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Tsunami Awareness Week - Take the Time Now to Prepare

As rescue and recovery efforts continue in Japan, this tragedy should also serve as an important reminder that disaster can strike anytime and anywhere. This week happens to be National Tsunami Awareness Week, and our partners at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association are urging all Americans who live along U.S. coastlines to take the threat of tsunamis seriously.

There are a few simple tips to remember:

Warning signs of a tsunami

  • A strong earthquake, or one that persists for 20 seconds or longer
  • The ocean withdraws or rises rapidly
  • A loud, roaring sound (like an airplane or a train) coming from the ocean
  • Tsunami warnings broadcast over television and radio, by beach lifeguards, community sirens, text message alerts, National Weather Service tsunami warning center Web sites and on NOAA Weather Radio All Hazards

What you should do if you see these signs

  • Keep calm
  • Immediately move to your local tsunami shelter using defined tsunami evacuation routes
  • If there are no evacuation routes defined, move to higher ground that is at least 100 feet in elevation, a mile inland, or to the highest floor of a sturdy building and STAY there
  • If you are already in a safe location, STAY there
  • Move on foot when possible - do not drive - this keeps the roads clear for emergency vehicles
  • Stay tuned to NOAA Weather Radio or news broadcasts for changes in tsunami alerts
  • Stay away from the coast and low-lying areas until local officials say it's safe to return

This week should also serve as a crucial reminder for all Americans, no matter if you live near the coast or not, to take the time to get prepared now, before disaster strikes. Anyone can visit to learn how.

For more information visit or

FEMA's Role in Nuclear Safety - Supporting State and Local Governments


The tragic earthquake and tsunami in Japan have resulted in extraordinary loss of life, injury, and property damage. Our thoughts and prayers continue to be with those affected by the disaster. When international disasters occur, they often raise questions about how we would deal with a similar event here at home.

Keeping nuclear facilities safe in the U.S. is a coordinated effort among the plant’s operator, federal, state, local and tribal government agencies. Following the Three Mile Island accident in 1979, Congress established emergency planning and preparedness as a condition for licensing and operations. With any commercial nuclear facility within the U.S., the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) has regulatory oversight for onsite activities within the plant. FEMA, in turn, has responsibility for working with state, tribal and local governments for offsite emergency planning and preparedness. Specific planning standards and evaluation criteria exist that must be satisfied in order for NRC to issue an operating license. This process is designed by law to ensure plans and preparedness “adequately protect the public health and safety by providing reasonable assurance that appropriate protective measures can be taken offsite in the event of a radiological emergency.”

FEMA’s Radiological Emergency Preparedness Program (REPP) provides state, tribal and local governments with processes to review and approve preparedness measures (e.g., plans, procedures, personnel, training, facilities, and equipment). It offers support and resources such as site assistance visits, planning guidance, and helping conduct exercises to ensure the health and safety of citizens living around commercial nuclear power plants, in the event of a radiological accident.

Here are some facts on the REPP:

Working with state, local and tribal officials
We work in close coordination to ensure plans and preparedness measures are in place to protect public health and safety. We ensure these plans can be used by emergency response personnel, and that they include sufficient resources and equipment. Planning and preparedness measures employ tools such as the National Incident Management System (NIMS), the National Response Framework (NRF), and Comprehensive Preparedness Guide 101: Developing and Maintaining State, Territorial, Tribal, and Local Government Emergency Plans.

As part of the REPP, we also evaluate the alert and notification system for nuclear power plants in case an accident should occur, including outdoor warning sirens and back-up systems.

We cooperate closely with the NRC and provide all findings from these evaluations to the NRC to use when making its licensing decisions.

Informing the public
As we do with all hazards, we are focused on making sure the public is aware of the various risks in their communities and providing preparedness and safety information about the potential impact of a radiological threat.

Families that live near or around nuclear power plants should become informed about steps they can take to protect themselves before an incident occurs by contacting their local Office of Emergency Management, referring to information in the local telephone directory and regular publications they receive by mail about emergency preparedness, or visiting

Incident Support Bases, Spring Flood Edition


As Flood Safety Awareness Week continues, yesterday, the National Weather Service issued forecasts indicating communities in the Dakotas, Minnesota and other states in the Midwest are at a significant risk for major flooding this spring, and Montana, South Dakota, New Jersey and other states are already dealing with significant floods.

