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Two Years after Waldo Canyon Fire, Colorado Springs Wildfire Mitigation Program in Full Force

In City of Colorado Springs, the Wildland Urban Interface (WUI)- areas where human development is close to natural terrain and flammable vegetation, covers more than 28,800 acres and includes a quarter of our population.  Two years ago this week, the Waldo Canyon Wildfire, the most costly fire in Colorado history, hit neighborhoods across Colorado Springs and destroyed 347 homes. 

The effects were devastating to our community and we are still rebuilding two years later.  However, the losses avoided in some areas such as the Cedar Heights neighborhood, are a testament to the fact that wildfire mitigation works.  Thanks to previous fuels reduction efforts in a nearby park (such as thinning trees and removing dead vegetation), the fire laid down and allowed firefighters to make a direct attack, saving more than 250 homes in the direct path of the fire.

Since 2001, the Colorado Springs Fire Department has established and expanded our Wildfire Mitigation Program to include a multi-pronged approach of community education and outreach, planning, strengthened building codes, fuels management, and grant administration.


 Colorado Springs, Colo., June 24, 2014 -- Amy Sylvester, Colorado Springs Wildfire Mitigation Program Coordinator, speaks to homeowners about how they can protect their homes against wildfires at a neighborhood meeting in 2012. Photo by Christina Randall/CO Springs Fire Department Colorado Springs, Colo., June 24, 2014 -- Amy Sylvester, Colorado Springs Wildfire Mitigation Program Coordinator, speaks to homeowners about how they can protect their homes against wildfires at a neighborhood meeting in 2012. Photo by Christina Randall/CO Springs Fire Department

Homeowners are a critical partner in whether or not we are successful in protecting Colorado Springs against wildfires.  Firefighters cannot do it alone! 

In 2001, we began the “Sharing the Responsibility” campaign to educate homeowners on their key role in the mitigation process.   Currently, the Colorado Springs Wildfire Mitigation Program works with 109 Homeowners Associations and neighborhoods.  We are fortunate to have several “Community Champions” that help promote mitigation efforts, such as organizing annual neighborhood meetings, during which we discuss each neighborhood’s specific hazard-level and discuss mitigation options.  We also provide free property assessments for any homeowner that requests one.

In 2003, we began our Neighborhood Chipping program.  We found that while many homeowners were motivated to take steps to remove fuels from their property, they did not always have the appropriate resources to do so.  After seeing folks driving around town with tree limbs sticking out of their windows in sedans, the Fire Department collaborated with neighborhoods to initiate the chipping program.  Homeowners remove fuel sources from their property, stack it at the end of the road, and we coordinate the chipping and removal of the material at no cost to individuals.  We do this every year between April-October, with a schedule of when we will be visiting each neighborhood.  Due to the demand, we have to schedule by neighborhood and unfortunately cannot respond to individual requests.  We require at least 12 homes in the neighborhood to participate in order to sign up for a chipping date.


 Colorado Springs, Colo., June 24, 2014 -- In this before picture, as you can see, there is a lot of dead vegetation, over growth of grass, and the trees don’t have natural boundaries between them. All of these items are fuel for a wildfire. (Photo by Christina Randall/CO Springs Fire Department) Colorado Springs, Colo., June 24, 2014 -- In this before picture, as you can see, there is a lot of dead vegetation, over growth of grass, and the trees don’t have natural boundaries between them. All of these items are fuel for a wildfire. (Photo by Christina Randall/CO Springs Fire Department)

 Colorado Springs, Colo., June 24, 2014 -- In this after picture, as you can see, all of the dead vegetation and tall grass was removed, and the trees have natural boundaries between them. Steps like these will greatly reduce the spread of wildfires in the City of Colorado Springs. (Photo by Christina Randall/CO Springs Fire Department) Colorado Springs, Colo., June 24, 2014 -- In this after picture, as you can see, all of the dead vegetation and tall grass was removed, and the trees have natural boundaries between them. Steps like these will greatly reduce the spread of wildfires in the City of Colorado Springs. (Photo by Christina Randall/CO Springs Fire Department)

Along with individual properties, clearing out fuels on the common owned open spaces and parks is a critical part of protecting our communities.  With the assistance of state and federal grants (including FEMA’s Pre-Disaster Mitigation Grant), throughout the past decade we have been able to target open space areas adjacent to neighborhoods with extreme wildfire risk ratings.  For example, a fuels reduction project in Solitude Park next to the Cedar Heights neighborhood was completed prior to the Waldo Canyon Fire and played a key role in protecting that community. 

After the 2012 Waldo Canyon fire, Colorado Springs established an Ignition Resistant Construction Ordinance, which outlines building requirements for any new structures in the designated Hillside Overlay Zone of the city.  Investigators discovered that the source of ignition for more than 50% of all homes destroyed in the Waldo Canyon Fire was fire brands or embers.  These embers are carried by the wind ahead of the main fire and start small spot fires where they land. 

This evidence reinforced the need to have strict ignition resistant construction guidelines for areas of the community with the highest risk.  Requirements in this ordinance include the use of Class-A ignition-resistant roofing materials, double-paned windows, attic vent screens, and non-combustible decking materials (i.e. composite or metal) instead of wood.  All homes in this area must also have a 15’ clearance of trees and brush from the main structure.  We developed the corresponding Ignition Resistant Construction Design Manual  which includes diagrams and pictures of each requirement.  The Fire Department is also a part of the city permitting and final inspection process on any new homes or home renovations in the Hillside Zone.

Last year, we also began a Wildfire Mitigation Stipend Pilot Program.  So far, we have mitigated 582 homes through this program, which provides a dollar-for-dollar cost share (up to $500 reimbursement) for homeowners in selected high-risk communities to mitigate their properties.  The program is funded through private foundations, state grants and insurance industry donations.

We continue to work with neighborhoods, private industry, and our state and federal partners to develop a cohesive, comprehensive strategy to protect Colorado Springs against wildfires. 

 

Editor's Note: The views expressed by Christina Randall do not necessarily represent the official views of the United States, the Department of Homeland Security, or the Federal Emergency Management Agency. FEMA does not endorse any non-government organizations, entities, or services.

75 Days after the SR 530 Slide, Recovery Continues in Washington State

The Sounds of Recovery: We’re Listening

We’re listening, and all around, we hear the sounds of recovery. Like the sounds of silence, the sounds of recovery can be as profound as the devastation surrounding it. We’re listening, and by the sounds we are hearing, we see hope – all around.  Here are three signs of some of the recovery work happening in Washington:

The SR 530 Slide song created by local residents served as one source of healing for all survivors.

