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From the White House: President Obama in Joplin: "It's an Example of What the American Spirit is all About"

Editor’s note: the blog post is cross-posted from the White House blog and updated May 30 with a video and photos.



Today, President Obama traveled to Joplin, Missouri to meet with those in the community who lost so much in the tornados last week and participate in a Memorial Service at Missouri Southern University.


Before the Memorial Service, President Obama visited one of the neighborhoods that was devastated by the tornadoes. After seeing the extensive tornado damage the President spoke to the people of Joplin and reminded them that they are not alone in this tragedy:

The main thing I just want to communicate to the people of Joplin is this is just not your tragedy. This is a national tragedy and that means there will be a national response.   Craig Fugate, who has probably been the busiest man in the federal government over this last bit of months, has been on the ground since just the day after this happened, and he's helping to coordinate with an outstanding team of state and local officials. We're going to do everything we can to continue whatever search and rescue remains. We are doing everything we can to make sure that folks get the shelter that they need, the support that they need.


The President also thanked all of the volunteers and community members who are lending a hand to their neighbors during this difficult time:

So to all the volunteers who are helping out -- one of the things that's been incredible is to see how many people from out of state have driven from as far a way as Texas, nearby Illinois, people just coming here to volunteer -- firefighters, ordinary citizens. It’s an example of what the American spirit is all about. And that gives us a lot of encouragement at a time when obviously people are going through a lot of hardship.

During the Memorial Service, the President spoke of the strength of the community coming together in response to the storm:

How we respond when the storm strikes is up to us. How we live in the aftermath of tragedy and heartache, that’s within our control. And it's in these moments, through our actions, that we often see the glimpse of what makes life worth living in the first place.

In the last week, that’s what Joplin has not just taught Missouri, not just taught America, but has taught the world. I was overseas in the aftermath of the storm, and had world leaders coming up to me saying, let the people of Joplin know we are with them; we’re thinking about them; we love them. (Applause.)

Because the world saw how Joplin responded. A university turned itself into a makeshift hospital. (Applause.) Some of you used your pickup trucks as ambulances, carrying the injured -- (applause) -- on doors that served as stretchers. Your restaurants have rushed food to people in need. Businesses have filled trucks with donations. You’ve waited in line for hours to donate blood to people you know, but also to people you’ve never met.

 

What a FEMA Determination Letter Means

The survivors of the tornadoes in Joplin, Missouri, in Alabama and Mississippi, and in all other states currently recovering from disasters have been through a lot and we are committed to helping them every step of the way.

When survivors apply for individual disaster aid through FEMA, their needs are assessed based on a number of factors, based on eligibility requirements laid out under federal law. After a survivor registers with FEMA, they receive a letter from us explaining the status of their application, and whether or not they will receive assistance.

We know the recipients of these letters may have questions about what they mean, especially when coping with tragic and heartbreaking circumstances. We wanted to take a few minutes to explain what options people have when receiving these notices:

If you receive a letter from FEMA saying you are not eligible for assistance, it does not necessarily mean your case is closed. If your letter says you’re not eligible for assistance, it also tells you how to appeal the decision or what additional information you need to provide to FEMA, in order for your case to be reviewed again.

Before you begin your appeal process, read the letter carefully – and ask for help if you don’t understand any part of it – FEMA may only need you to provide additional information.

Sometimes people do not qualify for financial help right away. For instance, FEMA may not have received information on your insurance settlement. Under federal law, FEMA cannot duplicate assistance that comes from insurance benefits or other government sources, but FEMA’s initial determination of ineligibility may change if private insurance or other government assistance is not sufficient to cover all the eligible damage.

Some of the reasons for an initial turn down can be:
  • You might not have gotten your insurance settlement;
  • You may not have given FEMA all the information we need;
  • You haven’t given us proof of ownership or residence;
  • You may not have returned the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) disaster loan application;
  • You may not have provided records that showed the damaged property was the primary residence at the time of the disaster;
  • You may not have signed essential documents.

Bottom line – these letters are the start of a conversation between you and FEMA, and not the end.

You can call the helpline at 800-621-FEMA (3362) or TTY 800-462-7585 or visit a disaster recovery center, where you can talk with someone about your particular situation. Either way, you can get more information about what to do next.

And you can give information to FEMA that might change our determination about your status. So again, everyone should read their letters carefully, ask questions, ask for help, and tell us if you think we got it wrong. We are here to serve you – the disaster survivor – and it is your right to ask us to reconsider our decision.
 