We have written a lot on this blog about what individuals can do to prepare, and how we are working with the entire team to get the word out, but we wanted to take a second and let you know about one of the steps we are taking here at FEMA to be ready – establishing an Incident Support Base in the upper Midwest.

What’s an Incident Support Base?

At all times, FEMA has commodities (like water, food, blankets, cots and generators), at our eight distribution centers that are strategically located throughout the United States. These centers contain millions of liters of water, millions of meals and hundreds of thousands of blankets, just to give you some sense of their size.

Often times, when we see the threat of disaster, in the form of flooding, hurricanes or other phenomenon, in anticipation of requests from our state partners, we will send some of our commodities forward from our distribution centers closer to the impacted areas and set up what we call an Incident Support Base (ISB).

FEMA generators are staged for rapid deployment to support emergency facilities and public buildings if needed. FEMA is one part of a team supporting North Carolina's preparations for and response to Hurricane Earl.
Fayetteville, NC, September 3, 2010 -- FEMA generators are staged for rapid deployment to support emergency facilities and public buildings if needed. FEMA is one part of a team supporting North Carolina's preparations for and response to Hurricane Earl.

You may remember last summer, when Hurricane Earl threatened the east coast. We set up two ISBs, one in the Northeast, and one in the Southeast, in case they were needed to support the states’ response.  Here is a video about one of the ISBs we stood up to prepare for Hurricane Earl:

And this week, in anticipation of potential flooding across the Upper Midwest, FEMA has a team on the ground in Minnesota, proactively establishing an Incident Support Base, to further enhance our ability to quickly move needed supplies throughout the Upper Midwest states affected by spring flooding, should they be needed and requested.

The Incident Support Base has already begun receiving supplies this past Monday that includes meals, water, cots, hygiene kits, infant and toddler kits and other items intended to support state requirements. Check out this video from local news.

If the Midwest states request supplies, items from the Incident Support Base will be sent forward to a Federal or State staging area, and ultimately transferred to the state for distribution to survivors. All points of distribution are identified and managed by the local/state emergency managers.

And as we often say, FEMA is not the team, FEMA is part of the team, a team that includes the entire federal family, state, local and tribal officials, the faith-based and non-profit communities, the private sector and most importantly the public. Individuals living in the affected areas need to take precautions and to continue to heed the information and warnings coming from their state and local officials.

If you haven’t already, visit to learn more.

- Eric

Sharing Flood Safety On Your Website Year-Round

Although Flood Safety Awareness Week comes to an end today it is just the beginning of a very busy flood season, as announced yesterday by the National Weather Service (NWS) in their annual spring outlook.

As flood season continues, you can share flood safety tips directly from FEMA on your website by using our flooding widget.  The widget provides current flood conditions, links to, interactive flood risk resources and other critical flood insurance information to help citizens get prepared for potential flooding.  And as the year goes on, the information and links in the widget will automatically update to reflect the flooding risks of the current/upcoming season.

Sounds great – how do I use it on my website? 

A widget is simply a piece of reusable code that can be embedded on a website – allowing multiple sites to display the same graphic and information.  So if you manage your own website, simply insert the code onto a web page that has sufficient space to display the widget.  If your site is managed by a web manager, then send them the code below, along with the place you would like the widget to display.

Copy this code for the Are you prepared for flooding? (English) Widget:

Copy this code for the Are you prepared for flooding? (Spanish) Widget:

Annual U.S. Spring Outlook: Flooding Expected to Worsen

The National Weather Service (NWS) released their annual spring outlook today to help citizens take the necessary steps to prepare. This year’s outlook predicts spring flooding will worsen beginning as early as this week, affecting almost half the country from the North Central U.S. through the Midwest and the Northeast, causing an above average risk of flooding across portions of the Northeast, including Southern New England and parts of eastern NY State.

Some specifics from the Spring Outlook include:

  • For the third consecutive year, forecasters predict major flooding along the Red River of the North, which forms the state line between eastern North Dakota and northwest Minnesota.
  • Other areas of the Midwest primed for major flooding include Devils Lake in North Dakota, the Milk River in Northeastern Montana, the James and Big Sioux Rivers in South Dakota, the Minnesota River, and the Mississippi River from its headwaters near St. Paul, Minnesota, downstream to St. Louis.
  • There is an above average risk of flooding across portions of the Northeast, including Southern New England and parts of eastern NY State.

