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Being Prepared: Makes Good Business Sense

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With historic numbers of disasters over the last eighteen months, the concept of private sector preparedness has proven to be a continued indicator of good business sense. With the DHS announcement last week that AT&T Inc. is the first company certified to PS-Prep™ standards, we have reached another important milestone in this journey.

PS-Prep is a voluntary program that encourages private sector organizations to prepare against all-hazards, and recognizes organizations that adopt a DHS-selected voluntary preparedness standard.

Why spend the time, energy and cost to become certified? Certification to a preparedness standard helps businesses develop a culture of preparedness into routine operations and management processes. A culture of preparedness can safeguard organizational investments, enhance employee confidence, and demonstrate a high level of commitment to suppliers and customers, which contributes to the organization’s bottom line and reinforces the organization’s ability to provide services in the event of a disruption.

Certification will enable businesses to:

  • develop a plan of action,
  • minimize potential impact to essential operations,
  • protect data and information,
  • increase reliability,
  • protect market share and minimize financial losses, and
  • gain industry recognition by promoting preparedness with suppliers and clients alike....

The question quickly becomes – why not become certified?

Whether a company, academic institution, or other non-governmental organization, you play a critical role in our nation’s disaster preparedness and response capabilities.

AT&T is the first company to work towards industry preparedness best practice by taking the additional step of becoming certified. I encourage your organization to be the next. Visit www.fema.gov/privatesectorpreparedness for more information on the program.

Certification to a preparedness standard is a great tool and is one of many available to help organizations be prepared for all hazards. For general resources on private sector preparedness, visit http://www.ready.gov/ or the http://www.readyrating.org/.

Comment on the National Planning Frameworks and the Recovery Interagency Operational Plan to Help Strengthen the Nation’s Preparedness

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FEMA and its partners are seeking your input on four working drafts of the National Planning Frameworks, and the initial draft of the Recovery Federal Interagency Operational Plan, which are part of Presidential Policy Directive 8: National Preparedness. PPD-8 is a policy directive that asks federal agencies to work with the whole community—including all levels of government, individuals and communities, businesses, nonprofit and faith-based organizations—to work together to improve national preparedness.

As an element of the implementation of PPD-8, the National Frameworks, focusing on Prevention, Protection, Mitigation, Response and Recovery, clearly define key preparedness roles and responsibilities for the entire community.

Through ongoing engagement efforts which include the use of our online collaboration tool, webinars and workshops, we have been able to complete working draft documents. We are currently focusing on revising the National Response Framework and developing the Prevention, Protection and Mitigation Frameworks. As each of these products are made final, federal interagency operational plans will be developed to provide guidance across the federal government to successfully implement the Frameworks.

The final National Disaster Recovery Framework was released in September 2011, and reflects input gathered through extensive outreach with more than 600 stakeholders representing federal, state, local and tribal governments, as well as public and private organizations. Since the release, forums have been held across the country to support development of the initial draft of the Recovery Federal Interagency Operational Plan.

Over the course of the next 30 days, stakeholders will have the opportunity to provide additional input to the drafts of these Frameworks and the initial draft of the Recovery Federal Interagency Operational Plan. The period will end on April 2, 2012.

Please visit www.fema.gov/ppd8 to view the working drafts of these documents and submit your input using the accompanying matrix.

There continues to be a variety of opportunities to engage in the development of the frameworks through webinars, in-person workshops and through an online collaboration tool. Information on these opportunities can also be found at www.fema.gov/ppd8.

This engagement is another opportunity to ensure broad participation in the implementation of PPD-8. With your help, FEMA and its partners have already created the National Preparedness Goal, which sets the vision for building a more resilient and secure Nation, and a National Preparedness System description, which identifies the programs, processes and tools for achieving that vision. We are also reviewing and incorporating stakeholder input to the National Preparedness Report, due to the White House by March 30, 2012. You can track our progress at www.fema.gov/ppd8.

