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News of the Day: Administration Officials Visit Joplin

 Joplin, Mo., September 22, 2011 -- Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano (middle), FEMA Deputy Administrator Richard Serino (right) and Secretary of Education Arne Duncan tour the damaged high school. Just four months after a tornado destroyed the school, students were able to start the new school year on time in temporary facility.
Joplin, Mo., September 22, 2011 -- Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano (middle), FEMA Deputy Administrator Richard Serino (right) and Secretary of Education Arne Duncan tour the damaged high school. Just four months after a tornado destroyed the school, students were able to start the new school year on time in temporary facility.

Yesterday, we shared a blog featured on the Blog @ Homeland Security from Secretary Napolitano describing her visit to Joplin, Mo. alongside FEMA Deputy Administrator Rich Serino and Secretary of Education Arne Duncan to survey the progress of the ongoing recovery efforts.

They spent much of their day touring the temporary high school and visiting with students and local leaders who have been instrumental in the town’s recovery. Despite the local high school being destroyed from a deadly tornado this spring, students started this academic year on time- demonstrating the tremendous resiliency in the Joplin community.

Here are a few a few news stories recapping yesterday’s visit to Joplin:

As Secretary Napolitano stated, although great amounts of progress have been made, there is still much that needs to be done. For more information on the ongoing recovery efforts in Joplin, visit the state’s disaster page.

Returning to Joplin with Secretary Duncan and FEMA Deputy Administrator Rich Serino

Editor's Note: This was originally posted on the The Blog @ Homeland Security of the Department of Homeland Security on September 22.

Today I visited Joplin, Mo. with Secretary of Education Arne Duncan and FEMA Deputy Administrator Rich Serino, to survey the progress of recovery efforts on the ground. When I last visited Joplin in June, I told our team of federal, state, local and community partners that we would not leave until the job was finished and today, three months later, we remain committed to helping the people of Missouri rebuild.

Education Secretary Arne Duncan (end of counter), Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano (middle) and FEMA Deputy Administrator Richard Serino (right) purchase a drink at the Joplin High School coffee shop.
Joplin, MO, September 22, 2011 -- Education Secretary Arne Duncan (end of counter), Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano (middle) and FEMA Deputy Administrator Richard Serino (right) purchase a drink at the Joplin High School coffee shop. The coffee shop is a student run business to help purchase items for the temporary high school as their original high school was destroyed in the May tornado.

As I toured the areas affected by the May 2011 tornado, the scale of devastation is still difficult to comprehend. We know that the recovery process will take time, but it’s inspiring to see the work already underway. Despite the destruction of its campus, Joplin High School started its school year on-time, which is a testament to the resiliency of the Joplin community. At DHS, we often talk about the importance of engaging the entire community in responding to and recovering from disasters. Joplin is a community determined to bounce-back, and they are a true model for others.

This Administration is committed to supporting recovery efforts in Joplin and other areas impacted by natural disasters. We will continue to work with affected communities and I personally look forward to going back to Joplin to see the progress firsthand.

CDP Training Affects Tornado Response in Joplin

In May 2011, as tornado sirens sounded, hospital workers at St. John's Regional Medical Center rushed to pull 183 patients to safety as one of the largest tornadoes on record bared down on their southwestern Missouri city. Breaking glass and the roar of the powerful storm deafened the dark hospital as power was lost.

Dennis Manley, the hospital's director of quality and risk management, played a critical role as the hospital's incident commander following the deadly tornado. Guiding his hospital through a chaotic disaster was challenging but not completely unfamiliar territory thanks to training he received two years prior at the Center for Domestic Preparedness (CDP) in Anniston, Ala.

He attended the CDP's Healthcare Leadership for All-Hazards Incidents training in 2009, followed by Hospital Emergency Response Training for Mass-Casualty Incidents later that year. The course places emergency response providers in a realistic mass-casualty training scenario – a situation no one hopes to face, but Mr. Manley was faced with a similar situation as the tornado was bearing down on Joplin.