Clearing Up a Few Questions on Federal Disaster Aid

In the past few days, we've heard questions about what percentage of funding FEMA covers for aid to disaster survivors and states when a presidential disaster declaration is approved for a given area.

As Administrator Fugate took a few minutes to explain, there is a difference between the "cost-share" or funding responsibility FEMA takes on for individual disaster survivors and for states.




If you are an individual living in a disaster area that has been approved for individual assistance, which can help cover repair or replacement costs for your home, FEMA covers the entire amount of aid you are eligible for. There is no "cost-share" – whatever the amount of aid you are awarded, which depends on your personal need and circumstances, is 100 percent funded by the federal government. For Other Needs Assistance, another type of individual aid which can cover other personal losses or basic needs like medical and dental assistance, funeral costs, clothing, household items or supplies for school or work, FEMA covers 75 percent of the costs and the state covers 25 percent of the costs.

Under federal law, for states and localities eligible for FEMA Public Assistance, there is a cost-share, or shared responsibility among the federal government and state. FEMA always covers a minimum of 75 percent of expenses for states that are declared eligible for this kind of assistance. That percentage may be adjusted to a greater amount based on the severity and the total cost of a disaster.

Public assistance covers needs like debris removal, emergency protective measures the state takes immediately during a disaster response (such as evacuations, equipment for first responders, or police barricades), and longer-term rebuilding of critical infrastructure, like schools, roads and firehouses, to name a few.

Again, it's important to remember that FEMA is just part of the team that provides resources for individuals, states and local governments following a disaster. There are many other types of aid that our federal partners and other members of the team, from voluntary agencies to private sector organizations, bring to bear -- and different rules may govern those types of aid. Additionally, FEMA Public Assistance cannot duplicate benefits and many times public entities do carry insurance. In the coming weeks, FEMA and the states will continue to meet with local jurisdictions to go over specific information on insurance coverage and needs.

And as Craig says, if you are an individual, the amount of aid you may receive may be different than your neighbor. Your eligibility for FEMA aid is always based on your unique situation and your unmet needs. And we work with you to determine how to best provide that assistance. We know this is an incredibly trying time for so many people, and we continue to encourage all survivors to register for FEMA assistance by calling 1-800-621-FEMA (TTY 1-800-462-7585), or by going online to http://www.disasterassistance.gov or applying directly from your smartphone at m.fema.gov.

Alabama: Supporting Recovery Efforts & Reaching Survivors

Author: 

Birmingham, AL, May 20, 2011 -- At the FEMA/State Joint Field Office, FEMA Federal Coordinating Officer Michael Bryne and State Coordinating Officer Jeff Byard refer to a map showing damage areas from the deadly April tornado. FEMA and the state are partners in disaster response.
Birmingham, AL, May 20, 2011 -- At the FEMA/State Joint Field Office, FEMA Federal Coordinating Officer Michael Bryne and State Coordinating Officer Jeff Byard refer to a map showing damage areas from the deadly April tornado. FEMA and the state are partners in disaster response.

One month after the devastating tornado outbreak in Alabama, our goal remains the same: helping the state, its communities and its people recover from the damage and dislocation caused by the storms.

Our priorities are a livable home, removal of debris and rebuilding of homes, businesses and public facilities. This effort is guided by commitment and compassion.

The tornadoes killed 238 people. The memory of these losses compels us to make sure a rebuilt
Alabama is stronger and safer.

It’s been truly inspiring to see the outpouring of support from Alabamians and those around the country – whether it’s sending a monetary donation to a voluntary agency, donating time to pitch in with the cleanup efforts or praying for disaster survivors.

As the massive debris cleanup continues, we are encouraging those in Alabama affected by the
tornadoes and severe storms that struck on April 27 to register for disaster assistance.
To date, FEMA has approved $44.1 million in disaster relief for individuals and households. There have been more than 21,000 visits to disaster recovery centers, where survivors can get more information on the recovery process.

And through the hard work of our community relations specialists, we’ve been getting the word out to residents in both densely populated and rural areas about applying for assistance.

