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Capturing the Moment and Kicking off FEMA Corps

Last Friday, I had the opportunity to meet the second group of the inaugural class of FEMA Corps during their induction ceremony in Vinton, Iowa.  Soon, this group will join their fellow FEMA Corps inductees in regional offices and joint field offices around the country.  Similar to the induction ceremony in Vicksburg, I couldn’t help but come away from this ceremony energized, knowing this group of young people is sharply focused on making a difference in their world – particularly in the lives of disaster survivors.

For those that don’t know, FEMA Corps is a program that establishes a service cadre of 18-24 year olds dedicated to disaster response and recovery.  The graduates of the program will contribute to a dedicated, trained, and reliable disaster workforce by working full-time for ten months on federal disaster response and recovery efforts.  FEMA Corps sets the foundation for a new generation of emergency managers – promoting civic engagement, community service, and teamwork – all while strengthening the nation’s disaster response by supplementing FEMA’s existing Reservist workforce.

The program was created through a partnership between FEMA and the Corporation for National and Community Service.

Amelia Rubin, one of the new inductees, addressed her peers at last week’s induction ceremony, highlighting the limitless potential of the young people blazing a trail in the newly formed FEMA Corps program.  

Vinton, Iowa, Sep. 28, 2012 -- I stopped for a photo with Amelia Rubin, who provided an inspiring speech at the induction ceremony of the inaugural FEMA Corps class from Vinton, Iowa.

I stopped for a photo with Amelia Rubin, who provided an inspiring speech at the induction ceremony of the inaugural FEMA Corps class from Vinton, Iowa.

Amelia’s speech is worth sharing as her words echo the enthusiasm and optimism I saw in every one of our newly inducted FEMA Corps members. I hope that reading it through this blog post will transmit the same level of energy felt by those in the room.  Here is Amelia’s speech:

Good evening distinguished guests, team leaders, family, friends, and fellow corps members. As you know we are celebrating a new collaboration and our first FEMA-Corps class! We are pioneers!  According to Merriam Webster Dictionary, a pioneer is: a person or group that originates or helps open up a new line of thought or activity or a new method or technical development.

As pioneers forging the road ahead in the new partnership between FEMA and the Corporation for National and Community Service, we have a very special responsibility, gift, and challenge. It is a scary gift, but we have to have faith; in ourselves, our team and unit leaders, and our mission.

To quote Martin Luther King Jr., “Faith is taking the first step even when you don't see the whole staircase.”

We have the privilege of helping to create our staircase, the challenge of having and keeping the faith when we can’t see the next stair, and the responsibility to keep walking until we’ve reached the end. We’ve been working so hard these last four weeks, so walking up this staircase is a well-earned challenge that we are totally capable of, we just have to keep a positive mental attitude.

Our attitude will influence not only our time here as a group, but the work we do for the communities we are sent to, and the people from those communities whom we hope to help during their times of need. A quote I really like from Grandma Moses is “Life is what we make it, always has been, always will be.”

Grandma Moses was a farm wife in the late 1800s and is cited as an example of someone who has discovered her passion (which for her was painting American folk art) at a late age and decided to pursue it anyway. We have the opportunity to pursue our passion right now! I mean, that passion, burning as a small flame in our chests, is what led us here in the first place. Once we all got to campus and started our training, those little flames came together to create a raging wildfire. During our training, we have learned how to control that fire and use it to create change and help new things grow.

Even though we have been given informative, thorough training by both National Civilian Community Corps staff members and FEMA representatives, being the first anything can be a mystery.  Neil Armstrong said, “Mystery creates wonder and wonder is the basis of man's desire to understand.” We as class 19 are embracing the wonder and desire to understand and coupling that with our shared ambitions to make a difference in the world we live. I can’t think of a more powerful force than this. So, also in the words of Neil Armstrong, let me say to you, NCCC Class 19 and first FEMA-Corps class of the North/central Region, let’s make sure that even though “This is one small step for [us]…” it will be “one giant leap for mankind.”

Great job, Amelia!  As evidence Amelia’s speech, the FEMA Corps members are excited and energized to become part of the FEMA team.

Congratulations to all the new members of our inaugural FEMA Corps class!  To learn more about the FEMA Corps program and how to get involved, visit fema.gov/fema-corps.

