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Administration Officials to ShakeOut This Thursday

For weeks, we've been posting updates on this blog on the Great Central U.S. ShakeOut, which is now only three days away.

Today, we’re excited to share with you where some of our FEMA senior leaders, and other officials from across the administration, plan to be on Thursday, to take part in the ShakeOut.

Secretary Janet Napolitano, along with Education Secretary Arne Duncan, will be traveling to St. Louis, to join Governor Nixon, our Regional Administrator, Beth Freeman, and other state and local officials for a ShakeOut drill at Carnahan High School of the Future.

Our Deputy Administrators, Rich Serino and Tim Manning, will join elementary schools in Georgia and Oklahoma, respectively, for their ShakeOut Drills. Rich will join students at Milford Elementary School in Marietta, Georgia, and Tim will join students at Jones Elementary School in Jones, Oklahoma.

And they’re not alone. Over the next few days, our Regional Administrators, staff and other workers across the DHS and federal families will be some of the millions of Americans participating in the drill. To date, over 2.7 million people have signed up, including over 2,016 schools, 268 businesses, and 611 local government agencies.

Let us know how you plan to join in the ShakeOut in the comments below.

Monitoring Severe Weather in Missouri, Arkansas, Oklahoma & Texas

Our thoughts are with the families and communities in the St. Louis area, who were impacted by the severe storms that swept through the region on Friday night, and the severe weather continues today. A strong and long-lasting spring storm continues to bring rain into the region, causing flash flood warnings for parts of Missouri, Arkansas and Oklahoma, and severe weather, including Tornados, to parts of Texas.

Through our regional offices in Kansas City, MO and Denton, TX, we are continuing to closely monitor conditions as the severe storms and tornadoes continue. Since the initial storms struck, we have been in close contact and coordination with the Missouri Emergency Management Agency, Arkansas Department of Emergency Management, Oklahoma Office of Homeland Security, as well as the Texas Division of Emergency Management.

We commend the heroic efforts of the state and local officials and voluntary agencies that have been working around the clock to respond to the storms and protect the affected residents and communities. As an example, check out these photos from the American Red Cross showing how they’re helping disaster survivors.

When natural disasters strike, including severe storms and tornadoes, the first responders are local emergency and public works personnel, volunteers, humanitarian organizations (like the Red Cross), and numerous private interest groups who provide emergency assistance required to protect the public's health and safety and to meet immediate human needs. (See this blog post about FEMA’s role in severe storms and tornadoes.)

If you haven’t already, now is the time to get prepared for tornadoes, floods and other disasters. Visit http://www.ready.gov/ to learn more.

North Carolina: Disaster Recovery Centers

Working with our partners in North Carolina, we opened the first Disaster Recovery Centers after the severe storms struck the state and we plan to open more soon in other counties.

What is a Disaster Recovery Center you ask?  Good question.

We often set up Disaster Recovery Centers to help disaster survivors navigate the federal assistance process.  But an important thing to know is that survivors don’t need to come to the DRC to register, but anyone looking for face to face assistance is welcome to stop by.

If a disaster survivor’s county has been declared, they can also apply for assistance by:

To give you an idea of what to expect at a Disaster Recovery Center, we wanted to pull this video out of the archives.  It’s from 2009 after an earthquake and tsunami struck American Samoa.  In the video, Casey Deshong (FEMA External Affairs) gives a tour of a DRC in American Samoa and talks about the different types of assistance provided:



Here are some other things you should know:

Individual assistance can be provided to eligible individuals and households who are uninsured, or under-insured, and suffered losses due to disaster damage.
It’s important to remember that by law, the amount of individual assistance a person or household can receive is capped (just over $30,000 for this year), and may not cover losses to the extent that homeowner’s policy would. Flood insurance is another way you can protect against the damaging financial effects of a disaster, which is why we are often encouraging families to talk to their insurance agent about protecting your home or business.
This assistance is also intended to support only necessary and serious needs that resulted from the disaster. The best way to make sure you and your family are protected against the devastating impacts of flooding is to have flood insurance.

For additional updates and recovery information, please continue to visit the NC disaster page.

What We’re Watching: 4/22/11

Editor's Note: On May 16, we removed an image of the National Weather Service Hazards Assessment map.