The CDP had a chance to catch up with Mr. Manley after the tornado, and he stressed the benefits of the CDP’s hands-on training and the advantage of training in an actual hospital at the CDP’s Noble Training Facility. He also stressed the fact that the training not only enhanced his ability to respond to a mass casualty incident, but also provided an example of the many emergency roles his staff would take on because of the tornado.

Mr. Manley also commented:
 

The CDP training is about as close as you can get to the real thing. I wanted realistic training and the CDP delivered. There is no substitute to real-life experience, but the CDP training mimicked it very closely.

By training in a hospital, the experience is more life-like and real. You feel like you are actually participating in a disaster, not just pretending. That makes it easier to apply what you have learned to the real thing. The CDP training helped me fulfill my role with more confidence.

While the positive feedback from past trainees is great, I’d really like to encourage emergency responders to come to the CDP and check it out for themselves. It’s National Preparedness Month, so why not make a point to schedule training to ensure you and your staff have the skills needed for the next disaster. Whether you’re an experienced professional or a freshly minted emergency responder, having hands-on training before an emergency can provide positive outcomes if disaster strikes.

And if you’re looking for some more information, here are some other blog posts about CDP training:

Irene Update 19: Stay Safe, Follow Direction of Local Officials

The latest forecast map from the National Hurricane Center.  For severe weather watches/warnings in your area, visit weather.gov.

As Hurricane Irene makes landfall on the North Carolina coast, we’re continuing to support our federal, state, local and tribal partners in the areas already affected, and those areas that may be impacted by the storm. If your community is under an imminent threat, it is critical that residents and businesses listen to the instructions of their local officials, closely follow news and weather reports, and evacuate, if told to do so.

While the “category” of a storm can fluctuate throughout a storm – the bottom line is this is a large and dangerous storm, and you don’t need to be directly in its path to be affected by the deadly hazards posed by hurricanes, such as coastal surges, inland flooding, tornadoes, flash flooding and high winds. Don’t put yourself at risk if the storm is affecting your area:

  • If sheltering in place, go to an interior room and stay away from windows and glass doors.
  • Make sure to have your family’s emergency kit with you, whether you’re told to evacuate or shelter in place. Your emergency kit should be able to sustain you and your family (including pets) for at least 72 hours.
  • Since heavy rains may occur, remember to stay away from flooded roadways and don’t try to walk through flooded areas. As we often say, turn around, don’t drown.

(Here's our full list of hurricane safety tips.)

What we’re doing
In advance preparation for the storm, FEMA and our federal partners have deployed support teams, resources and commodities into and near areas that could be affected by Hurricane Irene. President Obama has declared a federal state of emergency in Connecticut, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Massachusetts, Virginia, Maryland and Rhode Island – making additional federal resources available, if needed.

We have also proactively positioned eighteen Incident Management Assistance Teams along the coast to coordinate with state, tribal and local officials to identify needs and shortfalls affecting potential disaster response and recovery. Six national urban search and rescue teams have also been placed on alert in the event that search and rescue support is needed.

For a more detailed list of the actions of the federal family, check out today’s recap on the blog.

An important point to remember is that FEMA is just one part of our national emergency management team – state and local emergency management agencies and first responders up and down the east coast are also preparing for this storm, along with the entire federal family, state, tribal and municipal governments, the faith-based and non-profit communities, the private sector and most importantly the public.

Find your local severe weather watches/warnings at www.weather.gov or on your phone at mobile.weather.gov, and visit Ready.gov/hurricanes for tips on keeping your family safe.

Joplin Recovery: A Visit with Private Sector Partners

Author: 

Joplin, MO, August 22, 2011 -- Walgreen on 20th Street and Range Line re-opens after it was destroyed by the EF-5 tornado on May 22, 2011. Walls and a roof on the building only took nine days to build. FEMA is in the city to provide assistance to the disaster survivors.
Joplin, MO, August 22, 2011 -- Walgreen on 20th Street and Range Line re-opens after it was destroyed by the EF-5 tornado on May 22, 2011. Walls and a roof on the building only took nine days to build. FEMA is in the city to provide assistance to the disaster survivors.

