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Countdown to America’s PrepareAthon!

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Do you know what you would do during a disaster? Do you know if your community is at risk of tornadoes, hurricanes, wildfires or flood?

Only about two-in-five Americans say that they have a plan for what to do in an emergency. We need to change that. That’s why on April 30th, individuals, organizations, and communities will come together to prepare for emergencies on the very first National Day of Action: America’s PrepareAthon!

America’s PrepareAthon! is a nationwide, community-based campaign to increase emergency preparedness and resilience through participation in hazard-specific drills, group discussions and exercises conducted at the national level every fall and spring.

Earlier this week at the White House, Administrator Fugate joined The Weather Channel, AARP and emergency management pros from across the country in a Google+ HangOut on why it’s important for individuals to prepare and describe how they will engage in America’s PrepareAthon! It was a great discussion and if you missed it, you can watch the video here:

On April 30 and throughout the spring, America’s PrepareAthon! activities will focus on preparing individuals, organizations, and communities for tornadoes, hurricanes, floods, and wildfires. Be Smart. Take Part. And prepare today!

Here’s how to join:

  • Register: Participate in America’s PrepareAthon! at ready.gov/prepare.
  • Be Smart: Download guides to learn how to prepare for a tornado, hurricane, flood or wildfire
  • Take Part: Plan activities and host an event locally on April 30th
  • Prepare: Practice a drill or have a discussion about preparedness
  • Share: Promote your activities, events and best practices with national preparedness community members

For more information on America’s PrepareAthon! and to download easy-to-use and free resources go to: www.ready.gov/prepare.  Follow the conversation via @PrepareAthon / #PrepareAthon.  And stay in touch; for questions or comments email PrepareAthon@fema.dhs.gov

Two Days. Two May Tornadoes.

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On a typical Sunday in May, I enjoy attending Journey Church and spending time with the family. May 19, 2013 was not a typical Sunday.

 Damage Sustained at Moore Medical CenterOn May 20, 2013 an EF-5 tornado struck the town of Moore, Okla. The mile wide tornado caused extensive damage to the Moore Medical Center. In the photo, the exterior of the medical center show the exposed damage caused from the strong winds in excess of 200 mph. Photo courtesy of Norman Regional Health System

The National Weather Service had been reporting as early as May 16 that May 19 and 20 could be deadly.

For the past 15 years, I have been coaching, leading, and requiring Norman Regional Health System’s 2,500 employees to have a plan to protect themselves and our patients. At the time we had 3 hospitals: Moore Medical Center (MMC) in Moore, Okla. and 2 hospitals 8 miles south in Norman, Okla.  Normally, my family travels the 20 miles with me to the hospital command center. This was not the case on that day in May. As I sat alone in the quiet hospital command center, dreadful words came from the live weather updates on TV. A massive, deadly tornado touches down in Norman, Okla., only a couple of miles east of our main hospital (Norman Regional Hospital), where I am working. I suddenly realize our hospitals are no longer in danger and feel a sense of relief knowing staff and patients are safe.

Almost instantly it hits me that massive EF-4 tornado, with winds from 166-200 MPH is heading directly for my family.

Knowing the plan I had been working on for 15 years at the hospital was solid – it only took a split second to realize my plan for my family had failed. Although I protect more than 2,500 people daily, my wife, 6-year-old daughter and 2-year-old son are in the tornado’s direct path without a place to survive.

Immediately, I text my wife pleading for her to drive the 1/8 mile to a neighbor that has a tornado shelter. As expected my fears are realized. I cannot call or text my family, neighbors, or anyone in the area. The tornado has wiped out all communication between us. Watching the storm live from a safe command center was heart-wrenching, wondering the fate of my loving family. Minutes later, I arrive home to a battered car, home, shattered windows in both and smiling kids holding softball-sized hail. It was like an Easter egg hunt with large hail stones for the kids. They had survived in the neighbor’s shelter. Immediately, we implemented a new family plan for the predicted severe weather the following morning.

When I returned home I was wondering how to approach the subject of nearly losing my family, $11,000 home damage, and having to pay the car deductible by taking our best car out of the garage. Instead of addressing any of these topics my only statement to my wife was “There will be storms with high likelihood of tornadoes tomorrow”. She asked, “What time and what is the plan?” We decided she should be at my office by 1pm, since the NWS said storms could form any time after 1 pm. She arrived on May 20, at 1:01 pm and stayed in the safe area while I proceeded to incident command area.

