Earlier today, I spoke at the Alameda County Emergency Medical Services Conference in California in recognition of National EMS Week. It was great event, and it underscored the important role that EMS professionals play in our communities.
In my speech today, I noted how the EMS field is a critical part of the larger emergency management team, operating at the intersection of public health and public safety. As someone who served in the EMS community for more than 35 years, I have watched how technology and new innovations have changed the profession. And while the tools that we use have changed over the years, one thing hasn't: the selfless commitment and dedication that EMS professionals bring to their jobs each and every day.
In a time of crisis, it is the EMS professionals who are the first on the scene. They are the first to offer care and comfort, and they are the first to offer that immediate assistance when we are most vulnerable and hurting. I am very proud and honored to not only be part of the EMS community, but also to salute my fellow EMS professionals for the great work they do to save lives, while sometimes putting their own lives at risk.
So please join me in thanking those in the EMS profession for their hard work and dedication. If you see someone who works in your local EMS, take a few seconds to thank them for the service they provide to your community. And take a minute to visit whitehouse.gov to learn more about President Obama’s proclamation of EMS week.
Editor’s note: Rich Serino, the Deputy Administrator of FEMA, previously served as the Chief of Boston EMS and Assistant Director of the Boston Public Health Commission.
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Earlier today, I spoke at the Alameda County Emergency Medical Services Conference in California in recognition of National EMS Week. It was great event, and it underscored the important role that EMS professionals play in our communities.
Editor’s note: Each day, in cities across America, people involved in medical emergencies call 911 for assistance. Within minutes, they hear sirens letting them know help is on the way. Whether employed by private organizations or local, state or event the federal government, emergency medical technicians are making a difference.
As we often say, a true team effort is what leads to effective emergency management - and the contributions of the Emergency Medical Services community are invaluable to that success. To help commemorate National EMS Week, here’s a blog post from the Prince George’s County, Md., Fire and Emergency Medical Services Department, about how they’re getting the word out.
National Emergency Medical Services Week is an opportunity for medical personnel to highlight their dedication and service to the community. This year, we will recognize EMS Week from May 20 - May 26, 2012. Wednesday, May 23 has been named “Emergency Medical Services for Children Day”.
The overall theme this year is “EMS. More than a Job. A calling.” This theme encompasses the entire EMS system from the Emergency Medical Dispatcher that answers the 911 call to the medical staff that renders care, to include First Responders and hospital emergency department staff.
We also acknowledge our less-visible personnel who work to ensure we are providing the best possible care: the instructors, quality assurance officers and supervisors of our first responders. Each of these groups of talented and highly qualified personnel attends countless hours of training and continuing education while working anything but normal hours. They are dedicated to providing the very best emergency medical care they can. EMS is more than a job, it’s a calling.
The Prince George’s County Maryland Fire and Emergency Medical Services Department is a large combination, career, civilian and volunteer, system that responds to about 130,000 incidents per year. Of those calls, 80% are EMS related and all personnel are trained to a minimum at the Emergency Medical Technician level; many, up to the Paramedic level. They are available 24 hours a day, 365 days a year to help when it matters the most.
Help may arrive in the form of a fire engine, an ambulance or a paramedic unit, but each provider is trained and will provide emergency medical care to the very best of their ability, EMS is more than a job, it’s a calling. We are partnering with our local media to tell the story of our EMS providers. Several media outlets are being provided an opportunity to ride-along with our medics for a shift and translate our providers’ work into words so that our community can see that it is more than just a job, it’s a calling.
National EMS week offers an opportunity to highlight our personnel as much as it offers us the opportunity to highlight the need for our community to plan and be ready for a disaster when it strikes. Every family should also prepare themselves to help when it matters the most. Visit FEMA’s Ready Campaign at ready.gov/ to find helpful information about your state of readiness in the event of an emergency.
Tips to help be better prepared for emergencies, and enhance access to help during disasters include:
- Check on your access to 9-1-1. Some areas may not have 9-1-1. Some have E-9-1-1 where an address is automatically stored in a database. Know what is available where you live and work.
- Build a “72-hour Disaster Kit”, make a disaster plan, and keep a well-stocked first aid kit.
- Make a list of emergency phone numbers. Write down the numbers you may need during a disaster and display them near all telephones in the house.
- Make sure your house number is visible from the street. To make it easy for police, fire officials or emergency medical personnel to find your house, put large house numbers in a highly visible area. Make sure the numbers are well lit and can be seen at night.
- Keep a clear and up-to-date record of immunizations. This can help doctors do a better job of diagnosing problems in an emergency.
- Write down your medical conditions, medications and their dosages. Being prepared in advance helps assure proper treatment and prevent drug interactions.