On August 22, three months following the devastating tornado, I visited Joplin, Missouri. I wanted to see first-hand how the public and private sector were working hand-in-hand in recovery, bringing their community back – stronger and better than before. While touring the area, I met some amazing business owners and managers who are making things happen for their employees, neighbors, businesses and the community as a whole.

I visited with Darren Fullerton, vice president of Student Affairs at Missouri Southern State University (MSSU). MSSU was not in the path of the storm, so it was not damaged, but MSSU provided housing for survivors , first responders, and AmeriCorps volunteers. Their Health Science Building served as a temporary hospital and a temporary mortuary was set up as well. MSSU started the fall semester on time, as did schools that were damaged in the tornado – without missing a beat!

Joplin, MO, August 10, 2011 -- Firefighters who were first on the scene when an EF-5 tornado on May 22, 2011 tore a path in Joplin participated in the opening ceremony of the "I AM JOPLIN" event, a back-to-school gathering attended by thousands of school-aged children and their parents at Missouri Southern State University.
Joplin, MO, August 10, 2011 -- Firefighters who were first on the scene when an EF-5 tornado on May 22, 2011 tore a path in Joplin participated in the opening ceremony of the "I AM JOPLIN" event, a back-to-school gathering attended by thousands of school-aged children and their parents at Missouri Southern State University.

Moved by the Medicine Shoppe
I was moved by my visit to the Medicine Shoppe, a small business pharmacy whose building was destroyed. The morning after the storm, owners David and Sherree Starrett mustered their team. Working together with numerous community partners, friends and their insurance company, they were able to lease a new location, find new shelving, and begin calling all of their customers. The outpouring of support allowed them to reopen for business just six days after the tornado tore through Joplin. The Medicine Shoppe is a great example of small business recovery!

Lowe’s commitment to the community
Lowe’s demonstrated that the health and safety of the community comes first. As one of the few places in Joplin that still had power and phone service that fateful Sunday evening, they were instrumental to the immediate response in the Joplin community. When the fire chief told the store manager that they needed a mobile triage center for the injured, Lowe’s offered their facility and provided refrigerators to store blood during the response. They’ve also hosted FEMA’s Hazard Mitigation team members in their store, teaching homeowners about safe building techniques and rebuilding stronger after the storm.

More partners help spread the word
I met with Walmart, Chick-fil-A, Papa Johns, Con-way Truckload and Lamar Outdoor Advertising – all instrumental to the “I Am Joplin” event, to celebrate the return to school. They all helped in so many ways. I learned that Walgreens built a brand new store in just 83 days – a new record. I also toured the Home Depot tent and saw the construction efforts at their new building. They are including a safe room as part of that new construction – another first and a great example of preparedness, protection and mitigation. These companies and so many more members of the private sector in Joplin are proving themselves leaders in recovery.

Joplin Area Chamber of Commerce has also been a strong and caring leader in local business recovery. From the first day, they have been on the ground contacting every business that was in the tornado’s path, to assess the damage level and to discuss paths to recovery. I met with Gary Box, their Business Retention & Expansion Coordinator, and Rob O’Brian, Chamber President. They have already made historic strides in leading recovery and they have a plan for the future.

Joplin is a successful model and reminder that it takes the whole of community to recover. As we prepare for Hurricane Irene, we can be inspired to prepare and respond as a team as well.

Joplin, MO, August 22, 2011 -- David Starrett (left) owner of the Medicine Shoppe, meets with Dan Stoneking, director of FEMA's private sector division. The Medicine Shoppe store was able to reopen in a new location just six days after the tornado through working together with community partners, friends and their insurance company.
Joplin, MO, August 22, 2011 -- David Starrett (left) owner of the Medicine Shoppe, meets with Dan Stoneking, director of FEMA's private sector division. The Medicine Shoppe store was able to reopen in a new location just six days after the tornado through working together with community partners, friends and their insurance company.