In a conference call today with the National Weather Service, Administrator Fugate reiterated that there are a few simple steps every family should take now, before disaster strikes: be aware of your risk, make an emergency kit, get a family communication plan and get flood insurance before flooding occurs.

At FEMA, we have been working closely with all our state partners on incorporating lessons learned from the past flood seasons into our emergency planning for this year, as well as conducting aggressive outreach with our federal, state and local counterparts, and emergency managers. For more information on these efforts, check out:

You can continue to monitor the latest forecasts from your local National Weather Service office, visit our Flood Safety Awareness page for additional preparedness tips, and remember, if you come across a flooded road, Turn Around, Don’t Drown.


Over 1 million in for the Central U.S. Shakeout Drill

As the tragic events in Japan have made clear, earthquakes can strike with no notice and cause devastating consequences.  In the U.S., many areas are at risk for an earthquake, which is why preparing is so important.

In addition to creating your family emergency plan and getting a kit, earthquake drills can enforce how to stay safe during and immediately after a quake.  One such drill is the Great Central U.S. Shakeout, a multi-state earthquake drill that focuses on the potentially life-saving actions of “Drop, Cover, and Hold On” during/after an earthquake.

The drill will only be effective if people participate and, so far, over 1 million people have signed up.  That’s great, but if you haven’t signed up for the Shakeout, do so today, and if you have already, take the time to tell a friend to sign up.

While we don’t know where or when the next earthquake will strike, we can all take steps to lessen the effects of a quake.  And wherever you live in the U.S., check out these earthquake preparedness tips from to get started.

Flood Safety: Be Aware, Be Prepared

National Flood Safety Awareness Week, March 14-18, is an excellent opportunity for all Americans to become more educated about the dangers that flooding can cause and what steps to take to be prepared for the risk of flooding.  

The current flooding occurring in parts of the Midwest, Southern and Northeastern parts of the nation  are a very real reminder that floods can happen anywhere and at anytime in the United States. Flooding, the nation's most common natural disaster can and does happen in every U.S. state and territory.

All floods are not alike, though. Some develop slowly during an extended period of rain, or during a warming trend after a heavy snow. Others, such as flash floods, can occur very rapidly, without warning or even any visible signs of rain. That’s why it’s critical to be prepared for flooding no matter where you live.

Here are some actions that you and your family can take today  to become better prepared:

  • Get an emergency supply kit - This includes items like non-perishable food, water, a battery-powered or hand-crank radio, extra flashlights and batteries. You may want to prepare a portable kit and keep it in your car, which would include copies of prescription medications and medical supplies and copies of important documents like a driver's license, Social Security card, etc.
  • Create a family emergency plan - Your family may not be together when disaster strikes, so you should know how to contact one another, how you will get back together and what you will do in case of an emergency.  Plan places where your family will meet, notify caregivers and make plans for your pets.
  • Purchase flood insurance – A flood insurance policy can protect your home, property, or business from the financial damages of flooding.  Most homeowner’s insurance does not cover damage from flooding, so visit to learn more.  Flood insurance policies normally have a 30-day waiting period before they go into effect, so make sure you’re protected before flooding occurs.
  • Be informed about your flood risk – As snow melts and spring rains fall, the National Weather Service uses several terms to help you identify the stages of flood hazard:
    • Flood Watch: Flooding is possible. Tune in to NOAA Weather Radio, commercial radio, or television for information 
    • 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. 
    • Flood Warning: Flooding is occurring or will occur soon; if advised to evacuate, do so immediately. 
    • Flash Flood Warning: A flash flood is occurring; seek higher ground on foot immediately.

For more information about flood safety, visit

Smoke Alarms and Springing Forward


As we spring forward an hour for Daylight Savings, it’s a great reminder to make sure you have a working smoke alarm in your home.  Smoke alarms significantly increase your chances of surviving a deadly home fire, so we’re encouraging everyone to take simple steps to be prepared:

  • Test and clean your smoke alarms today and on the first of every month
  • Replace the batteries at least once a year
  • Place smoke alarms on every level of your residence and in every bedroom
  • Check the manufacture/expiration date on the smoke alarm (yes, smoke alarms have expiration dates)

And I also wanted to turn your attention to this article from the Portland Fire Department that tells the story of how a family’s fire escape plan saved the lives of two young girls and their mother, so please remember to practice your family escape plan --- it can literally save your life.

