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FEMA: Working Closely With State and Local Partners

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FEMA continues to work closely with our federal and state partners to meet the needs of all those that have been impacted by the severe storms that moved through much of the Midwest and mid-Atlantic. In Ohio, the President signed an emergency disaster declaration that has authorized FEMA to provide much needed resources to support state and local response and recovery, including generators to support critical infrastructure such as shelters, as well as positioning water in staging areas near the impacted areas. While those resources are critical, the state of Ohio and others of the emergency management team are taking the welfare of citizens very seriously. Here is one example:

Ohio’s “Knock and Talk” Outreach

Columbus, Ohio, July 2, 2012 -- Sgt. Jessica Cooper (left) and Pvt. Jason Geier, of Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 216th Engineer Battalion, talk with John Weese, 60, of Columbus, Ohio, on July 2, 2012. (Ohio National Guard photo by Senior Airman Jordyn Sadowski)

Columbus, Ohio, July 2, 2012 -- Sgt. Jessica Cooper (left) and Pvt. Jason Geier, of Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 216th Engineer Battalion, talk with John Weese, 60, of Columbus, Ohio, on July 2, 2012. (Ohio National Guard photo by Senior Airman Jordyn Sadowski)

On July 1, Ohio Governor John Kasich deployed more than 200 Soldiers and Airmen of the Ohio National Guard (ONG) to Franklin and Montgomery counties on a “Knock and Talk” mission. From single-story homes to 20-story high rises, team members are braving the heat and knocking on doors to chat with residents. They provide valuable information on available resources, such as cooling centers, that our local and state partners have made available. Ohioans are also coming together to check on their own, ensuring that everyone has water and knows how to stay cool during the power outages and heat wave.

On July 2, the men and women of the ONG teamed up with student volunteers from The Ohio State University and continued the “Knock and Talk” mission to ensure that senior citizens, young children and those with sensitive conditions and medical needs are being served.

As we say at FEMA, it takes each member of the emergency management team coming together to ensure the safety of the American public. The ONG and the students of OSU exemplify the responsibility that each of us has to take care of our friends, neighbors, family and loved ones.

While we continue to assist Ohio, West Virginia and all the states that have been impacted by the recent storms, we want to urge you to exercise caution if extreme heat conditions are expected in your area in the coming days. Forecasts from the National Weather Service are calling for dangerous heat in parts of the U.S. for the remainder of the week, including the Midwest and Mid-Atlantic regions. Visit Ready.gov/heat to learn how you can keep yourself and your animals safe, or follow the example of Ohio Emergency Management and the Ohio National Guard.

Have your own “Knock and Talk” missions and check on a neighbor during this continued heat wave - make a call, send a text or better yet, walk next door to see that those around you have water, are staying cool and are able to stay in contact with loved ones.

Columbus, Ohio, July 2, 2012 -- Pvt. Jason Geier (left) and Sgt. Jessica Cooper, of Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 216th Engineer Battalion, talk with Gary Rowe, of Columbus, Ohio, on July 2, 2012. (Ohio National Guard photo by Senior Airman Jordyn Sadowski)

Columbus, Ohio, July 2, 2012 -- Pvt. Jason Geier (left) and Sgt. Jessica Cooper, of Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 216th Engineer Battalion, talk with Gary Rowe, of Columbus, Ohio, on July 2, 2012. (Ohio National Guard photo by Senior Airman Jordyn Sadowski)

I would like to take this opportunity to thank our state and local partners for providing life-saving information and demonstrating care and compassion for their neighbors and fellow Ohioans. For the latest updates, please visit the Ohio Emergency Management website at http://ema.ohio.gov/.

Ohio, July 3, 2012 -- Student volunteers from The Ohio State University assist the Ohio state Emergency Management Agency and the Ohio National Guard on July 3, 2012.

Ohio, July 3, 2012 -- Student volunteers from The Ohio State University assist the Ohio state Emergency Management Agency and the Ohio National Guard on July 3, 2012.