News of the Day: Joplin Students Return to School

Over the past few days, we’ve shared a lot of stories about how the Joplin community has pulled together to make sure their students could start their school year on time, after the devastating tornado earlier this spring. As the students in Joplin return to school today, we wanted to share some additional stories.

The Los Angeles Times had a touching article, “In Shattered Joplin, Kids Head Back to Class,” which told several personal stories from teachers and students who recall what it was like on May 22 when the tornado ripped through their city and schools. Seven students and one staff member died that day.

And the Joplin Globe wrote a story today that explained how Joplin schools are ready to help students through those emotional struggles many are still coping with. Several counseling organizations will be available at the school to help provide support to the kids who are still struggling.

The articles celebrate the start of a new school year despite all the obstacles the community has faced. School spirit remained high as the students and staffs of relocated Joplin schools moved into modular units, patiently waiting for their permanent school buildings.

And earlier in the week, Joplin Schools Assistant Superintendent Dr. Angie Besendorfer shared her thoughts on the progress:

Everyone is pulling together to get things ready. The arrival of the modulars, early on, said 'something's working,' and that was a lift. They are nice classrooms! They have windows and great lighting, they are a nice place to be and the teachers want to be there.

For more about Joplin schools re-opening, check out some of our previous blog posts:

"I am Joplin" - Celebrating Recovery, Return to Normalcy

Author: 

Joplin, Mo., August 10, 2011 -- Firefighters who were first on the scene when an EF-5 tornado on May 22, 2011 tore a path in Joplin participated in the opening ceremony of the "I am Joplin" event, a back-to-school gathering attended by thousands of school-aged children and their parents at Missouri Southern State University.
Joplin, Mo., August 10, 2011 -- Firefighters who were first on the scene when an EF-5 tornado on May 22, 2011 tore a path in Joplin participated in the opening ceremony of the "I am Joplin" event, a back-to-school gathering attended by thousands of school-aged children and their parents at Missouri Southern State University.

After a community goes through a devastating disaster, like the EF-5 tornado that struck Joplin in May, the road to recovery can be long and daunting. While debris is removed and homes and businesses are rebuilt, survivors often look for signs that things really can return to normal. The "I am Joplin" event held August 10 was an important event for the city of Joplin because it did just that – bringing together parents, students, educators, voluntary and faith-based organizations, the private sector and government agencies to celebrate a staple of “normalcy”: the beginning of the school year.

Many of the schools in Joplin were severely damaged or destroyed from the tornado, and 260 teachers lost their classrooms. It's taken the entire community working together to make sure schools could open on schedule. Through federal disaster assistance, countless volunteer hours, the support of local businesses, and unwavering efforts of local officials and educators, this week students in Joplin will be able to start their school year on time.

Given the physical and emotional toll the tornado took on the school district and community, that’s no small feat – and one worth celebrating.

After a summer of uncertainty about debris, schools, rebuilding, finding housing and intense heat, “I am Joplin” offered school-aged children and their families the opportunity to focus on the upcoming school year, reconnect with classmates, and have a fun, lighthearted day. Throughout the evening’s event, it was apparent that everyone involved with the recovery and rebuilding is working toward a common goal: to make Joplin whole.

Despite early morning thunderstorms, schoolchildren and their parents patiently waited to receive free school supplies and clothing donated by communities across the country and "I am Joplin" corporate sponsors. It was hard to tell who was more excited – the schoolchildren clutching their new supplies and hugging classmates or their parents who realized that Joplin and the schools would be a safer and more resilient community.

Thousands of area children and their parents converged on Missouri Southern State University's stadium for a chance to show their Joplin Eagles’ pride. Elementary children enjoyed face painting and games while older students enjoyed the water slide, freebie golf and dancing to bands at the football stadium.

As the stadium seating quickly filled and students spilled over into the football field for the evening’s events, it quickly became apparent Joplin was not crushed by the May 22 tornado but stronger because of it. “Joplin” shirts were everywhere from the “I am Joplin,” “Joplin Eagle Pride” and “Hope for Joplin” to “Joplin will not be stopped by EF-5 Tornado,” “Joplin will Rise” and “Nothing Stops Joplin – Just watch.”