Out of the devastation, they created music. One of the many inspiring examples of people turning from loss toward recovery is on the Sauk-Suiattle Indian Tribe reservation, where a group of eight girls wrote a song to honor the school friends they lost in the SR 530 slide.

The girls wrote the song with the help of Grammy-winning musician Star Nayea. 

“When you’re faced with tragedy that’s only 20 miles down the road from you, it’s unfathomable,” Nayea said. “There are no words to describe or capture the feeling it brings sharing this gift of healing power of music. It is a priceless gift and privilege, and honor of having an opportunity to make a difference in someone's life.”

The girls, members of the Sauk-Suiattle Indian Tribe, Tulalip tribes and the town of Darrington, are an example of survivors from different communities uniting while sharing in the healing process. Together, the girls beat a two-day deadline to get their song rehearsed and ready to perform. They sang their song “Oso Strong Highway 530,” during one of the first community recovery meetings, which was held in Darrington on April 3. Their performance in Darrington was covered by local news outlets.

 Sauk-Suiattle, WA Darrington, Wash., May 21, 2014 -- Sauk-Suiattle elder Mary Jack displays her Native American summer dress. Elder Jack helped girls from the Suak-Suiattle Tribe, Tulalip Tribes and Darrington as they composed the song "Oso Stong Highway 530," which they performed at the Darrington Community meeting, April 3, 2014. The girls experienced the healing power of song as they put their feelings to paper and music.

Sauk-Suiattle Indian Tribe elder Mary Jack, enrolled at Tulalip, worked closely with the girls to write the song during their spring break from school. It was especially tough timing for a school vacation, so soon after the tragedy, but Jack found that working on the song was a positive, productive project that kept the girls focused on the positive.     

“‘Oso Strong Highway 530’ has helped the girls in so many ways,” Jack said. “Maybe the song will help the community start to heal, too.”

            An excerpt from the song “Oso Strong Highway 530”:

Oso strong Arlington, Skaglund Hill.

Oso life, Steelhead Drive we won’t forget you!

Oso bright, is the light…

We search to find!

 

Threads of our community are frayed.

We all must rise up, to pray!

Painful memories… may never fade.

Life will go on, starting today!

 

©Copyright 2014, all rights reserved. Sauk-Suiattle Indian Tribe, Darrington, Wash.

Composed and performed by: Kaylee Frazee, Sarah Larson, Jordan Maltos, Malia Maltos, Raime McCord, Kyla Roundface, Natalie Stewart.

Produced and arranged by: Star Nayea

Local residents expressed their thanks and appreciation to first responders in several ways

 Sok-Sue-attle) tribe said “thank you” to 80 first responders and volunteers by making a traditionally prepared salmon dinner. Photo by Patricia Hayden/FEMA - Location: Seattle, WA Seattle, Wash., June 1, 2014 -- A Pike Place Market fish monger sells salmon, which is a vital aspect of the history, culture and industry in areas directly impacted by the State Route 530 Slide that occurred on March 22, 2014. One month after the slide, on April 24, members of the Sauk-Suiattle (pronounced: Sok-Sue-attle) tribe said “thank you” to 80 first responders and volunteers by making a traditionally prepared salmon dinner. Photo by Patricia Hayden/FEMA

Members of the Sauk-Suiattle Indian Tribe said “thank you” to first responders and emergency workers on April 24 by preparing a traditional meal of salmon, which is one of the most vital economic, cultural and historic elements of the communities that were directly impacted by the slide. The salmon dinner acknowledged the recovery work – much of which continues – of the National Guard, Darrington firefighters and the Bellingham Incident Management Team. The salmon was cooked outdoors, according to tradition, on the Sauk-Suiattle Indian Tribe reservation.

Caregivers were able to take time to decompress and reflect on their SR 530 Slide recovery experiences and craft a personal self-care plan for future use.

They talked out their feelings. In Everett, where the Washington Military Department Emergency Management Division and FEMA continue partnering together in SR 530 slide recovery in the joint field office, the Presbyterian Disaster Assistance National Response Team recently hosted a “Care for the Caregiver” workshop. During the seven-hour session, volunteers and emergency workers who cared for others after the SR 530 slide, including two specialists with FEMA who personally contacted those who lost loved ones in the tragedy, exchanged their stories.

“I could feel the weight lifting from my shoulders” said FEMA Disaster Recovery Center Manager Wendy Newsom.

Many of the self-care techniques discussed during the workshop are simple steps that can be taken anywhere. For instance, those with limited personal time or space can create a healing center, anywhere, by lighting candles and bringing items like leaves, stones or flowers indoors. A simple meditation rock or leaf can inject a breath of nature into indoor work space.

Workshop participants discussed the need to identify and reach out to people who are willing to listen. Talking through feelings with someone else about what happened can be a rich source of healing. 

Everett, Wash., May 14, 2014 -- FEMA Applicant Services Program Specialist William Wigley and Disaster Recovery Center Managers Rosemary Sculthrope and Wendy Newsom discuss self-care techniques during a “Care for Caregivers” workshop by the Presbyterian Disaster Assistance National Response Team on May 14-15 at the Joint Field Office in Everett. The workshop presented simple steps anyone can incorporate into their busy schedules.Everett, Wash., May 14, 2014 -- FEMA Applicant Services Program Specialist William Wigley and Disaster Recovery Center Managers Rosemary Sculthrope and Wendy Newsom discuss self-care techniques during a “Care for Caregivers” workshop by the Presbyterian Disaster Assistance National Response Team on May 14-15 at the Joint Field Office in Everett. The workshop presented simple steps anyone can incorporate into their busy schedules.

As recovery continues, help is still available…

Information and links to multi-agency resources are available on the Snohomish County website.

Those directly impacted by the SR 530 Slide may call a help line operated by the state of Washington. The number is (800) 688-3469. Hours of operation for the help line are Monday –Friday, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., Pacific Daylight Time. More information is available from Washington’s Emergency Management Division.

SR 530 Slide survivors can also continue to speak directly with FEMA representatives by calling the FEMA help line. The number is (800) 621-FEMA (3362). 711 or Video Relay Service (VRS) is available through this number. Survivors who use TTY, may call (800) 462-7585. The toll-free telephone numbers will operate from 4 a.m. to 7 p.m. Pacific Daylight Time, seven days a week.

More information is available about the SR 530 slide disaster declaration.

This Building Season, Learning from the Past as We Improve the Future

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One year ago, on May 20, 2013, Moore, Oklahoma experienced a deadly tornado that devastated the area. Less than one year from the event new homes became safer.

On April 17, 2014, Moore, Oklahoma, became the first in the nation to establish building code requirements to make residential buildings able to withstand the forces of an EF2 tornado. Building Code Amendments stand out as a great example of managing risk and improving building safety.

