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EMS Week in Prince George’s County, Md.


Editor’s note: Each day, in cities across America, people involved in medical emergencies call 911 for assistance. Within minutes, they hear sirens letting them know help is on the way. Whether employed by private organizations or local, state or event the federal government, emergency medical technicians are making a difference.

As we often say, a true team effort is what leads to effective emergency management - and the contributions of the Emergency Medical Services community are invaluable to that success. To help commemorate National EMS Week, here’s a blog post from the Prince George’s County, Md., Fire and Emergency Medical Services Department, about how they’re getting the word out.

National Emergency Medical Services Week is an opportunity for medical personnel to highlight their dedication and service to the community. This year, we will recognize EMS Week from May 20 - May 26, 2012. Wednesday, May 23 has been named “Emergency Medical Services for Children Day”.

The overall theme this year is “EMS. More than a Job. A calling.” This theme encompasses the entire EMS system from the Emergency Medical Dispatcher that answers the 911 call to the medical staff that renders care, to include First Responders and hospital emergency department staff.

We also acknowledge our less-visible personnel who work to ensure we are providing the best possible care: the instructors, quality assurance officers and supervisors of our first responders. Each of these groups of talented and highly qualified personnel attends countless hours of training and continuing education while working anything but normal hours. They are dedicated to providing the very best emergency medical care they can. EMS is more than a job, it’s a calling.

The Prince George’s County Maryland Fire and Emergency Medical Services Department is a large combination, career, civilian and volunteer, system that responds to about 130,000 incidents per year. Of those calls, 80% are EMS related and all personnel are trained to a minimum at the Emergency Medical Technician level; many, up to the Paramedic level. They are available 24 hours a day, 365 days a year to help when it matters the most.

Prince George's County Emergency Medical Services Truck which accompanies a fire truck during an emergency response.

Largo, Md., Feb. 27, 2012 -- A Prince George's County Emergency Medical Services truck which accompanies a fire truck during an emergency response.

Help may arrive in the form of a fire engine, an ambulance or a paramedic unit, but each provider is trained and will provide emergency medical care to the very best of their ability, EMS is more than a job, it’s a calling. We are partnering with our local media to tell the story of our EMS providers. Several media outlets are being provided an opportunity to ride-along with our medics for a shift and translate our providers’ work into words so that our community can see that it is more than just a job, it’s a calling.

National EMS week offers an opportunity to highlight our personnel as much as it offers us the opportunity to highlight the need for our community to plan and be ready for a disaster when it strikes. Every family should also prepare themselves to help when it matters the most. Visit FEMA’s Ready Campaign at to find helpful information about your state of readiness in the event of an emergency.

Tips to help be better prepared for emergencies, and enhance access to help during disasters include:

  • Check on your access to 9-1-1. Some areas may not have 9-1-1. Some have E-9-1-1 where an address is automatically stored in a database. Know what is available where you live and work. 
  • Build a “72-hour Disaster Kit”, make a disaster plan, and keep a well-stocked first aid kit.
  • Make a list of emergency phone numbers. Write down the numbers you may need during a disaster and display them near all telephones in the house. 
  • Make sure your house number is visible from the street. To make it easy for police, fire officials or emergency medical personnel to find your house, put large house numbers in a highly visible area. Make sure the numbers are well lit and can be seen at night. 
  • Keep a clear and up-to-date record of immunizations. This can help doctors do a better job of diagnosing problems in an emergency. 
  • Write down your medical conditions, medications and their dosages. Being prepared in advance helps assure proper treatment and prevent drug interactions.
  • Make a list of allergies and reactions and consider medical I.D. bracelets or tags. 
  • Take first-aid classes. Some basic classes will teach CPR and proper ways to treat burns, wrap sprains, apply splints, and perform the Heimlich maneuver.

Recognizing the 32nd Annual Building Safety Month


President Barack Obama proclaimed May as National Building Safety Month, recognizing the key role safe building codes and standards play in the fight against loss of life and catastrophic damage caused by disasters.

Building Safety Month highlights the importance of resilient building, to save energy, protect the environment, and lessen the effects of disasters. During this month of building safety awareness, we want to emphasize our commitment to support communities in their efforts to build stronger and safer, now and all year long. FEMA, in consultation and coordination with building science experts, encourages construction that can lessen the damaging effects of disasters like hurricanes, tornadoes and flooding.