North Carolina disaster
Earlier this week, the President declared a major disaster for areas affected by the deadly tornadoes, severe storms, and flooding on April 16. Federal disaster assistance is available to individuals and eligible state and local partners as they work to recover from the disaster. (If you are in one of the 18 declared counties you can apply for disaster assistance at www.disasterassistance.gov, or on your mobile device at m.fema.gov).

Volunteers assist a homeowner clean up branches after a tornado near Raleigh, North Carolina.
Raleigh, NC, April 20, 2011 -- Volunteer workers band together to help survivors clean up debris and complete temporary repairs following the severe storms and deadly tornadoes that damaged or destroyed homes and businesses across North Carolina on April 16, 2011.

Potential severe weather
Over the past few weeks, volatile spring weather has been in full force, and forecasts from the National Weather Service are calling for more of the same in the next week. Here are some of the severe weather highlights:

  • Southern U.S. – Drought conditions are expected to continue in Texas, New Mexico, Florida and several surrounding states. Weather conditions are favorable for wildfire outbreaks in Texas and New Mexico going into next week as well.
  • Midwest – Heavy rains are expected in the middle of the country, where flooding is taking place in many states. (See how we’re supporting the emergency management team in the Red River Valley flood fight.)
  • Northeast – While no spring storms are expected in the next few days, forecasters are calling for high winds in Massachusetts, Connecticut this weekend.
  • West – Over the next few days, be prepared for colder temperatures, especially in Idaho, Utah and Montana. 

For more details, see the full hazards assessment from the National Weather Service and view your local forecast. If severe weather is in your area, remember to listen to local officials and follow local news reports for the latest information. For tips on getting prepared for the hazards in your area, visit Ready.gov.

Texas wildfires
Through our regional office in Denton, TX we continue to closely partner with the State of Texas and provide financial support for efforts to fight and mitigate the volatile wildfire conditions that have affected the state this season. We are in constant communication with Texas Forest Service and Texas Division of Emergency Management (TDEM) and will continue to support firefighting efforts, as needed.

During this fire season, the federal government has been supporting the State of Texas with 21 Fire Management Assistance Grant (FMAG) declarations, including 15 FMAGs since the beginning of April.

An FMAG authorization makes FEMA funding available to pay 75 percent of the state's eligible firefighting costs under an approved grant for managing, mitigating and controlling designated fires. These grants do not provide assistance to individual home or business owners and do not cover other infrastructure damage caused by the fire.

Earth Day
April 22 is Earth Day – check out this blog post from Ed Connor, Acting Administrator of the Federal Insurance and Mitigation Administration about some of the ways we’re implementing sustainable practices and encouraging the emergency management team to do the same when preparing for, responding to, and recovering from disasters.

For tips on how you can “go green” at home, work, or in your community, visit the Department of Energy’s Earth Day page.

Sign up to shake out next Thursday
As several of our bloggers have mentioned, the Great Central U.S. ShakeOut is fast approaching. Join over 2.6 million participants in 11 states as they practice earthquake safety on April 28 at 10:15 CDT.

Earth Day 2011: Green Building Practices and Sustainability

Posted by: Edward Connor, Acting Administrator, Federal Insurance and Mitigation Administration 

As we celebrate Earth Day, it gives us a chance to clearly link the complementary concepts of sustainability and resilience, a fancy way to say how well communities bounce back after a disaster.   Everyday FEMA works to enhance the resilience of our communities to natural hazards by helping them to identify risk and develop appropriate strategies to reduce those risks. This includes adopting and enforcing stronger building codes, coordinating planning and preparedness exercises, and partnering with stakeholders to build safer communities.


Preventing losses and damage to buildings not only creates a safer community, but also reduces the environmental impact of post-disaster recovery operations, especially related to debris management and rebuilding. For more on the relationship between green building practices and natural hazard resistance, check out our publication on Natural Hazards and Sustainability for Residential Buildings.

A few other “green” highlights 
The growing emphasis on creating sustainable communities, whether though innovative green building practices or reducing the materials and energy footprints creates opportunities to build safer and greener, both before and after disasters.


