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Got five minutes? Get the flood safety 101

Quick trivia question: what’s the most common disaster in the U.S. that impacts the most people year after year?  The answer: Flooding.  This week, we’re focused on flood safety as part of National Flood Awareness Week.  I went back through the video archives and pulled out two stories that demonstrate our key themes for this week.  If you’ve got five minutes, these two videos are worth your time.

The first one is from Hurricane Irene in 2011.  It profiles a town in Vermont that dealt with significant flooding and shows many of the ways flooding can disrupt our lives. 

View in FEMA Multimedia Library

The take a way: have a plan so you know what to do in case of a flood.  Think through questions like:

  • What roads in my community tend to flood first?  Will this impact my travel around town?
  • How will I stay in touch with family/friends if flooding knocks out cell phone service?
  • Where would I go if local officials tell me to evacuate the area due to flooding?
  • What’s the risk of flooding for my area?

If you haven’t thought about these questions before, don’t worry.  Ready.gov is a great resource for making your plan today.

The second video is especially relevant for homeowners and builders.  Here’s how two homeowners in Sea Bright, New Jersey minimized the impact of flooding from Hurricane Sandy by taking deliberate steps in and around their homes.  It all starts with knowing your neighborhood’s risk for flooding, then taking the appropriate steps.

You may not need to put in flood vents or raise critical parts of your home over a certain elevation level, but steps like these may be right for those who live in flood prone areas.  The quote that makes the video for me is: "Will we ever see another storm like that? I don't think so, but who knows?"  The homeowners recognize that while some disasters are unlikely, that shouldn’t stop them from being prepared, just in case.

All week long we’ll be sharing flood safety information on Twitter, Facebook, and on Ready.gov.  I hope you’ll join us this week in learning more about what flooding can do and how you can take steps to get prepared.

What Goes into a Flood Map: Infographic

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FEMA's Tom Pickering discusses flood maps with one of the people who attended an Open House on flood maps in Jefferson Parish. Jacqueline Chandler/FEMA

Helping homeowners and communities know their risk of being impacted by disasters stands as one of our top priorities at FEMA. When you know your risk, you can prepare for the worst, take steps to mitigate against hazards, and protect yourself, your family and your property.

Year to year, flooding is the most costly disaster in America. Flood maps play a vital role in helping us prepare for flooding by informing communities about the local flood risk. Flood maps help communities to incorporate flood risk into their planning. They’re also the basis for flood insurance rates through the National Flood Insurance Program, which FEMA administers at the direction of Congress. By law, you may be required to get flood insurance if you live in the highest risk areas. But flooding can happen anywhere -- about 20 percent of all the flood claims come from areas with lower risk. And you don’t have to live close to water to be at risk.

The process for developing and updating flood maps is a long one – and for good reason. It allows communities and property owners at all steps of the process to incorporate the best available data into each community’s flood maps. Projects typically take from 3-5 years to complete, but sometimes they can take longer.  Through the Risk MAP program, flood maps are developed using the best available science, analyzed by some of the leading engineering firms in the field. The mapping standards are published, vetted, have been peer reviewed, and are updated continuously to ensure they are aligned with current best practices.

The infographic below gives you an overview of all that goes into a flood map from beginning to end. The more that communities and homeowners know about this process, the better we can work together to make sure that we build safely and resiliently and are prepared for flooding and other natural disasters.

For full text of the infographic below, visit our document library.

Graphic explaining what a flood map is, how they are made, who works on them, how flood risk is reviewed, and how the public can appeal a flood map decision. For full text of this image, visit http://www.fema.gov/media-library/assets/documents/91087.

Colorado Flooding Update: Sept. 18

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search and rescue teams review plansBoulder, Colo., Sep. 16, 2013 -- FEMA's Urban Search and Rescue teams plan door to door checks in Left Hand Canyon. Photo by Michael Rieger/FEMA

Although the clouds and rain may have passed, individuals and communities in central Colorado are still dealing with impacts from the recent flooding.  Our hearts and prayers go out to those affected by the flooding, especially as dangerous conditions continue in many areas.  It may take several days or longer for river levels to crest and begin to recede – which means those in impacted areas should remain vigilant to stay safe.