Twelve hours later:

On May 20, 2013 I promised myself to never allow my family to not have a proven plan. My family was to meet me at 1 p.m. in my office. As I dropped my car off and called my insurance carrier to have the windows replaced, I was receiving terrible news. The National Weather Service predicted a chance for larger tornadoes and more super cells after 2 p.m. I emailed all management positions at all three Norman Regional hospitals and every physician clinic to inform them today could possibly be worse than yesterday. As I typically do, I find a quiet place to say a quick prayer asking for guidance and courage to make the correct decisions.

Moore Medical Center Destruction following TornadoPhoto of the destruction the May 20, 2013 EF-5 tornado caused the Moore Medical Center. The medical center took a direct hit from the tornado, fortunately those who sought shelter, patients, and employees were not injured. Photo courtesy of Norman Regional Health System

As fate would have it one nurse manager out of three hospitals called to verify her plan with me. Shortly after our conversation, things changed quickly. Our worst nightmare was about the test every emergency plan we have ever constructed. A deadly EF-5 tornado with winds over 200 MPH was on the ground. Schools were in session, a baby had just been born, and another mother was in active labor. Hundreds of motorists were speeding into the entrances of our hospital, looking for shelter, as our courageous employees pull and direct them to a safe area. All of these innocent people are in the direct path of this monster tornado.

As I sit in the command center, instincts and experience took over. Some of the actions I remember clearly, others not so much. I immediately called for all leadership to join me in the command center at 3:04. It had been 24 minutes since I had put Moore Medical Center (our hospital in the tornado’s path) on alert. Typically, I place all three hospitals on alert when conditions and wind shear are this severe. This was not a typical day.

Now a mile-wide tornado was devastating the city of Moore. Watching live on TV, I informed our CEO that we will have massive amounts of injuries and causalities present to all three of our Emergency Departments from a storm of this magnitude. Our decision was tough – do we call a disaster code while the tornado is in our town and risk employees traveling back to work to save lives?

We did make the decision to call a Code Yellow (disaster code) to prepare staff for the huge influx of patients we will be receiving.  Now with a command center congested with Leaders, it was evident this was as severe as the 1999 or the 2003 tornadoes. We are working diligently to protect lives and save those that are injured. We establish an incident commander and command staff. I quickly remember the lessons learned from Joplin, Missouri after taking two trips to that facility in hopes of better preparing our health system. A majority of our patients, staff and visitors have sought shelter in Moore Medical Center’s designated safe area with the exception of the single Nurse Manager who called me earlier. She was with a physician and another nurse assisting the mother who was in active labor. There were positioned on the second and highest floor.

Photo of the Tornado that Struck the Moore Medical CenterThis photo shows the mile wide tornado that struck the town of Moore, Okla. on May 20, 2013. The EF-5 tornado caused massive damage to several hospitals, schools, and hundreds of homes and businesses. Photo courtesy of Chance Coldiron

3:21 p.m.:

About 48 minutes after I called the alert for this hospital (MMC) the EF-5 tornado has already wiped out two elementary schools, hundreds of homes, and killed way too many children and innocent citizens. Then, it slams into Moore Medical Center. The 200-mile-per-hour winds threw a Nissan Altima onto the second story roof above the laboring mother. More than 30 cars have been rolled onto the first floor rooftop. The winds also lifted a commercial dumpster from over 300 yards away and slammed it into the building. The winds ripped parts of the roof off the structure. Horrifyingly, the winds pulled the wall off the second floor surgery suite being used to deliver the baby. It ripped the wall apart like removing the lid off a can. With a 10-foot-by-10-foot hole in the wall, the staff put the patient in another room to protect the mother and unborn child.

Damage Sustained to Moore Medical CenterAn EF-5 struck the town of Moore, Okla. in May 2013, causing extensive damage to the Moore Medical Center. This surgery suite shows the extensive amount of damage the tornado caused. This room was being used as a delivery room, before it had to be evacuated. Photo courtesy of Norman Regional Health System

3:30 p.m.:

Working in our command center we hear our extended work family, brothers, sisters, took a direct strike by the deadly tornado. Our command center full of busy command staff, preparing to care for what ended up being 140 patients, fell silent. Ten miles seemed like ten states away. Not a sound could be heard. No one in that room has ever shared what their thoughts were for that 1-2 minute period, but mine were of prayer and hope. Jumping back into action I immediately informed the CEO that we will have a huge loss of life in our hospital structure. We need to send the convoy we assembled 10 miles south of the storm to rescue our work family and patients. We start getting calls from the news media including CNN, and eventually those inside the building reach our command center requesting appropriate actions to take. Staff from Moore Medical Center informed me that they all survived and without injury. My response was that of disbelief and denial.  It would be impossible. I’ve been in this business too long to know that is not how these situations end.