Thank you for your continued input and support. Together, we can make the Nation more resilient and secure.

Preparedness & Response: A Priority in Hillsboro

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As the City Manager for a city of nearly 10,000 residents in Texas, I recently had the opportunity to attend resident training at FEMA’s Center for Domestic Preparedness, in Anniston, Ala. The city has benefited from CDP training for several years as we’ve been encouraging members from our emergency response departments to enroll in training at the facility, and I wanted to attend a course there as well.

As city manager, I have specific roles related to the overall oversight of municipal operations within the city. However, I am also active with emergency management, serving on Hillsboro’s Type 3 Incident Management Team as its incident commander, as well as serving as a liaison officer for the Type 1 Southern Area Incident Management Blue Team. The CDP training, without a doubt, makes a difference in the leadership decisions I make-- whether in the office, or in an emergency management situation.

Last week, I attended the Instructor Training Certification course. ITC allows me the ability to remain flexible and save the city money. Many of us have the ability to present courses, but ITC ensures those receiving specific training learn from certified instructors.

Anniston, Ala., Jan. 27, 2012 -- Jack Harper, city manager of Hillsborough, Texas, provides his classmates a hands-on learning experience during his final exercise before graduating the Instructor Training Certification (ITC) course at the Center for Domestic Preparedness. The ITC course allows Harper to provide required preparedness training from a certified instructor, saving his city travel dollars.

Anniston, Ala., Jan. 27, 2012 -- Jack Harper, city manager of Hillsboro, Texas, provides his classmates a hands-on learning experience during his final exercise before graduating the Instructor Training Certification (ITC) course at the Center for Domestic Preparedness. The ITC course allows Harper to provide required preparedness training from a certified instructor, saving his city travel dollars.

The City of Hillsboro also wins because we now have the capability to train locally, and save money from travel expenses. But, when resident training is necessary, I appreciate the fact FEMA provides the opportunity to receive CDP training, at no cost to the jurisdiction. The training is fully funded for state, local, and tribal employees. This type of funding is greatly appreciated, and a huge bonus for Hillsboro and Texas.

I recommend that elected, appointed, and senior employees of government take this training for a better understanding of what it is their first responders do, as well as show them the benefits of CDP training. I feel more prepared, and I believe it all starts at the top. If senior management places priority in certain areas then so will the entire organization.

Emergency management, planning and preparedness, is very important. The more prepared Hillsboro can be for any type of incident, the better off we all will be. I am better prepared thanks to my CDP training, and encourage more government leadership to attend the wonderful training environment that is the Center for Domestic Preparedness. Thanks CDP and FEMA!

Photos: Recognizing Champions of Change

Last month, Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano, Special Assistant to the President on Homeland Security Richard Reed, and FEMA Deputy Administrator Richard Serino recognized seventeen local leaders who have spearheaded creative and effective community preparedness projects. Their local efforts involve the whole community and contribute to building a more resilient nation. The honorees, selected as recipients of this year’s Individual and Community Preparedness Awards, were also recognized as White House Champions of Change.

At a White House event honoring these champions, more than 150 attendees listened as these leaders shared their experiences, ideas, and solutions, as well as their advice for how other citizens and organizations can emulate their success and make their communities stronger and more prepared for disasters. Over 4500 participants watched the event live online. A video of this impressive event can be viewed on YouTube. Deputy Administrator Serino later blogged about the event.

In case you missed it, we wanted to share some of the great photos from the event with all of you! In addition to the White House ceremony, the winners also enjoyed a Roundtable Discussion with Deputy Administrator Tim Manning, tours of the United States Capitol and the East Wing of the White House, and a reception on the Hill hosted by Representative Gus Bilirakis (FL-09), Chairman of the Emergency Preparedness, Response and Communications Subcommittee.

We felt honored to be in the presence of individuals so dedicated to the mission of engaging the whole community in emergency preparedness and response, including some who serve as unpaid volunteers. We look forward to seeing submissions for next year’s awards!