Update 4: Recap of FEMA & Federal Partner Support to State and Local Response in Midwest and Mid-Atlantic

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The Administration, through FEMA, remains committed to providing support to Midwest and Mid-Atlantic states affected by last week’s storms. FEMA’s National Response Coordination Center and regional offices in Chicago, Ill. and Philadelphia, Pa., have been in constant coordination with our federal partners as well as impacted states since the storms first struck on Friday, to make sure there are no unmet needs.

The following timeline provides an overview of federal activities, to date, in support of the impacted states, families and communities.

Thursday, July 5 

  • At the request of the State of New Jersey, FEMA personnel are on the ground working with federal, state and local officials to conduct preliminary damage assessments in New Jersey as a result of the storms. These assessments are an important step in identifying the damages, helping the governor determine whether the event is beyond state and local capabilities, and if federal support might be needed. 
  • U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), the lead agency for Emergency Support Function 12 - Energy, issues a DOE situation report. 

Wednesday, July 4 

  • FEMA continues to stage and transfer supplies such as food, water, kits for infants and toddlers, and durable medical equipment to the states as needed, and requested. 
  • Twenty-nine FEMA community relations staff work with the West Virginia National Guard Bureau, visiting residents door-to-door to help spread the word about cooling stations, to assess needs and provide situational awareness to the state. In Ohio, Federal Coordinating Officer Michael Moore, highlights the importance of neighbors helping neighbors. 
  • DOE issues a situation report. 

A timeline of federal family support before July 4 can be found on this previous blog post.

Update 3: Supporting Severe Weather and Power Outage Response

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The Administration, through FEMA, continues to provide support to Midwest and Mid-Atlantic states affected by last week’s storms.  Through FEMA’s National Response Coordination Center and Regional offices in Chicago, Ill. and Philadelphia, Pa., we have been in constant coordination with our federal partners as well as impacted states since the storms first struck on Friday, to make sure there are no unmet needs. 

The following timeline provides an overview of federal activities, to date, in support of the impacted states, families and communities.

Tuesday, July 3

  • U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), the lead agency for Emergency Support Function 12 – Energy, issued a DOE situation report
  • At the request of the State of Maryland, FEMA is deploying two Region Liaison Officers to the state Emergency Operation Center to coordinate potential federal resources requirements.
  • FEMA has deployed community relations teams to West Virginia to support state and local efforts to check on residents without power, provide informational resources, and provide situational awareness about conditions in impacted communities.

Monday, July 2

  • The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services deployed representatives to the West Virginia State EOC to assess medical needs and requirements for access and functional needs support.
  • FEMA continued to distribute water and generators to various staging areas in Ohio and West Virginia, to support state and local response efforts.
  • FEMA’s Regional Disability Integration Specialists in Philadelphia, Pa. and Chicago, Ill. send out information on Cooling Stations to the disability community, including through the National Federation for the Blind and Deaf advocacy groups, and reached out to these groups to determine needs of affected persons with disabilities.

Sunday, July 1

  • FEMA staged water and generators in Morgantown and Charleston, W.Va. as well as multiple cities in Ohio to transfer to the State to support affected communities.
  • One Mobile Communications Office Vehicle (MCOV) onsite in Morgantown, W.Va.; 2 MCOVs en route to Charleston, W.Va.
  • In coordination with FEMA, the U.S. Department of Energy deploys experts to West Virginia and FEMA Headquarters in Washington D.C., and is supporting FEMA’s regional offices in Chicago, Ill. and Philadelphia, Pa.
  • The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) deployed personnel to Ohio to support assessments and generator installations for emergency power. 
  • A FEMA Disability Integration Specialist participated in a coordination call with West Virginia Emergency Management to support identifying the needs of affected populations with access and functional needs.