- Make a list of allergies and reactions and consider medical I.D. bracelets or tags.
- Take first-aid classes. Some basic classes will teach CPR and proper ways to treat burns, wrap sprains, apply splints, and perform the Heimlich maneuver.
The fire service is a major provider of Emergency Medical Services (EMS) in America. The U.S. Fire Administration (USFA) is committed to supporting EMS through the many training programs of the National Fire Academy (NFA) and the research and data collection activities of the National Fire Data Center. The 2012 National EMS Week – EMS: More Than A Job. A Calling – is May 20 thru May 26.
I would like to share with you some of USFA’s initiatives that will help ensure vibrant and effective EMS systems throughout the nation:
- In partnership with the Department of Homeland Security’s Office of Health Affairs (OHA), USFA recently completed several project initiatives to support the EMS community including:
Funding Alternatives for Emergency Medical and Fire Services (PDF, 3.7 Mb). This revised manual provides the most up to date information regarding funding for local level EMS and fire departments. The document includes sources of federal funding as well as other new and innovative funding sources not discussed in previous editions.
Handbook for EMS Medical Directors. Produced with the assistance of the International Association of Fire Chiefs (IAFC) EMS Section, this handbook provides an overview of key roles and responsibilities to assist current and prospective medical directors in performing their important missions.
- Also with DHS OHA, USFA is working on an EMS Responder Safety Study in partnership with the International Association of Fire Fighters (IAFF), as well as a soon to be completed project documenting model polices and protocols for EMS mass care incident deployment with the National EMS Management Association (NEMSMA).
- In response to USFA’s Reauthorization Act of 2008, which authorized the NFA to provide advanced EMS training, four new courses have been developed: EMS Quality Management, EMS Functions in the Incident Command System, EMS Incident Operations, and Hot Topics Research for EMS. EMS examples, references, and activities are also included in all other appropriate NFA courses. In addition, NFA’s new Leadership Strategies in Community Risk Reduction course is a combined effort for fire prevention and illness/injury prevention through all-risk, all-discipline community risk reduction.
- USFA is a key partner on the Federal Interagency Committee on EMS (FICEMS). This committee seeks to ensure coordination across all Federal agencies with EMS mission responsibilities. FICEMS also coordinates the liaison efforts of Federal agencies with the Nation’s input to the National EMS Advisory Council.
- With the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ)/National Institute of Justice (NIJ), USFA has begun a study of emergent topics in emergency vehicle and roadway operations safety to assist in the development and demonstration of best practices for the emergency services, including EMS.
USFA recognizes the critical importance of EMS provided by fire departments and other agencies and is dedicated to meeting your needs. For additional information regarding USFA’s training and research efforts which support EMS, visit the EMS section of our website.
Every year, to mark Public Service Recognition Week, hundreds of candidates are nominated for Samuel J. Heyman Service to America Medals, also known as the SAMMIEs. These awards acknowledge America's dedicated federal workforce and highlights those who have made significant contributions to our country. Honorees are chosen based on their commitment and innovation, as well as the impact of their work on addressing the needs of the nation.
I am pleased to announce that Dan Stoneking, FEMA’s Director of the Private Sector Division, has been selected as a finalist for the 2012 Service to America Medal. Finalists for the award are outstanding federal workers who are making high-impact contributions critical to the health, safety and well-being of Americans.
Washington, D.C., May 9, 2012 -- Dan Stoneking, Director of the Private Sector Division, receives recognition for his nomination for the Samuel J. Heyman Service to America Medal.
This nomination recognizes the accomplishments of the Private Sector Division and the importance of developing close working relationships and partnerships, in line with the Whole Community approach to emergency management. As I have emphasized many times, including most recently at the National Hurricane Conference this past March, I believe it is very important to give the private sector a seat at the table in the work that we do on a daily basis. When we look at the disasters last year, the unreported story was how the private sector was a part of the recovery team. The sooner private businesses and government-backed infrastructure get up and running, the sooner communities will recover.
My hat goes off to Dan, Dan’s team, and all who work to develop partnerships between government and the private sector. Their contributions are vital to forming unique partnerships to galvanize participation in the planning, response and relief efforts for communities struck by tornadoes, hurricanes and other disasters. This nomination is exceptionally rewarding because the nomination was prepared and submitted from a member of the private sector and not from a government colleague.
Here’s an excerpt from the nomination:
When tornadoes, hurricanes, floods and earthquakes strike communities throughout the United States, federal, state and local teams immediately rush to the scene to provide emergency aid and to assist in recovery and rebuilding efforts.Of his nomination, Dan acknowledges this award as a team recognition and included the DHS, FEMA and U.S. Northern Command Private Sector teams, which have made significant accomplishments working together.