The code amendment, including requirements for roof sheathing, hurricane straps and stud spacing, is designed so that the homes can withstand winds up to 135 miles per hour. The garage door, often a weak point in buildings, is also required to be rated for 135-mph winds.

Homes built to a similar level of construction in the Wild Flower subdivision in Oklahoma City experienced damage during the May 20, 2013, tornado, and stayed structurally intact through much higher wind than they were initially designed for. The new requirements are intended to reduce the number of damaged homes and reduce the severity of that damage in lower-level tornadoes.

On October 29, 2012, Hurricane Sandy blew across the Jersey shore and downgraded to a tropical cyclone. Though it weakened in strength, it still devastated many small boroughs like Sea Bright. Many of the quaint homes that made the township unique were reduced to rubble, causing Sea Bright to look like a landfill.

For homeowner Bernard Bertino and builder Ray Guzman, building above the code standards saved their adjoining townhomes from the massive flooding that wreaked havoc on their community.

After the storm passed, both Bertino and Guzman were happy to see their homes were high and dry after the river flooded their neighborhood. Although Sandy flooded their first floor garages with nearly four feet of water, the structures sustained no flood damage because they installed flood vents in the garage. The vents allowed floodwaters to flow easily through the structure by minimizing the pressure from the force of water during impact.

When Guzman and his architect, Paul Damiano, constructed the two townhomes in 2011, they were adamant about building flood-resistant properties and wanted to build exactly to local code.

The homes were elevated to the Base Flood Elevation (BFE) plus two feet of freeboard as required by the Flood Damage Prevention Ordinance within the local building regulation. The first floor has extra reinforcement around the cement block to add support during flooding as an added mitigation measure.

All the utilities in the homes are well above the BFE on the second and third floors. Since none of the utilities were located in the garage, the owners were able to have electricity restored to their homes when the Borough of Sea Bright allowed residents to return three weeks later.

The only damage either of the structures sustained by Sandy was the loss of one shingle. It was damaged by wind-borne debris.

We observe National Building Safety Month each spring as many of us and our communities begin construction projects that will improve our homes and neighborhoods.

It’s during this “building season” that we have an opportunity to implement building safety solutions that not only help to protect ourselves and our families, but also support the needs of our communities.

At FEMA, we know that building safety and hazard mitigation provide value to the American people by creating safer communities, enabling individuals and communities to recover more rapidly from disasters, and lessening the financial impact of disasters on States, Tribes, and local communities like yours.

While we may not be able to stop natural disasters from occurring, we can all take steps to reduce their impact by building stronger and safer.

Learn more about protecting homes, communities, and businesses.

Opening of the National Mobile Disaster Hospital Marks a Milestone in Mississippi’s Recovery

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 Louisville, Miss., May 11, 2014 -- Details of the equipment and mobile hospital facility that has been made available to the residents of Winston County. Residents in Jones, Leake, Montgomery, Simpson, Wilson and Warren counties whose property was damaged by the recent storms, tornadoes and flooding in Mississippi may now apply for federal assistance, and are encouraged to apply to FEMA by calling (800) 621-3362, (TTY) (800) 462-7585, or by applying online at www.DisasterAssistance.gov. Louisville, Miss., May 11, 2014 -- Details of the equipment and mobile hospital facility that has been made available to the residents of Winston County. Residents in Jones, Leake, Montgomery, Simpson, Wilson and Warren counties whose property was damaged by the recent storms, tornadoes and flooding in Mississippi may now apply for federal assistance, and are encouraged to apply to FEMA by calling (800) 621-3362, (TTY) (800) 462-7585, or by applying online at www.DisasterAssistance.gov.

On Monday, May 19, I had the great honor and pleasure to be among local, state and federal officials at the opening of the National Mobile Disaster Hospital in Louisville, Miss. It will be used to temporarily replace the Winston Medical Center which was heavily damaged during the April 28 tornado outbreak.

This is the first time the National Mobile Disaster Hospital will be used as a fully operational hospital.  

Leading up to this milestone, local, state and federal partners have faced extraordinarily complex and challenging issues and through the collaborative teamwork of all stakeholders, we have moved forward to work through problems and arrive at solutions that benefit all residents of Winston County.

Mississippi Governor Phil Bryant and FEMA Administrator Craig Fugate led the opening ceremony, along with Louisville Mayor Will Hill, Mississippi Emergency Management Agency Chief of Staff Bill Brown and Mississippi State Department of Health State Health Officer Dr. Mary Currier.  

Speaking to the news media and the public about the importance of local healthcare and the federal government’s role in whole community recovery, Governor Bryant crystalized the local impact saying “this is a sign post on the road to recovery that says, ‘Hospital is open.’  It means so much because we would have lost every doctor and every nurse.”

Winston County now has a fully operational temporary hospital, complete with a 5-bed emergency department, 10-bed acute care module, along with typical services found in a hospital environment including an X-ray unit, inpatient pharmacy, and a clinical lab.

Administrator Fugate said “Recovering from disasters takes a team effort. Today’s event is an important step in reviving local services in Louisville. Together, we continue the hard work of supporting the community to get back on its feet.”

As I listened to each speaker, I was overwhelmed by the heartfelt words and expressions of thanks to the big team effort expressed to local, state, federal, private sector and volunteer partners who worked together overcoming many obstacles to get the hospital transported, inventoried, assembled and opened within three weeks of the April 28 tornadoes.

 Louisville, Miss., May 6, 2014 -- Volunteers from the North Carolina Baptist Men are working to set up the Department of Homeland Security/FEMA mobile hospital in Louisville, Miss., after the local hospital was damaged by the tornado on April 28th. Bill Koplitz/FEMA Louisville, Miss., May 6, 2014 -- Volunteers from the North Carolina Baptist Men are working to set up the Department of Homeland Security/FEMA mobile hospital in Louisville, Miss., after the local hospital was damaged by the tornado on April 28th. Bill Koplitz/FEMA

Mayor Will Hill said it best, “For the idea to have a temporary hospital three weeks ago, to be a reality in less than three weeks, I really didn’t even think it was possible. But it’s just great to get our employees back to work.”

I am proud of the collective effort put forth by everyone assisting in getting this temporary hospital assembled and operational. It is great to see cooperation among all our recovery partners who worked together to overcome many challenges. I’d like to extend my sincere thanks to the state of Mississippi and residents in Winston County for allowing me to share in your celebration of the newly opened temporary Winston Medical Center. I assure you that your federal partners will support you throughout the recovery process.

Photo Recap: Disaster Recovery Underway Across the U.S.