 

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Adding One More Tool to the Responder’s Tool Box

Wednesday morning, February 8, at 9:57 a.m. CST, as most people were probably going about their workday, a historic event happened at FEMA’s Center for Domestic Preparedness in Anniston, Ala. At that moment, the first group of state, local, and tribal responders went through live agent training inside CDP’s Chemical, Ordnance, Biological and Radiological, or COBRA, training facility using biological materials.

Since the CDP opened in 1998 the facility has provided the only location in the U.S. where civilian responders could train with chemical agents GB and VX. As of Wednesday, those same responders can now include biological materials in their training repertoire.

Anniston, Ala., Nov. 18, 2011 -- A lab technician prepares biological materials for use in training scenarios at the Center for Domestic Preparedness (CDP).

Anniston, Ala., Nov. 18, 2011 -- A lab technician prepares biological materials for use in training scenarios at the Center for Domestic Preparedness (CDP).

Wednesday’s inaugural training was the result of more than a year of preparation, planning, remodeling, internal training, curriculum development, and practice by CDP staff. The CDP embarked on this journey because it was the right thing to do for our nation’s responders, it meets a growing threat to the nation, and it can be done safely using the CDP’s live agent training facility and experienced staff inside the COBRA. In recent years, responders coming through the CDP consistently expressed the desire for enhanced biological agent training to accompany the existing chemical agent training at CDP.

As recently as Nov. 1, 2011, the FBI arrested four men in Georgia accused of plotting terrorist attacks on U.S. cities using Ricin. Additionally, the Feb. 2010 Quadrennial Homeland Security Review Report stated that, among others, the threats and hazards that challenge U.S. interests are “high-consequence weapons of mass destruction.”

While we can’t always predict when or where such attacks might occur, we can make sure our nation’s local, state and tribal responders are prepared in case the unthinkable does happen. That is why the CDP trains more than 12,000 responders a year at our facilities here in Anniston, Ala. I take great comfort in knowing that the responders who train at the CDP can now return to their own communities with the added confidence that they can respond safely and effectively to a biological incident in their hometown. That is the kind of training that truly enhances our nation’s preparedness.

As part of its training CDP will be using two biological materials: Ricin A-chain and Bacillus anthracis delta Sterne. These materials will allow our first responders the opportunity to detect biological agents they might encounter. However, the CDP will only be using the nonpathogenic forms of both materials. These two strains will help us maintain the safety of everyone associated with the training because they do not produce the same toxins/disease as the uniquely different sister forms of these materials.

Thinking Outside the Candy Box

You’re familiar with the candy hearts with the sayings, “Be Mine,” “Cutie Pie” or “Sweet Talk.” What if there were hearts that read “Be Prepared” or “Get Ready”?

Washington, D.C., Feb. 13, 2012 -- This Valentine's Day show your sweetheart you care and help get them prepared.

Every year on Feb. 14th, the streets are usually filled with people carrying flowers and boxes of chocolates.

This Valentine’s Day, why not think outside the candy box and truly demonstrate your devotion by helping loved ones be prepared? Think about it. In the end you’ll also be helping yourself by ensuring that the ones you love are around for a long time to come.

So, how can you do this?

All of us here at FEMA have provided some suggestions below that we believe will be much better than a balloon-shaped heart (which eventually deflates) or the conventional dozen red roses (which eventually wilt and wither). These items pair well with any Valentine’s Day plans.