Often missing from the equation has been the full integration of the private sector into the government’s disaster planning and response—a limitation that Dan Stoneking of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) has been systematically addressing.
As head of FEMA’s Private Sector Division, Stoneking has been instrumental in linking the government and the private sector—trade associations, corporations, academia and non-governmental organizations—as partners in emergency preparedness and disaster assistance.
Under Stoneking’s leadership, a national team of private sector liaisons have maintained communication with FEMA during disasters to determine the damage to private facilities, what resources are needed and what capabilities the private sector can contribute to the relief effort. They have provided FEMA and local emergency officials with situational awareness about utilities, communications, medical facilities, the availability of food and supplies, the condition of roads and transportation networks and other critical issues.
Read the entire nomination to see the other finalists.
Finalists will come together in Washington, D.C., for an awards ceremony and gala in September when medal recipients will be announced. I congratulate Dan Stoneking and his team for this great achievement along with all nominees and finalists.
Between December 2011 and March 2012, 10 stakeholder forums were held to discuss the National Disaster Recovery Framework. During these forums federal, state, local, tribal and territorial governments, voluntary and non-governmental organizations, and the private sector discussed challenges and opportunities regarding preparing for, and recovering from, a disaster.
The call will provide an opportunity for the community to discuss what they think is important to consider when planning for recovery and how to rebuild in a cost effective, sustainable way so that the community can be more resilient in future disasters both physically and financially. Other topics may include steps communities can take before a disaster to be more resilient in the future. If you have been involved in the recovery process, what is one piece of advice you would give community leaders to better plan for recovery from a disaster?
I hope you can join us for the May call and encourage you to submit comments or ideas on our online collaboration forum regarding pre-disaster planning that allows for a more rapid, cost effective, sustainable and resilient recovery in our communities.
We will provide the time of the call and the phone number to participate in the Think Tank conference call in the coming days.
Yesterday I spoke to volunteer organizations about how FEMA values and works with the volunteers that step up during and after disasters to help get communities back on their feet. In fact, we can’t talk about community resiliency without mentioning volunteers. They play a key role during disaster response and recovery, and volunteers are important members of the emergency management team.
Last May, a deadly tornado came through Joplin, Missouri and destroyed a high school. The City of Joplin was committed to opening school on time in September – and they did it. They set up in a shopping mall, but it was a fully functioning school and was actually one of the most high-tech schools I had ever seen. All of that was accomplished by a community and its volunteers – including the very people who had survived the tornado.
Simply put, we couldn’t do it without the whole community – including state and local governments, private businesses, and volunteer organizations. When it comes to emergency response, we need to harness all of these groups because they can do the things we can’t. For example, in many instances, a faith-based organization can serve meals to survivors more quickly and efficiently than the government because they know and understand their community, and they have the experience of serving that community long before it was affected by a disaster.
At FEMA, we have taken great strides to work closely with our nation’s volunteer organizations. During disasters, we have volunteer liaisons in our National Response Coordination Center and field offices to ensure we are leveraging the resources of organizations such as the National Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster. And in March, we announced the creation of FEMA Corps, which established a new unit of AmeriCorps volunteers who are solely devoted to FEMA disaster response and recovery activities.
Even though National Volunteer Week is wrapping up, the value you provide to your community is everlasting. If you are involved in a voluntary organization and are seeking ways to get involved, we encourage you to connect with your local government and build those connections before a disaster strikes. You should also seek ways to participate in local exercises.
So to all the volunteers out there: thank you again. We couldn’t do it without you.
It’s National Volunteer Week! Join us in recognizing the amazing volunteers nationwide that donate their time in an effort to give back to their community. Last year more than 64 million Americans spent hours in shelters, faith-based and community groups, schools, and other areas making a difference through service. And more than 3 million Citizen Corps-sponsored volunteer hours were logged for supporting preparedness and response activities representing over 65 million dollars for the year.
I’d like to congratulate volunteers everywhere, in particular the Citizen Corps volunteers that promote preparedness and support first responders before, during, and after disasters. FEMA’s Citizen Corps program provides volunteer opportunities to individuals that want to get involved. Local Citizen Corps Councils build on community strengths to:
- Increase awareness through public education and training
- Offer opportunities for involvement through volunteer programs
- Promote whole community engagement through comprehensive coordinated planning efforts
Find a Council in your area and get involved today.
Disaster volunteer opportunities are available for Citizen Corps and its Partner Programs. FEMA’s Community Emergency Response Team program educates individuals about preparedness and trains them to support first responders in disasters. Adults and teens can volunteer to make their community a safer and more secure place to live.
There’s also Medical Reserve Corps, Fire Corps, Neighborhood Watch, and Volunteers in Police Service that recruit individuals locally and use their skills to support public health, fire, and law enforcement services.