We’ve had an active winter and spring as we head into the summer months. We have photographers deployed to several states capturing the impacts of severe weather, along with response and recovery efforts underway for events ranging from the SR 530 mudslide in Washington to severe storms and tornadoes that swept through several states in the South.

Since I working closely with our field photographers, I see some incredible images come across my desk. I wanted to share some of these photos that show some of the great work being done on the ground. We remain committed to helping disaster survivors in their time of need recover from these devastating events and encourage everyone to visit the state’s disaster page for updates on ongoing recovery efforts: Washington, Mississippi, Alabama, Florida, and Arkansas.

To see more photos from these states or other photos, visit the FEMA Media Library.

 Ensley, FL, May 21, 2014 -- FEMA Disability Integration Coordinator, Mike Houston uses sign language to communicate with disaster survivor, Paul Barnes Jr.. FEMA deaf interpreter, Ronda Reinkel and FEMA Corps registrar, Marie Orechoff assist Mr. Barnes in applying for Federal disaster assistance after torrential rain from a pair of thunderstorm triggered major flash flooding in his Pensacola neighborhood. Andrea Booher/FEMA Ensley, FL, May 21, 2014 -- FEMA Disability Integration Coordinator, Mike Houston uses sign language to communicate with disaster survivor, Paul Barnes Jr.. FEMA deaf interpreter, Ronda Reinkel and FEMA Corps registrar, Marie Orechoff assist Mr. Barnes in applying for Federal disaster assistance after torrential rain from a pair of thunderstorm triggered major flash flooding in his Pensacola neighborhood. Andrea Booher/FEMA

 Pensacola, FL, May 15, 2014 -- Disaster Survivor Assistance Team (DSAT) member Marie Orechoff checks on the FEMA application status of Toni Talley in Brownsville, Florida. Andrea Booher/FEMA Pensacola, FL, May 15, 2014 -- Disaster Survivor Assistance Team (DSAT) member Marie Orechoff checks on the FEMA application status of Toni Talley in Brownsville, Florida. Andrea Booher/FEMA

 Crescent Lake, Fla., May 10, 2014 -- FEMA Corps members Stacy Kolcum and David Curry answer FEMA application questions of Crescent Lake residents, Bruce and Kimberly Wakefield. Kolcum and Curry are members of FEMA's Disaster Survivor Assistance Team (DSAT) who were deployed to Florida following major flash flooding along parts of the Florida Panhandle. Andrea Booher/FEMA Crescent Lake, Fla., May 10, 2014 -- FEMA Corps members Stacy Kolcum and David Curry answer FEMA application questions of Crescent Lake residents, Bruce and Kimberly Wakefield. Kolcum and Curry are members of FEMA's Disaster Survivor Assistance Team (DSAT) who were deployed to Florida following major flash flooding along parts of the Florida Panhandle. Andrea Booher/FEMA

 Kenyatta Jones, Amy James, Jara Mehca, Stephanie Morring, and Bo Price. Ed Edahl/FEMA Athens, Ala., May14, 2014 -- Local and not so local church members provided much appreciated labor and good cheer for survivors of the recent tornado. From left are: Kenyatta Jones, Amy James, Jara Mehca, Stephanie Morring, and Bo Price. Ed Edahl/FEMA

 Athenes, Ala., May 14, 2014 -- Storms, straight line winds and a tornado destroyed large patches of neighborhoods near Athens, Ala. Debris is a major expense for FEMA as well as the survivors. Ed Edahl/FEMA Athens, Ala., May 14, 2014 -- Storms, straight line winds and a tornado destroyed large patches of neighborhoods near Athens, Ala. Debris is a major expense for FEMA as well as the survivors. Ed Edahl/FEMA

 Athens, Ala., May 14, 2014 -- Contractors using chain saws, hand tools, and light mechanized machinery clear debris near Athens, Ala. FEMA is working to assist residents who have been impacted by the recent storms. Ed Edahl/FEMA Athens, Ala., May 14, 2014 -- Contractors using chain saws, hand tools, and light mechanized machinery clear debris near Athens, Ala. FEMA is working to assist residents who have been impacted by the recent storms. Ed Edahl/FEMA

 aerial photograph taken May 14 shows the progress made by the US Army Corps of Engineer's efforts to drain the water from the site. Top: aerial photograph taken the day after the SR 530 slide, March 23, which shows the debris and water that accumulated as a result of the slide. Bottom: aerial photograph taken May 14 shows the progress made by the US Army Corps of Engineer's efforts to drain the water from the site.

 Oso, Wash., May 19, 2014 -- Almost two months after the SR 530 slide, the view from the base of the collapsed hillside shows a portion of the area affected. The slide area measures 315 acres. Oso, Wash., May 19, 2014 -- Almost two months after the SR 530 slide, the view from the base of the collapsed hillside shows a portion of the area affected. The slide area measures 315 acres.

 Oso, Wash., May 19, 2014 -- An excavator removes debris from SR 530 after it was obstructed by a slide March 22. Efforts are underway to reopen the highway to the public. Oso, Wash., May 19, 2014 -- An excavator removes debris from SR 530 after it was obstructed by a slide March 22. Efforts are underway to reopen the highway to the public. - Location: , WA

 Oso, Wash., May 19, 2014 -- Workers clear State Route 530 of debris from a slide that took place March 22. Efforts are being made to reopen the highway. Oso, Wash., May 19, 2014 -- Workers clear State Route 530 of debris from a slide that took place March 22. Efforts are being made to reopen the highway.

 Mayflower, AR, May 17, 2014 – A Team Rubicon volunteer removes debris from a home and property on Plantation Drive after the home was destroyed by a tornado on April 27. FEMA supports Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster (VOAD) as they help survivors recover from natural disasters. Photo by Christopher Mardorf / FEMA. Mayflower, AR, May 17, 2014 – A Team Rubicon volunteer removes debris from a home and property on Plantation Drive after the home was destroyed by a tornado on April 27. FEMA supports Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster (VOAD) as they help survivors recover from natural disasters. Photo by Christopher Mardorf / FEMA.

 Mayflower, AR, May 17, 2014 – Team Rubicon volunteers remove debris from a home and property on Plantation Drive after the home was destroyed by a tornado on April 27. FEMA supports Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster (VOAD) as they help survivors recover from natural disasters. Photo by Christopher Mardorf / FEMA. Mayflower, AR, May 17, 2014 – Team Rubicon volunteers remove debris from a home and property on Plantation Drive after the home was destroyed by a tornado on April 27. FEMA supports Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster (VOAD) as they help survivors recover from natural disasters. Photo by Christopher Mardorf / FEMA.