For more information about home smoke alarms and fire sprinklers, visit

Please share these tips with your friends and family, and if you're on Twitter, join in the conversation by using the hashtag #imprepared after you test your smoke alarm.

- Rich

Celebrating Emergency Preparedness for People with Disabilities


Today's earthquake and the resulting tsunami are another reminder of the need to plan for the entire community and not just plan for the easy scenarios following a disaster, as Administrator Fugate often says. Along with the National Disability Rights Network and other leaders and advocates from across the disability community, we signed a memorandum of agreement today at the White House.  This agreement solidifies a partnership in working together to make sure we are planning for and meeting the needs of people with disabilities before, during, and after disasters strike.

Here's an excerpt from the White House Blog:

Under the leadership of President Obama and Administrator Fugate, we are changing all of this. We have taken several concrete steps already. And as Administrator Fugate said at today’s MOA signing – we must plan for the whole of community up front, with FEMA as just one part of the emergency management team.

Today’s agreement helps strengthen the relationship that Administrator Fugate and his team have already developed with the National Disability Rights Network and other key stakeholders. It will help FEMA do two critical things:

  • First, it helps us plan for the needs of the entire community, for any disaster. That means planning for the needs of people with disabilities, young children, seniors, and all members of the “real” community.
  • Second, it’s another step toward bringing the collective resources of the entire community to the table to help meet those needs.

Read the full blog post at

Using Your Cell Phone Before, During and After a Disaster

Mobile phones set on a table displaying the FEMA mobile site homepage.

Cell phones are becoming more and more valuable to our lives – providing internet access, the latest weather forecast, and access to our favorite social networking sites.  While cell phones can be a great convenience, they can also be a lifeline after an emergency.

As Administrator Fugate often says, a cell phone is a data center, with the ability to store and access a large amount of information quickly.  So why not tap into the power of your cell phone, whether it's the latest-and-greatest model, or a phone that’s been around a while, and be ready to use it in case a disaster strikes?

In recent disasters, like the aftermath of the devastating Haiti earthquake in 2010, cell phones have been an invaluable resource for disaster survivors.  I sincerely hope no one finds themselves in the dire situation that many Haitians did following the earthquake, but we can all take steps to make our cell phones a handy resource before, during, and after an emergency.
Here are some tips to making your cell phone an emergency resource:

  • Store useful phone numbers – Check the numbers for your emergency contacts to make sure they’re up to date.  Be sure to save the contact information for your local police and fire departments, as well as your utility companies.  That way, you’ll be able to quickly report any service or power outages following an emergency.
  • Create a group for your emergency contacts – Some cell phones allow you to create contact groups or lists, making it easy to send a single text message to a group to let them know your status after an emergency.  Many social networking sites allow you to create a list or group of contacts as well, making it easy to share your status with your emergency contacts following a disaster.
  • Stay up to date via Twitter without an account – Twitter is becoming an important vehicle for information before, during and after a disaster.  One of the common misconceptions is that people need a Twitter account to receive updates. In fact, you can receive updates from Twitter simply by utilizing your phone's text messaging capability (normal text message rates apply).  For example, if you wanted to follow Administrator Fugate, text follow craigatfema to 40404 (Twitter’s text message number).

    I encourage you to receive updates from the local/state emergency management agencies in your area, along with any other accounts that could provide you with meaningful information before, during, and after a disaster.
  • Bookmark useful mobile sites – If your cell phone has internet access, take advantage of mobile websites that are formatted to display information within a mobile browser.  The National Weather Service (, Center for Disease Control (, and FEMA ( are mobile sites you can bookmark today.
  • Backup your battery – This may not be a tip for using your cell phone, but having an extra battery for your phone (or a solar charger) in your emergency kit will ensure you can use your device if the power stays out for an extended period of time.

The items outlined above are a great place to start, but let me know if you have other tips for using your cell phone or other mobile sites that you have found useful.

- Shayne

Other links
- For information on creating your emergency plan, getting an emergency kit, or becoming informed about potential disasters in your area, visit


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