  • Give your main squeeze a disaster supply kit to go with the chocolates you may have already bought; get started with one gallon of water per person per day for three days, and a non-perishable food supply per person for three days. Disasters can strike faster than cupid’s arrow, and if your loved ones aren’t prepared, they won’t have time to get the supplies they need in the midst of the chaos of a disaster. What better way to show your love than to help your sweetie prepare?
  • If you’re feeling less romantic or are more family-oriented this Valentine’s Day, consider preparing all the loved ones in your life for the unthinkable. When you’re at dinner, tell your family you’d like to sit down together afterward to create an emergency plan. Some things you should discuss are where to meet in an emergency and who to contact. You won’t regret this quality time spent planning to protect your family.
  • Do you send a greeting card or bouquet of flowers to your mom each year? This year, follow up with an in-person visit, and help them to winterize their home or vehicle. Use this holiday to fulfill the promise of visiting more often, and at the same time you could also help your whole family learn about their risk to flooding and how to reduce it. Spring flooding is just around the corner, but it’s never a bad time to reduce our risk to life or property that is brought on by the onslaught of floods.
  • If you’re getting into the Valentine’s spirit and want to share the love with your community, this might be a good time to get involved with emergency management training or to join a local volunteer organization. For example, you could get your CPR certification or volunteer to bring meals and preparedness information to seniors. (HINT: This also makes for a great date idea, and you’ll impress your date with your thoughtfulness of others).
  • Finally, if you normally buy treats for your four-legged friends for Valentine’s Day, continue to buy them treats…they don’t even realize what Valentine’s Day is. However, this is an opportunity to be selfish and take the steps needed to ensure your pets are prepared. Keep supplies on hand for your pets such as food, water, and medication. Don’t forget, faithful companionship is a two-way street. They show you love and affection all the time…you should do the same in return and ensure they are prepared.

This Valentine’s Day, show you care – help prepare yourself, your main squeeze, your family, friends and pets for a potential disaster. Show the love – Be Ready!

Training That Matches the Real Thing

Posted by: Jason McNamara, Chief of Staff

Anniston, Ala., Feb. 1, 2012 -- FEMA Chief of Staff Jason McNamara (Left) observes Robi Mobley, Human Patient Simulator (HPS) specialist, administer medication to an HPS commonly used in healthcare training at the Center for Domestic Preparedness (CDP).
Anniston, Ala., Feb. 1, 2012 -- FEMA Chief of Staff Jason McNamara (Left) observes Robi Mobley, Human Patient Simulator (HPS) specialist, administer medication to an HPS commonly used in healthcare training at the Center for Domestic Preparedness (CDP). FEMA/Derek Jensen


One of the challenges we often face in preparing for disasters is providing training that matches the realism of an actual event. I observed training Wednesday in a newly-renovated FEMA facility that is about as realistic as it gets without actually going through a terrorist attack or natural disaster. The training scenario was the first exercise held inside the newly remodeled Noble Training Facility Emergency Department at the Center for Domestic Preparedness (CDP). Located in Anniston, Ala., the CDP's Noble Training Facility is the only hospital facility in the nation dedicated solely to preparing the healthcare, public health, and environmental health communities for mass casualty events related to terrorism or natural disasters.

After a ribbon cutting ceremony I observed the first training exercise in the newly renovated Emergency Department, where doctors, nurses, hospital administrators and others were forced to deal with patient surges, contamination issues, the flow of patients and the management of resources. The training scenario was chaotic, noisy and stressful and very reminiscent of the potential scene at a hospital following a real disaster.

It's also the kind of training that will benefit communities all over the country. CDP has provided this unique hospital training to our nations’ emergency receivers since 2007. Prior to the remodeling project, CDP had been running training scenarios out of a small Emergency Department that hadn’t been updated since it was built in the 1970s.

The new enhancements unveiled yesterday included an expanded trauma bay, state -of-the-art treatment area, new ambulance entrance, isolation rooms for contaminated patients, computer-generated sound and visual effects, video recording capabilities, and hi-tech patient simulators that breath, bleed, talk, respond to treatment and do everything but walk away. The new enhancements mean an expanded capability at the CDP and a chance for local, state and tribal personnel from across the country to avail themselves of federally funded training in a modern hospital venue. And most importantly, our nation’s emergency receivers now have a place where they can prepare their own communities for acts of terrorism and natural disasters in an environment that’s hopefully as close to the real thing as they’ll ever have to deal with.