 Vilonia, AR, May 19, 2014 –United Methodist Disaster Relief volunteers remove debris and install temporary mobile trailers after the Vilonia United Methodist Church was destroyed by a tornado on April 27. FEMA supports Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster (VOAD) as they help survivors recover from natural disasters. Photo by Christopher Mardorf / FEMA. Vilonia, AR, May 19, 2014 –United Methodist Disaster Relief volunteers remove debris and install temporary mobile trailers after the Vilonia United Methodist Church was destroyed by a tornado on April 27. FEMA supports Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster (VOAD) as they help survivors recover from natural disasters. Photo by Christopher Mardorf / FEMA.

 Pearl, Miss., May 17, 2014 -- The FEMA/Mississippi Emergency Management Agency (MEMA) Disaster Recovery Center table at the Pearl Day Festival. The table is staffed by FEMA's Doretha Fullard and Stacey Bluford and MEMA's Loretta Thorpe. Residents in Itawamba, Jones, Leake, Montgomery, Simpson, Warren, Lee, Lowdnes, Madison, Wayne, Rankin and Winston counties whose property was damaged by the recent storms, tornadoes and flooding in Mississippi may now apply for federal assistance, and are encouraged to apply, to FEMA by calling (800) 621-3362, (TTY) (800) 462-7585, or by applying online at www.DisasterAssistance.gov. FEMA/Bill Koplitz Pearl, Miss., May 17, 2014 -- The FEMA/Mississippi Emergency Management Agency (MEMA) Disaster Recovery Center table at the Pearl Day Festival. The table is staffed by FEMA's Doretha Fullard and Stacey Bluford and MEMA's Loretta Thorpe. Residents in Itawamba, Jones, Leake, Montgomery, Simpson, Warren, Lee, Lowdnes, Madison, Wayne, Rankin and Winston counties whose property was damaged by the recent storms, tornadoes and flooding in Mississippi may now apply for federal assistance, and are encouraged to apply, to FEMA by calling (800) 621-3362, (TTY) (800) 462-7585, or by applying online at www.DisasterAssistance.gov. FEMA/Bill Koplitz

 Columbus, Miss., May 15, 2014 -- Red Cross Volunteer from Jackson, Miss., Eons Catchings Sr. is standing at the back of his truck that he just drove to Columbus, Miss. with 185 30 pound boxes of food donated by the Mississippi Food Network in Jackson for the citizens of Columbus. The food willl be distributed by The Salvation Army. Residents in Itawamba, Jones, Leake, Montgomery, Simpson, Warren, Lee, Lowdnes, Madison, Wayne, Rankin and Winston counties whose property was damaged by the recent storms, tornadoes and flooding in Mississippi may now apply for federal assistance, and are encouraged to apply, to FEMA by calling (800) 621-3362, (TTY) (800) 462-7585, or by applying online at www.DisasterAssistance.gov. Bill Koplitz/FEMA Columbus, Miss., May 15, 2014 -- Red Cross Volunteer from Jackson, Miss., Eons Catchings Sr. is standing at the back of his truck that he just drove to Columbus, Miss. with 185 30 pound boxes of food donated by the Mississippi Food Network in Jackson for the citizens of Columbus. The food willl be distributed by The Salvation Army. Residents in Itawamba, Jones, Leake, Montgomery, Simpson, Warren, Lee, Lowdnes, Madison, Wayne, Rankin and Winston counties whose property was damaged by the recent storms, tornadoes and flooding in Mississippi may now apply for federal assistance, and are encouraged to apply, to FEMA by calling (800) 621-3362, (TTY) (800) 462-7585, or by applying online at www.DisasterAssistance.gov. Bill Koplitz/FEMA

What We're Watching: 5/9/14

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At the end of each week, we post a "What We’re Watching" blog as we look ahead to the weekend and recap events from the week. We encourage you to share it with your friends and family, and have a safe weekend.

 "We'll be here for the long haul" - Yesterday, President Obama visited with communities in Arkansas impacted by last week's tornadoes. He talked with some of the families who lost loved ones as a result of the tornadoes, as well as some of the first responders, recovery workers, and members of the National Guard that are helping the community recover. "We'll be here for the long haul" - Yesterday, President Obama visited with communities in Arkansas impacted by last week's tornadoes. He talked with some of the families who lost loved ones as a result of the tornadoes, as well as some of the first responders, recovery workers, and members of the National Guard that are helping the community recover.

Federal Assistance Available for Residents Impacted by Last Week’s Severe Storms

Following severe weather across the South and Southeast that resulted in tornadoes and flooding, President Obama declared major disasters in Mississippi, Alabama, Arkansas, and Florida, making assistance available to residents in designated counties who were affected by the storms. This week, President Obama visited Arkansas to view ongoing recovery efforts and pledged the nation’s continued support as those affected by the storms begin to recover. Take a look at these few photos of ongoing recovery efforts. Impacted residents in declared states to register for disaster assistance online at www.disasterassistance.gov or by calling 1-800-621-3362 or for TTY, call 1-800-462-7585 directly.

To find out if the county you live in is eligible for assistance, or for updates on recovery efforts, visit your state’s disaster page:

Here are a few photos of ongoing recovery efforts. For more photos, visit the FEMA Media Library.

 Louisville, Miss., May 5, 2014 -- Dwayne McKinley is cutting up downed trees with a chain saw at the Louisville Memorial Park Cemetery. Residents of Itawamba, Lee, Lowndes, Madison, Rankin, Wayne and Winston counties are eligible to register for assistance with FEMA. Louisville, Miss., May 5, 2014 -- Dwayne McKinley is cutting up downed trees with a chain saw at the Louisville Memorial Park Cemetery. Residents of Itawamba, Lee, Lowndes, Madison, Rankin, Wayne and Winston counties are eligible to register for assistance with FEMA.

 Mayflower, Ark., May 4, 2014 -- Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Secretary Jeh Johnson comforts a disaster survivor in the residential neighborhood of Plantation Drive in Mayflower, Arkansas, which was struck by an EF-4 tornado on April 27. FEMA supports local, state and tribal governments and assists individual survivors in their efforts to recover from natural disasters. Photo by Christopher Mardorf/FEMA - Location: Mayflower, AR Mayflower, Ark., May 4, 2014 -- Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Secretary Jeh Johnson comforts a disaster survivor in the residential neighborhood of Plantation Drive in Mayflower, Arkansas, which was struck by an EF-4 tornado on April 27. FEMA supports local, state and tribal governments and assists individual survivors in their efforts to recover from natural disasters. Photo by Christopher Mardorf/FEMA - Location: Mayflower, AR

 Louisville, Miss., May 6, 2014 -- Volunteers from the North Carolina Baptist Men are working to set up the Department of Homeland Security/FEMA mobile hospital in Louisville, Miss., after the local hospital was damaged by the tornado on April 28th. Bill Koplitz/FEMA Louisville, Miss., May 6, 2014 -- Volunteers from the North Carolina Baptist Men are working to set up the Department of Homeland Security/FEMA mobile hospital in Louisville, Miss., after the local hospital was damaged by the tornado on April 28th. Bill Koplitz/FEMA

Weather Outlook
Map of the U.S Weather Outlook.Map of the U.S Weather Outlook.