By building green and taking steps to protect your property at the same time, you not only help protect the environment but also protect your property against the forces of nature.  One way FEMA promotes sustainable building practices before a disaster is by partnering with the Department of Housing and Urban Development.  Efforts to build sustainably are recognized as one part of the Hazard Mitigation Assistance Grant Program application process, to promote strategic local approaches to sustainable development by combining hazard mitigation objectives with community development objectives.

Recovery from natural disasters presents a unique opportunity to consider alternatives to the damage-rebuild-damage cycle.  To learn more about rebuilding stronger, safer, and smarter after a disaster, check out our guide to Rebuilding for a More Sustainable Future.

On Earth Day and every day, I challenge you to consider taking small steps to make your home, business or community more sustainable while reducing its risk of damage due to disasters.  For some tips to get you started, visit www.energy.gov/earthday.

To learn more about the role of green building rating systems in promoting green building practices and sustainable building design, visit the United States Green Building Council, a non-profit green building policy, education and research organization at www.usgbc.org.

- Ed

Recognizing Contributions to Emergency Management: Improving HAZUS

Author: 

The National Hurricane Conference, going on this week, provides a great opportunity for members of the emergency management team to strengthen their partnerships.  It also provides an opportunity to recognize individuals in front of a group of their peers.

Earlier this week, several individuals were recognized for their contributions to emergency management and hurricane preparedness.  One award recipient was Miguel Pavon, Administrator of the Texas/Mexico Borderlands Information Center, who received an Outstanding Achievement in Mitigation Award for his contributions to HAZUS, a FEMA software program widely used by emergency managers to better understand the potential impacts of natural disasters by estimating potential losses from earthquakes, floods, and hurricanes.

Pavon’s contribution expands the potential of HAZUS by developing an innovative, user-friendly spreadsheet (PDF) for use with the risk assessment software.  Through geographic information systems technology, HAZUS estimates physical, economic, and social impacts of disasters, graphically illustrating characteristics of identified high-risk locations.

In addition to the unveiling of the awards, FEMA announced the upcoming release of Hazus 2.0  at the National Hurricane Conference, which will offer a new storm surge model to aid emergency managers in analyzing the effects of hurricane storm surge and predicting the physical and economic impacts of hurricane on coastal regions.

Last month, FEMA’s HAZUS Program Manager Eric Berman was among the recipients of Federal Computer Week magazine’s 22nd Annual "Federal 100 Awards" in Washington, DC, for his outstanding leadership and work on the FEMA HAZUS Program.

We congratulate both Miguel Pavon and Eric Berman on their contributions to the development of HAZUS, and encourage the emergency management community to check out the new HAZUS 2.0 features.

Other links
Learn more about how Miguel Pavon developed his innovative Hazus spreadsheet (PDF).

Learn more about the HAZUS program.


 

One Week Until the Great Shakeout: 2.6 Million Strong and Counting

Author: 

One week from today, at 10:15 am central, millions of Americans across the central U.S. will stop what they’re doing, whether at school, in the office, or at home, to take part in the first-ever public earthquake drill in the New Madrid Seismic Zone region. And that’s not the only "first" – this Great Central U.S. Shakeout is also the first earthquake drill ever to be conducted in multiple U.S. states simultaneously.

Earlier today, I joined several of our partners, Ernie Allen, the President and CEO of the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, and Dave Maxwell, the head of the Arkansas Department of Emergency Management, on a conference call with reporters to discuss the Shakeout. And just minutes before our call, we learned that 2.6 million Americans have now signed up to drop, take cover, and hold on.

This is exciting news and a great start. But, with 40 million people living in the New Madrid Seismic Zone, we know we can do better. Next Thursday, members from across the entire team will be spanning out to attend Shakeout drills in all 10 states. In fact, many of us here at FEMA’s headquarters, other federal agencies, and even cabinet-level officials, will be joining the many schools, colleges, state and local government agencies, hospitals, child care organizations and countless other groups at their drills.

Will you?

If you haven’t already, sign up to participate today at www.shakeout.org/centralus.

And if you already have signed up, keep spreading the word. Get your colleagues, neighbors, friends and family involved.

And if you live in California and want to get a head start on signing up for your 2011 Great California Shakeout this October, you can sign up today at www.ShakeOut.org.