Damage at Moore Medical Center following TornadoThis used to be a welcome/reception area for the Moore Medical Center. An EF-5 tornado with wind gusts in excess of 200 mph, struck the medical center and caused extensive damage to the facility. Photo courtesy of Norman Regional Health System

On a typical day a good plan can save some lives. On days that are not typical, facing two tornadoes with a focus on preparedness, a great plan can save every life in the building, including my family, and our work family.

On May 20, 2013 there were zero injured and zero killed at Moore Medical Center. I will be forever grateful for those that had the heart and courage to execute the plan, the first responders, those that delivered food and water, and every single person that assisted Norman Regional Health System.

 

Editor's Note: The views expressed by Shane Cohea 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.

Two Projects Showing Why we Think Portland is Cool

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July 13, 2013, Portland, OR – Participants of the Portland Disaster Relief Trails load supplies on their customized bicycles. The community-based event showcases how bikes can be used to transport food, water and supplies to support their community in an emergency.July 13, 2013, Portland, OR – Participants of the Portland Disaster Relief Trails load supplies on their customized bicycles. The community-based event showcases how bikes can be used to transport food, water and supplies to support their community in an emergency.

Portland Oregon is one of the coolest prepared cities in the Pacific Northwest. They continue to find fun and innovative approaches to make themselves and their community a safer place to live. 

A bicycle friendly city, they are the creators of the Disaster Relief Trials, which is an event designed for cyclists of all levels, where through a series of challenges the participants showcase how bikes can be used to respond to a major disaster (such as an earthquake) to transport food, water and supplies to support their communities.  This event is a homegrown, community driven practice, showcasing how bikes can and will support Portland in emergencies and disasters.  That’s smart, healthy, practical, and cool.

July 13, 2013, Portland, OR - Participants of the Portland Disaster Relief Trails navigate through obstacles with a bike full of disaster supplies. The community-based event showcases how bikes can be used to transport food, water and supplies to support their community in an emergency.July 13, 2013, Portland, OR - Participants of the Portland Disaster Relief Trails navigate through obstacles with a bike full of disaster supplies. The community-based event showcases how bikes can be used to transport food, water and supplies to support their community in an emergency.

But there’s more. Leaders at the Portland Bureau of Emergency Management, the Oregon Office of Emergency Management, and Clean Energy Works dreamed up a pilot project for how to use a FEMA grant to seismically retrofit 30 homes throughout Portland.  Through a Hazard Mitigation Assistance (HMA) grant of about $100,000, they will be improving the stability and safety of these homes. Leading by example and helping homeowners and neighborhoods be ready for the next big one.

This pilot project shows that community-driven mitigation strategies can have a strong benefit to cost ratio (1:3) and, more importantly, do not require millions of dollars to get done! It’s about the partnerships and finding ways to stretch grant dollars further.

February 20, Portland, OR – Local officials show reporters results of the earthquake retrofit pilot project.  The innovative project was possible thanks to a partnership between the City of Portland, Portland Bureau of Emergency Management, Clean Energy Works, the Oregon Office of Emergency Management and FEMA. (Photo by Cory Grogan, Oregon Office of Emergency Management)February 20, Portland, OR – Local officials show reporters results of the earthquake retrofit pilot project. The innovative project was possible thanks to a partnership between the City of Portland, Portland Bureau of Emergency Management, Clean Energy Works, the Oregon Office of Emergency Management and FEMA. (Photo by Cory Grogan, Oregon Office of Emergency Management)

This model house shows some aspects of earthquake retrofitting look like. The circle on the right shows a ceiling joist, while the left-hand circle shows another joist that can keep a home from being displaced from its concrete foundation during an earthquake.This model house shows some aspects of earthquake retrofitting look like. The circle on the right shows a ceiling joist, while the left-hand circle shows another joist that can keep a home from being displaced from its concrete foundation during an earthquake.

Portland is setting the example for what it means to have a whole community approach to preparedness and public safety. They are focusing on making neighborhoods, communities, their city and state more resilient, one innovative idea at a time.

And that’s why we think Portland is so cool.

Editor's Note: FEMA is providing this information about third party events as a reference.  FEMA does not endorse any non-government organizations, entities, or services.

Prepare. Stay Safe. Rebuild.