Pleasant Grove, AL, May 21, 2011 -- A Disaster Recovery Center (DRC) opens in the community of Pleasant Grove after tornadoes struck the area. FEMA is present at the DRC for in person assistance with registration and has many programs and support available to the individuals and business owners who were in the impacted areas.
Pleasant Grove, AL, May 21, 2011 -- A Disaster Recovery Center (DRC) opens in the community of Pleasant Grove after tornadoes struck the area. FEMA is present at the DRC for in person assistance with registration and has many programs and support available to the individuals and business owners who were in the impacted areas.

Steele, AL, May 21, 2011 -- FEMA Community Relations Specialists Dianne McKinnis and Patty Wiedmer encourage FEMA registration to attendees of a Bluegrass festival at Horsepens 40. This was a great venue to meet a lot of people in a very rural area.
Steele, AL, May 21, 2011 -- FEMA Community Relations Specialists Dianne McKinnis and Patty Wiedmer encourage FEMA registration to attendees of a Bluegrass festival at Horsepens 40. This was a great venue to meet a lot of people in a very rural area.

So if you’re a disaster survivor, or know someone who sustained damages as a result of the April 27 tornadoes, please share the following ways to apply for assistance:

  • Call 800-621-FEMA (3362) from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m., local time. Assistance is available in many languages. TTY 800-462-7585 is available for individuals who are deaf or hard of hearing,
  • Visit a disaster recovery center,
  • Use a smartphone or tablet go to m.fema.gov, or
  • Apply online at www.DisasterAssistance.gov.
     

And I wanted to share more photos of the emergency management team:


Pratt City, AL, May 24, 2011 -- Randy Luster of the Small Business Administration (SBA) encourages a survivor of the April 27th tornado to register with FEMA and the SBA to help with his recovery. Many people do not realize the SBA offers loan assistance to individuals as well as businesses after disasters.
Pratt City, AL, May 24, 2011 -- Randy Luster of the Small Business Administration (SBA) encourages a survivor of the April 27th tornado to register with FEMA and the SBA to help with his recovery. Many people do not realize the SBA offers loan assistance to individuals as well as businesses after disasters.


Pratt City, AL, May 24, 2011 -- Randy Luster of the Small Business Administration (SBA) encourages a survivor of the April 27th tornado to register with FEMA and the SBA to help with his recovery. Many people do not realize the SBA offers loan assistance to individuals as well as businesses after disasters.
Pratt City, AL, May 24, 2011 -- Randy Luster of the Small Business Administration (SBA) encourages a survivor of the April 27th tornado to register with FEMA and the SBA to help with his recovery. Many people do not realize the SBA offers loan assistance to individuals as well as businesses after disasters.


Sipsey, AL, May 24, 2011 -- Members of the Florida Southern Baptist Disaster Relief Association are helping a homeowner cut and pull debris to the street for county pickup. Faith-based volunteers are important partners with FEMA in helping survivors recover from the deadly April tornado.
Sipsey, AL, May 24, 2011 -- Members of the Florida Southern Baptist Disaster Relief Association are helping a homeowner cut and pull debris to the street for county pickup. Faith-based volunteers are important partners with FEMA in helping survivors recover from the deadly April tornado.


Jasper, AL, May 24, 2011 -- Salvation Army workers Terry NeSmith, Deb Wilcutt, and Myrtle Whitcomb distribute food and household goods to storm survivors at the Salvation Army disaster relief distribution center which opened today. Recipients can receive a voucher for $300 which can then be redeemed at the center for emergency supplies. FEMA and the Salvation Army are partners in helping survivors recover from the deadly April tornado.
Jasper, AL, May 24, 2011 -- Salvation Army workers Terry NeSmith, Deb Wilcutt, and Myrtle Whitcomb distribute food and household goods to storm survivors at the Salvation Army disaster relief distribution center which opened today. Recipients can receive a voucher for $300 which can then be redeemed at the center for emergency supplies. FEMA and the Salvation Army are partners in helping survivors recover from the deadly April tornado.


Phil Campbell, AL, May 14, 2011 -- FEMA Community Relations Specialists Laura Philpot and Tom Violette speak with Mike Yoder of the Christian Aide Ministries Disaster Service Rapid Response Team of Tennessee. Faith based organizations like this provide critical immediate services to storm survivors and are FEMA partners in recovery efforts for those affected by the April tornado.
Phil Campbell, AL, May 14, 2011 -- FEMA Community Relations Specialists Laura Philpot and Tom Violette speak with Mike Yoder of the Christian Aide Ministries Disaster Service Rapid Response Team of Tennessee. Faith based organizations like this provide critical immediate services to storm survivors and are FEMA partners in recovery efforts for those affected by the April tornado.