Here are a few examples of how we encourage better building:

  • We work with organizations, like the International Code Council, and state and local building officials to help develop, and encourage the adoption of disaster-resistant building codes and standards. These standards, when adopted, will lead to the construction of buildings that can help reduce damages and protect lives.
  • FEMA, through our Building Science Branch, works with scientists and design professionals from federal, state, territorial, local, non-profit, tribal and private sector organizations to assess disaster damages, capture research results, and develop technical guidance for building stronger and safer. This guidance focuses on both construction and retrofitting of existing buildings. We also provide technical guidance to disaster affected areas through workshops, in-person meetings, and other outreach events.
  • Most recently, we published the Mitigation Assessment Team Tornado Report this month, which was developed in response to the tornadoes that impacted the Southeast and Mid-Western Regions in the spring of 2011. Following these tragic events, we sent out investigative teams to evaluate the damages and to look at the resilience of the structures left standing. These teams documented the observations and conclusions of these events and developed recommendations for improvements in building design, construction, code development and enforcement and materials. Additionally, they documented mitigation activities that increased resiliency and aided new construction and post-disaster building repair and recovery. 

Our interest in building safety covers a wide range of natural and technological hazards including wind, earthquake and even flood. Through the National Flood Insurance Program, FEMA helps communities and individuals make informed decisions about where and how to build buildings to make them flood resilient.

Natural disasters such as floods, earthquakes, tornados, snow storms, wildfires and others will still occur; however, FEMA and our partner’s efforts to build stronger and safer are helping communities and citizens across the nation prepare for, withstand, and recover from disasters.

Visit or the Building Safety Month Website for additional information and resources and learn simple steps you can take today to better prepare their home or business property for a disaster.

Cute Pet Photos. Need We Say More?


Many of our blog posts tend to throw a lot of information out there about how you can get prepared for emergencies. But for today, we just wanted to post cute photos of how pets can make sure they’re prepared before disasters strike, too. Hurricane season begins June 1, so now is a great time to make sure your family (and pets) have an emergency plan and have extra supplies. And even if you don’t live in a hurricane prone area, getting prepared for the risks in your area could help keep your family safe, reduce the stress during an emergency, and give you peace of mind.

And now, to the photos:

This is Hermes. He printed out this brochure from and is learning how to stay safe after an emergency.

This is Hermes. He printed out this brochure from</a> and is learning how to stay safe after an emergency." width=400 height=400>

Here’s Betty. She lives in California and made sure a pet life jacket was included in her owners’ emergency supply kit.

Here’s Betty. She lives in California and made sure a pet life jacket was included in her owners’ emergency supply kit.

Jonas has waterproof gear in case a severe storm or flood should happen – useful to add to any pet (or human) emergency supply kit.

Jonas has waterproof gear in case a severe storm or flood should happen – useful to add to any pet (or human) emergency supply kit.

Pets are part of your family, too. Make sure you have a plan for taking care of them after an emergency and have extra food, water & pet medications in your emergency kit. Get more information about preparing your animals (and other family members) at

It’s Wednesday: What’s in your car?


It’s the middle of the week, “Hump Day” and most of us have begun the countdown until the weekend. Maybe your weekend plans include staying home to get some much needed R&R. Or maybe you are looking forward to going to a nearby park or to spending time with family.

If your weekend plans include taking a drive in your car or truck, take a minute during the rest of this week to make sure you have supplies in case an emergency should happen. Having emergency supplies in your vehicle could prove useful in situations ranging from popping a tire to being caught in a sudden flash flood. So take a quick inventory of the supplies in your car or truck and make sure it’s ready for wherever your weekend plan may take you.

For more tips on building your vehicle’s emergency kit, visit

Words From Mom


Editor’s Note: The views expressed by Mindy Kelley 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.

What do I want this Mother’s Day? I want to know that my kids are safe and happy. It may sound cliché, but if you’re a parent, you understand. And while I can’t ensure my children’s happiness, I can make them just a little bit safer by helping them prepare for a potential emergency.

One Christmas, I gave both of my daughters NOAA Weather Radios. I thought it was so cool that you don’t even need batteries or electricity to you use it – you can power it up with a hand crank. Did you know that? You can also program it to turn on and provide only certain warnings. Since my daughters no longer live with us, I also bought one for myself and my husband.