C. J. Huff, superintendent of schools, was presented the iconic photograph of the Joplin High School sign, reading “Hope High School”. Immediately after the tornado struck, Huff pledged the schools would be back in session within 87 days. And with the help of FEMA and the US Army Corps of Engineers the temporary classrooms and safe rooms will be ready for school’s first day – August 17. Here's a video from June where he talks about the August 17 recovery and the teamwork involved:



Yes, there were tears and hugs of joy, as well as tears of sorrow during a video tribute to the Joplin students and staff killed by the tornado. But "I am Joplin" accomplished its goal – the whole community is ready for the school year and rebuilding the entire community. The people of Joplin serve as an inspiration to the rest of the nation – and show us what is possible when the entire community engages in their recovery.

Emily Update 2: Administrator Fugate On Getting Prepared

As we mentioned yesterday, we continue to closely monitor tropical storm Emily. The latest update from the National Hurricane Center includes a tropical storm warning for Puerto Rico, Haiti, Vieques and Culebera, as well as a tropical storm watch for the U.S. Virgin Islands.

This video from Administrator Fugate discusses what we’ve been up to, and how you can get prepared:



Visit www.hurricanes.gov for the latest forecast from the National Hurricane Center, and visit the Severe Tropical Weather category on the blog.

Eligibility Criteria for FEMA Assistance

Recently, we have seen a lot of questions and news coverage about why tornado survivors in Alabama may or may not be receiving federal aid assistance. Disaster survivors in Alabama and other parts of the nation have been through a lot, and we’re working hard to ensure that everyone who is eligible for federal assistance gets the help they need.

We’ve spoken before about questions regarding federal disaster assistance. However, we wanted to take a moment to explain FEMA disaster assistance eligibility. Individuals and families in a declared area whose essential property has been damaged or destroyed and whose losses are not covered by insurance, are eligible for disaster assistance. Eligibility criteria are set by law and are the same for all disasters, no matter where you live. For example, under federal law we cannot duplicate benefits. If individuals already have insurance that will cover the damages, this may impact their eligibility for federal disaster aid.

Because several factors are considered when determining eligibility, we encourage all disaster survivors to apply for aid. You may be eligible for more than you realize, so it’s worth it to apply. If you apply for federal assistance and are eligible, you will receive assistance. Also, keep in mind that the status of federal funding for disasters will not impact how many people are eligible for assistance.

The bottom line is eligibility criteria for FEMA assistance is the same across the board – for all survivors and all disasters.

To learn more about eligibility criteria, survivors can visit http://www.disasterassistance.gov/ or call the helpline at 1-800-621-FEMA (3362). Survivors who have a speech disability or hearing loss and use a TTY can call 1-800-462-7585 directly; those who use 711 or Video Relay Service (VRS), can call 1-800-621-3362. They can also visit a disaster recovery center, where they can talk with someone who can help determine the best course of action for recovery.

Survivors in Alabama and in other states across the country have been through a lot, and we are committed to helping them every step of the way.

Video: Strengthening Relationships for Long Term Recovery

It has been a year of deadly and destructive tornadoes across the United States. Unfortunately, the active weather has put many communities – Joplin, Mo.; Cordova, Ala.; Smithville, Miss., just to name a few – in the similar situation of dealing with overwhelming damage and tragic loss of life. But they are not alone.

Last week, several communities that were impacted by tornadoes this year participated in a FEMA-organized, sustainability workshop in Greensburg, Kan. (read a recap of the workshop from Deb Ingram, Assistant Administrator, Recovery). Four years ago, in 2007, an EF-5 tornado destroyed more than 90 percent of the small town in just a matter of minutes. At the conference, Greensburg community leaders were eager to share their story of dramatic recovery and provide insight to the questions and challenges that may lie ahead for recovering communities.

The video below highlights the integral relationships that are already being formed through FEMA’s Long-Term Community Recovery program as several cities across the country work towards rebuilding.



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