Here’s a recap of the priorities from today:

  • Search and Rescue operations continue, with five teams active in hard-to-reach areas.
  • As some residents return home, we’re encouraging them to do so safely by remembering things like:
    • Only returning home when local officials say it’s safe to do so
    • Avoiding floodwaters while driving or walking – they may be contaminated with chemicals, oil, or sewage.
    • Staying away from damaged areas unless your assistance has been specifically requested by police, fire, or local officials
  • For those who have evacuated or have not yet been able to return home, we’re encouraging them to connect with family and friends so they know you’re OK. This could mean updating your social networks, sending a text, making a quick phone call, or using the Red Cross Safe and Well site to check in.damaged homeJamestown, Colo., Sep. 15, 2013 -- The small mountain town of 300 has been cut off because of Boulder County flood. FEMA Urban Search & Rescue (US&R) teams deployed to the state to help in search and rescue operations. Steve Zumwalt/FEMA

We’re also encouraging affected individuals in Adams, Boulder, Larimer, and Weld counties to apply for FEMA assistance.  President Obama authorized federal aid for individuals and business owners in these counties for things like temporary housing and home repairs, low-cost loans to cover uninsured property losses, and other programs to help in the recovery.  You can apply for FEMA assistance by visiting disasterassistance.gov on your computer or phone, or by calling 800-621-3362.  (Disaster survivors who have a speech disability or hearing loss and use TTY, should call 1-800-462-7585 directly; for those who use 711 or Video Relay Service (VRS), call 1-800-621-3362.) 

In addition to what’s happening now, here are the response highlights from the past few days:

  • More than 8,200 Colorado disaster survivors have applied for federal assistance.  More than $1.8 million has been approved in Individual Assistance, and assistance will continue to increase as flood waters recede and areas become accessible. 
  • Nearly 400 FEMA personnel are on the ground in Colorado to support response efforts. This includes the following personnel and teams:
    • Three Disaster Survivor Assistance Teams going into impacted communities to assist disaster survivors with immediate needs and registering them for assistance.  
    • Two Incident Management Assistance Teams and a liaison officer on site at the Colorado emergency operations center to coordinate with state and local officials to identify needs and shortfalls impacting disaster response.
    • Five federal urban search and rescue teams – Colorado Task Force 1 activated by the state, Missouri Task Force 1, Utah Task Force 1, Nebraska Task Force 1 and Nevada Task Force 1 – to support search and rescue operations in hard hit areas. 

       tent being set upBoulder, Colo., Sep. 14, 2013 -- FEMA Urban Search and Rescue Incident Support Team White sets up a base of operations at the Boulder Municipal Airport. Several Urban Search and Rescue teams are supporting the local response to flooding across Colorado. Photo: Daniel Roberts/FEMA                         
  • Seven mobile communications office vehicles deployed to Colorado to support state and local response efforts.

    communications vehicleBoulder, Colo., Sep. 14, 2013 -- FEMA's Denver Mobile Emergency Response Support (MERS) provides emergency communications support to the Urban Search and Rescue Incident Support Team White at the Boulder Municipal Airport. Photo: Daniel Roberts/FEMA
  • More than 106 housing inspectors to complete inspections of damaged dwellings.
  • A FEMA Incident Response Vehicle is in Colorado providing communications support to the emergency operations center for the town of Lyons.
  • More than 130,000 liters of water, 110,000 meals and other supplies have been delivered to Incident Support Bases established by FEMA. These resources are being provided to the state as needed and requested.
  • At the President’s direction, Administrator Fugate visited Colorado Monday, September 16, to meet with federal, state and local officials about ongoing response and recovery efforts. 

    meeting with administrator fugateCentennial, Colo., Sep. 16, 2013 -- Administrator Fugate with Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper, Senator Mark Udall and Representative Cory Gardner discuss ongoing response operations at the Colorado State Emergency Operations Center. Photo: Cynthia Hunter/FEMA

Finally, for those looking to help individuals, families, and businesses impacted by the flooding, HelpColoradonow.org is the best place to go.  It’s a portal managed by the Colorado Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Management and has resources on volunteering, donating, and giving through trusted organizations.  

For continuing updates on FEMA’s role in Colorado, visit the disaster page on fema.gov or follow our @femaregion8 account on Twitter.

Alaska’s Spring Floods 100 Days Later: Positive Signs of Recovery

Five days ago, Alaska reached the one-hundred-day mark since the Yukon River broke in mid-May and swallowed its first riverside community.

Disaster recovery has demanded that responders adapt to Alaska’s unique environment. Many of the villages affected by this spring’s flooding are so remote, recovery cannot be delivered via road-based means. Hard-hit communities continue to come together to discuss plans for the future and strategies for building back stronger and more resilient.

Below are 10 milestones reached in the 100 days of Alaska’s response and recovery:

$3.3 million in Disaster Loans

Galena, Alaska, July 1, 2013 -- Dave Walker, a Small Business Administration (SBA) expert, works with Marlene Marshal a business owner with major damage. The SBA works closely with FEMA to assist disaster survivors.Galena, Alaska, July 1, 2013 -- Dave Walker, a Small Business Administration (SBA) expert, works with Marlene Marshal a business owner with major damage. The SBA works closely with FEMA to assist disaster survivors.