As I said earlier today, we all know preparedness is a team effort. FEMA is just one part of this team – and the most important member is you. Whether it’s preparing for earthquakes or other disasters, learning how to protect ourselves in the immediate moments of an emergency can make all the difference when the real thing happens.

Student Opportunities at FEMA



Did you know that students make valuable contributions to FEMA every day?  In Washington D.C. or at any of our ten regional offices, students can contribute to the agency’s mission of supporting citizens and first responders as they prepare for, respond to, and recover from disasters.  Whether you are a college (or advanced degree) student yourself or know one that may be interested, I encourage you to learn more about student opportunities at FEMA:

Presidential Management Fellows Program

The Presidential Management Fellows program is a flagship leadership development program of the federal government and provides entry level full time employment for advanced degree candidates.  The program is designed for developing a cadre of potential government leaders who engage in impactful assignments during the first years of employment, including a series of projects to develop leadership capabilities.

Additional information about the program can be found on the program’s website.

Student Career Experience Program

The Student Career Experience Program gives students a "jump start" in their chosen career fields by providing valuable, paid work experience while they are still in school.   The program enriches each student’s education by providing relevant job experience while allowing the agency to continue developing the future workforce.

The arrangements for such jobs are developed under the Federal Student Educational Employment Program, and provides for work-study partnerships between the students and FEMA.  As a result of this program, many students have converted into a permanent position at the agency.

Additional information about this program can be found on the USA Jobs website.

Student Temporary Employment Program 

The program runs annually from June through September, providing college students with an opportunity to apply their skills and experience in an exciting work environment, while learning more about FEMA.  Students work to support the agency’s mission with assignments that can include conducting research on rules and regulations that guide the federal government, assisting with travel arrangements, and supporting the agency’s reporting efforts.

For June employment, applications are usually due by mid April.  However, the program also runs throughout the calendar year based on need, so interested applicants should monitor www.fema.gov/careers for the latest information on when opportunities arise and when applications are due.

Federal Work Study (FWS) Program

The FWS program provides part-time employment to current college students while assisting in financing the costs of postsecondary education. Students can receive FWS funds at approximately 3,400 participating postsecondary institutions. Students should contact their school guidance office, career planning and placement office, or e-mail fema-student-hire-me@dhs.gov for additional information.

More information about the FWS program can also be found at the Department of Education website.

Student Voluntary Employment Program

The Student Volunteer Employment Program is a government-wide program that allows students to work in the Department of Homeland Security as volunteers for valuable work experience directly related to their academic field of study. Though unpaid, students hired through the Student Volunteer Employment Program may receive educational credit for their internship.  Applications are accepted throughout the year, and interested students should e-mail fema-student-hire-me@dhs.gov for more information.

Additional information can also be found on the DHS website.

Video: Admin. Fugate from the National Hurricane Conference

Author: 

Administrator Fugate addressed members of the emergency management team at the 2011 National Hurricane Conference today, and talked about some steps to continue getting prepared for hurricane season (June 1 - November 30).



What do you think?  Share some of the ways you're getting prepared for hurricane season.

- Brad

News of the Day: Quick-Thinking Store Manager Saves Lives in Tornado

Author: 

I’ve blogged several times about the importance of the private sector in helping our communities prepare for, respond to, and recover from disasters. While these past blog posts have focused on the role of the private sector as a valuable member of the emergency management team, I wanted to highlight one especially heroic story that came out of the deadly tornadoes that just hit North Carolina and other states over the past few days.

During the series of deadly tornadoes and severe storms, a manager at a home improvement store in Sanford, North Carolina guided approximately 100 people (employees and customers) to safety just before a tornado bore down on the store.

Read about how the manager was able to act quickly and put the company’s safety plan into action (his heroic actions also merited a call from President Obama). (Stories courtesy of WCNC.)

Every day across the nation there are other essential contributions from the private sector and potential heroes like this manager, who work hard to keep their peers, stores and customers safe. And whether you’re a business owner or employee, check out Ready.gov/business for information on minimizing the impact of disasters and keeping employees (and potentially, your customers) safe in case an emergency occurs.

- Dan

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