Mary Hudak Receives National Hurricane Conference Award for Distinguished Service

It is always gratifying when one of our FEMA team members is recognized by another organization for their outstanding work. So it gives me great pleasure to let you know that Mary Hudak, External Affairs Director for Region IV, received the Distinguished Service Award from the National Hurricane Conference on Tuesday, March 27. It is well deserved recognition for her passion to improve crisis communication in emergency management so that survivors of disasters get the information they need.

Orlando, Fla., March 27, 2012 -- Mary Hudak, FEMA's Region IV External Affairs Director, is presented with the Distinguished Service Award from Former Director of the National Hurricane Center Max Mayfield (left), and current Director of the National Hurricane Center Bill Reed (right) at the 2012 National Hurricane Conference held in Orlando, Fla.

Orlando, Fla., March 27, 2012 -- Mary Hudak, FEMA's Region IV External Affairs Director, is presented with the Distinguished Service Award from Former Director of the National Hurricane Center Max Mayfield (left), and current Director of the National Hurricane Center Bill Reed (right) at the 2012 National Hurricane Conference held in Orlando, Fla.

Her nomination, which was written by Region IV Administrator Phil May and supported by Administrator Craig Fugate and Associate Administrator Bill Carwile, points to some of her outstanding achievements in how she has impacted the community of emergency managers in such a positive way. Here is an excerpt from her nomination:

Over the course of her more than 30 years of emergency management service, Mary Hudak has shown tireless dedication to excellence in serving those whose lives have been affected by disaster.

In addition to her work with FEMA, her support for the National Hurricane Conference over the years has been unwavering. She has served on both the Planning Committee and the Public Education/Media Committee for years and has been instrumental in getting subject matter experts to participate—from leaders in emergency management, to local and national media personnel, to crisis management specialists— Mary has been a driving force in support of the NHC. Her efforts have added immeasurably to the knowledge base of local, state and federal emergency managers across the country in strategic messaging and crisis communication. Her work has improved the quality of public information and messaging to disaster survivors all around the country and not just with hurricanes but with floods, tornadoes and earthquakes. Mary has trained, mentored, coached, advised and taught literally thousands of emergency managers and communicators throughout the country, both “on the job” in her work with FEMA, as well as in settings such as the National Hurricane Conference.

The impact of her work is nearly impossible to measure because those who have learned so much from her carry it forward as they teach, coach and mentor others. Mary has literally touched the lives of thousands upon thousands through her mentoring and work in support of disaster survivors.

On behalf of the entire FEMA team, thank you, Mary. Your leadership and dedication to your work – and to every disaster survivor you’ve worked tirelessly to serve – stand as a model for all who work in emergency management. Well done!

Fiscal year 2013 Budget Announced

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Today, following the release of President Obama’s budget for fiscal year 2013, Secretary Napolitano outlined a balanced approach of reductions and investments for the Department of Homeland Security, which includes FEMA.


 

FEMA’s budget request amplifies the Secretary’s intent, and lays out our plans to manage existing resources, reduce redundancies, enhance efficiencies, and focus on the programs that help us to fulfill our crucial emergency management mission. We have worked diligently, in recent years, to apply innovative approaches to how we do business, to streamline our processes, and to create greater program efficiencies. Here are a few examples of how these actions have influenced our fiscal 2013 budget request:

  • The FY13 budget request reflects approximately $6.1B in funding for the Disaster Relief Fund, which supports a significant portion of the total Federal response to presidentially declared major disasters and emergencies.  
  • We have consolidated multiple, individuals grants into a new, unified grant program that fosters our agency’s whole community approach to prepare our state, local community and tribal partners for all hazards in support of the recently announced National Preparedness Goal;
  • We are making strategic investments to our workforce that establishes new training programs and a national employee credentialing program so that our employees are well equipped to provide the best possible customer service; and
  • We have combined duplicative programs, such as the pre-disaster mitigation grant program, to create greater efficiency. 

We are confident that this budget will allow us to continue to fulfill our most important mission to support our citizens and first responders to ensure that as a nation we work together to build, sustain, and improve our capability to prepare for, protect against, respond to, recover from, and mitigate all hazards.

Beware of Fake FEMA Sites & Phishing Attacks

Just a reminder to everyone that FEMA does not provide emergency alerts (emergency, weather or otherwise) as this is a local responsibility. So we’re asking everyone to beware of phishing emails or websites claiming to provide official FEMA information or FEMA emergency alerts, as these sites are not operated by FEMA and can be harmful to your personal information or computer. If you are wondering how you can receive legitimate weather alerts, check out our blog post for a great list of weather alert sources.