Saturday, June 30

  • President Obama issues emergency disaster declarations for the State of Ohio for all 88 counties in the state, and the State of West Virginia for all 55 counties in the state.  The declaration authorizes FEMA and its federal partners to provide direct federal assistance under the Public Assistance to protect lives and property.
  • President Obama speaks with Ohio Governor John Kasich, Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell, Maryland Governor Martin O'Malley, and West Virginia Governor Earl Ray Tomblin to receive an update on the severe storms, and to express his condolences for the loss of life and his concern for individuals and first responders still confronting the destruction and loss of power that is impacting communities as a result.  The President tells the Governors that he has directed FEMA to ensure they continue to provide necessary support to state and local officials in impacted areas as they respond to these events.
  • The President receives an update from FEMA Administrator Fugate on impacts and response activities in states, including parts of Indiana, Kentucky, Ohio, West Virginia, Virginia, Maryland, Pennsylvania, as well as the District of Columbia. The President asks Administrator Fugate to stay in close contact with our partners on the ground to make sure FEMA and federal partners are providing all available support, and to keep him updated as the response and recovery continues.
  • DHS Secretary Napolitano speaks with the Governors of the affected states to express condolences for the loss of life and to ensure that federal support is provided to the states as needed.
  • FEMA Administrator Fugate contacts District of Columbia Deputy Mayor for Public Safety to provide support as needed.
  • A Mobile Emergency Response Support (MERS) team deploys to West Virginia to provide secure and non-secure voice, video, and information services, operations, and logistics support to state response operations, if needed.
  • FEMA activates the National Response Coordination Center (NRCC), a multi-agency center based at FEMA headquarters in Washington, D.C. The NRCC provides overall coordination of the federal response by bringing together federal departments and agencies to assist in the preparations for and response to disasters.  Select emergency support functions are activated to support state operations.
  • FEMA activates its Regional Response Coordination Centers (RRCCs) in Chicago, Ill. and Philadelphia, Pa. to support state requests for assistance.
  • FEMA deploys Incident Management Assistance Teams (IMAT) and liaison officers to West Virginia and Ohio State Emergency Operations Centers to coordinate with state and local officials to identify needs and shortfalls impacting disaster response.
  • FEMA Administrator Craig Fugate holds a video teleconference call to discuss the latest developments with the National Weather Service, partner agencies and regional representatives and to assess their needs or shortfalls.

Friday, June 29

  • A line of severe thunderstorms moved across parts of Indiana, Kentucky, Ohio, West Virginia, Virginia, Maryland, Pennsylvania and the District of Columbia causing widespread wind damage and there have been reports of significant power outages and debris.
  • FEMA through its regional offices in Chicago, Ill and Philadelphia, Pa., begins constant contact with affected states’ emergency management officials.  FEMA Region III Regional Administrator MaryAnn Tierney and Region V Regional Administrator Andrew Valasquez III make direct contact with the Emergency Management Directors of the affected states.

Other links

For more preparedness information about extreme heat, visit www.ready.gov or www.listo.gov to find out how you can protect your family, pets, business and property.

For information on the latest Energy situation reports, visit www.oe.netl.doe.gov/emergency_sit_rpt.aspx.

 

 

Supporting the Midwest and Mid-Atlantic States Affected by Severe Weather

Author: 

As a result of Friday’s severe weather that struck many parts of the Midwest and Mid-Atlantic regions, President Obama issued emergency disaster declarations for all counties within the states of West Virginia and Ohio in response to requests from Ohio Governor John Kasich and West Virginia Governor Earl Ray Tomblin. Our thoughts and prayers are with the families and communities who suffered damage as a result of these severe storms and for those who are in areas without power.

Please remember to check on your neighbors and stay in touch with friends and family who may be impacted by the heat and loss of power and take necessary safety precautions due to extreme heat. Use the buddy system and if you don’t have air conditioning or power, contact local officials for information on cooling centers in your area.

For everyone affected by extreme heat, here’s a short video on staying cool in extreme heat:

If you don’t have power and you’re using a generator, always use it outdoors, away from doors, windows and vents; you never want to use it indoors or in enclosed spaces such as garages, crawl spaces and basements. Also, make sure you have a carbon monoxide alarm in your home and test it to ensure its working. There are additional generator safety tips available from the U.S. Fire Administration and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration.

In addition to the extreme heat, today’s forecast from the National Weather Service is calling for another round of scattered thunderstorms capable of producing large hail and damaging winds across parts of the Dakotas through the Midwest to the Ohio Valley and Delmarva Sunday night and Monday. We urge you to monitor weather conditions closely as weather patterns can change unexpectedly.

For those affected by the power outages, we know this is a difficult time for many of you and we remain committed to bringing in the necessary resources of the federal family to provide the support you need to recover. We will continue to support our federal, state, local and tribal partners in the areas already affected, as well as those areas that may be impacted by these additional storms.

