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News of the Day: Administration Officials Visit Joplin

 Joplin, Mo., September 22, 2011 -- Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano (middle), FEMA Deputy Administrator Richard Serino (right) and Secretary of Education Arne Duncan tour the damaged high school. Just four months after a tornado destroyed the school, students were able to start the new school year on time in temporary facility.
Joplin, Mo., September 22, 2011 -- Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano (middle), FEMA Deputy Administrator Richard Serino (right) and Secretary of Education Arne Duncan tour the damaged high school. Just four months after a tornado destroyed the school, students were able to start the new school year on time in temporary facility.

Yesterday, we shared a blog featured on the Blog @ Homeland Security from Secretary Napolitano describing her visit to Joplin, Mo. alongside FEMA Deputy Administrator Rich Serino and Secretary of Education Arne Duncan to survey the progress of the ongoing recovery efforts.

They spent much of their day touring the temporary high school and visiting with students and local leaders who have been instrumental in the town’s recovery. Despite the local high school being destroyed from a deadly tornado this spring, students started this academic year on time- demonstrating the tremendous resiliency in the Joplin community.

Here are a few a few news stories recapping yesterday’s visit to Joplin:

As Secretary Napolitano stated, although great amounts of progress have been made, there is still much that needs to be done. For more information on the ongoing recovery efforts in Joplin, visit the state’s disaster page.

News of the Day: Administrator Fugate Reflects on Year So Far


Published by: Brad Carroll, Press Secretary

As we continue ongoing response and recovery efforts in many areas across the country, we wanted to share a recent interview featuring Administrator Fugate reflecting on the work that FEMA has done to support our state, tribal and local partners this year, so far. From historic flooding in many areas to deadly tornadoes, droughts and an earthquake and torrential rain from several tropical storms and hurricanes, this year has shown the importance of getting prepared.

This year has also demonstrated the importance of the team approach in emergency management. Administrator Fugate talked about this during the question and answer session, when he was asked if he had any criticisms of the way disasters are covered in the media:

I think the over emphasis on what FEMA does as opposed to what local and state officials, volunteers, what the private sector does, what people do to help each other. Oftentimes, particularly in the national media, because they are trying to tell a national story, the logical place that you come to is the federal government. But in disasters its very much the opposite: It's the local officials, the first responders, the community of impact, the states supporting that.

Check out the rest of the interview for insight into our emphasis on quickly providing resources to affected states after a disaster, so we can continue getting prepared for the next disaster. This year’s been an example that disasters can strike practically anytime and anywhere. As always, we also encourage you to visit and learn about the simple steps you can take to get you and your family better prepared before a disaster strikes.

News of the Day: Joplin Students Return to School

Over the past few days, we’ve shared a lot of stories about how the Joplin community has pulled together to make sure their students could start their school year on time, after the devastating tornado earlier this spring. As the students in Joplin return to school today, we wanted to share some additional stories.

The Los Angeles Times had a touching article, “In Shattered Joplin, Kids Head Back to Class,” which told several personal stories from teachers and students who recall what it was like on May 22 when the tornado ripped through their city and schools. Seven students and one staff member died that day.

And the Joplin Globe wrote a story today that explained how Joplin schools are ready to help students through those emotional struggles many are still coping with. Several counseling organizations will be available at the school to help provide support to the kids who are still struggling.

The articles celebrate the start of a new school year despite all the obstacles the community has faced. School spirit remained high as the students and staffs of relocated Joplin schools moved into modular units, patiently waiting for their permanent school buildings.

And earlier in the week, Joplin Schools Assistant Superintendent Dr. Angie Besendorfer shared her thoughts on the progress:

Everyone is pulling together to get things ready. The arrival of the modulars, early on, said 'something's working,' and that was a lift. They are nice classrooms! They have windows and great lighting, they are a nice place to be and the teachers want to be there.

For more about Joplin schools re-opening, check out some of our previous blog posts:

News of the Day: Joplin schools reopen

Earlier on the blog today, we shared how the community of Joplin has been preparing for school’s to reopen on time this Wednesday – a huge victory for the town and an impressive feat given how badly their schools were damaged by the tornado. As Joplin students get ready to go back to school on Wednesday, we wanted to share the following story in USAToday:

Quinton Anderson's back-to-school routine won't be all that routine. Critically injured in the May 22 tornado that killed 160 people, including his parents, Quinton Anderson, will be walking into his senior year at Joplin High School on his own power.

Carefully on Wednesday, the slender 17-year-old will apply dressing to a left leg that was gouged and stripped of muscle when one of the deadliest tornadoes in U.S. history tore through his home and his life in May. Anderson's father and mother were killed.