We didn’t plan preparedness as a theme, but one of my daughters gave me a waterproof flashlight the same year. She was excited to show me how the hot pink flashlight could light up or blink as a lantern as well. Our family never called this “preparedness” until we read about it at I just knew it was a good idea to have a few supplies in case we lose electricity or if it isn’t safe to leave the house for some reason. These aren’t fun scenarios to think about, but we try to make it fun by finding gifts like these.

We learned from our experiences with a big ice storm we had in southern Virginia in 1998, and also during Hurricane Isabel in 2003. It may not happen often, but sometimes we have to manage without electricity for days. We used to light candles, but we’ve since switched to flashlights and battery-powered lanterns to be on the safe side. In the classroom, I encourage my students to learn from their experiences, too – like trials in the scientific method. Once you’ve survived a disaster, you can learn how to better prepare yourself for next time. But it’s better to think about these hypothetical situations before they happen!

I always tell my kids to have a plan, and also to have a “plan B.” It’s important that you know where your family is in a disaster, so we’ve all agreed to meet at our local church. We haven’t written it down yet, but that’s something I can ask for this Mother’s Day. My daughter who lives out of town learned after the earthquake last August that sometimes you can’t make a cell phone call, so we’re keeping in mind other methods such as emailing and texting to let each other know that we are safe.

So this Mother’s Day, I wouldn’t mind getting a new flashlight. Okay, maybe that and 18 holes of golf. Being ready for a potential disaster isn’t the only important thing in life, but it sure is an easy way to help keep your loved ones safe. Happy Mother’s Day.

Posted on Thu, 05/10/2012 - 14:18

National Flood Insurance Program Reauthorization Needed

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

FEMA and its Partners Release the National Preparedness Report


Today, we released the 2012 National Preparedness Report. The report identifies significant progress the nation has made in areas of prevention, protection, mitigation, response, and recovery. Overall the report found that the nation has increased its collective preparedness, not only from external threats, but also for natural and technological hazards that face its communities.

The report is part of Presidential Policy Directive 8: National Preparedness.

PPD-8 aims to strengthen the security and resilience of the United States through systematic preparation for the threats that pose the greatest risk to national security, including acts of terrorism, cyber attacks, pandemics, and catastrophic natural disasters.

The report focuses on five mission areas as outlined in the National Preparedness Goal released in September 2011. Those areas are prevention, protection, mitigation, response, and recovery. These mission areas include 31 core capabilities essential to preparedness. The NPR offers an assessment of each of these 31 core capabilities.

Overall, the NPR found the nation has made significant progress in enhancing preparedness and identifies several significant areas of national strength. For example, the nation has built the foundation for an integrated, all-hazards planning architecture that considers routine emergencies and catastrophic events.

Operational coordination has also improved with the adoption of the National Incident Management System, which provides a common doctrine for incident management. In addition, intelligence and information sharing capabilities are stronger thanks to a national network of fusion centers and Joint Terrorism Task Forces that bring together federal, state, and local law enforcement, Intelligence Community resources, and other public safety officials and private sector partners.

The report also identified opportunities for national improvement in cybersecurity, long-term recovery, and integrating individuals with access and functional needs into preparedness activities.

Everyone plays a role in preparedness and continued progress depends on the whole community working together. FEMA developed the NPR in close coordination with leaders of federal departments and agencies, and the report reflects inputs from state, local, tribal, and territorial governments, private and nonprofit sector partners, and the general public.

The National Preparedness Report is the next step in implementing PPD-8. Since the President signed the directive in March 2011, FEMA and its partners have released the first edition of the National Preparedness Goal, the National Preparedness System description, and the working drafts of the National Planning Frameworks. For more information on PPD-8 and to download the report, visit or contribute your ideas on our online collaboration forum.

Delivering the Preparedness Message to Thousands of Chicago Commuters

During National Severe Weather Preparedness Week, FEMA and NOAA worked together to encourage the public that the time to prepare for severe weather is now -- before it strikes. In special partnership with Amtrak, FEMA Region V staff -- with the help of the Ready campaign -- encouraged commuters at Chicago’s Union Station to consider how they can prepare themselves, their families and their community for severe weather.