According to our friends at the National Weather Service, this Mother’s Day weekend has a whole range of possible weather conditions, depending on where you might be. Temperatures will near 90F in some areas, while others could see severe weather, and even snow and heavy rains. Find your local forecast at weather.gov.

If severe weather is expected in your area, remember:

  • Monitor your battery-powered radio or television for emergency information. 
  • Do not touch downed power lines or objects in contact with downed lines. Report downed power lines and electrical hazards to the police and the utility company. 
  • Injury may result from the direct impact of a tornado or it may occur afterward when people walk among debris and enter damaged buildings. Wear sturdy shoes or boots, long sleeves and gloves when handling or walking on or near debris. 
  • After a tornado, be aware of possible structural, electrical or gas-leak hazards in your home. Contact your local city or county building inspectors for information on structural safety codes and standards. They may also offer suggestions on finding a qualified contractor to do work for you.

Visit Ready.gov/severe-weather  for more tips on what to do if severe weather is expected in your area. You can also visit http://m.fema.gov for safety tips on your mobile device.

From Coding to Tangible Results: FEMA’s First Open Data Town Hall

Mockups of a Disaster Assistance Assessment Dashboard are shared with participants at FEMA's first-ever Data Town Hall. Developers at Appalicious created the dashboard to utilize publicly available data sets, including some of FEMA's open data.Mockups of a Disaster Assistance Assessment Dashboard are shared with participants at FEMA's first-ever Data Town Hall. Developers at Appalicious created the dashboard to utilize publicly available data sets, including some of FEMA's open data.

I’ve been fortunate enough to attend a few “hackathons” and “data jams”, both inside and outside of the government space.  These events often have a simple premise: bring together tech experts from different disciplines and organizations so they can create cool, useful solutions or products.  The challenge at these gatherings isn’t coming up with great ideas – the tough task is transforming big ideas into tangible to-do lists and, ultimately, a useful product. 

The approach to FEMA’s first-ever Data Town Hall was refreshing because our OpenFEMA team harked just as much about project management and results as they did about getting creative when using FEMA’s data. The attendees were asked to break into five challenge tracks: GIS, Disaster Assistance Assessment Dashboard, Accessibility, API and Fire Viz; each with a specific project and private sector team lead.  Then experts from the tech sector, government, and non-profits worked to “move the ball forward”. 

The projects were all at different stages of development – some were new ideas gathering requirements, others built upon progress from the White House Safety Datapalooza, last year’s National Civic Day of Hacking, or individual effort by emergency management stakeholders.

One of the challenge tracks at FEMA’s Data Town Hall was for an Interactive Application Programming Interface (API) Explorer.  The explorer would help developers explore FEMA’s API to make the agency’s data easier to use in third party applications or platforms. As you can see, each challenge track had to identify its phase of development, purpose, current state, and what the end result could look like.One of the challenge tracks at FEMA’s Data Town Hall was for an Interactive Application Programming Interface (API) Explorer. The explorer would help developers explore FEMA’s API to make the agency’s data easier to use in third party applications or platforms. As you can see, each challenge track had to identify its phase of development, purpose, current state, and what the end result could look like.

The common thread across all the challenge tracks was a passion for using government data to make the world a better place.  After the event, I asked several attendees about the next steps for their projects and how they plan to use FEMA’s data.  Their responses (below) show the value of bringing a variety of stakeholders together to identify and solve common problems.

Respondents

  • Jon Nystrom – ESRI (Geographic Information System Company)
  • Noah Reiter – Rave Mobile
  • Yo Yoshida – Appallicious
  • Marcus Louie – Socrata

Question: Why did you choose to attend?

Jon, ESRI: I attended the event to learn more about the direction that FEMA is moving with their Open Data initiative.  Having access to data gives a level of government accountability and allows everyone to participate in the mission of saving lives during a large catastrophic event. 

Noah, Rave Mobile: My original reason for attending was to represent the International Association of Emergency Management (IAEM), as a member of its Emerging Technologies Caucus. However, once I learned more about the event, I was equally interested to learn more about FEMA’s OpenGov initiative, particularly as it relates to accessibility.

Marcus, Socrata: I decided to attend because I loved the work done during last year’s National Day of Civic Hacking, and I wanted to continue this great work.  Last June, a fire exploration application was created in less than 24 hours using a sample of the National Fire Incident Reporting System (NFIRS) data that FEMA released for the event.

Yo, Appallicious: My reasons for attending we’re a bit more personal. San Francisco is my home and unfortunately it has seen its share of disasters. I really wanted to find a way to help the city I love and others prepare for and recover after a disaster.

I’ve had the pleasure of working closely with San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee’s Office of Civic Innovation and the San Francisco Department of Public Health (SFDPH) on a number of open data and resiliency projects. I have learned so much from SFDPH about community resilience efforts I was hopeful that I could be helpful to FEMA’s efforts.

Question: Why are you passionate about this work?

Noah, Rave Mobile: All of us are committed to the development of solutions that enhance individual and group safety and security by connecting the public with public safety and emergency management solutions. The discussions around accessibility relate directly to several of our solutions, which provide timely information to 9-1-1, first responders and emergency managers.

Yo, Appallicious: I’ve always loved technology and public service. For as long as I can remember, I have wanted to help make government more accessible to citizens, but I did not know how I could make a difference.

As open data efforts began to heat up with the federal government’s launch of Data.gov and San Francisco’s open data efforts, DataSF.org, a light bulb went off. I began to start thinking about opportunities to transform the way people interact with government. Data.gov, DataSF.org and other open data efforts are making government information easily accessible for developers to make all kinds of civic-minded products that make government work better. 

Vice President Joe Biden has summed up how technology will transform government, quoting Irish poet William Butler Yeats, “All’s changed, changed utterly. Terrible beauty has been born.” It is incredible how much has changed so quickly.

Jon, ESRI: We are increasingly seeing large events affect the world and that appears to be trending upwards with the population growth and potential climate change.  With events like Hurricane Sandy, support was coming in from around the globe due to the access of Open Data. With disasters, there is always going to be the unknown; designing the solutions and apps before the event will allow mission operators to make decisions based on these new data feeds and analytics.  

Question: What was the most interesting thing you learned that day?