The U.S. Small Business Administration has approved more than $3.3 million in low-interest disaster loans.

$2.6 million in Disaster Assistance

Alaska, July 15, 2013 -- At the local municipal building, FEMA Tribal Liason talks with disaster survivor Olivia Moses after severe flooding impacted the lower Yukon Bourough. Individuals and business owners who sustained losses in the designated areas can begin applying for assistance by registering online at www.disasterassistance.gov or by calling 1-800-621-FEMA. Alaska, July 15, 2013 -- At the local municipal building, FEMA Tribal Liason talks with disaster survivor Olivia Moses after severe flooding impacted the lower Yukon Bourough. Individuals and business owners who sustained losses in the designated areas can begin applying for assistance by registering online at www.disasterassistance.gov or by calling 1-800-621-FEMA.

More than $2.6 million in federal disaster assistance has been approved for individuals and families who were affected by Alaska’s spring floods.

$1 million in Mitigation Assistance

Eagle, Alaska, Aug. 8, 2013 -- Nick Turner (R) discusses his elevation effort with FEMA Federal Coordinating Officer Dolph A. Diemont (L) and state State Coordinating Officer Bryan Fisher (C) after he raised his home above the base level elevation. As a result of his participation in the mitigation program, the Turner family did not have recent flood waters into their residenceEagle, Alaska, Aug. 8, 2013 -- Nick Turner (R) discusses his elevation effort with FEMA Federal Coordinating Officer Dolph A. Diemont (L) and state State Coordinating Officer Bryan Fisher (C) after he raised his home above the base level elevation. As a result of his participation in the mitigation program, the Turner family did not have recent flood waters into their residence.

More than $369,000 in federal mitigation assistance has been approved to harden infrastructure to better meet environmental hazards. These funds have a projected future benefit of more than $1 million saved.

$631,900 for Debris Clean-Up

Emmonak, Alaska, July 15, 2013 -- The Deputy State Coordinating Officer Sam Walton (L) and Federal Coordinating Officer Dolph A. Diemont (R) meet to discuss the FEMA programs which will assist in the recovery efforts after severe flooding cripples the entire infrastructure. Federal funding in the form of Public Assistance (PA) is available to state, tribal and eligible local governments and certain nonprofit organizations on a cost sharing basis for emergency work and the repair or replacement of facilities damaged by the flooding in the Alaska Gateway Regional Educational Attendance Area (REAA), Copper River REAA, Lower Yukon REAA, Yukon Flats REAA, and the Yukon-Koyukuk REAA.Emmonak, Alaska, July 15, 2013 -- The Deputy State Coordinating Officer Sam Walton (L) and Federal Coordinating Officer Dolph A. Diemont (R) meet to discuss the FEMA programs which will assist in the recovery efforts after severe flooding cripples the entire infrastructure. Federal funding in the form of Public Assistance (PA) is available to state, tribal and eligible local governments and certain nonprofit organizations on a cost sharing basis for emergency work and the repair or replacement of facilities damaged by the flooding in the Alaska Gateway Regional Educational Attendance Area (REAA), Copper River REAA, Lower Yukon REAA, Yukon Flats REAA, and the Yukon-Koyukuk REAA.

FEMA has now obligated more than $631,900 to pay for cleaning up debris and emergency measures.

200,674 Pounds of Building Materials

Nenana, Alaska, Aug. 23, 2013 -- FEMA logistics specialists inventory housing materials at a distribution yard along the Tanana river. The supplies are being barged up river to Galena, Fort Yukon and Circle by FEMA to the individuals that were affected by recent flooding.Nenana, Alaska, Aug. 23, 2013 -- FEMA logistics specialists inventory housing materials at a distribution yard along the Tanana river. The supplies are being barged up river to Galena, Fort Yukon and Circle by FEMA to the individuals that were affected by recent flooding.

Forty-four shipments of sheltering supplies and donated items weighing 200,674 have been delivered to Galena, Alaska.

8,060 Meals

Galena, Alaska, Aug. 18, 2013 -- The Bureau of Land Management provides home cooked meals for the disaster survivors, emergency managers and those volunteers who will be providing recovery support to individuals who were affected by the severe flooding. FEMA funds the cost of the meals, while the Bureau of Land Management provides skilled labor, which feeds the emergency managers, volunteers and the disaster survivors. Galena, Alaska, Aug. 18, 2013 -- The Bureau of Land Management provides home cooked meals for the disaster survivors, emergency managers and those volunteers who will be providing recovery support to individuals who were affected by the severe flooding. FEMA funds the cost of the meals, while the Bureau of Land Management provides skilled labor, which feeds the emergency managers, volunteers and the disaster survivors.