Here’s a short blurb to explain phishing, not to be confused with fishing in a river or lake:

What is Phishing?
Phishing is an attempt by an individual or group to solicit personal information from unsuspecting users by employing social engineering techniques. Phishing emails are crafted to appear as if they have been sent from a legitimate organization or known individual. These emails often attempt to entice users to click on a link that will take the user to a fraudulent web site that appears legitimate. The user then may be asked to provide personal information such as account usernames and passwords that can further expose them to future compromises. Additionally, these fraudulent web sites may contain malicious code.

For more information on phishing visit U.S. CERT.

Also, the agency’s official website is fema.gov (notice the dot gov ending) and we created a page that has a complete list of all official FEMA channels (social media sites, collaboration forums, smartphone apps, text message programs, etc) for transparency and clarity.

If you are ever unsure whether or not a website is an official FEMA website and you can’t find any information about it on fema.gov, please send an email to FEMA-New-Media@dhs.gov and the team will get back to you.

News of the Day: Continuing the Public-Private Partnership

Yesterday, Administrator Fugate spoke at the National Homeland Security & Emergency Preparedness Disaster Management Summit, “Private Sector Resources in the Emergency Management Plan; The Public-Private Partnership Conference” in New Orleans. The Administrator’s remarks focused on the importance of engaging the private sector as part of the emergency management team.

As the entire team and the Administrator often say, it takes the whole community to respond to and recover from a disaster - this includes the entire federal family, state, local and tribal governments, faith-based and non-profit communities and the public sector. Businesses in the private sector contribute unique capabilities that allow us to better serve the public during an emergency.

Whether it’s helping share our preparedness messages with the public or staying open during a disaster to provide survivors with water, food, and other needs – it’s been proven that the private sector is a critical team player in emergency management.

Here’s an excerpt from the Associated Press regarding the Administrator’s remarks from the conference:

Craig Fugate, the head of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, says the government needs to stop thinking it can handle all aspects of a disaster and make sure the private sector is included in disaster planning and response.

He told emergency planners to engage chambers of commerce and the business community in general to see what the private sector can do to help in the wake of a disaster.

Fugate said, “helping businesses open after a disaster fills in critical needs — such as getting food, water, gasoline and other essentials to people.”

If you are in government, you've got to get out of this mindset that we can manage no matter how big the disaster is.

 Read the full story from the Associated Press.

Here’s another excerpt from a local New Orleans newspaper:

Public officials should make it as easy as possible for retailers -- who have a profit motive, as well as a desire to help their communities -- to get back up and running. That could mean relaxing curfews so stores can restock at night or suspending zoning rules so operators can do business in a parking lot. Such steps, in turn, would help ensure a speedier return of normalcy.

Why is it one minute after the disaster, we think government is going to do everything? The more goods and services that the private sector is able to provide to meet the needs, then (government) can focus on the most needy and vulnerable areas.

I think this is a hard lesson for us to learn in government: The bigger the disaster is, the less likely you're going to control much of anything. It takes a team. It doesn't take a dictator.

Read the rest of the story at The Times-Picayune.

News of the Day: Oklahoma Office of Homeland Security Offers Ways to Resolve to be Ready

Posted by: Rachel Racusen, Director, Public Affairs

With the new year underway, we have been talking a lot recently about how families, businesses, and communities can make a New Year’s resolution that’s easy to keep: resolving to be ready for disasters in 2012. Earlier this week, we shared some advice on how to get you and your family prepared by staying informed, making a family plan, building an emergency kit, and getting involved.

Today, we wanted to show you an article written by The Daily Ardmoreite which highlights how one state is taking this New Year’s resolution idea one step further. The Oklahoma Office of Homeland Security urged its citizens to “Resolve to be Ready” in 2012, but also offered an easy way for people to accomplish that resolution – with a free training program called “Map Your Neighborhood” to get citizens involved in making emergency plans for their community.

Here are a few highlights from the article:


“Map Your Neighborhood” is a free training program that assists in organizing emergency plans for neighborhoods. Kim Carter, Oklahoma Homeland Security Director, said the program teaches neighborhood leaders “how to walk their neighbors” through a simple step-by-step process to customize an emergency plan for their area.”
Carter also called emergency kits for homes, vehicles and workplaces the “first step” for individual and family preparedness.
“Instead of being fearful of the unexpected we hope to build confidence by helping Oklahomans prepare for a variety of emergencies,” Carter said. “By following a few simple steps in advance, you can minimize the impact an emergency can have on you, your family or your business.”