Yo, Appallicious: The information obtained from FEMA staff, including CTO Ted Okada, the Red Cross, and other industry professionals, was priceless. The most important thing we learned from the event was where some of the data sets were sitting and introductions to others in the industry that will help us complete the build of the Disaster Assessment and Assistance Dashboard (DAAD).  Another important part of that day was that we discovered flaws in the third iteration of DAAD. We found this out through feedback from disaster professionals. We will iterate on and integrate this information into the upcoming build of the product. 

Marcus, Socrata: There is so much more about the NFIRS data than I originally thought!  There's a lot that can be done with it that I didn't see was possible in the data that was released for the National Day of Civic Hacking. 

Noah, Rave Mobile: The most interesting thing I learned during the FEMA Data Town Hall was FEMA’s commitment to assisting emergency management practitioners’ and developers’ with creating technological solutions that will enhance preparedness and safety.

Question: What did you or your project gain from having the event in person?

Marcus, Socrata: For starters, none of us knew each other before the event, so simply holding the event allowed us to coalesce around a shared interest.  Setting aside a day to learn more about the data and to discuss its possibilities was helpful for everyone.  The event was a good start to building momentum around this particular effort.

Yo, Appallicious: There is no better way to get feedback while still in discovery phase then being at an event like this. Bringing professionals together to work through concepts is an extremely efficient and effective way to develop the best possible product. It also gave us many different ideas for inclusion in the product, how best to launch it and who we should be thinking about partnering with for it to be successful.

Question: What phase of the innovation cycle is your project in, and what are the next steps for moving in to the next phase?

Noah, Rave Mobile: Whereas most of the other working groups have considerable data sets to work with, the Accessibility Team will likely need to establish a data set and, specifically, a knowledge base of its own. The technological elements of our team’s solution are perhaps easier to develop than is the sourcing of the information for the knowledge base that our solution will leverage. Therefore, we have tentatively identified two parallel objectives for the next phase of our project. The first is to begin to compile various needs that individuals might have during a disaster (i.e. an interpreter or vehicle capable of accommodating a wheelchair) and then begin to compile the available resources for individuals with various needs. Simultaneously, we will begin designing the public-facing user interface for the sharing and receiving of these preparedness resources.

Jon, ESRI: We are just in the beginning.  We are looking for use cases for developing open data and feeds into useful tools for State and Local responders.

Marcus, Socrata: We have a couple of prototypes that were built last year.  These were built in 24 hours and without access to subject matter experts.  The result is that we developed some really great looking data exploration tools, but we are not sure whether they are actually serving anyone's needs.  Instead of starting from the data and seeing what we can do with it, our next step will is to focus on the stakeholders and their needs and the build tools around that.  

Yo, Appallicious: We are currently narrowing the scale and scope using the feedback from this last meeting and over the next two weeks we will begin development of DAAD. Stay tuned!

Finally, I’d like to offer a big “thank you” to all those who attended our first-ever FEMA Data Town Hall.  Look for more updates in the coming weeks as the OpenFEMA team continues to check in with project owners and track progress.   For more on FEMA’s open government initiative, visit fema.gov/openfema.  If you’re a developer, I encourage you to check out the API for FEMA data to dig deeper into our open data sets.

Editor's Note: FEMA is providing this information about third-party products as a reference. FEMA does not endorse any non-government organizations, entities, or services.  The views expressed by Data Town Hall participants do not necessarily represent the official views of the United States, the Department of Homeland Security, or the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

Countdown to America’s PrepareAthon!

Author: 

Do you know what you would do during a disaster? Do you know if your community is at risk of tornadoes, hurricanes, wildfires or flood?

Only about two-in-five Americans say that they have a plan for what to do in an emergency. We need to change that. That’s why on April 30th, individuals, organizations, and communities will come together to prepare for emergencies on the very first National Day of Action: America’s PrepareAthon!

America’s PrepareAthon! is a nationwide, community-based campaign to increase emergency preparedness and resilience through participation in hazard-specific drills, group discussions and exercises conducted at the national level every fall and spring.

Earlier this week at the White House, Administrator Fugate joined The Weather Channel, AARP and emergency management pros from across the country in a Google+ HangOut on why it’s important for individuals to prepare and describe how they will engage in America’s PrepareAthon! It was a great discussion and if you missed it, you can watch the video here:

On April 30 and throughout the spring, America’s PrepareAthon! activities will focus on preparing individuals, organizations, and communities for tornadoes, hurricanes, floods, and wildfires. Be Smart. Take Part. And prepare today!

Here’s how to join:

  • Register: Participate in America’s PrepareAthon! at ready.gov/prepare.
  • Be Smart: Download guides to learn how to prepare for a tornado, hurricane, flood or wildfire
  • Take Part: Plan activities and host an event locally on April 30th
  • Prepare: Practice a drill or have a discussion about preparedness
  • Share: Promote your activities, events and best practices with national preparedness community members

For more information on America’s PrepareAthon! and to download easy-to-use and free resources go to: www.ready.gov/prepare.  Follow the conversation via @PrepareAthon / #PrepareAthon.  And stay in touch; for questions or comments email PrepareAthon@fema.dhs.gov

What We're Watching: 4/4/14

Author: 

At the end of each week, we post a "What We’re Watching" blog as we look ahead to the weekend and recap events from the week. We encourage you to share it with your friends and family, and have a safe weekend.

Editor's Note: The America’s PrepareAthon! Google+ Hangout section has been updated with a link for lLive Closed Captioning for the event.

Supporting Individuals and Communities Impacted by the Washington Mudslides

Snohomish County, Wash., March 26, 2014 -- A FEMA Senior Leadership Meeting takes place discussing the Oso Mudslide. From the left to right is Michael Hall, Federal Coordinating Officer, Sharon Loper, FEMA Deputy Region Administrator-Region X, Ken Murphy, Regional Administrator-Region X and Jackie Gladish, Operations Chief-Region X. Steve Zumwalt/FEMASnohomish County, Wash., March 26, 2014 -- A FEMA Senior Leadership Meeting takes place discussing the Oso Mudslide. From the left to right is Michael Hall, Federal Coordinating Officer, Sharon Loper, FEMA Deputy Region Administrator-Region X, Ken Murphy, Regional Administrator-Region X and Jackie Gladish, Operations Chief-Region X. Steve Zumwalt/FEMA

Earlier this week, President Obama announced a major disaster declaration for the state of Washington in response to the Oso Mudslide. The President's action makes federal funding available to affected individuals in Snohomish County, including the Sauk-Suiattle, Stillaguamish, and Tulalip Tribes.