Anniston, Ala., Feb. 1, 2012 -- Students attending the Healthcare Leadership for Mass Casualty Incidents (HCL) course treat a simulated explosion survivor during the first exercise following the opening of the new emergency department at the Center for Domestic Preparedness. FEMA/Derek Jensen
Anniston, Ala., Feb. 1, 2012 -- Students attending the Healthcare Leadership for Mass Casualty Incidents (HCL) course treat a simulated explosion survivor during the first exercise following the opening of the new emergency department at the Center for Domestic Preparedness. FEMA/Derek Jensen


Anniston, Ala., Feb. 1, 2012 -- FEMA Chief of Staff Jason McNamara (Left) and Center for Domestic Preparedness Superintendent Dr. Christopher T. Jones cut the ribbon opening the renovated emergency department inside the Noble Training Facility (NTF).
Anniston, Ala., Feb. 1, 2012 -- FEMA Chief of Staff Jason McNamara (Left) and Center for Domestic Preparedness Superintendent Dr. Christopher T. Jones cut the ribbon opening the renovated emergency department inside the Noble Training Facility (NTF). FEMA/Derek Jensen

FEMA Think Tank Takes Off with 650 Participants

On behalf of the entire FEMA team, I want to thank everyone who participated in the first FEMA Think Tank conference call last Thursday, January 26, from the University of Wisconsin in Milwaukee (UWM). As you may know, nearly 650 people from state, local and tribal governments, the private sector, disability community, volunteer community and the public joined us on the call, and I was incredibly pleased that our conversation was so productive and engaging.

I began the Think Tank last year after hearing from a number of people – including emergency managers and college students – who had formed smaller groups to discuss innovative ways for improving the emergency management system. Among these groups was one started through the volunteer efforts of two UWM students – Stephanie Sikinger and Andrew Boese – with the help of their former intern supervisor, Desiree Matel-Anderson. I met Stephanie, Andrew, and Desiree last summer and was impressed by their work and enthusiasm. And that's why I asked UWM to partner with us and host the very first Think Tank conference call.

The Think Tank is meant to serve as a forum for disaster survivors, emergency managers, first responders, and others concerned about protecting and helping our communities during an emergency, to discuss innovative ideas on how we can improve the way we do business. The exchange of ideas on the online forum has demonstrated the innovation and perspectives the whole community can offer.
 


As I announced during the conference call, FEMA is in the process of implementing a few of the ideas that were submitted to the online forum. In particular, we are developing a Federal Disaster Externship Program as was suggested by Marya Domnik and Shai Cooper suggested, as well as Coffee Break Training Program, suggested by Nick Sloan.

The three ideas discussed during the conference highlighted the importance of the emergency management community regularly sharing information and best practices. I want to thank the three conference call presenters, Maggie Myers, Steve Swazee, and Anjana Dayal de Prewitt, for sharing their creative ideas on community mapping, incorporating preparedness in school curriculums, and the National Grid System. My hope is to continue identifying key actions items that can be brought back to FEMA and incorporated or developed into our programs. In fact, several of the ideas discussed in the Think Tank have already caught the attention of key FEMA leadership, including the U.S. National Grid System.

The next conference call will be held on February 17, and it will focus on the use of technology and social media in emergency management. I encourage everyone to continue to participate in the FEMA Think Tank by posting and commenting on ideas on the online forum, calling into the monthly conference calls, and following the conversation on Twitter at #femathinktank.

As I said during the call, the Think Tank isn't just a FEMA project -- it's a tool for us all to use to better serve the American public.

Again, thank you to all who participated in last week's call. I look forward to continuing our conversation, as we work together to better serve disaster survivors.

Success Story: Preparedness & a Community Storm Shelter Saves Lives

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The Alabama town of Maplesville has a success story on its hands – one big enough to draw a visit from the governor.

