It’s been one month since President Obama issued an emergency declaration on Oct. 29 for the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania to support those impacted by Hurricane Sandy. Here’s an update on FEMA and the state’s efforts in Pennsylvania thus far:
During the damage assessment process, 11 teams conducted boots-on-the-ground assessments in eight counties. In Franklin County, the Civil Air Patrol provided officials with a bird’s eye view of damages, flying over Hurricane Sandy-impacted homes and businesses there.
CAPTION: FEMA Individual Assistance Specialist Cynthia Lavigne and Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency Project Specialist Diane Nestler assess Hurricane Sandy damage in Lehigh County. Photo by FEMA/Elizabeth Stands
Ensuring power in critical facilities
Additionally, at the request of the Commonwealth, FEMA began coordinating the installation of generators before Hurricane Sandy swept through. FEMA tasked a specialized U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Emergency Power Planning and Response Team to install generators in locations such as medical facilities, emergency operation centers and emergency shelters.
CAPTION: In response to a critical power shortfall resulting from Hurricane Sandy, FEMA tasked the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Emergency Planning and Response Team to install a 365-kilowatt generator at St. Luke’s Hospital in Bethlehem, Pa. Photo by U.S. Army Corps of Engineers
One example was at St. Luke’s Hospital where personnel feared the main generator was in danger of failing. The team installed an additional generator and planned to switch to backup power when they were asked to stand down until a critical brain surgery operation could be completed without the possibility of a power interruption. Once the operation was complete, the additional generator was installed to ensure a constant supply of power to the hospital.
Reaching out to disaster survivors
FEMA community relations specialists, at the request of the Commonwealth, assisted storm-impacted residents at an American Red Cross shelter in Bucks County at Palisades High School in Kintnersville. For three days, five FEMA specialists helped to distribute water, meals and other necessary supplies at the shelter, where hundreds of Hurricane Sandy-impacted residents sought assistance.
They worked with about 50 local volunteers, ranging in age from 10 to 88 years old, and helped more than 600 residents on the first day (Nov. 1), more than 900 residents the next day, and more than 1,000 on the third day.
FEMA community relations specialists also loaded clean-up kits, rakes, shovels, gloves, flashlights, blue tarps and other items into the American Red Cross emergency response vehicle to distribute to residents impacted by the hurricane who were not physically able to access the emergency shelter.
CAPTION: FEMA Community Relations team member Mary Dawson, American Red Cross Volunteer Stan Dunn, and school volunteer Tony Weiss load a Red Cross emergency response vehicle at the Bucks County Red Cross Shelter in Palisades High School in Kintnersville, Pa. Photo by FEMA/George Armstrong
In comparison to the full-scale recovery efforts happening in New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, and Rhode Island – the amount of work in Pennsylvania may seem small. However, I’m proud of FEMA’s work and close partnership with other members of the emergency management team in Pennsylvania, and we will continue to support the state as needed.