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Preparing for this Year’s Hurricane Season

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Editor's Note: This blog was originally posted on the White House Blog.

Today marks the start of the 2012 Atlantic Hurricane Season. Under the direction of President Obama, FEMA and DHS stand ready to support our state and local partners as the tropics start to produce their annual cyclones, storms, and hurricanes. On Wednesday, I joined Homeland Security Secretary Napolitano as well as partners from NOAA, DOE, the Army Corps of Engineers, and representatives from states and the private sector to brief the President on steps FEMA and our partners have already taken to meet the challenges of the 2012 hurricanes season. That briefing underscored the importance of the whole community, from the federal government to individual citizens, working together to get prepared before a potential storm threatens a region, state, or community.

Long before the start of this year’s hurricane season, FEMA has worked closely with our partners at the state, local and tribal levels. This includes openly sharing information and expertise that will improve resiliency across our nation, cities, towns, neighborhoods, and families. For FEMA, building relationships before a disaster strikes is vital to working closely together during and after an emergency situation.

But government doesn’t prepare for and respond to disasters alone. Right alongside are the hundreds of businesses, voluntary agencies, and faith- and community-based organizations who provide vital services to both communities and individuals affected by disasters. Some of these organizations provide for basic needs like food, water, and shelter – while others respond to needs such as financial consulting, animal sheltering, or help processing your insurance claim.

While all the players I mentioned play a part in keeping our nation and neighborhoods safer in case disaster strikes – these efforts will fall flat unless individuals take part in their own preparedness. Fortunately, the short amount of time and effort it takes to make our families and homes safer is well worth the payoff if an emergency should happen. For example, here are three simple steps you can take today:

So as we move into the traditional start of the Atlantic hurricane season, I encourage you to respond to the important role you play as part of the emergency management team. You can start with one of the three steps I listed out above, or by pledging to prepare at Ready.gov/hurricanes.

Flat Stanley Helps FEMA Prepare for Hurricane Season

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Back in early April we blogged about a special visitor to FEMA.  At the time, Flat Stanley was making the rounds in Washington, DC and dropped in at FEMA headquarters to spend a little time with me.  Take a look at the latest meeting I had with Flat Stanley and what we have in mind for helping prepare everyone for hurricane season.
 



FEMA, through our Ready Campaign, is working in collaboration with Flatter World and the Flat Stanley Project to bring awareness to school aged children about the need to be prepared for emergencies and disasters and what they can do to help their families and loved ones to build more resilient households.

Children and their parents will soon be able to build their own FEMA Flat Stanley and share with their friends and classmates the steps they have taken to support preparedness throughout their homes, schools and communities.

Stay tuned for more information as Flat Stanley gets more and more involved.  And in the mean time, kids can find fun preparedness games and activities like word searches, crossword puzzles, comic strips and more at Ready.gov/kids.

FEMA Private Sector Division Director Honored for Contributions & Dedication

Posted by: Craig Fugate, Administrator

Every year, to mark Public Service Recognition Week, hundreds of candidates are nominated for Samuel J. Heyman Service to America Medals, also known as the SAMMIEs. These awards acknowledge America's dedicated federal workforce and highlights those who have made significant contributions to our country. Honorees are chosen based on their commitment and innovation, as well as the impact of their work on addressing the needs of the nation.

I am pleased to announce that Dan Stoneking, FEMA’s Director of the Private Sector Division, has been selected as a finalist for the 2012 Service to America Medal. Finalists for the award are outstanding federal workers who are making high-impact contributions critical to the health, safety and well-being of Americans.

Washington, D.C., May 9, 2012 -- Dan Stoneking, Director of the Private Sector Division, receives recognition for his nomination for the Samuel J. Heyman Service to America Medal.Washington, D.C., May 9, 2012 -- Dan Stoneking, Director of the Private Sector Division, receives recognition for his nomination for the Samuel J. Heyman Service to America Medal.