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Philadelphia, Pa., January 11, 2014 -- Photo of the game field used to challenge robots teams have built. Objects in the photo include various obstacles that are designed for teams and their robots to overcome. Photo by Mike Sharon/FEMAPhiladelphia, Pa., January 11, 2014 -- Photo of the game field used to challenge robots teams have built. Objects in the photo include various obstacles that are designed for teams and their robots to overcome. Photo by Mike Sharon/FEMA

Sounds like it could be a new Ready Campaign, doesn’t it?  But, actually, it’s the tag line for this year’s FIRST Lego League (FLL) Competition challenge: “Nature’s Fury.” 

Here’s the background: In early fall of each year, FLL releases their challenge, based on a real-world scientific topic. Teams of up to ten children, along with an adult coach, enter the challenge and compete by programming an autonomous robot to score points on a themed playing field (Robot Game) and developing a solution to a problem they have identified (The Project Presentation) guided by FLL Core Values during an official tournament.

In the 2013 Nature’s Fury Challenge, 200,000 children ages 9 to 16 from over 70 countries explored the awe-inspiring storms, quakes, waves and more that we call natural disasters. Teams discovered what can be done when intense natural events meet the places people live, work, and play.

Given the topic of this year’s challenge, FLL reached out to FEMA Region III to see if any emergency management experts would be interested in volunteering as judges for a Qualifying Tournament scheduled for Saturday January 11 at the Franklin Institute in Philadelphia, PA. 

Interested? Of course I was! Legos and Emergency Management are two of my all-time favorite things. I quickly submitted my name, attended training, and excitedly awaited the opportunity to see what the teams had devised.  Our Regional Administrator, MaryAnn Tierney, had also planned to participate but couldn’t do so that weekend since Region III was activated in response to a chemical spill into the Elk River in West Virginia.

When I arrived at the Franklin Institute I could immediately feel the energy and boundless enthusiasm of the teams, their coaches and the volunteers.  We paused for the Opening Ceremony and Pledge of Allegiance after an initial round of project, robot design and core values judging.  Judging continued until just after lunch and then the focus shifted to the robot competition tournament.  The robot tournament room was sheer pandemonium—teams, coaches and volunteers all cheered wildly and encouraged the teams as they participated in the competition round.  The action paused at the end of the robot competition so that the final tournament results could be tallied but the energy in the room continued.   The teams laughed, clapped and line-danced as music blared over the speakers. I haven’t had that much fun in a long time. 

Philadelphia, Pa., January 11, 2014 -- Members of the Moravian Academy Team assemble their robot prior to the completion of the competition. Photo by Mike Sharon/FEMAPhiladelphia, Pa., January 11, 2014 -- Members of the Moravian Academy Team assemble their robot prior to the completion of the competition. Photo by Mike Sharon/FEMA

The Qualifying Tournament champions were That Other Team: Laura Dodds, Matt Lebermann, Charles Cote, Ian Beazley, CJ Stiles, and Kaity O'Hanlon. The team is from the University Scholars Program in West Chester, Pennsylvania, and is part of the Pennsylvania Leadership Charter School.  That Other Team’s project proposal was for a mobile app that would use the barometric pressure sensors now being included in many smartphones to improve and localize tornado warnings now broadcast by other sources.  The team had clearly done their homework and done it well.  They understood the tornado threat, had looked at how tornado warnings were issued and explored current and emerging technologies.  Best of all, they started off their presentation with a light-hearted skit with characters from the Wizard of Oz.  Their project proposal was extremely impressive while still being fun (an FLL core value).  We wish That Other Team and all the other qualifying teams the best of luck as they continue the competition.

I can’t imagine a better winter Saturday than spending time with a young people who were really excited to find creative solutions for real world emergency management problems caused by nature.  The exposure and experience they gained by working through these issues in their teams allowed them to not only learn more about the science and engineering needed to devise such solutions, but they also were able to gain valuable insight and feedback from professionals in the field  for which they were improvising these solutions. 

It was a great experience for me--a judge—too. It was a chance to have a positive impact on potential future emergency managers, and the solutions they proposed for real world problems reminded me that there is a younger generation out there looking up to us, wanting to be just like us one day. That’s pretty cool. As were the Legos!

(Editor's note: We are providing links and references to third party sites and organizations for your reference. FEMA does not endorse any non-government entities, organizations or services.)

Building a teenage readiness club in Monson, Mass.

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Monson, Mass., July 7, 2011 -- The debris that was left behind by the June 1 tornado that hit the town of Monson and western Massachusetts. Alberto Pillot/FEMAMonson, Mass., July 7, 2011 -- The debris that was left behind by the June 1 tornado that hit the town of Monson and western Massachusetts. Alberto Pillot/FEMA

My name is Rachel Little and I am a junior attending Monson High School.  I have lived in Monson, Massachusetts, my whole life, and couldn’t have grown up in a better place.  My town is full of strong- willed, determined people, always willing to lend a helping hand. 