Tuscaloosa, AL, May 12, 2011 -- Red Cross workers are present at today's Hispanic community meeting. Red Cross and FEMA are partners in responding to disasters such as the April storms and tornado here.
Tuscaloosa, AL, May 12, 2011 -- Red Cross workers are present at today's Hispanic community meeting. Red Cross and FEMA are partners in responding to disasters such as the April storms and tornado here.

Alabama: FEMA Housing Provides Much-Needed Shelter

Author: 

One month ago, much of the town of Phil Campbell in Franklin County was destroyed and many residents tragically lost their lives from a series of tornadoes that swept through Alabama, leaving many residents in the community homeless. As each day passes, we continue to admire the strength of these communities as they work together to help their neighbors recover.

Since the tornadoes struck, we’ve been working closely with our federal, state and local partners to meet the needs of disaster survivors. One way FEMA helps survivors after a disaster is by working with our state and local partners to help them find temporary housing for those who have lost their homes, like many in Phil Campbell.

This temporary housing assistance comes in many forms depending on the needs in the community:

  • We maintain a list of available properties at the FEMA Housing Portal to help individuals and families, who have been displaced by a disaster, find a place to live.
  • Money is available to rent a different place to live or a government-provided temporary housing unit may be available when there are no rental properties.
  • In rural areas where no rental properties are available, such as Phil Campbell, we deploy temporary housing units to disaster survivors. These are available to survivors for up to 18 months as they transition to more permanent housing.

Just one example in Phil Campbell is Savannah Swinney and her daughter. They recently moved into their fully furnished unit. In addition to furniture, each unit came with “living kits” donated by organizations such as the American Red Cross, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Mr. Coffee , and the People of Saudi Arabia (see a photo below).

Shown below are a few photos that explain some of our Individual Assistance Housing procedures. For more information, see this page on disaster assistance.

Inspectors look at housing units.
Once a unit is installed, state law requires an Alabama Manufactured Home Commission inspector certify it is suitable for living. A final inspection is done by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to ensure all health and safety requirements are met.

FEMA officials meet with disaster survivors.
The first resident of this FEMA temporary housing unit in Phil Campbell signed a lease on May 14. Present are from left; Howard Hutcheson, Franklin County Commissioner; the new tenant and daughter; Johnny Morrow, Alabama Legislator, District 18; FEMA Intergovernmental Affairs Specialist Jim Woodard; and Mayor Jerry Mays.

interior of a housing unit.
Interior view of FEMA temporary housing unit. Eligible residents sign agreements for up to 18 months as they find more permanent housing.

items from a living kit are shown.
Items from a “living kit” before they are unpacked. The kits contain basic items donated from Mr. Coffee, American Red Cross, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and bedding from the People of Saudi Arabia to help new residents settle in.

orientation of a new resident.
As part of orientation for the new tenant of this temporary housing unit, FEMA Individual Assistance Housing Specialist Don Norman points out appliance information.

orientation of a new resident.
As part of orientation for the new tenant of this temporary housing unit, FEMA Individual Assistance Housing Specialist Don Norman points out NOAA weather radio information, provided with each unit.

Rethinking FEMA’s Public Assistance Programs for Communities Affected by Disaster

Author: 

Several blog posts have talked about how the federal assistance process often works in various disasters. When the President authorizes a disaster declaration, he authorizes a variety of response and recovery programs; and one of those programs is our public assistance program.

The public assistance program provides grants to states who provide funds to applicants from state, local, tribal and territorial governments and certain private, nonprofit organizations for emergency work (such as debris removal or sheltering) and repair and replacement work, such as repairing damaged schools, fire stations, and other work, allowing their communities to quickly respond to and recover from major disasters and emergencies.

Since the program began, we have assisted countless communities across the country during their recovery, and allocated an average of $3.3 billion in public assistance funding annually. (Find additional facts and statistics about the PA program).

We have a challenge in providing financial assistance to disaster-affected communities quickly, while also ensuring proper fiscal accountability, and we have heard from numerous stakeholders that these processes can be difficult to understand, so we are seeking ways to improve our processes.

So here’s what we’re looking for: if you’ve been involved with our public assistance program, at any level, we’re asking for your feedback on streamlining and changing the program to ensure quick delivery of assistance, more options for community recovery, and fiscal accountability.

