but still remains in a voluntary position on campus as director of the NJIT MS EMBC program. BEOC Alliance academic members include Monmouth University, New Jersey City University and UMDNJ. Private sector corporations include Prudential Financial, Automatic Data Processing, Inc. and Bank of America. From the public sector side, BEOC partners with private sector and critical infrastructure directorates. Students learn how and why to interface with these groups during crisis response and recovery situations.
“It is no surprise that when a situation like Sandy emerged, my cadre of students, many of them serving as BEOC Alliance emergency management interns, were ready to assist,” Chumer said. “When they were deployed to the City of Newark OEM, they did not need training because they knew how to function during a response within an Emergency Operations Center. That is what we do in my lab. We teach it and practice it.”
“As response transitioned into recovery, my students knew how to work with existing partnerships that have taken over five years to develop. AMTRAK is part of our network so it was not difficult to help set up and control a resource supply chain that started in LA and wound up in Newark, Hoboken and Bayonne.”
Also involved in this emergency effort were Corey Scavo, Eseosa Ariamiatoe, Mensah Bunnah, Rashide Agwedicham, Sanam Rezai-Rokhsari, Patrick Nunoo and Daniel Hastings. Robert Bell, emergency manager at St. Barnabas Health Care System, and Ronald Spence, emergency manager at NYC Office of Emergency Management, also enrolled in the NJIT EMBC program, helped. Bernard Jones, emergency manager at Active Health and NJIT alum of this program, participated. Richard Egan, PhD, a senior university lecturer in the department of information systems, contributed his time too.