The following are operational updates since yesterday:

  • FEMA is strategically positioning supplies closer to impacted areas of West Virginia and Ohio. Emergency generators, needed to supply critical infrastructure such as shelters, and water are positioned in staging areas in Morgantown and Charleston, West Virginia and Columbus, Ohio to support state and local response needs.
  • FEMA's National Response Coordination Center in Washington, D.C., and the Regional Response Coordination Centers in Chicago, Ill., and Philadelphia, Pa., continue to be activated to support state requests for assistance.
  • FEMA has deployed incident management assistance teams and liaison officers to the state emergency operations centers in Ohio and West Virginia.
  • A Mobile Emergency Response Support team and mobile communication office vehicles are en route to West Virginia to provide secure and non-secure voice, video, and information services, operations, and logistics support to state response operations.
  • FEMA remains in close contact with our federal partners including the U.S. Department of Energy, Army Corps of Engineers and the National Weather Service forecast offices.
  • In coordination with FEMA, the Department of Energy has deployed experts to West Virginia and FEMA Headquarters in Washington D.C., and is supporting FEMA’s regional offices in Chicago, Ill., and Philadelphia, Pa.
  • The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has deployed teams to Ohio to support assessments and generator installations for emergency power.
  • The West Virginia National Guard is also actively engaged in a generator mission for emergency power.

For those not impacted by the severe weather, now is a good time to make sure your emergency supply kit is ready. It should include at least a three-day supply of food and water, a battery-powered or hand-crank radio, extra flashlights and batteries, and other items specific to your family’s needs. To help you build your kit, download the FEMA smartphone app (Android, Apple and Blackberry devices) and use the interactive checklist.

Monitoring the Severe Weather and Excessive Heat

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Our thoughts and prayers are with those whose lives have been affected by the storms that struck many states last night, including parts of Indiana, Kentucky, Ohio, West Virginia, Virginia, Maryland, Pennsylvania and the District of Columbia.

We’re continuing to monitor the storm’s aftermath and we’re working closely with all of the states that were affected. If you are in an area impacted by the storm last night, please continue to listen to local officials, and make sure you do not touch downed power lines or objects in contact with a downed power line. When it’s safe to do so, report down trees and power lines to your local police or utility company.

The National Weather Service has issued Excessive Heat Advisories in many areas that have been affected by last night’s severe weather and we urge everyone to take safety precautions, especially if you don’t have power.

  • Check on family, friends, and neighbors who do not have air conditioning, especially those who spend much of their time alone.
  • Drink plenty of water, even if you do not feel thirsty.
  • Stay indoors as much as possible and limit exposure to the sun.
  • Stay on the lowest floor out of the sunshine if air conditioning is not available.
  • If you don’t have power, limit the amount of time your refrigerator is open to keep food cool.
  • Never leave children or pets alone in closed vehicles.
  • Listen to local officials for information about cooling centers.
  • If you don’t have power or phone service, try texting to let friends and family know you’re OK.
  • Listen to Local weather forecasts for critical updates from the National Weather Service and stay aware of temperature changes.

From an operational perspective, some of our activities include:

  • At the request of the State of Ohio, a FEMA liaison officer is deployed to the Ohio state emergency operations center to support state response efforts as needed.
  • FEMA has also deployed an Incident Management Assistance Team to West Virginia to work side by side with the West Virginia Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Management.
  • FEMA remains in close contact with federal partners at the National Weather Service forecast offices, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the U.S. Department of Energy.
  • FEMA’s National Response Coordination Center in Washington, D.C. is activated, and our Regional Response Coordination Centers in Chicago, Ill. and Philadelphia, Pa. are activated to support impacted states if requested.

Continue to follow local weather forecasts as weather conditions can change unexpectedly, and please remember to check on your neighbors and stay in touch with friends and family to ensure everyone is OK.

One year later in Joplin: Uniting toward recovery

Today’s Day of Unity, including the walk and other celebratory events, emphasizes the true human spirit and compassion within the people of the greater Joplin area. At the start of the walk, over 5,000 people from all sectors of the community, including faith-based and non-profit organizations, local, state and federal partners, gathered to recognize the work and significant recovery efforts accomplished by the communities of Joplin and Duquesne in just 365 days.