We’re calling this a “bottom-up” review, and we’re looking for ways to improve the effectiveness and efficiency of the PA program with input from our stakeholders. We have consulted our partners from the National Advisory Council and the National Emergency Management Association, as well as other stakeholder groups to ensure this review is open and transparent, to reflect the valuable input from those we serve.

To give an overview of the bottom-up review, it’s being conducted in four phases, and we’re currently in phase one:

Phase I – Stakeholder Engagement (current phase)
FEMA will engage external stakeholders through FEMA’s website by soliciting direct feedback on proposed program concepts, and interaction with the National Advisory Council and Regional Advisory Councils, States, Tribes, national associations, and local stakeholders.

Phase II – Feedback Analysis & Program Option Development
Based on the input received, we will develop proposed programmatic options for consideration by FEMA leadership and stakeholders.

Phase III – Vetting and Validation of Concepts
We will provide stakeholders an opportunity to review and provide feedback on the proposed programmatic options.

Phase IV – Feedback Analysis & Development of Final Option(s)
After evaluating and incorporating changes based on feedback, FEMA senior leadership will review programmatic option(s) and decide on a course of action.

We have posted an issue paper that can help guide you in formulating feedback. For additional information visit www.fema.gov/pabur.

If you are interested in submitting feedback, suggestions or new ideas, email us at FEMA-PA-BUR@fema.gov by May 31, 2011.

How To Help Tornado Survivors in Joplin, Mo. or Other States

Editor's note, June 2, 2011: Added Administrator Fugate's video about the best ways to help the people of Joplin.



To help manage the generous outpouring of support for Joplin, Mo., tornado survivors, disaster recovery experts have established some simple ways to help, whether volunteering or making donations.

Along with our partners at the Missouri Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster, here are some specific ways to help those impacted by the recent storms and tornadoes.

Donate or Volunteer

  • The Missouri State Emergency Management Agency has established a web portal to coordinate donations and volunteers.  Keep in mind that cash is the preferred method because it offers voluntary agencies the most flexibility in obtaining the most-needed resources and pumps money into the local economy to help businesses recover as well.
  • Those in Missouri can also call 2-1-1 in most areas for information on volunteering their time or making a donation.  This 2-1-1 service, operated by the United Way, is available through much of Missouri.  For those who are out of state or unable to get through on 2-1-1, call 1-800-427-4626. Those with medical skills interested in volunteering can go online at www.showmeresponse.org.

    Remember,  unsolicited donated goods such as used clothing, miscellaneous household items, and mixed or perishable foodstuffs require helping agencies to redirect valuable resources away from providing services to sort, package, transport, warehouse, and distribute items that may not meet the needs of disaster survivors.

Sheltering

  • Missourians who need disaster information, shelter information or referrals are urged to call 2-1-1, or 800-427-4626, or go to www.redcross.org for a list of open shelters. For individuals with a hearing loss, call 7-1-1 or use Video Relay Service to reach 2-1-1 or 800-427-4626. 

Helping survivors in other states

  • For those who have been affected in Minnesota or other states outside Missouri or those who want to help can visit https://www.fema.gov/how-help.

Other Resources
If you or someone you know is looking for a friend or relative who may have been affected the storms, visit www.Redcross.org/safeandwell.

North Carolina: One Month Recovery Update

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Damaged home.
Snow Hill, NC, April 25, 2011 -- Properties in Greene County, N.C., await cleanup and recovery following the deadly tornadoes and severe storms that swept through the state April 16, 2011.

It’s hard to believe it has been one month since a series of deadly tornadoes and storms ripped through several North Carolina communities, taking the lives of 24 residents and causing millions of dollars in property damages. I wanted to give a personal update on the ongoing recovery efforts in North Carolina and provide a few examples of how FEMA continues to work with all members of the emergency management team to assist survivors and affected communities.

To date, Federal and state disaster assistance grants and loans add up to nearly $10 million, a testament to cutting through red tape and getting assistance to affected individuals and communities. Yesterday, we held a press conference with the state of North Carolina and the Small Business Administration to provide an update of the ongoing recovery efforts:



Four days after the storms struck, jointly, federal and state partners sent community relations specialists out into neighborhoods to help people understand what help may be available to them. These specialists continue to go door-to-door, providing information in English and Spanish to people affected by the tornadoes. To date, the community relations teams have visited almost 12,558 homes and talked to over 13,100 people. They have also provided information to over 2,200 businesses, over 240 community organizations and over 900 faith-based organizations.