The feeding task force has prepared and served 8,060 meals to flood survivors.

4,931 Pounds of Pet Food

 Galena, Alaska, Aug. 27, 2013 -- Alyson Esmailka helps organize pet food donated to spring flood survivors at the donation center in Galena, Alaska. Galena, Alaska, Aug. 27, 2013 -- Alyson Esmailka helps organize pet food donated to spring flood survivors at the donation center in Galena, Alaska.

About 4,931 pounds of donated cat and dog food has been distributed for pet survivors in the affected riverside communities.

1,500 Postcards Mailed

United Methodist Volunteers in Mission member attaches new drywall to a kitchen damaged by flooding in Galana, Alaska in the spring of 2013. Galena, Alaska, Aug. 24, 2013 -- United Methodists Volunteer in Mission member Bruce Russell of Idaho attaches drywall in a kitchen damaged spring floods. Water poured into the home, requiring volunteers and homeowner to gut much of the interior, replacing insulation, rewiring electrical and installing new drywall.

The multidenominational Galena Bible Church sent out 1,500 postcards explaining what help they needed. One hundred fifty volunteers from across the nation came to Galena responded showed up to help.

159 Work Orders Requested

Galena, Alaska, July 24, 2013 -- Not just insulation and wall board, but occasionally some heavy lifting is required, as when these AmeriCorps members move a damaged freezer. AmeriCorps teams often provide much needed expertise as well as manual labor. Galena, Alaska, July 24, 2013 -- Not just insulation and wall board, but occasionally some heavy lifting is required, as when these AmeriCorps members move a damaged freezer. AmeriCorps teams often provide much needed expertise as well as manual labor.

AmeriCorps members and staff have completed nearly 75% of the 159 homeowner work-order requests for AmeriCorps assistance.

12 New Jobs

Anchorage, Alaska, July 28, 2013 -- FEMA Federal Coordinating Officer (FCO) Dolph A. Diemont officially swears in the first local hire for the recovery mission. FEMA is hiring local specialists to transition the permanent full time staff and reservists with locally hired human capital. Anchorage, Alaska, July 28, 2013 -- FEMA Federal Coordinating Officer (FCO) Dolph A. Diemont officially swears in the first local hire for the recovery mission. FEMA is hiring local specialists to transition the permanent full time staff and reservists with locally hired human capital.

FEMA has added 12 Alaskans to its workforce in Anchorage.

For more information about the recovery in Alaska, visit the disaster page Alaska Flood 2013.

Altoona, PA: Reducing flood risk & saving money for policyholders

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While I couldn’t be there in person to present the Community Rating System plaque to the City of Altoona Commissioners during their recent meeting, I did want to recognize that as of October 1, 2012 the City of Altoona joined an elite group of communities across the country who are going above and beyond the minimum requirements to make their communities safer from flood risk.

For a bit of background, the National Flood Insurance Program's (NFIP) Community Rating System is a voluntary incentive program that recognizes and encourages community floodplain management activities that exceed the minimum NFIP requirements. Communities that participate in Community Rating System have flood insurance premium rates discounted to reflect the reduced flood risk resulting from the community actions.  Throughout the United States, there are well over 20,000 communities voluntarily participating in FEMA's NFIP, with 2,469 of these communities located in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. 

Nationally, a relative handful (approximately 5%) of these communities choose to go above and beyond FEMA's minimum requirements for NFIP participation.  These communities make up the members of the Community Rating System; and their additional efforts and activities result in communities that are safer and better prepared for future flooding events. In joining the Community Rating System program, the City of Altoona joins an elite group of only 24 communities in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania (the top 1%) that have been recognized for surpassing the minimum requirements to make their communities safer.  I would like to recognize the achievements of the City of Altoona because, as of October 1 last year, they joined the community Rating System with a Class 8 rating.

Perhaps more tangible and more important to Altoona’s citizens, the Class 8 rating qualifies all flood insurance policies in Altoona for an automatic ten percent discount on their premiums.  Each NFIP policyholder in Altoona will save an average of $77.00 on their annual premium.  As of January 31, 2013, there were 218 flood insurance policies in Altoona protecting over $30 million in property for a total premium cost of $191,458. The ten percent reduction will save the flood policyholders in the City collectively approximately $16,697 annually. There is no need for policyholders to contact their insurance carriers as the ten percent discount is deducted automatically from their premiums.