At 20th Street, for example, as we passed the former Commerce Bank, my heart swelled as I looked behind me to see thousands of people marching forward in support of everything Joplin has encountered and is preparing for in the months and years ahead.

At the site of the former Joplin High School, hundreds were present, embracing the plan and sharing a vision for a new and expanded institution of education. As ground was broken for the new High School and Franklin Technology Center, I couldn’t help but think back to last August 17 when the school district delivered on its promise to open schools on time, helping families to take another step on their journey toward normalcy.

As we continued our walk down the 3.7 mile path of the EF-5 tornado, I was reminded of the importance of involving the whole community - in the immediate aftermath of disasters and after the spotlight has dimmed. The thousands of people who walked together today represent the power of the human spirit, persevering together and supporting one another through the long and sometimes arduous months of recovery. FEMA, like many of the organizations represented here today, remains committed to being here for the long term, until the work is done.

And as they say here, "Go Joplin Eagles (KAW, KAW)!

Indiana Gets Head Start with Robust Storm Response

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Days after a string of unseasonal tornadoes thrashed southern Indiana, from Feb. 29 through March 3, the Indiana Department of Homeland Security began a robust disaster response campaign.

The IDHS distributed its first of many recovery newsletters on March 5 for Indiana residents. The daily newsletter, “Rebuilding: A Guide for Disaster Survivors,” headlined information that included road closures and rebuilding permit policies. It also included a list and schedule of organizations available at the state’s “one-stop shop” mobile operation of recovery staff and services.

A picture of the sign that says Federal/State Disaster Recovery - SBA Disaster Assistance with an arrow outside a disaster recovery center following the presidential declaration for Indiana.Sellersburg, Ind., March 28, 2012 -- A picture of the sign outside a disaster recovery center following the presidential declaration for Indiana.

The newsletter was emailed and faxed to businesses, libraries, faith-based groups and other community organizations in storm-impacted areas. Volunteers distributed the one-page publication to affected residents. Requests for the newsletter poured in, and within a few days the initial distribution of 200 soared to 1,500.

“The newsletter was an idea that became an effective tool,” said Joe Wainscott, IDHS executive director. “It’s an instrument we will use as we continue to seek better and more efficient ways to help disaster survivors.”

The newsletter included a schedule of traveling disaster recovery center stops, an operation the state launched on March 13. At every stop, representatives from the American Red Cross, the Bureau of Motor Vehicles, the Indiana State Department of Health and other essential services agencies met face-to-face with individuals recovering from the severe storms.

At the one-stop shop in Sellersburg, the state of Indiana provided laptop computers for storm-impacted residents to use to access recovery information and register for FEMA assistance. Through March 21, state representatives worked alongside federal disaster recovery specialists at the Sellersburg shop. Single day one-stop shops were also set up. One was established in New Pekin on March 14, and another in Holton on March 24.

Photo of Inside the state’s “one-stop shop” mobile operation of recovery staff and services.Sellersburg, Ind., March 14, 2012 -- Inside the state’s “one-stop shop” mobile operation of recovery staff and services.

Hoosiers met face-to-face with representatives of essential state and nonprofit agencies to discuss different resources, including:

  • American Red Cross – Basic necessities and essential items.
  • Bureau of Motor Vehicles – Replacement driver’s licenses, identification cards and permits were provided at no charge to customers impacted by the disaster. Other services included title replacement, registrations and license plates.
  • Department of Insurance – Interpretation of insurance policies, information on lost or damaged policies, guidance on obtaining copies of insurance policies, and car insurance assistance.
  • Department of Workforce Development – Application for state unemployment benefits.
  • Indiana Family and Social Services Administration – Replacement food stamps for families impacted by the disaster who were then receiving Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP-food stamps) benefits; counseling services.
  • Indiana Housing and Community Development Authority – List of emergency shelters, temporary housing and rental assistance.
  • Indiana State Department of Health – Vaccination information, including tetanus shots; clean-up advice; access and information to vital records, including birth and death certificates.
  • The Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives – Assistance in connecting disaster victims with resources provided by community organizations.