Miriam Stack, FEMA community relations specialist, works with Raleigh residents to answer questions during a neighborhood outreach.
Raleigh, NC, April 24, 2011 -- Miriam Stack, FEMA community relations specialist, works with Raleigh residents to answer questions during a neighborhood outreach following the severe April 16 storms and deadly tornadoes that damaged or destroyed homes and businesses across North Carolina.

Days after the disaster declaration, FEMA and the North Carolina Emergency Management Office opened a joint field office and 16 disaster recovery centers. So far, more than 3,900 residents have visited a disaster recovery center to apply for assistance and learn about the other programs available to them.

Since the storms struck, we have also been working alongside the many voluntary, faith- and community-based groups that work to get disaster survivors back on their feet as quickly as possible. Here are a few photos that show this work in action:

Salvation army volunteers unload a truck of supplies.
Raleigh, NC, May 12, 2011 -- The Salvation Army staff partner with the Green Chair Project to help disaster survivors in North Carolina re-furnish their homes. The Green Chair Project makes donated home furnishings available at a low cost to individuals and families identified and referred to Green Chair by its partner agencies. FEMA is responding to severe April 16 storms and deadly tornadoes that damaged or destroyed homes and businesses across North Carolina on.


FEMA community relations specialist speaks with Red Cross volunteers.
Raleigh, NC, April 24, 2011 -- Maureen Ivey, FEMA community relations specialist, confers with the Red Cross about the recovery efforts in Wake County, N.C., following the severe April 16 storms and deadly tornadoes that damaged or destroyed homes and businesses across North Carolina.

As I said in our news conference yesterday, we are encouraging those who suffered losses in eligible counties to apply for FEMA assistance as soon as possible. The deadline for FEMA registration and U.S. Small Business Administration disaster loan applications is June 20. We will continue to get the word out about registering for assistance, and we hope you will do the same if you know someone who may have been affected by this disaster.

 

Photos 3: Support Efforts for Southern U.S. Tornadoes and Severe Storms

We are continuing to support the emergency management team across the southeast as they recover from deadly storms and tornadoes.  Here are some of the latest photos from our Photo Library, highlighting some of the ongoing recovery efforts.

A Catoosa County resident confirms the necessary paper work for filing an application to receive federal funding for damage.
Griffin, Ga., May 4, 2011 -- A Catoosa County resident confirms the necessary paper work for filing an application to receive federal funding for damage from the April 27, 2011 tornado. FEMA Disaster Assistance Employee Carol Hill, at the Catoosa County Disaster Recovery Center, explains the process.

Federal Coordinating Officer Michael Byrne conducts an interview an Associated Press photographer.
Concord, Ala., May 4, 2011 -- Federal Coordinating Officer Michael Byrne conducts an interview an Associated Press photographer. He explained FEMA's role in helping communities and individuals recover from the April 27 tornadoes and how they can come to this Disaster Recovery Center (DRC) in Concord, or any other DRC in Alabama, and register with FEMA.

The downtown section here was destroyed by the April 28 tornado.
Heckleburg, Ala., May 6, 2011 -- The downtown section here was destroyed by the April 28 tornado. FEMA is on the ground and continues to assist in recovery efforts.

Trucks prepare to transfer mobile homes which will serve as temporary housing to residents of Hackleburg, Alabama.
Selma, Ala., May 7, 2011 -- Trucks prepare to transfer mobile homes which will serve as temporary housing to residents of Hackleburg, Ala. who lost their homes to the April 27 tornadoes.

A FEMA employee explains a mitigation program to show how to build or rebuild stronger, safer structures that can withstand most tornadoes.
Benson, N.C., May 6, 2011 -- FEMA Mitigation Outreach Specialist Crispin Nery explains the bracket system used in the DAWG HAUS or Disaster Avoidance with Good Home Attenuating-Unionization System structure to West Johnstone High school shop teacher Eddie Poplin before beginning construction. The DAWG HAUS is a FEMA mitigation program to show how to build or rebuild stronger, safer structures that can withstand most tornadoes.

A tornado survivor applies for FEMA assistance.
Concord, Ala., May 4, 2011 -- A survivor of the April 27th tornado takes the first step of applying for assistance by registering with FEMA at the Concord Disaster Recovery Center.