Jane Beveridge, the Office Engineer/Floodplain Administrator for Altoona commented on the benefits the Community Rating System can bring a community:

While it was a two years process, most municipalities are already following/adopting procedures that can earn rating system points. It’s mostly a matter of gathering paperwork. The Community Rating System Specialist assigned to the City of Altoona was also very helpful. Our updated website has floodplain information/links that have earned us easy points toward the ranking system. Every community should take advantage of this, especially with the rising costs of insurance, our citizens are thankful.

The City of Altoona’s leadership, hard work and accomplishments are to be commended.  On behalf of FEMA and the National Flood Insurance Program, welcome to elite status and thank you!

My Time in the Water: Flood Safety Lessons Learned

As part of the Swift Water Rescue Team for Fairfax County Fire and Rescue Department in Virginia, I have been involved in swift water responses for the past decade. Over the course of these responses, I have learned much about the power of water and the damage that floods can create. Floods, caused by nature or man-made, can occur at any time and can affect anyone. Being prepared and heeding warnings and public safety announcements may be the only way to ensure your safety.  Let me discuss a few of the situations I’ve seen as a rescuer and how they tie back to some of the common phrases we hear about flood safety:

“Be Prepared”

Being prepared for a flood, especially in times of increased risk is paramount to remaining safe and secure when the flood occurs. Flood safety plans should include identifying areas of risk around your home and neighborhood, knowing evacuation routes and staying clear of streams, drainage channels and areas that are prone to flash flooding. Be ready, heed the warnings of the National Weather Service and seek out higher ground. If you become trapped in high water and cannot escape, contact 9-1-1 and follow the directions of the public safety officials.

One of the incidents I discuss when I teach water rescue is one in which the gentleman that we rescued was not prepared for the flood, nor did he follow the directions of his rescuers. At shift change on a particularly raining morning, my crew was discussing and preparing for what we eventually knew would come. The tones went off for a car in a flooded roadway and we were on the road. We arrived on the scene to find a gentlemen sitting on top of his car, with water up to the bottom of the windows. We prepared to evacuate him, and when we got to the side of the car, the gentlemen would not leave the car. He was not panicked, or distraught, but had been told by the dispatcher to seek higher ground and the top of the car was as high as he could find! We were there to rescue him and take him to safety, but he was going to listen to the dispatcher. After a lot of discussion and coaxing, we were finally able to ensure the gentleman that the safest place was the higher ground out of the water and not the higher ground of his vehicle.

 Fairfax, Va., Aug. 12, 2010 -- This swift water rescue team helps people stranded in a vehicle due to flooding.

CAPTION: Fairfax, Va., Aug. 12, 2010 -- This swift water rescue team helps people stranded in a vehicle due to flooding.

“Turn Around, Don’t Drown”

Since 2001 when NOAA’s National Weather Service first produced the “Turn Around, Don’t Drown” public information campaign the number of people that have heard the warning cannot be counted. This however, does not mean that the campaign is complete. On nearly all of the swift water rescues that I have run, those that we set out to rescue have not heeded the warning and made the conscious decision to enter the flood waters. When a vehicle is driven into the water, the occupants typically do not realize the peril that they have placed themselves in. People can be swept off their feet in as little as 6 inches of water --most cars float at 12 inches. It only takes minutes in the right conditions for a meandering stream to become a torrent that can sweep vehicles away.

 Fairfax, Va., June 1, 2012 -- Cars attempt to drive through these flooded streets. It is important to remember, turn around, don't drown.

CAPTION: Fairfax, Va., June 1, 2012 -- Cars attempt to drive through these flooded streets. It is important to remember, turn around, don't drown.

One of my most memorable swift water rescues occurred at a location that floods often and is familiar to many because of this. The incident was at the height of a long rain storm that had flooded many locations throughout the county. We had been at the intersection earlier in the storm and had evacuated a couple from their car before it was lifted and taken into the woods. The evacuation occurred quickly and was uneventful. After the incident, the police closed the road with cones, banner tape, and a police cruiser was standing by until a more significant barricade could be put in-place. A couple of hours had gone by since the first evacuation, when we were called back to the location for another vehicle stranded in the water. As we responded, we were all trying to determine if we were going back to check the car that we had evacuated earlier or if this was a new rescue. We arrived on the scene, saw a new car in the water and questioned the police officer as to what had happened. His response was that the car had driven around the cruiser, over the cones, stopped at the water’s edge, and then proceeded to try to cross the water. After evacuating the woman from the car, her response to why she did it was that “the water didn’t look that deep.” Little did she realize that her actions tied up numerous emergency response units, and put our lives in jeopardy as we evacuated her from the water that she should never have driven into.