Everyday thousands of commuters make their way through the south concourse of Union Station as they travel in and out of the downtown area. Here’s a brief video showing the great success our preparedness booth had in spreading the message about preparedness:

Hundreds of people stopped by to listen and as they left, we encouraged them to tell their co-workers, family and friends to be prepared too. And many took additional copies of our literature to distribute to others.

Severe weather can strike with little or no warning and you may only have seconds to make life and death decisions. Preparing now can ensure you’re ready when severe weather strikes. Just because severe weather preparedness week is over, doesn’t mean our message isn’t the same. Remember: know your risk, take action -- by making your emergency plans -- and once you are prepared share your story on Facebook, Twitter and other social media sites, encouraging others to do the same.

You can find the same critical information we passed out at Union Station anytime by visiting us online at

The Great Utah ShakeOut: a Great Opportunity for Private Sector

Posted by: Angela Petersen, Vice President, Business Continuity for Zions Bank

Editor’s Note: The views expressed by Angela Peterson 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.

On April 17, 2012, the State of Utah participated in the Great Utah ShakeOut the largest simulated earthquake exercise in the state’s history. Several members of my organization were fortunate enough to be asked to participate in the state simulation cell during the exercise. What a great opportunity to strengthen both our knowledge of the operation of the state during a crisis, as well as our organizational response plans and how we can better respond during an event.

Through the actual experience, and being able to spend time talking with our FEMA regional representatives about their past response to significant events, I am able to take away practical knowledge that will be used to benefit my organization.

One of the most important messages I will take back deals with communications. As a financial institution, we have always known that our customers are the most important focus of our recovery. The exercise reinforced the importance of pre-planning for communications following a significant event.

Making sure we deliver messaging through every aspect of the business will make all the difference in our ability to respond effectively. This means we need to talk more about what we would expect to hear from our clients and employees, and prepare ourselves with the methodology to effectively disburse messages and ensure they are communicated as uniformly as possible.

An organization’s understanding that it is not “business as usual” when it comes to customer service is vitally important. The staff we have on hand today to handle customer and media-based inquiries will need to become more robust following an event. The stresses of not only the situation but also the repeated requests for information quickly take a toll on people.

The exercise reinforced my belief in the need to pre-plan a communications staff and train for these types of situations. It is one of the greatest steps an organization can take to reduce their reputational risks following an event.

Overall, I believe each member of the business community owes it to their employees, as well as their customers to build a plan that not only encompasses the business function, but the human element of business as well. Our being prepared to sustain ourselves and our respective businesses while the state focuses on placing critical response measures in place is vitally important. Basically, we need to do our part to be prepared now.

I congratulate the State of Utah for a well-run exercise, and thank its leaders for their encouragement of private sector business and community involvement in the exercise, and for the ever-present message of preparedness.

Remembering April 27

The author is the Director of the Alabama Emergency Management Agency


Today is a day that Alabamians will never forget.

One year ago we lost nearly 250 people as tornadoes tore through our state destroying homes and businesses, disrupting communities, and affecting more than 65 percent of the people living in the state. It was hard to grasp the loss of life and the destruction caused by these fierce storms as we visited community after community.

This past year has been an incredible testament to the resiliency of the people and communities in Alabama. Under the leadership of Gov. Robert Bentley we’re still recovering—and will be for a while—but every day there is progress. In addition to our federal partners that have helped Alabama, we would not be where we are without the many first responders, volunteers and state agencies who have worked tirelessly since the storm to support all the survivors who are determined to recover from one of the worst disasters we’ve ever seen.

I am most proud of the way Alabamians are building back stronger. Six months following the storms more than 4,300 applications were submitted for individual safe rooms and an additional 400 were submitted for community safe rooms. The mitigation staff has been working virtually non-stop to review, process and submit the applications for final approval.

We’ve learned a lot about how critical it is to be prepared. There are countless examples of families who are alive today because they heeded the warnings last year. Those stories are truly inspiring. I encourage others to get prepared before the next severe storm approaches. Simple steps such as knowing the location of safe shelter, putting together an emergency supply kit and making a family communications plan today may save your life tomorrow.

Today, I ask Alabamians to honor the lives lost in last year’s storms and celebrate the journey of the survivors by making sure our friends, families and neighbors are prepared for severe weather. We must take this seriously—to save lives from future storms. We don’t know when the next storm will come, but we must plan now to be ready.


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