When a tornado struck our town on June 1st, 2011, it brought our small community even closer together.  Everyone was reaching out to give support, from supplying food or water, to giving neighbors hope for a better tomorrow.  It was a very moving event to watch.  Even though I was not directly affected by the tornado, I had people very near and dear to me in the path of the tornado.  I wanted to help out in whatever way I could, because I saw how much the people of Monson were suffering.  I couldn’t stand by and watch -- I had to take action.   

Therefore, I joined the Monson volunteer efforts and eventually became a member of The Street Angels.  The Street Angels is a dedicated volunteer group that brought supplies to families in need after the tornado,  and helped families make connections with landscapers and builders. My fellow Street Angels helped me fill out an application to become part of FEMA’s Youth Preparedness Council, and I am now going into my second year of being a proud member.  To me, the Youth Preparedness Council is the beginning of people realizing that youth can make a difference in emergency preparedness and response -- not just myself and the wonderful people of this council, but the world’s youth.   My fellow members and I are just the beginning of that change.

My plan for 2013 is to collaborate with the Medical Reserve Corps (MRC), or Community Emergency Response Team (CERT), to start a teen readiness club in my town.  I know a lot of people my age wanted to get involved after the 2011 Monson tornado, but they didn’t know how.  If either a Jr. MRC or a Teen CERT had already been in play before the tornado, Monson would have seen a significantly higher amount of youth action.   Being a member of the Youth Preparedness Council, my mission is to increase the amount of prepared youth and families in my region. 

I’ve also been trying to share emergency preparedness at my school.  I’ve hit significant road blocks during previous attempts at getting a teen readiness club up and running for Monson High School.  After last year’s Youth Preparedness Council summit in Washington DC, I had my heart set on starting a Teen CERT. The idea of getting my friends and classmates interested in preparedness and prepared for disasters was exciting.  I asked around to see if I could get a trainer to help me get the team started.  I found a man in my neighboring community who seemed very willing to help me out, but unfortunately, that fell through.

I turned to my Local Emergency Preparedness Committee, which was formed after the tornado.  Although I made a presentation to them and they liked my ideas, we weren't able to get the plans off the ground.  I did meet a woman in the Local Emergency Preparedness Committee meetings who happened to be the head of the MRC in my town, and she introduced me to Jr. MRC.   We’re still hoping to get the Jr. MRC started, and it’s a current work in progress.  I anticipate that the challenges for this year will again be finding someone to teach the course or help me with the establishment of the club.  I have a backup plan, so that if things fall through, I will take the Teen CERT “train the trainer” course so I can teach a class myself. 

As a result of starting Teen CERT or Jr. MRC in Monson, I want to see this little community become prepared for future emergencies.  I hope never to see another disaster to the extent of the tornado ever again, but it’s better safe than sorry.  I will know I’ve met success when I have a fully functioning teen readiness club in Monson High School.  From there, I can only hope to expand my efforts to other communities and beyond. 

Editor’s Note: The views expressed in this blog post do not necessarily represent the official views of FEMA, the Department of Homeland Security, or the United States Government. We are providing links to third party sites and organizations for your reference. FEMA does not endorse any non-government entities, organizations or services.

Implementing High School Emergency Preparedness While Staying True to Your Culture

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Yarmouth, Maine, Sep. 9, 2013 -- Assistant Principal Josh Ottow (center) talks about emergency preparedness with Yarmouth High School students on the opening day of school.Yarmouth, Maine, Sep. 9, 2013 -- Assistant Principal Josh Ottow (center) talks about emergency preparedness with Yarmouth High School students on the opening day of school.

My name is Josh Ottow, and I am the assistant principal at Yarmouth High School in Maine. Yarmouth is a suburban town of approximately 8,000 residents and 1,400 students, with 500 students at our high school. I serve on a team of administrators that helps plan for security and emergency preparedness in our district. Currently, we have an emergency management protocol that applies to all schools, and has additional specific information and plans for individual schools.  

We feel that Yarmouth High School is already a safe school, in that we foster a trusting and respectful school culture, where positive relationships between students and teachers are of the utmost importance. For example, we do not have locks on our lockers, bells between classes, or hall passes. It’s important to us to add measures that make our school more prepared for emergencies without losing that trusting culture.  

This can be a challenge because, in the eyes, of students, things like locked doors, buzz-in systems, cameras in the parking lot, and lockdown drills can feel like we are assuming the worst in them, as opposed to trusting them to do the right thing.  