Tuscan, Ariz., July 23, 2007 -- A woman waits to be rescued by Tucson Fire Department firefighters from the roof of her car that was swept down the Rodeo Wash just south of East Irvington Road and west of South Park Avenue Monday July 23, 2007. Heavy rains hit Tucson in the early afternoon flooding washes and downing power lines across the city.

CAPTION: Tuscan, Ariz., July 23, 2007 -- A woman waits to be rescued by Tucson Fire Department firefighters from the roof of her car that was swept down the Rodeo Wash just south of East Irvington Road and west of South Park Avenue Monday July 23, 2007. Heavy rains hit Tucson in the early afternoon flooding washes and downing power lines across the city.

“Floods can occur anywhere, at any time”

All floods, including flash floods can occur anywhere, at any time. Although it has been related that “anywhere it rains, it can flood,” this does not accurately characterize the flood threat. Floods can be caused by a number of reasons, and not just precipitation. Snow can melt, and mechanical devices such as dams and pipes can break. When this happens, the potential for floods becomes a reality.

The weather on December 23, 2008 was frigidly cold and clear. Another day at the firehouse, my crew was thinking more of building fires due to space heaters, than water rescues. With no precipitation in the forecast there wouldn’t be a flood, and no one would dare go near the river in this cold. But, as has been proven time and again, floods can occur anywhere, any time. My rescue squad was dispatched to assist a neighboring county with a swift water rescue. The cause was a burst water pipe that at the height of the break was spewing 135 million gallons per minute down River Road. The torrent trapped a number of motorists and multiple rescues occurred through the quick actions of the numerous first responders on the scene. By the time the water was turned off and the incident stabilized all those trapped were rescued and we were once again reminded of the power of moving water.

I urge you to learn from my experience.  The three phrases we commonly hear about flooding - “be prepared”, “turn around, don’t drown”, and “floods can occur anywhere, at any time” – they all have valuable meaning behind them that can save lives.  Take the opportunity this week to learn about staying safe from flooding. 

Editor’s Note: The views expressed by Scott E. Schermerhorn 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.

From Hermine to Heroes: Arlington, Texas Promotes Flood Safety with Unique Idea

The City of Arlington’s Flood Safety Awareness Campaign is an annual week long outreach campaign corresponding with National Flood Safety Awareness Week.  It is geared toward raising awareness about flood safety and preparedness.  This year, the week of March 18-22, 2013 is devoted to revealing how residents’ simple actions can help protect lives and property during a flood. 

In 2010, remnants of Tropical Storm Hermine caused widespread flooding in Arlington, submerging many low-lying pockets under several feet of water. Firefighters had to use ladders and boats to reach stranded residents and over twenty roadways, including several arterial streets, were flooded and closed due to hazardous conditions.  The flooding caused intermittent power outages, temporary road closures, evacuations, contaminated water supplies in some areas, and hazardous post flood conditions.   Approximately 250 homes were flooded or left uninhabitable throughout the city.  Residents were confused about why their homes flooded and why the city was unable to prevent the flooding.  Many did not have insurance or were unaware that their homeowner’s and renter’s policies did not cover flood damage. 

Each year, the city aims to create an all-inclusive flood safety outreach campaign, targeting youth, adults, and seniors because flooding affects everyone, regardless of age.  Given the size of the target audiences, it is important that our city utilize different methods to reach different age groups.  Thus the Flood Safety Awareness Campaign in 2013 is designed not only to use traditional outreach methods to reach local residents but more modern and creative methods as well during Flood Safety Awareness Week. 

Traditional outlets include newspaper advertisements, utility bill inserts, and local partnerships.  Specifically, newspaper advertisements promoting flood safety will run throughout the week and over 93, 000 households will receive information about flood preparedness in their water bills for the month of March.  The city is partnering with Arlington Independent School District high school science teachers to gear lessons toward flood and water related topics during the week, with activities culminating in a flood preparedness competition.  Five simple and short lessons created by the city, focusing on hydrology, soils, floodplains, forces in flowing water and preparedness were distributed to teachers to use in their classrooms during Flood Safety Awareness Week. 

The city will use social media (Facebook, Twitter, RSS Feeds, & blogs) to reach residents through more technological conduits rather than the more traditional methods of outreach.  For example, throughout Flood Safety Awareness Week, daily flood tips will appear on the city’s Facebook and Twitter feeds, with links to more information on flood safety and awareness.  The city is also highlighting flood safety and preparedness on its RSS (Rich Site Summary) Feed – its constantly updated news blog.  Articles covering different flood related topics will appear throughout the week. 