Check out the full article here, and view a list of suggested items for your emergency supply kit. And if you haven’t already, think about some ways you can get involved by checking with your community and state emergency management offices. For more ideas on how to Resolve to be Ready in 2012, visit Ready.gov/resolve.

News of the Day: In 2012, Resolve to be Ready for Emergencies

We hope everyone had a safe and happy start to 2012. For our first post of this year, we wanted to remind everyone that it’s not too late to make a New Year’s resolution to be ready for disasters in 2012. It’s a resolution that is easy to keep and could make a world of difference in the event of a real emergency.

With that in mind, we wanted to share an op-ed written by our Regional Administrator in Chicago, Andrew Velazquez, in yesterday’s Beloit Daily News. Andrew offers some great advice on steps families, businesses, and communities in his region can take to get prepared in case disaster strikes:


Make a family emergency communications plan with your family. How would you contact your family if you were separated during an emergency? Have you already established a meeting place in the event that you are unable to communicate with family members?… Take a moment to sit down with your family and come up with a communication plan to deal with these kinds of scenarios.


Build an emergency kit for your home, office, and car. What if the roads were so bad, that you had to stay in your office overnight? It would be helpful to have supplies ready for the unexpected, such as food, clothes, and medications. In the New Year, treat yourself to a shopping trip dedicated to building a few emergency kits.


Third, know the risks in your community. In this region, we experience a wide variety of hazardous weather, such as severe winter storms, snow and ice, flooding, tornadoes, straight line winds, and extreme hot and cold temperatures.

You can check out his full op-ed here. If you haven’t already, take the time now to Resolve to be Ready in 2012. Get started with some ideas by visiting Ready.gov/resolve and join the conversation on Twitter by using the hashtags #ready2012 and #resolve.

Commerce’s EDA Investing to Strengthen Tennessee Businesses and Grow Nashville’s Hospitality Industry

Editor's Note: This was originally posted on the Commerce Blog.

Between March and May of 2010, severe storms and floods devastated many parts of Tennessee, Kentucky, Nebraska and Rhode Island. While Commerce’s Economic Development Administration (EDA) is not a first responder to such disasters, the agency quickly got to work assessing the damage and connecting with local leaders regarding their needs as they began to pick up the pieces and rebuild. Recognizing the critical role that EDA can play for these communities, Congress provided $49 million in supplemental funding for EDA to award to these states to help them in their recovery efforts.

Last week, businesses in Tennessee got some good holiday news, when EDA announced its investment of $5.8 million to help build critical infrastructure to support Tennessee businesses and jobs and to develop a strategic marketing strategy to grow the Nashville hospitality sector following the floods of 2010.

These grants will assist in Tennessee’s recovery and redevelopment efforts by funding the necessary improvements that will ensure the resilience of physical and economic infrastructure and include:

  • $2 million to the Jackson Energy Authority to build core sewer infrastructure to protect major regional employers, including the Jackson-Madison Hospital and numerous industrial and manufacturing businesses, from flooding. The project is expected to result in the retention of 9,690 jobs, according to grantee estimates;
  • $1.49 million to the city of Dyersburg to help build an elevated water storage tank that will improve water capacity for manufacturing and industrial businesses and will serve new tracts of land being developed outside of the flood plain to accommodate business needs. The project is expected to save 433 jobs, create 200 jobs and generate $4 million in private investment, according to grantee estimates;
  • $1.3 million to Conexion Americas of Nashville to help build the Casa Azafran Community Center, which will provide expanded business startup or expansion assistance to Latino small business owners and aspiring entrepreneurs;
  • $1 million to the Nashville Convention & Visitors Bureau to implement a regional marketing strategy that will support the city’s economic recovery by promoting the hospitality industry, which lost hundreds of millions of dollars in the wake of the flooding that impacted the city in 2010.

In announcing the grant, U.S. Commerce Secretary John Bryson said “The Obama administration is committed to helping communities impacted by natural disasters rebuild stronger and smarter to protect businesses and jobs. These critical EDA investments will provide the infrastructure needed to help keep businesses running and workers productive in the event of future floods, expand vital business assistance to Nashville’s Latino community and help Nashville revitalize its critical hospitality sector to create new jobs.”

