By Mike DeNardo

WILDWOOD, N.J. (CBS) — With the Atlantic hurricane season upon us, officials in Cape May County, NJ want the public to be prepared for the next “big one.”

Emergency management coordinators gathering at the Wildwood Convention Center were operating under the belief that it’s not a matter of if the Jersey shore gets hit with a hurricane, it’s when.

Maj. Patrick Callahan, commanding officer of the New Jersey Office of Emergency Management, says residents may already know the drill but they still need to prepare.

“Almost to prepare yourself mentally, even more so than physically, of what you may have to do to get yourself and your pets and your kids and everybody else out safely,” he advises.

Cape May County freeholder-director Jerry Thornton says the time to prepare is before evacuations are ordered.

“Make sure you have your medications.  Make sure you have the proper clothing for five to seven days, and just make sure that your car’s filled up with gas and that you can move,” he said.  “Try and make arrangements for shelter.  If you have relatives up in Philadelphia or somewhere else, go there.”

Thornton says that just because Cape May County missed direct hits by hurricanes Irene and Sandy, that’s no reason to be complacent.

“We thought Irene was the biggest storm we’d ever seen,” recalls Callahan.  “And in short order we had Sandy.  And there are bigger storms out there.”

Cape May County is using FEMA money to buy generators, and the county has acquired 22 high-wheel Army surplus vehicles to evacuate people during the next big storm.