What we’re watching: 6/7/13

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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.

map of projected rainfall
Image of projected rainfall totals over the next 48 hours, courtesy of the National Hurricane Center.

Tropical storm Andrea & the threat of flooding

We’ve been closely monitoring Tropical Storm Andrea all week long, and forecasts from the National Weather Service are calling for a wet weekend for much of the East Coast.  While Andrea may not bring powerful winds, the main threat from the system will be localized flooding.  If you’re along the East Coast, remember to keep a close watch on your local weather conditions – especially if flooding could be a possibility.  A few flood safety reminders to keep in mind over the weekend:

  • Don’t walk or drive through flooded areas – the water depth can be misleading and the current can be unpredictable.  It only takes a small amount of standing water to make you lose control of your vehicle, so be prepared to take alternative routes if you drive upon flooded areas.
  • Avoid streams, storm drains, and other low-lying areas that can flood easily and quickly.  Flash flooding can occur very quickly and these areas can be very dangerous.
  • Listen to any directions given by local officials.  A NOAA Weather Radio is a great way to receive severe weather updates 24/7, and you can also tune in to local radio/TV for updates for your area.
  • Visit Ready.gov/floods on your computer and m.fema.gov/floods on your phone for a full list of flood safety tips.

“Hacking” to raise fire safety awareness

Last weekend’s National Day of Civic Hacking drummed up some great energy and enthusiasm around the country.  The event brought together technology enthusiasts, developers, and community organizers to solve problems and challenges in their neighborhoods by using technology.  As one of the government sponsors of the event, FEMA posed a challenge for developers to create an online visualization of fire incidents across the U.S. using data from the U.S. Fire Administration.

It was inspiring to see a few groups start to tackle our challenge - developers around the country came up with three prototypes after the weekend was over.  Here are the links - visualization one, visualization two, visualization three - you can see how each one has a unique approach to visualizing the data.

In addition to the prototypes using our fire data, there were other awesome initiatives focused on emergency preparedness.  One in particular was “Hack the Rock” – a citizen-driven group in Rockaways, NY who used Hurricane Sandy as the impetus for developing easy-to-use apps that could help keep residents safe.   One app they came up with is a checklist that customizes safety information based on the scenario you’re in.  (For more on the Hack the Rock group’s efforts, visit their project page)

Reflecting on Missouri Buy-Outs

Earlier this week, an event that didn’t receive much fanfare across the country demonstrated a success story for preventing flood damages.  A levee breach occurred in West Alton, Missouri, flooding the area around the levee.  However, due to property buyouts that have happened in recent years in the flood-prone areas around the levee, minimal flooding impacts were felt by homeowners and businesses.  Here’s what Beth Freeman, FEMA’s Regional Administrator in Region 7 (covering Missouri, Iowa, Kansas, and Nebraska) had to say about it:

Last spring, during our annual Bring Your Child to Work Day, a youngster asked me about the “feel good” in what I do, and the work of FEMA. As I left the office yesterday I had that “feel good” moment I think that young person was referring to.

Every time a state receives a federal disaster declaration, money is set aside for projects that will help to reduce the impact of future disasters. Sometimes it can be difficult to see the benefit these projects bring to a community, but yesterday, when news of the impending levee breech in West Alton came across my email, I knew the money the State of Missouri invested in flood mitigation in St. Charles County was paying a dividend.

Through the work of local emergency mangers, community planners, and Missouri’s State Emergency Management Agency, over 200 flood prone properties within West Alton have been acquired since 1994 through FEMA’s Hazard Mitigation Grant Program (HMGP).  And throughout St. Charles County 1,437 properties have been purchased.   

When the river goes below flood stage once again, we will have additional data to study the cost of these acquisition projects compared to the projected cost of disaster recovery that would have been needed over the years had the buy-outs not occurred. But today, the value of this work is much more personal. It is measured in the well-being of the families who are safe and not wondering what will be left of their homes and way of life once the floodwaters recede.

Visit fema.gov for more on FEMA’s Hazard Mitigation Program, or the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers website for info on the ongoing flood fight efforts in Missouri.

Practicing emergency response

Practicing is an important part of emergency management.  It’s something FEMA and our federal, state, and local partners do on a regular basis to make sure we’re prepared to respond in the event of an emergency.  Over the past several months, we’ve been getting ready for the Atlantic hurricane season (which started June 1) by going through several simulated disaster scenarios.  These scenarios, or exercises as we call them, help us practice coordination, test our equipment’s capabilities, and ensure we have a thorough understanding of what works well and where we can improve. 

One exercise we participated in recently was called “Ardent Sentry”, hosted by our partners at NORAD and the U.S. Northern Command.  The exercise simulated a complex disaster scenario – multiple hurricanes that had cascading impacts.  Administrator Fugate and General Chuck Jacoby, of NORAD and U.S. Northern Command, wrote up a summary of the exercise with details on how the federal family is getting prepared for an active 2013 hurricane season.

Photos of the week

Finally, here are a few of my favorite photos that came into our Photo Library this week:

therapy art after tornado
Moore, Okla., June 5, 2013 -- Plaza Towers Elementary School first grade teacher Sarah Tauscher, writes on a brick from the school during a healing arts project. The project called {HOPE} raisers is a group of individuals, businesses and causes that care about the community from all over the country. Together they use their time, talent and treasures to create community engagement and Raise Some Hope. Jocelyn Augustino/FEMA

tornado memorial
Moore, Okla., May 30, 2013 -- A Moore resident visits the memorial shrine at Plaza Towers Elementary School. The area was struck by a F5 tornado on May 20, 2013. Andrea Booher/FEMA

Have a safe weekend!

Last Updated: 
06/07/2013 - 14:02

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