The newsletter, tools and services the state of Indiana provided went a long way in setting storm-impacted communities on the road to recovery.

By all accounts, by the time FEMA arrived in Indiana, the storm recovery operation already set into motion by the state of Indiana was moving along in a robust fashion.. Responding with such effective tools as the newsletter and one-stop shops gave storm-impacted Indiana residents a head start on the road to storm recovery.

Severe Weather Update 3: The Importance of Being Prepared and Staying Safe in Impacted Areas

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As we continue to monitor the aftermath of the storms, Administrator Fugate commented today:

 

"Our thoughts and prayers are with those who’ve lost loved ones in Oklahoma, and the survivors affected by these storms. FEMA's priority is to support local efforts to keep residents and communities safe, and we remain in close coordination with the affected states.

We urge residents to monitor storm conditions, and follow the guidance of their local officials, both for the continuing severe weather threats as well as directions to avoid affected areas.”

The importance of being prepared can never be underestimated. On Saturday, in Kansas, Iowa, Missouri, and Nebraska, there were reports of more than 100 tornadoes, along with dangerous winds, driving hail, and some flooding, and I would like to commend the effort of local and state first responders in preparing for the storms, as well as their ongoing work in the aftermath to protect lives and provide immediate assistance during this difficult time.

There have been many stories of residents heeding warnings, buying weather radios, and either evacuating mobile home parks or finding safe places to take shelter in their homes. While there have been some reports of injuries, and tragically some deaths, the potential impacts could have been much worse if not for the preparedness measures that were taken.

I wanted to note the actions of residents in the Pinaire Mobile Home Park in Wichita, Kansas who took these warnings seriously and sought shelter prior to the severe weather hitting. Their prompt response to the warning likely saved many lives. Residents of mobile homes must plan in advance and identify safe shelter options because mobile homes, even if tied down, offer little protection from tornadoes and should be abandoned in cases of severe weather because they can overturn very easily, even if they have been “secured.”

 
Our thoughts are with the countless citizens in communities and rural areas whose homes have been damaged or destroyed, and I want to encourage residents in impacted areas to continue to listen to their NOAA Weather Radios, monitor media and follow instructions from their local leaders so we can all protect life and property. If possible, take this opportunity to make sure your emergency supply kit has what it needs using the checklist on Ready.gov, and if you’re in an area where severe weather is still forecasted, read our blog from yesterday on steps you can take to prepare and remember to remain vigilant.

 
If you’re a survivor in an impacted area, there are a few important points you should remember:
  • Continue to monitor your battery-powered radio or television for emergency information.
  • Use extreme caution when walking among debris, downed power lines and entering damaged buildings; be aware of exposed nails and broken glass and wear sturdy shoes or boots, long sleeves and gloves when handling or walking on or near debris.
  • Avoid carbon monoxide hazards and never use generators or other gasoline devices inside your home, basement, garage or camper.
  • Be aware of possible structural, electrical or gas-leak hazards in your home, and in general, if you suspect any damage to your home, shut off electrical power, natural gas and propane tanks to avoid fire, electrocution or explosions.
  • Hang up displaced telephone receivers that may have been knocked off by the tornado, but stay off the telephone, except to report an emergency.
You can visit the Red Cross Safe and Well website to find information on people affected by the storms and lookup open Red Cross shelters.

 
Regional Administrator Beth A. Freeman has reached out to the governors of Kansas and Iowa and has been in constant contact with officials at the Kansas Department of Emergency Management and the Iowa Homeland Security and Emergency Management. Regional Administrator Andrew Velasquez spoke with Emergency Management Agency Directors in the states of Minnesota, Wisconsin and Illinois, and Regional Administrator Tony Russell has been in constant communication with the Oklahoma Department of Emergency Management.

 
State liaison officers have also been proactively deployed to the Emergency Operations Center in Topeka, Kansas and Des Moines, Iowa to coordinate response activities, and Incident Management Teams are also being deployed to the Kansas and Iowa state emergency operations centers to support the state response efforts if needed.