Most significantly, with the help of a group of commissioned graphic artists, 133 ART Inc., the City of Arlington created, The Rescue League Academy:  Sink or Swim, a flood safety novella (comic book or graphic novel).  This is an effort to create something that would appeal to a younger audience (middle school through generation Xers) that may ignore traditional outreach materials, and was inspired by the Preparedness 101: Zombie Pandemic graphic novel created by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.  The city’s 40-page flood safety graphic novel reveals how the simple actions of residents, regardless of age, can help protect lives and property during a flood.  Readers follow Bianca, Shawn, Sonny, Sam, and their families as they experience a major Texas flash flood.  Bianca, the aspiring superhero undergoing her final test, helps a group of citizens during a flood.  As she helps them make smart decisions and saves them from dangerous situations created by their ill-informed actions, citizens learn about what they should do before, during, and after a flood. 

flood safety comic book

CAPTION: With the help of a group of commissioned graphic artists, the City of Arlington created "The Rescue League Academy:  Sink or Swim", a flood safety comic book designed to share flood safety with a younger audience that may ignore traditional outreach materials.

Included in the graphic novel is a Flood Safety Checklist so that readers can get their family, home, workplace, or school ready before disaster strikes.  The project is available online at www.arlingtontx.gov/stormwater and in print form to increase accessibility.  Print copies are available for free at several City of Arlington locations and will be distributed to individuals, schools, and businesses throughout the year as well as at local events.  In all, the graphic novel is a unique, creative, and effective public education tool to communicate the importance of flood safety and preparedness to all, including the historically underserved younger audience. 

Simply, our goal in the City of Arlington is to create an informed citizenry with the tools to take action in the face of potential hazards. We want people, if or when confronted with flood waters, to know what to do and how to prepare.

Debby Update 3: Preparing for flooding

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Posted by: Lars Anderson, Director, Public Affairs

We’re continuing to monitor Tropical Storm Debby as it continues to create dangerous conditions along much of the Gulf Coast. According to the National Hurricane Center’s forecast at 5 p.m. Eastern time today, Debby is expected to bring large amounts of rain to affected areas – especially northern and central Florida, southeast Georgia, and coastal South Carolina. In some areas, over 15 inches of rain is expected this week.
 

Map of the Unitied States - June 25 - National Hurricane Center projected rain totals for the next three days. Image originally inserted as of 5 p.m. Eastern time.

June 25 - National Hurricane Center projected rain totals for the next three days. Image originally inserted as of 5 p.m. Eastern time.

At this time, Debby’s biggest threat for those in the affected area is flooding. Make sure you’re staying up to date with your local weather forecast and taking precautions to stay safe in case of flooding. Here are few safety tips if you are in Debby’s projected path:

  • If you have to leave your home, do not drive through flood waters. Even a small amount of moving water can cause you to lose control of your vehicle. And if you see standing water on the roadway, do not try to drive through it. * Turn around, don’t drown *
  • Keep up with updates from your local officials. If they give the order to evacuate, do so immediately. Remember, evacuation orders come from local officials, not FEMA. 
  • Severe weather watches and warnings may happen quickly, so be familiar with flood terminology, like:
    • Flood Watch - Flooding is possible. Tune in to NOAA Weather Radio, commercial radio or television for information. 
    • Flood Warning - Flooding is occurring or will occur soon; if advised to evacuate, do so immediately. 
    • Flash Flood Watch - Flash flooding is possible. Be prepared to move to higher ground; listen to NOAA Weather Radio, commercial radio or television for information. 
    • Flash Flood Warning - A flash flood is occurring; seek higher ground on foot immediately. 
  • Find more on how to keep your family, home, or business safe from the effects of a tropical storm at Ready.gov/hurricanes


What we’re doing 
We continue to closely monitor tropical storm Debby at our offices in Atlanta, Denton, Texas, and Washington, D.C. Our staff is in close contact with state officials in potentially affected states including Florida, Georgia, Mississippi, Alabama and South Carolina. In Florida, a FEMA liaison officer is onsite at the Florida Emergency Operations Center, after being requested by the state, to help coordinate if additional support is needed.

While we will continue to provide tropical storm Debby updates through our blog, Facebook page, and Twitter accounts – the best place to get up-to-date information is from the National Hurricane Center, at:

National Dam Safety Awareness Day

Author: 

On May 31, 1889, the South Fork Dam in Johnstown, Pennsylvania failed, killing 2,200 people and leaving thousands homeless. The Johnstown disaster was the worst dam failure before and since 1889 in the United States in terms of lives lost and injuries.