In May 2010, President Obama signed the Tennessee Disaster Declaration and ordered Federal aid to supplement state and local recovery efforts in the area struck by severe storms, flooding, straight-line winds, and tornadoes beginning on April 30, 2010, and continuing. The president's action made Federal funding available to help individuals and business owners recover from the effects of the disaster.

FEMA Engages Small Business through the Private Sector Representative Program

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As many of you may know, over a year ago FEMA implemented a private sector representative program to support Emergency Support Function-15 in the National Response Coordination Center (NRCC). Since its inception, the program has improved the way the agency works with many private sector partners across the field of emergency management. We have had much success with private sector representatives from larger companies, such as Target, Big Lots, Brookfield Properties, and Verizon in this unique role; all bringing great expertise and knowledge.

This week, we are taking another great step forward by welcoming Hollis Stambaugh from System Planning Corporation as our first-ever small business representative within our private sector program. According to the U.S. Small Business Administration, small firms represent over 99 percent of all employer firms and employ half of all private sector employees in the United States. It was only right to bring in a small business representative into our program – to further expand on our ability to partner with private sector organizations larger and small.

Hollis and her company were nominated to serve in this position by our partners at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. System Planning Corporation is an Arlington, Virginia based high-technology and systems engineering company that employs more than 300 employees.

Through its TriData division, the company supports government and private sector emergency management and security through technical assistance and system solutions.. When asked about her readiness for the position, Hollis said, “I look forward to bringing my experience from Systems Planning Corporation as the Director of the Center for Public Protection to FEMA. Having studied and reported on dozens of disasters over the last 15 years, I know how critical business is to response and recovery”.

We hope that Hollis’s experience as a small business private sector representative here at FEMA is the first of many to come in 2012. Like much of our work at FEMA, this position will continue to be successful if we work together as a team, leveraging the resources of our many private sector partners and bringing more to the table. Let’s make it work and do amazing things!

If you or someone you know is interested in being a candidate, please click here. Our private sector team is available 24/7 and ready to work with you. And please continue to share your stories and ideas about how we can continue working with the private sector to better serve our nation and communities.

News of the Day: Experts Discuss How to Make Emergency Planning Fully Inclusive

Here at FEMA, we continually emphasize the importance of including and meeting the needs of the whole community. A principle foundation in emergency management is to continually take into account, understand, and support the needs of the entire community in the work that we do. It’s important for all of us to plan for the true, diverse makeup of our communities, and every day we make strides closer to achieving this goal.

With that in mind, we wanted to share the following story from the North Jersey/Bergen County Record, which captures how FEMA, through our disability integration specialists out in the field, work with all of our partners to ensure that we are fully including Americans with access and functional needs in all of our disaster planning, response and recovery efforts. Last week, Marcie Roth, Director of the Office of Disability Integration and Coordination, spoke about this work at a panel with other state and local emergency management partners:

"This is a priority. This is something we talk about on a regular basis," said Ridgewood Councilman Paul Aronsohn, who helped organize the event. "What we hope to do today is to really start a community-wide conversation, an opportunity to share lessons learned, things that work and don't work."

The community as a whole needs to come together to make sure everyone stays safe during a disaster, according to FEMA Regional Disability Integration Specialist James Flemming. Everyone has a stake in safety during times of emergency, and they need to work together to make the community as a whole better prepared, Flemming said.

"You know better than I what happened here when Hurricane Irene hit," he said. "That is not the time for people to hold onto their turf. That is not the time for people to say, 'Well that is not my job.’”

“FEMA, as well as other branches of government, are already reaching out to entire communities when making their preparations, according to Marcie Roth, director of FEMA's Office of Disability Integration and Coordination (OCDI). Modifying a plan then hanging it for people with disabilities will not adequately take into account everyone's needs, which can lead to dangerous situations in an emergency, including the death of residents who do not have the means for proper evacuation."

If we wait and plan for people with disabilities after we write the basic plan, we fail," Roth said, quoting FEMA administrator Craig Fugate. "It's time that children, people with disabilities, or any other segment of our communities who are traditionally underserved be more fully and consistently integrated into planning and preparedness on every level of government."

You can check out the full article here and encourage you to share it with others in your community. And if you have a good idea or approach for how we can be more inclusive, let us know. Leave a comment below or submit your idea to the FEMA Think Tank.

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