 
We all stand ready to provide assistance to the states and storm survivors as needed. And remember, there is more severe weather forecasted for different parts of the country, so stay informed by visiting http://www.weather.gov/ and http://mobile.weather.gov/.

 

Severe Weather Update 2: Residents in the Midwest and Southern States Should Prepare

Author: 

We’re continuing to monitor the severe weather in the midwest and southern states through our regional offices in Chicago, Ill., Denton, Texas, and Kansas City, Mo., and we’re closely coordinating with our federal partners at the National Weather Service.  As a result of yesterday’s tornado touchdown in Norman, Okla., we proactively deployed an Incident Management Assistance Team to the Oklahoma City state emergency operations center to support the state response efforts if they are needed. 

The National Weather Service is expecting a major tornado outbreak today in the Central and Southern Plains, and NOAA’s Storm Prediction Center has projected the worst conditions to hit late Saturday afternoon between Oklahoma City and Salina, Kan., and other areas could see severe storms with baseball-sized hail and winds of up to 70 mph.

As Administrator Fugate said earlier today:


“There are simple steps residents in these areas can take now to be prepared.  It’s vitally important to listen to NOAA Weather Radio and local news to monitor for severe weather updates and warnings and follow the direction provided by local officials.”

In case you weren’t aware, during crises, the NOAA Weather Radio system is used to broadcast timely and important information from the National Weather Service (the only authority on weather forecasting) and emergency personnel offering local situational updates.

As you’re listening to the updates, you should be familiar with the difference between a watch and a warning, and discuss with your family what to do if either one is issued:
 

  • Watch: Meteorologists are monitoring an area or region for the formation of a specific type of threat (e.g. flooding, severe thunderstorms, or tornadoes).
  • Warning: Specific life and property threatening conditions are occurring and imminent. Take appropriate safety precautions.

There are a few other important points people should remember:
 

  • Residents of mobile homes should plan in advance and identify safe shelter in a nearby building, because they offer little protection from tornadoes and should be abandoned because a mobile home can overturn very easily even if precautions have been taken to tie down the unit.
  • If you are in a sturdy structure, such as a home, school or hospital, go to a pre-designated shelter area such as a safe room, basement, storm cellar, or the lowest building level, and if there is no basement, go to the center of an interior room on the lowest level (closet, interior hallway) away from corners, windows, doors, and outside walls. You want to put as many walls as possible between you and the outside.
  • If you’re outside, don’t ever try to outrun a tornado in urban or congested areas in a car or truck. You should leave the vehicle immediately for safe shelter and watch out for flying debris because they cause the most fatalities and injuries.

If you have children or if you’re an educator, we also have a kids section on ready.gov that has a lot of great information to help children be prepared for disasters.  The site walks them through the different steps: knowing the facts, making a plan, buiding a kit, and then they graduate from Readiness U!

In addition to the kids section, you can find numerous safety tips on www.ready.gov and we also have information available in Spanish and other languages.  You can also follow us on Facebook and Twitter, including the NOAA (Facebook and Twitter).

And as always, listen to local officials and check on your neighbor.  Stay safe.

Preparing Before the Storm

As plans take shape for enjoying the weekend ahead, I want to provide an update on the possibility of severe weather impacting our area today, Saturday afternoon and into the early morning hours of Sunday. FEMA is closely monitoring weather conditions that are likely to produce a strong storm system that is predicted to impact the plains and several Midwestern states.

We can’t always anticipate when or where a disaster might strike. This severe weather threat should serve as a reminder to everyone to have a plan for what you and your family will do if there is a disaster, and prepare an emergency supply kit for your home and car to help prepare for power outages or impassable roads.

Growing up in Iowa, we were familiar with severe weather and our family would shelter in the basement under the stairs during tornado alerts. Warning systems and technology are much more accurate today. I want to urge everyone in the region to listen to a NOAA Weather Radio and their local news for updates, and follow the directions provided by their local officials.

Did you know that most NOAA Weather Radios can be programmed to provide warnings and information for specific areas, usually by county? With a bit of time invested in programming your radio, you won’t have to be bothered at all hours with pesky announcements that are not pertinent to your area. If you have questions about how to prepare your family for an emergency, please visit http://www.ready.gov/.


 

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