This nomination recognizes the accomplishments of the Private Sector Division and the importance of developing close working relationships and partnerships, in line with the Whole Community approach to emergency management. As I have emphasized many times, including most recently at the National Hurricane Conference this past March, I believe it is very important to give the private sector a seat at the table in the work that we do on a daily basis. When we look at the disasters last year, the unreported story was how the private sector was a part of the recovery team. The sooner private businesses and government-backed infrastructure get up and running, the sooner communities will recover.

My hat goes off to Dan, Dan’s team, and all who work to develop partnerships between government and the private sector. Their contributions are vital to forming unique partnerships to galvanize participation in the planning, response and relief efforts for communities struck by tornadoes, hurricanes and other disasters. This nomination is exceptionally rewarding because the nomination was prepared and submitted from a member of the private sector and not from a government colleague.

Here’s an excerpt from the nomination:
When tornadoes, hurricanes, floods and earthquakes strike communities throughout the United States, federal, state and local teams immediately rush to the scene to provide emergency aid and to assist in recovery and rebuilding efforts.

Often missing from the equation has been the full integration of the private sector into the government’s disaster planning and response—a limitation that Dan Stoneking of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) has been systematically addressing.

As head of FEMA’s Private Sector Division, Stoneking has been instrumental in linking the government and the private sector—trade associations, corporations, academia and non-governmental organizations—as partners in emergency preparedness and disaster assistance.

Under Stoneking’s leadership, a national team of private sector liaisons have maintained communication with FEMA during disasters to determine the damage to private facilities, what resources are needed and what capabilities the private sector can contribute to the relief effort. They have provided FEMA and local emergency officials with situational awareness about utilities, communications, medical facilities, the availability of food and supplies, the condition of roads and transportation networks and other critical issues.

Read the entire nomination to see the other finalists.
Of his nomination, Dan acknowledges this award as a team recognition and included the DHS, FEMA and U.S. Northern Command Private Sector teams, which have made significant accomplishments working together.

Finalists will come together in Washington, D.C., for an awards ceremony and gala in September when medal recipients will be announced. I congratulate Dan Stoneking and his team for this great achievement along with all nominees and finalists.

Kicking Off National Severe Weather Preparedness Week

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Today marks the beginning of the first ever National Severe Weather Preparedness Week. This week, we’re partnering with NOAA to provide information to the public about the hazards of severe weather and steps people can take to ensure they’re prepared.

Every year, thousands of people are impacted by severe weather threats such as tornadoes and severe thunderstorms. Last year was the most active year in disasters in recent history, with more than 1,000 weather related fatalities, more than 8,000 injuries.

Every state in the U.S. has experienced tornadoes and severe weather and although some more than others- everyone is at risk and should take steps to prepare for when severe weather strike in your area. Knowing the most common weather hazards in your area, your vulnerability and what actions you should take can save your life and others.

All week long, we’re calling for people across the country to pledge to prepare and to be a force of nature in your community by telling your family, friends and neighbors how you prepared for severe weather. By pledging, you’re taking the first step in making sure you and your loved ones are prepared for severe weather by developing a family communication plan, putting together an emergency kit and getting involved.

We’re asking everyone to be a force of nature by knowing their risk, taking action and becoming an example by sharing what you have done with your family, friends, neighbors and others. I recorded this short video that you can embed on your website to be a force of nature by sharing it with your website visitors.



Visit www.ready.gov/severeweather to pledge, and once you’ve made your pledge, be a force of nature and share your story on your social media accounts and encourage others to pledge to prepare.

If you’re on Twitter, use the hashtag #imprepared and #imaforce to show you’ve pledged and taken steps to get prepared.

Here is the President’s message encouraging the nation to be prepared:
Over the past year, devastating storms have tested the fabric of our Nation. From Tuscaloosa to Joplin, the Midwest to Appalachia, tornadoes have leveled communities and left profound suffering in their wake. Thousands of Americans have endured the pain of loss – loss of a home, a job, a dream, a loved one dearly held and forever missed. Yet, as winds have died and rains eased, communities have banded together and demonstrated a simple truth: that amid heartbreak and hardship, no one is a stranger.