At Yarmouth High School, the centerpiece of our emergency preparedness is having a strong Advisor/Advisee program. We believe in the innate strength and potential of a small group of students working together with an advising adult for four years. A student’s advisor is a person to rely on for advice, information, and genuine help and support in moments of distress.  Each teacher’s group of advisees comprises a unique combination of students, who might not otherwise have become friends. We see this as an opportunity for students to offer support and receive support from a group that will be a constant in students’ life for four years at Yarmouth High School. Because of our commitment to this program, we knew that it would be critical to our emergency preparedness implementation efforts.

Over the past year we spent considerable time in our Advisor/Advisee groups, talking about new emergency preparedness measures. The key is doing so in the context of keeping our school culture intact and making the school a safer place. One way we approach this is by employing discussion questions in our Advisor/Advisee groups to stimulate conversation, build understanding within our student body, and give students an opportunity to share their opinions and concerns. Example questions include:

  • What makes Yarmouth High School a secure place?
  • What makes the culture of Yarmouth High School unique?
  • Do you feel safe at Yarmouth High School?
  • Do you know what you would do in an emergency at school? Do you feel prepared?
  • What can we, as a school, do to ensure that we foster and maintain our positive, trusting, and respectful culture AND have a more secure school?

Teachers are advised to be sensitive to potential stress-level increase and emotional reactions surrounding these discussions, and are aware that student reactions may vary widely, and everyone’s opinion should be given its due. Our hope is that this conversation is honest and impactful for students as they wrestle with these tough issues.  We are also hoping that this conversation spills into “dinner time” talk with their parents at home. Parents are always invited to play a contributing role in these emergency preparedness plans via community-based forums, where they can express their opinions, make requests, and give suggestions.

Another method that we use to address emergency preparedness is collecting direct feedback from students. For example, we ask students (through their Advisor/Advisee groups) for feedback on our response plan and suggestions for future protocols each time we hold a lockdown drill. Advisors are given a detailed, play-by-play lockdown drill guide that they go over with their advisees after each drill. Sometimes, we get great suggestions from the students that we may not have thought about otherwise.

For example, during a recent lockdown drill we asked students to hand over their phones to their teacher. One student asked his Advisor why we did that, and he was told that one reason was to minimize light and noise coming from the classroom.  In response, he suggested that teachers should also close the lids of their laptops, because his teacher had his laptop open during the lockdown and it was emitting light. This was not something we had specified in the plan and may not have thought to add if this student hadn’t brought it up. Advisors have access to a shared online document where they can note these suggestions, and then we talk about the responses and potentially revising our plans at a school-wide faculty meeting.  

Our emergency preparedness efforts in the past several months, from new plans and new equipment to authentic and honest discussions amongst students and staff, have shown me that involving students and being open with them about how preparedness measures could impact school culture is the best way to ensure a safe and positive school.

Editor’s Note: The views expressed in this blog post do not necessarily represent the official views of FEMA, the Department of Homeland Security, or the United States Government. We are providing links to third party sites and organizations for your reference. FEMA does not endorse any non-government entities, organizations or services.

Get “Prepared” to Trick-or-Treat

Washington, D.C., October 30, 2013 -- Flat Stanley with his Halloween costume. Washington, D.C., October 30, 2013 -- Flat Stanley with his Halloween costume.

We’re really excited for Halloween and can’t wait to go Trick-or-Treating! How about you?!?!

As Stella and I talked about all the candy we wanted to get, we thought of ways we could remind everyone that getting prepared can be fun too!

So…..

We’ll use the map we drew of our neighborhood from our family communication plan to highlight our trick-or-treating path! You can too!

Washington, D.C., October 30, 2013 -- Flat Stanley and Flat Stella prepare to go trick-or-treating in their neighborhood by highlighting their path using a map of their neighborhood from their family emergency communication plan.Washington, D.C., October 30, 2013 -- Flat Stanley and Flat Stella prepare to go trick-or-treating in their neighborhood by highlighting their path using a map of their neighborhood from their family emergency communication plan.

We want to make sure to go to all of our neighbors’ houses.

Our map also has our family meeting location, just in case anything happens.  If your family communication plan doesn’t include a map, maybe this weekend you can ask your parents to sit down and draw one with you.

We’ll be sure to take our flashlight just in case it gets a little too dark. A flashlight is also a good item to keep in your kit.