For three days, their son was missing and presumed a victim, too. Anderson also suffered a broken back, a fractured skull, a shattered eye socket and scrapes so frightful that he needed treatment in a burn unit. Almost three months later, the leg, which required skin grafts, is virtually all that's left to mend.

"I was bound and determined to heal myself, I guess as quick as my body would heal," Anderson says. "I never once thought that I wouldn't be able to go back to school."

Others in this stricken city proclaim it little short of a miracle — that in two days the senior will walk without help through the doors of a makeshift Joplin High School, that those doors are swinging open at all, that school is restarting as scheduled only 87 days after 200 mph winds carved a path of unthinkable destruction through the middle of town. The storm killed 160 people and injured more than 900.

Check out the entire article at

At FEMA, we're proud to be just one of many partners in the community’s effort to make this day possible. We have provided temporary classrooms and other facilities to several school campuses throughout the town. We have also provided temporary housing units to all families with school age children – ensuring that children can return to a sense of normalcy. We remain committed to providing assistance to residents of the Joplin community during the road to recovery, every step of the way.

FY 2011 Emergency Food and Shelter Grant Award

I wanted to share a unique grant program FEMA has outside of our traditional preparedness and disaster recovery programs – the Emergency Food and Shelter Program. FEMA is provided funding each year, by Congress, to support voluntary agencies that provide food, shelter and other essential services to help the hungry and homeless individuals and families across our nation. This year, FEMA is awarding more than $119 million, through the Emergency Food and Shelter Program grant, to supplement agencies that provide food, shelter, rent, mortgage and utility assistance programs.

These funds are distributed in accordance with the McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Act, which established the program and called for the creation of an Emergency Food and Shelter Program National Board. This board is comprised of representatives from agencies that include the American Red Cross, Catholic Charities USA, The Jewish Federations of North America, National Council of the Churches of Christ in the USA, The Salvation Army, United Way Worldwide, and FEMA. By law, FEMA serves as the chair to the national board, and the board chooses a fiscal agent and secretariat to oversee the award and compliance processes to local jurisdictions and local recipient organizations. The national board has selected United Way Worldwide to serve as this fiscal agent.

Based on the annual award from FEMA, the national board qualifies jurisdictions for funding by using a formula that takes into account factors such as the current population, unemployment, and poverty levels. Jurisdictions that qualify for funds must establish a local board that is comprised of the same agencies represented on the national board, with the highest ranking local government official or designee replacing the FEMA representative, and include at least one representative for the homeless population (i.e., currently homeless person, formerly homeless person, former recipient of service or a homeless advocate). The local boards are vested with the responsibility to administer the Emergency Food and Shelter Program at the local level and to select which agencies, both non-profit and governmental, are to receive funds. Once selected, funds are directly disbursed to these agencies by the national board.

As I shared back in March, voluntary agencies are a vital part of a community’s ability to prepare for, respond to, and recover from disasters. However, strong partnerships are essential, not only when a disaster strikes, but year round. The Emergency Food and Shelter Program fosters public-nonprofit cooperation and partnership at the national and local levels – throughout the year - in serving those in need, and FEMA is proud to be a partner in this endeavor.

I hope you’ll learn more about this unique grant program by checking out the lists of qualifying jurisdictions and their allocation amounts.

News of the Day – What do Waffle Houses Have to Do with Risk Management?


What do Waffle Houses have to do with risk and disaster management?

As anyone who has heard Administrator Fugate speak once or twice knows, more than you might think. During his days as the head of Florida’s Department of Emergency Management, Craig began to use a simple test to determine how quickly a community might be able to get up and running again after a disaster: The Waffle House test.

If this comparison seems odd at first, think again.

Yesterday, EHS Today, a magazine for environment, health and safety leaders, explained that major companies such as The Home Depot, Walmart, and Waffle House serve as role models in disaster preparedness. They’ve taken necessary steps to prepare. These companies have good risk management plans to ensure that their stores continue to operate when a disaster strikes, and also provide basic supplies to people in their community. As the article explains, the Waffle House test is:

If a Waffle House store is open and offering a full menu, the index is green. If it is open but serving from a limited menu, it’s yellow. When the location has been forced to close, the index is red. Because Waffle House is well-prepared for disasters… it’s rare for the index to hit red.

As Craig often says, the Waffle House test doesn’t just tell us how quickly a business might rebound – it also tells us how the larger community is faring. The sooner restaurants, grocery and corner stores, or banks can re-open, the sooner local economies will start generating revenue again – signaling a stronger recovery for that community. The success of the private sector in preparing for and weathering disasters is essential to a community’s ability to recover in the long run.