During National Severe Weather Preparedness Week and throughout the year, we renew our promise to meet a national tragedy with a national response. To help save lives, my Administration is partnering with communities across America to prepare for, protect against, respond to, recover from, and mitigate all hazards, including severe weather. We are working to improve the accuracy of tornado and severe thunderstorm warnings, giving individuals more time to get out of harm’s way. And with leadership from agencies across my Administration, we are collaborating with organizations at every level of government and throughout the private and non-profit sectors to strengthen preparedness and build resilience.

Our Nation continues to bear the impact of severe storms. When tornadoes swept across southern States and the Midwest earlier this year, we were touched by the echoes of hardship. Many Americans lost their homes and businesses; dozens lost their lives. As we reflect on these tragic outcomes, let us recommit to doing everything we can to protect our families and our communities. I encourage all Americans to prepare an emergency plan and build an emergency kit with food, water, and essential supplies in case of severe weather. When strong storms are approaching, it is critical that individuals and families take action to secure their safety and the safety of those around them. During a tornado warning, find shelter immediately and await instructions from local emergency management officials.

This week, we rededicate ourselves to strengthening personal and community preparedness before disaster strikes. To learn more about how to minimize risk before, during, and after tornadoes and severe thunderstorms, visit www.weather.gov and www.ready.gov.

–Barack Obama

Retirement of Dr. Christopher T. Jones

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I’ve talked about the unique training FEMA provides for emergency responders at the Center for Domestic Preparedness in Anniston, Ala. This one-of-a-kind training facility has enhanced the preparedness of local, state and tribal responders from all over the country. We’ve seen these impacts as incidents have played out from New York City to Joplin, Mo over the past few years.

The approximately 90,000 responders a year who receive training through CDP programs benefit from a dedicated and experienced staff. They’ve also benefited from the insight and leadership provided over the past four years by CDP Superintendent Dr. Christopher T. Jones. Dr. Jones is retiring June 2 after more than 32 years of public service.

Dr. Jones became CDP Superintendent in August 2008 and, during his tenure, oversaw the training of more than 336,000 emergency responders from across the nation. He even trained alongside some of those responders as he led the CDP. FEMA, the CDP, and most importantly our nation’s emergency responders have all benefited from Dr. Jones’ unwavering commitment to preparedness. He has the unique ability to see the challenges and unmet needs of responders and how to address them.

More than two years ago he recognized the need for responders to have access to training for biological incidents, so the CDP incorporated nonpathogenic forms of anthrax and ricin into the toxic agent training at the center’s Chemical, Ordnance, Biological, and Radiological Training Facility. The responders who have gone through the training have come away with greater confidence and understanding of their ability to deal with what was previously an unfamiliar threat.

Dr. Jones also saw the value of expanding the CDP’s mass casualty medical surge training by updating the dated emergency department of the Noble Training Facility from a cramped, four-bed trauma bay to a spacious, modern facility that more closely replicates the environment where doctors, nurses and other hospital staff work in their home towns.

The CDP’s new Emergency Department also incorporates technology that allows these doctors, nurses and hospital staff who train at the CDP the opportunity to practice and experience a realistic response to an intense and demanding mass casualty incident.

While we wish him luck in his retirement, FEMA will miss his vision, insight, dedication, and professionalism. And so will the thousands of responders across our nation who have benefited from his leadership at the CDP.

Flat Stanley Visits FEMA Headquarters and Learns How to Get Prepared

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Over the last few days Flat Stanley has been making his way around Washington, DC with a very special chaperone, Administrator Craig Fugate. We’re excited Flat Stanley was able to join Craig in some very important meetings, take a tour of FEMA Headquarters and even learn a lesson on how to be prepared when disasters strike.

Craig and Flat Stanley even took a moment out of their busy schedule to shoot this video to help us get the word out to families and communities about getting prepared for disasters, including severe weather and home fire prevention.