At the request of the state, FEMA deployed Urban Search & Rescue IST White, CA-TF7 and 20 Canine Search and Rescue Teams have been deployed in addition to the Urban Search & Rescue WA TF-1 deployed as a State Asset. Our National-IMAT West, Bothell MERS personnel and MEOV are also deployed to Washington and assisting with ongoing response and recovery operations.

37 a.m., the same time that the mudslide occurred on Saturday March 22, 2014. Washington National Guard personnel continue to help the community of Oso in the wake of the mudslide. (U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Rory Featherston WA ANG)Tech. Sgt. Tayler Bates and Tech Sgt. Tony Rohrenbach, members of the Washington Air National Guard, 141 Civil Engineer Squadron pause for a moment of silence at 10:37 a.m., the same time that the mudslide occurred on Saturday March 22, 2014. Washington National Guard personnel continue to help the community of Oso in the wake of the mudslide. (U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Rory Featherston WA ANG)

Due to the localized impacts of the disaster, FEMA is working closely with residents, tribal members, and business owners who sustained losses in the designated area on a one on one basis.

For updates on response and recovery efforts, follow FEMA Region 10 on twitter or visit the state’s disaster page.

Monitoring Severe Weather

Today and into the evening, our partners at the National Weather Service forecast a slight risk for severe thunderstorms across parts of the Central Gulf Coast. If you live in that region, here are some things to keep in mind:

  • Know your severe weather terminology:
    • Severe Thunderstorm Watch - Tells you when and where severe thunderstorms are likely to occur. Watch the sky and stay tuned to NOAA Weather Radio, commercial radio or television for information.
    • Severe Thunderstorm Warning - Issued when severe weather has been reported by spotters or indicated by radar. Warnings indicate imminent danger to life and property to those in the path of the storm.
    • Tornado Watch - Tornadoes are possible. Remain alert for approaching storms. Watch the sky and stay tuned to NOAA Weather Radio, commercial radio or television for information.
    • Tornado Warning - A tornado has been sighted or indicated by weather radar. Take shelter immediately.
  • Remember the 30/30 Lightning Safety Rule: Go indoors if, after seeing lightning, you cannot count to 30 before hearing thunder. Stay indoors for 30 minutes after hearing the last clap of thunder.
  • Listen to NOAA Weather Radio or to commercial radio or television newscasts for the latest information. In any emergency, always listen to the instructions given by local emergency management officials.
  • Be alert to changing weather conditions. Look for approaching storms.
  • Look for the following danger signs:
    • Dark, often greenish sky
    • Large hail
    • A large, dark, low-lying cloud (particularly if rotating)
    • Loud roar, similar to a freight train.
    • If you see approaching storms or any of the danger signs, be prepared to take shelter immediately.

For more tips on severe weather, visit Ready.gov/severe-weather.

We will continue to monitor the severe weather activity and provide updates as needed.  We encourage you to monitor local weather conditions in your area as weather can change in a short amount of time. Stay up to date by visiting www.weather.gov on your computer or http://mobile.weather.gov on your phone.

Join us for an America’s PrepareAthon! Google+ Hangout

We’re getting ready for America’s PrepareAthon! – a nationwide day of action on April 30, 2014. There are a lot of ways you can join in, like holding a preparedness discussion or taking part in a drill so you know what to do during an emergency.

To find out more, join Administrator Fugate, the Weather Channel, AARP, and local leaders from around the country on Monday, April 7 for a Google+ hangout at 1:00 p.m. ET to discuss America’s PrepareAthon! Join the conversation now by asking questions on Twitter using #PrepareAthon. And you can watch the Hangout live on Mondayat 1:00 p.m. by visiting the White House Google+ and YouTube pages.

Live closed captioning is also available during the Hangout.

Visit ready.gov/prepare for more information or check out this blog from FEMA alum Paulette Aniskoff at the White House.

FEMA Celebrates 35 Years of Commitment

Earlier this week, we celebrated our 35th anniversary of serving the American people.  Each and every day, FEMA employees are on the frontlines working with our communities, tribes and disaster survivors – always ready to do what is needed for the American people during some of their most trying times.

Throughout the years, we’ve continued to refine, redefine, and reshape the way we do business to better serve the American people. Since April 1, 1979, when President Jimmy Carter signed the executive order that created FEMA, our commitment to the people we serve and the belief in our survivor centric mission has and will never change.

Visit our 35th Anniversary page to see a timeline of our activity over the past 35 years.

Have a safe weekend!

Emergency Managers Practice for Emergencies, and So Can You

Author: 

If you work in the emergency management field, you’ve probably heard about the 2014 Capstone National Exercise.

For those who haven’t, it’s a complex activity comprised of five distinct, but linked, component events: Alaska Shield , Ardent Sentry 14, Nuclear Weapon Accident/Incident Exercise, Eagle Horizon and Silver Phoenix. Together, these activities help us examine the core capabilities described in the National Preparedness Goal.

More specifically, the events and participants include the following:

  • Alaska Shield: State emergency management agencies and FEMA will commemorate the anniversary of the 1964 9.2 magnitude Great Alaskan Earthquake with an exercise that tests response, recovery and mass casualty care.
  • Ardent Sentry 14: In conjunction with Alaska Shield and other exercise sponsors, the Department of Defense will exercise its Defense Support to Civilian Authorities’ mission.
  • Nuclear Weapon Accident/Incident Exercise: The Department of Energy will participate in the Capstone with a scenario that tests response and recovery following an accident during secure transport convoy of nuclear weapons.
  • Eagle Horizon 2014: During this exercise, many federal departments and agencies will activate their continuity of operations and reconstitution planning to test their continuity plans and ensure that primary mission essential functions can take place from alternate facilities.
  • Silver Phoenix 2014: This recovery focused event is threaded across the entire Capstone and explores challenges associated with prioritizing, and conducting recovery activities involving multiple geographically-dispersed and competing events using the National Disaster Recovery Framework.

We plan activities like Capstone to help our participants think through how to respond to and recover from a catastrophe. Many different people play a role in how our nation responds to disasters, so these exercises include not only FEMA but also our partners in federal, state, tribal and local government, the private sector, and non-profit and faith-based-organizations.

Exercises are facilitated by FEMA’s National Exercise Division, which is where I work.  Just like FEMA’s role with coordinating these exercises, everyone has a part to play in building our nation’s reliance to disasters. For example, you can visit Ready.gov right now for simple steps to prepare yourself, your family and your community for whatever emergency may come.

This April you can also participate in America's PrepareAthon! It’s a chance to hold your own exercise or participate in one in your community—almost like what FEMA is doing right now.

While we can’t prevent disasters, it’s important we all do what we can to prepare for them. Everyone can do their part, so I encourage you to learn more about America's PrepareAthon! and consider how you and your community might get involved.

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