Washington, D.C., October 30, 2013 -- Flat Stanley grabs his flashlight in case it is dark while trick-or-treating. A flashlight is also a good item to include in your emergency supply kit.Washington, D.C., October 30, 2013 -- Flat Stanley grabs his flashlight in case it is dark while trick-or-treating. A flashlight is also a good item to include in your emergency supply kit.

Then, I had an idea to grab some other supplies to take around and encourage our neighbors to get prepared! As we go door-to-door to our neighbors’ homes, we’ll show them some of the items they can keep in their emergency supply kit.

Washington, D.C., October 30, 2013 -- Flat Stella shows some basic first aid supplies that should be in your emergency supply kit.Washington, D.C., October 30, 2013 -- Flat Stella shows some basic first aid supplies that should be in your emergency supply kit.

Washington, D.C., October 30, 2013 -- Flat Stella shows some other items to include in your emergency supply kit. Water and snacks should be included in your kit.Washington, D.C., October 30, 2013 -- Flat Stella shows some other items to include in your emergency supply kit. Water and snacks should be included in your kit.

Then, we’ll be sure to thank them for all the candy they give us!

Washington, D.C., October 30, 2013 -- Halloween candy for the flats.Washington, D.C., October 30, 2013 -- Halloween candy for the flats.

Stella and I are always thinking of fun ways to incorporate being prepared in everything we do.  Share with us the fun activities you and your family have done to get more prepared!

We can’t wait to go trick-or-treating! We hope you have a fun (and safe) time too!

Photo Retrospective: Sandy One Year Later

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A year after Hurricane Sandy, we’ve seen countless stories of communities coming together and neighbors helping neighbors to recover from this storm.  While we still have a long way to go, the signs of recovery can be seen across the region.  We remain committed to standing with those impacted as they continue to build back, and will continue to provide all eligible aid as this effort goes on.

New York, Oct. 3, 2013 --The Battery Park Underpass was inundated by the storm surge from Hurricane Sandy. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers was charged with de-watering the tunnels. New York, Oct. 3, 2013 --The Battery Park Underpass was inundated by the storm surge from Hurricane Sandy. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers was charged with de-watering the tunnels.

Long Beach, N.Y., July 26, 2013 -- The storm surge from Hurricane Sandy left behind several feet of sand in the streets of Long Beach. Long Beach, N.Y., July 26, 2013 -- The storm surge from Hurricane Sandy left behind several feet of sand in the streets of Long Beach.

Liberty Island, N.Y., July 4, 2013 -- Hurricane Sandy flooded 75 percent of the island in October 2012, causing major damage to its infrastructure and facilities. The statue was reopened on July 4th following eight months of extensive repairs.Liberty Island, N.Y., July 4, 2013 -- Hurricane Sandy flooded 75 percent of the island in October 2012, causing major damage to its infrastructure and facilities. The statue was reopened on July 4th following eight months of extensive repairs.

Liberty Island, N.Y., July 4, 2013 -- The passenger dock destroyed by the storm surge from Hurricane Sandy was rebuilt in time for the official reopening of the Statue of Liberty.Liberty Island, N.Y., July 4, 2013 -- The passenger dock destroyed by the storm surge from Hurricane Sandy was rebuilt in time for the official reopening of the Statue of Liberty.

Breezy Point, N,Y., August 5, 2013 -- About 350 of the more than 2,800 homes in Breezy Point were completely destroyed by the fires or flood surges caused by Hurricane Sandy. Ten months after Sandy, about 60 percent of the community has returned.Breezy Point, N,Y., August 5, 2013 -- About 350 of the more than 2,800 homes in Breezy Point were completely destroyed by the fires or flood surges caused by Hurricane Sandy. Ten months after Sandy, about 60 percent of the community has returned.

Long Beach, N.Y., July 26, 2013 -- In November 2012, debris filled the streets as residents started to recover from the devastation of Hurricane Sandy.Long Beach, N.Y., July 26, 2013 -- In November 2012, debris filled the streets as residents started to recover from the devastation of Hurricane Sandy.

 

Jersey City, N.J., October 28, 2013 -- Before and after photo showing devastation to Liberty Bridge following Hurricane Sandy compared to the rebuilt structure. Jersey City, N.J., October 28, 2013 -- Before and after photo showing devastation to Liberty Bridge following Hurricane Sandy compared to the rebuilt structure.

Jersey City, N.J., October 28, 2013 -- Before and after images of the Central Railroad Terminal damage sustained by Hurricane Sandy. The historical building received over four feet of water and incurred $6 million in damages from the hurricane. Jersey City, N.J., October 28, 2013 -- Before and after images of the Central Railroad Terminal damage sustained by Hurricane Sandy. The historical building received over four feet of water and incurred $6 million in damages from the hurricane.