As Flat Stanly learned while visiting www.ready.gov/kids, here are four steps that kids and families can take to get prepared:
  1. Know the facts – Talk to your parents, grandparents, brothers and sisters and learn some simple facts about disasters in your area and also some tips on what to do during an emergency. 
  2. Make a plan – Kids can make their own emergency plan, but we love it when families make plans together. Know where to go if a disaster hits your home or school and how you can get back in touch with one another. 
  3. Build a kit – Don’t forget about the Kids when your family builds their emergency kit – board games, coloring books and puzzles can be great activities for when the power goes out. 
  4. Graduate from Readiness U! – Once you’ve completed the first three steps and learned about being prepared, take an easy quiz to test your preparedness skills – you’ll even get a neat certificate for being ready for an emergency. 

You can also find fun preparedness games and activities like word searches, crossword puzzles, comic strips and more at www.ready.gov/kids. There are also resources for parents and teachers to help children take an active role in getting prepared.

Meeting the Needs of Disaster Survivors with the Help of the Whole Community

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We are continuing to work closely with the states that were affected by the recent wave of severe storms and tornadoes in the Midwest and South. In response to those storms, the President has approved major disaster declarations in Kentucky and Indiana making federal aid available to supplement state and local recovery efforts. This federal assistance can provide funding to help eligible individuals and families recover. In Illinois, we are working closely with state officials on joint preliminary damage assessments to help determine the impacts to local governments and public infrastructure.

While federal assistance is an important step in helping people recover from events like the ones we saw recently, it is not always the best or only alternative. State and local governments have developed robust capabilities to respond to and recover from events. And we rely on the whole community’s participation, including the help of the public preparing for and insuring against the uncertainty of disaster.

The Stafford Act provides the process for a Governor to seek a disaster declaration from the President. By submitting a written request to the President through FEMA, a Governor certifies that the combined local, county and state resources are insufficient and that the situation is beyond their capability to recover.

When FEMA joins the state on joint preliminary damage assessments prior to a request - as we have recently in Illinois, Indiana, Missouri, Ohio, Tennessee and West Virginia - we are looking at things like assistance that is available from other federal agencies - like the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, charitable organizations, volunteers and other private interest groups. It is also important to know that we are looking at damage that would potentially be eligible for FEMA assistance.

As I’ve said before, the level of insurance can often be a major consideration when determining whether a state should request a FEMA declaration. Ultimately FEMA cannot duplicate benefits like insurance. In fact, insurance is often the first and best way of protecting your family and property from disaster. Depending on the coverage limits, disaster survivors may be made far more whole by their insurance policy than they would from supplemental federal disaster assistance.

Based on the factors I mentioned, FEMA might review a Governor’s request for assistance and determine that the damage is not beyond the capabilities of the county, city and state to recover. If and when this happens, that’s not necessarily the end of the story, in terms of federal government assistance.

The decision means that the state can proceed to work directly with other federal agencies that can help through their own authorities. These agencies include the Small Business Administration, HUD, Department of Agriculture and others, as well as voluntary agencies.

FEMA and our federal government partners stand ready to assist communities when needed. When the whole community comes together to respond to and help recover from these events - neighbor helping neighbor – we can often meet the needs of everyone, even when FEMA financial assistance is not determined to be necessary.

Recent Tornadoes Highlight the Efforts of State, Tribal, and Locals to Respond to the Needs of Survivors

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While FEMA always stands ready to assist our governors and emergency management partners during an emergency, we are not always the only or best option. By leveraging the strengths and capabilities of the entire team we can more efficiently and effectively meet the needs of disaster survivors. These storms, while tragic, also highlight the incredible work of local and state responders and the leadership of Governors to exercise the robust capabilities of their state to recover.

I talk a lot about this and how FEMA – while part of the team – is not the whole team. In looking at the most recent storms in the Midwest and South, I’m once again reminded and encouraged about how this concept works and the different resources available. There are many types of aid that our partners and teammates at the federal, state, tribal, and local level, as well as voluntary agencies and the private sector bring to assist in a time of need. You also hear us talk about our whole community approach to emergency management. It means we are all in it together. Neighbor helping neighbor – meeting the needs of everyone, even when FEMA assistance is not available.