This year, FEMA’s National Dam Safety Program recognized today, May 31, 2012 as National Dam Safety Awareness Day, in commemoration of the devastation of 1889 and as a call to action. FEMA, along with various Federal, State and local stakeholders, attended the event this morning at the Lake Needwood Dam in Rockville, Maryland.

The National Dam Safety Program is a partnership between states, federal agencies, and other stakeholders led by FEMA, to encourage and promote best practices, individual and community responsibility for dam safety and prevention of future catastrophic dam failures.

Sandra Knight, Mitigation Deputy Associate Adminsitrator, speaks at the Dam Safety Awarenss Day ceremony at Lake Needwood Dam.Rockville, Md., May 30, 2012 -- Sandra Knight, Mitigation Deputy Associate Adminsitrator, speaks at the Dam Safety Awarenss Day ceremony at Lake Needwood Dam.

The Lake Needwood Dam served as the focal point for Dam Safety Awareness Day because of its urban setting and the successful emergency action planning that took place in response to a severe leakage incident that occurred on July 19, 2006. The planning and response of that incident by state and local officials symbolize exactly what FEMA and its partners strive to achieve through the National Dam Safety Program: a “whole community” approach to emergency management that keeps Americans, their property, and the environment safe from dam failure. National Dam Safety Awareness Day is a day to acknowledge the important work that is being accomplished at all levels of government, and to make a commitment to continue this work to help and create a culture of preparedness and safety in all communities.

Manning, Deputy Administrator for Protection and National Preparedness, speaks about the National Dam Safety Program.Rockville, Md., May 30, 2012 -- Tim Manning, Deputy Administrator for Protection and National Preparedness, speaks about the National Dam Safety Program.

National Flood Insurance Program Reauthorization Needed

Author: 
Editor's Note: this blog post was updated May 16, 2012.

Flooding is the most common and costly natural disaster to affect every state across the country. Flooding is so common, in fact, that Congress authorized the creation of the National Flood Insurance Program, under the Federal Emergency Management Agency, to lessen the financial impact of flood disasters on individuals, business, and all levels of government. That authorization is set to expire next month, on May 31, and only Congress can provide the authority for continued funding of the program.

If Congress fails to reauthorize the NFIP beyond May 31, many individuals, families, businesses and local communities will find themselves left vulnerable to the devastating effects of flooding, because, the NFIP will be unable to issue new policies, renew existing policies, or increase coverage on existing policies.

Here are a few examples of how this can impact you:
  • If you are a property owner in a high risk flood area, who would normally be required to purchase flood insurance in order to purchase your home, you would be unable to obtain affordable flood insurance. The National Association of REALTORS estimates that a lapse in authorization jeopardizes an estimated 1,300 sales each day, or about 40,000 mortgage closings per month.

If you have an existing policy and continue paying your premiums, you can file a claim for flood-related damages and it will be processed. Claims for new policies, or policy renewals, where the policies were received and held by your insurance company during the lapse will not be paid until Congress reauthorizes the NFIP. In this instance, your insurance company can still investigate your claim under a “non-waiver” agreement, up to the point of payment. Under a “non-waiver” agreement, your insurance company may not pay your claim if Congress does not reauthorize the NFIP to pay claims during the period of lapse.

  • In addition, if the NFIP experiences a lapse in authorization, the cash flow into the program from premiums will diminish, and the NFIP may have to halt payment of your claim if you have recently experienced flooding. 
  • If you are a homeowner, renter, or business owner and you are unable to purchase NFIP flood insurance, or renew your existing policies, and are impacted by flooding, you may need to look to the services and recovery support provided by voluntary and faith based organizations, state and local governments, and possibly even to federal assistance programs in their recovery, such as the Small Business Administration, who can offer low interest loans, or FEMA’s Individuals and Households program, which can provided very limited assistance in the form of grants.

The NFIP identifies areas of flood risk; it encourages communities to implement measures to mitigate against the risk of flood loss; and it provides financial assistance to help individuals recover rapidly from flooding disasters. However, in recent years, a series of short-term reauthorizations and temporary suspensions of the NFIP have eroded confidence in the program among citizens and stakeholders, including state governments, tribal governments, local communities, individual policyholders, mortgage lenders, and the private insurance industry. To the individuals and business owners who live in an area with flood risk, have an upcoming mortgage closing that requires the purchase of flood insurance, and you need affordable flood insurance coverage, we urge you to apply for flood insurance immediately. It many instances, it takes 30 days for a flood insurance policy to take effect, and it must occur while the program is authorized.

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