FEMA officials meet with citizens impacted by the April 27 tornado.
Concord, Ala., May 4, 2011 -- FEMA External Affairs Officer Bob Jensen and Federal Coordinating Officer Michael Byrne meet with citizens impacted by the April 27 tornado, and discuss how to register with FEMA.

A FEMA official answers media questions concerning FEMA's use of temporary housing in North Carolina.
Rocky Mount, N.C., May 7, 2011 -- FEMA Federal Coordinating Officer Mike Bolch and Deputy State Coordinating Officer Emily Young answer media questions concerning FEMA's use of temporary housing in North Carolina. FEMA is responding to the deadly tornadoes and severe storms that damaged or destroyed homes and businesses across North Carolina on April 16, 2011.

The residents of Ringgold take time from cleaning up their damaged town to remember veterans.
Ringgold, Ga., May 5, 2011 -- The residents of Ringgold take time from cleaning up their damaged town to remember veterans, and take part in the National Day of Prayer. Ringgold, in Catoosa County, was hit by a powerful tornado on April 27, 2011.

Getting Supplies to Survivors is a Team Effort

Author: 

We have written a lot on this blog about what individuals can do to prepare for a disaster, and how we are working with the entire emergency management team to get the word out about the importance of preparedness, but we wanted to take a second and shed more light on the steps we and our state partners take to move needed emergency supplies to reach disaster survivors.

It's our job to be ready at all times to support our state and local counterparts when disaster strikes, and the way we get supplies to affected individuals and communities follows this same goal. At all times, FEMA has commodities (water, food, blankets, cots and generators), at our distribution centers that are strategically located throughout the United States and territories.

When a disaster is imminent or after the state’s governor has requested a disaster declaration, the state may make a request, through their FEMA regional office, for federal assistance if it believes its supplies may become exhausted. If the state’s request is approved, emergency supplies begin making their way to our state partners and disaster survivors.

These commodities are placed in pre-determined staging areas where the state then takes ownership and full possession of the requested emergency supplies. State and local governments then decide how and where to distribute these supplies to survivors.

To give an example of supplies in motion, we've featured a video of how we’ve been moving commodities and supplies to those affected by the southeast tornadoes and storms:



They often use three methods to get critical supplies to survivors:

  • Mobile delivery is a method that utilizes vehicles to drive into an affected area and provide commodities. This type of distribution is common in rural areas and where roads are damaged.
  • Direct deliveries is coordinating with a specific location, such as a shelter, feeding site, or hospital for the delivery of specific items and quantities and are usually larger in size and more specific in commodity type than what is delivered through mobile delivery.
  • Points of Distribution are centralized points where supplies are delivered and the public travels to the site to pick up life sustaining commodities following a disaster or emergency. The decision to activate, operate, and demobilize a POD is at the discretion of the local government.

So what emergency supplies are we talking about?
These commodities usually include shelf stable food and bottled water, blankets, cots, generators, tarps, plastic sheeting, infant and toddler kits, durable medical equipment, and a kit of basic medical supplies. Additional state requirements for supplies may be provided by our partners to supplement the original request.

U.S. Air Force and FEMA load water onto a Mobile Communications Office Vehicle.
Montgomery, AL, April 30, 2011 -- U.S. Air Force and FEMA load water for distribution.

Mobile Communication Operations Vehicles (see photo below) are another shippable commodity. These vehicles can perform a dual mission: to set up a command and control center or to serve as a disaster recovery center for survivors to get information and register for federal assistance.

FEMA Mobile Communcations Office Vehicles deploying to hard hit areas to start the disaster assistance registration process for surviors in need.
Montgomery, AL, April 30, 2011 -- Mobile Communcations Office Vehicles deploying to hard hit areas to start the disaster assistance registration process for surviors in need.

In other cases, if the threat of disaster is imminent, in the form of flooding, hurricanes or other phenomenon, we will send some of our commodities forward from our distribution centers to an Incident Support Base closer to the impacted areas in anticipation of requests from our state partners. (As we did in anticipation of flooding in the Upper Midwest this spring.)

And as we often say, FEMA is not the team; FEMA is part of the team, a team that includes the entire federal family, state, local and tribal officials, the faith-based and non-profit communities, the private sector and most importantly the public. As the details above demonstrate, the effectiveness of getting supplies to disaster survivors depends on all members of the team working closely together.

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