EHS Today’s article serves as a good reminder that businesses should get ready. Up to 40 percent of businesses affected by a natural or man-made disaster never reopen, according to the Insurance Information Institute. Keep your business out of this statistic. As we’ve said before, learn about the resources available to help your company prepare for a disaster – and stay in business.

News of the Day: Disaster Assistance in North Dakota

Federal Emergency Management Agency employee, Katherine Ordway assists a disaster survivor at the FEMA/State Disaster Recovery Center at the Auditorium in South Minot, North Dakota.
Minot, ND, June 27, 2011 -- Federal Emergency Management Agency employee, Katherine Ordway assists a disaster survivor at the FEMA/State Disaster Recovery Center at the Auditorium in South Minot, North Dakota.

As Robin Finegan, Regional Administrator for Region VIII, pointed out, we continue to support the federal, state and local flood-fighting efforts in response to historic high waters along the Souris River in North Dakota.  We wanted to share two stories that emphasize our role in providing assistance to those affected by the flooding:

  • Last night, NBC Nightly News provided an update on the flooding, while interviewing a disaster survivor at a disaster recovery center. We currently have three recovery centers open, along with the North Dakota Department of Emergency Services, to answer questions about recovery programs and disaster assistance.

    For more on the resources available at a disaster recovery center, check out this video that was shot earlier this year, from our operations in North Carolina:
  • Today, the Minot Daily News published a story about our community relations teams reaching out to disaster survivors. These teams have been on the ground in Ward and Burleigh counties, encouraging those affected by the flooding to apply for disaster assistance.

    If you have sustained losses from the flooding, please apply with FEMA by calling 1-800-621-3362 (TTY 1-800-462-7585), or by visiting or on your smartphone.

Missouri: Military Veterans Helping Survivors Through Volunteering

As our bloggers frequently mention, recovering after a disaster is a team effort, where the public, private sector, voluntary and faith-based groups, and government agencies work together to address the short and long term needs of individuals and the affected community. There have been countless examples of this team effort in action since this spring’s devastating tornadoes, storms and flooding.

We wanted to showcase one of the many dedicated voluntary groups assisting in the recovery efforts in Joplin, Mo. since a deadly tornado struck on May 22. A group of military veterans, named Team Rubicon, has been helping survivors rebuild after the tornado, and are using the volunteer experience to forge new friendships. Here’s an excerpt from the USA Today story:

When Kasey Sands and her family returned home last month a few days after a tornado flattened much of Joplin, Mo., a dozen strangers were removing trees toppled in their yard.
"I asked them who they were, and they said they were veterans," says Sands, 27. "They said they like to help with peace and not just with war."

They were Team Rubicon, a non-profit group of veterans formed after the 2010 Haiti earthquake to help in the immediate aftermaths of disasters. They also raced in after tornadoes struck Alabama in April and following earlier crises in Chile, Burma, Pakistan and Sudan. More than 500 people have volunteered; 25 were in Joplin for a week…

Jake Wood, Team Rubicon's president and co-founder, says responding to tragedies "is the most obvious fit for veterans who have so much to offer." Many members are doctors, paramedics and nurses. Besides aiding survivors and searching for victims, members help one another adjust to life after war, he says.

For the latest on the ongoing recovery efforts in Joplin, visit the disaster page.

News of the Day: Fire Escape Plan Proves Its Worth

One of the reasons people don’t prepare for an emergency is the mindset that “it could never happen to me”. But over the weekend, a potentially tragic fire at the home of country singer Trace Adkins proved the importance of having a plan before a disaster strikes.

According to news reports, a fire broke out in the garage and quickly spread to other areas of the home. gives an account of Rhonda Adkins, Trace’s wife, after she heard about the fire from a neighbor:

Her three young daughters and their dog were inside the home with their nanny when the fire started. Rhonda Adkins was driving a few blocks away when a neighbor called her.

“She said that the house was on fire and we looked up in the air and we saw the black smoke," Adkins said. "And I said, 'Oh, my God, this isn't happening, this isn't real.'" When she pulled up to her yard, she found her children there unhurt, she said.

"They ran to their safe place like we practiced, in the front yard at a big tree," she said. "And it worked. You know, fire safety is so important, and today we used it."

Read the whole story on, and take the opportunity to create or practice your family’s fire safety plan or emergency communications plan today. Like it did for the Adkins family, having an emergency plan that you practice can ultimately save the lives of the ones you love.

News of the Day: Update on Joplin Recovery

We wanted to share two stories from Joplin, Mo. about the ongoing recovery efforts:

As the recovery continues in Joplin, we'd like to say "thank you" to the entire emergency management team - state and local officials, the private sector, voluntary, community, and faith-based groups, and especially the public - as we work together to support disaster survivors and the affected community.

We will continue to provide updates on this blog, so check back often.


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