Seaside Heights, N.J., October 28, 2013 -- A before and after image of the damage sustained to the Seaside Heights Pier following Hurricane Sandy.Seaside Heights, N.J., October 28, 2013 -- A before and after image of the damage sustained to the Seaside Heights Pier following Hurricane Sandy.

Visit the New York and New Jersey disaster pages for more recovery updates.

Best Practices in Higher Ed Preparedness - in 140 Characters or Less

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woman looking at computer screen

Wondering how colleges and universities tackle emergency preparedness? It’s a job for the experts, many of whom joined with FEMA last week to discuss the topic.  But it wasn't an in-person meeting - we used Twitter to host a virtual "panel" of universities while taking questions from others.

Emergency management professionals from Boston College, DePaul University in Chicago, Florida State University, and Virginia Tech took to Twitter for an hour on September 18 to answer questions about their preparedness methods and the unique threats their schools face.

The most exciting portions of the chat were when schools and individuals from around the country chimed in on the topics and shared their experiences along with our panelists. In total, over 180 Twitter users joined in Wednesday's chat!

Thanks to an active conversation, the discussion covered a range of topics, from alert systems, to recent emergencies, to the challenges of preparing urban campuses, and more.  Here are some of my favorite exchanges from the chat (see the @FEMAlive account for a full recap):








If you're a higher education professional, emergency manager, college student, or parent, check out Ready.gov/campus for a full list of emergency preparedness resources.  A special thanks to all those who joined last week's chat!

Become a Hero this National Preparedness Month

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Staten Island, N.Y., Sep. 4, 2013 -- FEMA Administrator Craig Fugate joined the New York City Office of Emergency Management (OEM) for the kick-off of the 10th Annual National Preparedness Month, a month-long nationwide campaign to promote emergency preparedness and encourage volunteerism. Port Richmond Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) Chief John Tidona showed Administrator Fugate the team's Mobile Command Center.Staten Island, N.Y., Sep. 4, 2013 -- FEMA Administrator Craig Fugate joined the New York City Office of Emergency Management (OEM) for the kick-off of the 10th Annual National Preparedness Month, a month-long nationwide campaign to promote emergency preparedness and encourage volunteerism. Port Richmond Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) Chief John Tidona showed Administrator Fugate the team's Mobile Command Center.

Last week marked the start of National Preparedness Month.  All across the country, communities are hosting preparedness events encouraging everyone that “You can be the hero” when it comes to emergency preparedness.

Earlier this week, I had the pleasure of kicking off the month with partners in the New York City area. One thing we stressed at different events is how easy getting prepared can be.  For some things – like talking through a family communication plan – just takes time.  It’s not expensive at all, and the return on your investment of time will return great dividends if you’re confronted with a disaster.  During the events, the biggest takeaway for me was seeing how enthusiastic people have become in taking the steps to become prepared and how they are engaging all members of the family, young and old.

Staten Island, N.Y., Sep. 4, 2013 -- FEMA Administrator Craig Fugate stresses the need for families, businesses, and government agencies to have a plan for disasters, at the New York City Office of Emergency Response event for National Preparedness Month. Staten Island, N.Y., Sep. 4, 2013 -- FEMA Administrator Craig Fugate stresses the need for families, businesses, and government agencies to have a plan for disasters, at the New York City Office of Emergency Response event for National Preparedness Month.

My hope for this National Preparedness Month and for you all is that you’ll take a serious look at how prepared you and your family are. 

Do you know what to do during a disaster? Do your children?

Do you all know how you will get in contact with each other if your cell phone doesn’t work?

Or are you like these families, where you simply just haven’t talked about what to do in the event of an emergency?

If you’re anything like the families in these videos, then I strongly encourage you to take some time this weekend to sit down with your family and simply talk. Talk to each other to see you’re really prepared for an emergency, and if not then take action. Create a family communication plan. It’s simple, just visit the Make a Plan section on Ready.gov, download the family emergency plan, fill it out then send it to your family and friends.

There are other things you can do to get prepared, like building an emergency kit or by helping others in your community get prepared, but the most important part is taking the first step

If you’re looking for some extra inspiration, you can join the National Preparedness Community where you’ll be able to share some of the things you and your family have done to get prepared, find out about preparedness events taking place in your area and have access to great resources to help you get your loved ones prepared.

You can also access preparedness info on Facebook or Twitter. Follow us, we’d love to hear from you.

It’s true that we may not know when the next disaster may strike, but we can be smart and take action today!

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