Often when states choose not to pursue or do not receive a disaster declaration there may be other federal resources available to assist residents that have a need. In the aftermath of these recent storms, we’ve seen examples from across the affected areas of states finding resources to meet their citizens’ needs without the need for federal disaster assistance from FEMA. A specific example is housing. By looking at a state’s own resources identified in a state housing strategy, the state can often identify vacant housing units for eligible survivors. Federal partners, like HUD and the USDA Rural Development can start the process of identifying vacant housing in conjunction with the state without any special federal declaration. For homeowners and business, a state can also apply for assistance from the Small Business Administration. SBA provides low interest disaster loans to homeowners, renters, and businesses that have been affected in an SBA declared disaster. Based on a survivors income and eligibility these disaster loans might be just want is needed to repair, rebuild and move forward.

And let’s not forget that individuals are a large part of the team. Taking proactive steps to purchase insurance can minimize a person’s exposure to the uncertainty of disasters. When FEMA supports states in joint preliminary damage assessments, one the biggest considerations we look at is whether people that were affected have insurance. The level of insurance can often be a major consideration when determining whether a state should request a FEMA declaration. Its also important to remember that even when a FEMA disaster declaration is made, FEMA cannot duplicate benefits. Insurance is the first and best line of defense and even where FEMA’s Individual and Public Assistance programs are made available, we do not provide assistance for damage that would otherwise be covered by insurance.

Even in the absence of a FEMA disaster declaration and after insurance claims have been paid, there might still be a need to address some unmet needs. So we look to another member of the team, voluntary organizations. As we highlighted a few days ago, this past year alone, the American Red Cross aided survivors and communities in response to storms, flooding, fires and tornadoes in 46 states and territories. But, the voluntary agencies that come to the aid of survivors include many more than the American Red Cross. Local organizations, faith based groups and access and functional needs partners often meet the needs without needing to go outside the community. For more information on Voluntary Agencies Active in Disasters, take a look at one of our past blog posts by Deborah Ingram, Assistant Administrator, Recovery Directorate where she wrote about engaging voluntary agencies before, during, and after a disaster.

Our thoughts and prayers go out to the families as they continue to recover from the tornadoes and severe weather. FEMA and our federal government partners stand ready to assist communities when needed. But, as states recover from these recent storms, I want to applaud the wonderful work they are doing to meet their citizens needs.

Retirement of David Garratt

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On Friday, Feb. 24, the FEMA team assembled in the HQ lobby to wish a fond farewell to David Garratt, a dedicated public servant and emergency manager who took his first steps onto the road of retirement. David joined FEMA in 1995 after retiring from the United States Air Force. He worked his way up the FEMA ranks serving in key leadership positions, including as the Acting Deputy Administrator. In his last assignment prior to his retirement David served as the Senior Advisor to Secretary Janet Napolitano for Emergency Management.

Over the years, David excelled in key positions all across the agency including leading the recovery programs in providing over $40 billion in disaster assistance in response to some of the nation’s largest disasters, including Hurricanes Katrina and Rita. Other notable accomplishments include leading the National Emergency Support Team in response to the 9/11 disaster, the establishment of the first Homeland Security Coordination Center, and the development of the Catastrophic Incident Annex and Supplement for the National Response Plan.

David was a true advocate for the FEMA workforce, demonstrated by championing the Workforce Enhancement Initiative, strengthening FEMA’s recruitment, hiring, leadership development, performance management, and retention, and in developing a one-stop shop for customer service across the Agency with a unified Mission Support Customer Assurance Program.

David’s contributions, dedication and commitment to emergency management and the American people are truly commendable. We thank David with tremendous gratitude for his service and wish him the best in his future endeavors.

Washington, D.C., Feb. 24, 2012 -- FEMA Administrator Craig Fugate thanks David Garratt for his contributions to FEMA. In his last assignment prior to retirement, David Garratt served as the Senior Advisor to Homeland Security Secretary Napolitano on matters related Emergency Management.

Washington, D.C., Feb. 24, 2012 -- FEMA Administrator Craig Fugate thanks David Garratt for his contributions to FEMA. In his last assignment prior to retirement, David Garratt served as the Senior Advisor to Homeland Security Secretary Napolitano on matters related Emergency Management.

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