Following Hurricane Ivan in 2005, Maplesville decided to build a community storm shelter because of its long history of storms. The town joined up with the Chilton County Emergency Management Agency and the Chilton County Commission and worked on a 5-year plan that ended with Maplesville receiving a storm shelter.

FEMA and the Alabama Emergency Management Agency helped the town fund it with Hazard Mitigation Grant Program money. The 2005 grant provided just more than $48,000 of the nearly $70,000 total project cost as the 60-person-capacity steel shelter went up not far from the town fire station. It opened in November 2007.


View from inside the shelter. Photo by Grieg Powers/FEMA.

The shelter has been used successfully many times, including the historic storms and tornadoes that hammered Alabama in April 2011. Following that federally declared disaster, one of the worst to hit the state, Governor Bentley vowed to make more safe rooms the legacy of that disaster.

The most recent proof of the value of the shelter came just a few days ago when severe storms and tornadoes raked parts of Alabama, including Maplesville. Well over 100 people – some coming from as far away as five miles – gathered inside that shelter to escape the storm. While the storm raged, two trees fell on the shelter – one of them a foot in diameter. Despite cosmetic damage to the shelter, no one inside reported any injuries.


Alabama Governor Robert Bentley is accompanied by (from left) by State Rep. Kurt Wallace and State Sen. Cam Ward. Photo by Grieg Powers/FEMA.

Alabama Governor Robert Bentley is accompanied by (from left) by State Rep. Kurt Wallace and State Sen. Cam Ward. Photo by Grieg Powers/FEMA.

Governor Bentley held a news conference in front of the virtually unaffected shelter, stating "You can see the result and how lives can be saved by having these all over the state."

Christine Epperson, a volunteer firefighter and assistant Emergency Medical Services chief commented, "My first thought is always to open the safe room. These people are my family, my life and I want to help protect them."

Following a disaster, hazard mitigation grants make funds available to states and communities to do work that will make structures and infrastructure more resistant for the next disaster. In this case, as Maplesville Mayor Aubrey Latham put it, "The shelter did what it was supposed to do."

Outside view of the shelter. Photo by Grieg Powers/FEMA.

Earthquake Preparedness & the Great ShakeOut on February 7

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You only have seconds to react to an earthquake, so it’s important to know what to do when the ground starts shaking – and I know this all too well. In 2011, I was in Christchurch, New Zealand to discuss emergency management issues when the deadly quake struck. I found myself putting to use years of knowledge and tips we at FEMA use to inform the public on preparing for emergencies.

I saw the devastation firsthand, and it’s a stark reminder that no matter where we live – earthquakes strike without any warning. Another recent example is last August, when a 5.8 magnitude earthquake struck Louisa County in Virginia; shaking was felt as far south as Georgia and as far north as Quebec, Canada. Because earthquakes are more common on the west coast, the “East Coast Quake” took most of us by surprise.

While we can’t prevent earthquakes or other disasters, we can take important steps to prepare for them, and I want to encourage everyone to join more than one million individuals, schools, businesses, governments, and other organizations across the central United States who will participate in the second annual Great Central U.S. ShakeOut on February 7, at 10:15 a.m. CDT. It is the largest earthquake preparedness event in central U.S. history.

It only takes a couple of minutes to participate in the drill and practice these three simple steps:

DROP to the ground
• Take COVER by getting under a sturdy desk or table, and
HOLD ON to it until the shaking stops

If you’re on Twitter you can join the conversation by using this hashtag: #shakeout

Everyone plays a critical role in helping our nation become well-prepared. While we don’t know where or when the next earthquake will strike, preparing for them will help our entire country become more resilient in the face of a disaster. What we do now to prepare before a big earthquake will help us bounce back after an earthquake occurs.

So if you haven’t already, join us and register for the ShakeOut and visit Ready.gov/earthquake for important earthquake preparedness tips that can help protect yourself and your loved ones in the event of an earthquake. You can also download the FEMA smartphone app (for Android and Apple devices) to access preparedness tips and an interactive emergency supply kit on your phone.

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