Citizen Corps is dedicated to engaging the whole community in an effort to ensure the safety and security of jurisdictions across the country. Whether it’s empowering our youth to become the next generation of community leaders or working with the many wonderful organizations dedicated to supporting preparedness efforts nationwide, volunteers DO make a difference!
On March 27, FEMA, the HHS Office of Minority Health and the National Council of La Raza co-hosted a webinar that highlighted the tools and resources available to help emergency management agencies strengthen relationships with the Latino Community.
The emergency manager’s tool kit for Latino communities was one resource that was highlighted and discussed during the webinar. This tool kit is part of a collaborative partnership between the National Council of La Raza, the HHS Office of Minority Health and additional partners. It is designed to:
- Improve responsiveness not only to Latinos, but the whole community in disaster planning, relief, and recovery efforts
- Provide effective practices for overcoming some of the largest barriers to full inclusion of diverse communities
We also covered additional effective practices from a regional and local perspective, from our Voluntary Agency Liaison Unit and two local emergency managers: Freddy Zelaya of the City of Fort Lauderdale, FL and Steve Pollio of Coconut Creek, FL.
Last fall, I had the opportunity to meet with leaders from across the country at the 2nd annual Latino Leadership Summit. During the Summit, we discussed how cooperation and collaboration between FEMA and the Latino community can help ensure that the needs of Latinos are recognized and addressed. We also discussed how leaders of the Latino community can play a vital role in bolstering disaster response and recovery capabilities.
FEMA is committed to strengthening relationships not just with the Latino Community, but with the whole community, a community that includes the elderly, people with access and functional needs, children and non-English speaking populations, to name a few. And we recognize that in order to do this effectively, we need to better understand how to reach diverse communities; we need to adapt to the needs of our communities; and most importantly, we need to speak the language of our communities. As such, I’d like to share some additional resources that focus on a whole community approach to emergency preparedness.
- The Citizen Corps Resource Catalogue has a page full of resources on how to speak preparedness in every language
- Our Community Emergency Response Team training materials are available in Spanish
- Our Independent Study course titled Preparedness Activities for Communities Everywhere has program guides that are available in English and Spanish
I encourage you to view and share the webinar with your colleagues and use the tools and resources provided. It’s important to continue the conversation for how we can work with the whole community to effectively prepare for, protect against, respond to, recover from, and mitigate against any disaster. You can do so by posting your comments and ideas on our FEMA Think Tank.
Among the staff deployed was Susanna Marking, who in her day-to-day job is a Media Relations Specialist at headquarters. In keeping with the Administrator’s vision that all FEMA employees are emergency managers, Susanna was deployed in support of the Illinois PDAs. I thought I would share, in her words, a little bit about her experience.
“When my supervisor sent me to join PDA teams after some significant tornado damage in Illinois, I had no idea what to expect. While I had worked at FEMA for nearly one year, I had not yet deployed to the field. I was excited to learn more about the work we do every day to support our states and disaster survivors; it was going to be a great opportunity to understand what it is like to work in the field at a disaster as a FEMA employee.
I arrived in Marion, Ill. on March 5 and spent the next several days training with our experienced FEMA public information officers in the field, supporting the State of Illinois on damage assessments. All of these PIO reservists had a wealth of experience and many had worked for FEMA a long time (8-15 years as a reservist), serving communities around the country in their share of disasters – including Hurricane Katrina and 9/11. In just two days, I learned a tremendous amount about the PDA process, and the role of PIOs in the field.
The first day, I was assigned to shadow Dick Gifford, a FEMA Reservist PIO, with his assigned PDA team. Each team was assigned a PIO and specific counties to assess. I learned that the reason we deploy PIOs with PDA teams is to ensure that the media is well informed, while also allowing the teams to continue their work uninterrupted. Equally important, the PIOs can also facilitate the media’s interactions with disaster survivors.
I spent my first day observing Dick and asking him questions about his experience over the years, suggestions on how to work with news media during PDAs, and tips for providing interviews. Dick and I joined the PDA team at the county Emergency Operations Center and listened to a briefing from the State Emergency Management Agency. Afterwards, we attended a press briefing where FEMA and the State spoke to several local media about the damage assessment process. Throughout the day, I helped the media get some footage of the teams going door to door and speak to survivors, as well as field interviews about the PDA process.
As the media began to leave to file their stories, I continued to walk with the PDA teams around the neighborhood and saw many of the homes that were destroyed by the tornado. I spoke with some of the disaster survivors and learned about their experiences. They spoke of how worried they felt about their family members, how they had lost their pets and belongings, and even how their neighbors had helped them after the tornado.
This was a remarkable learning experience for me – not only because I learned more about the role of a field PIO at FEMA, but because I learned so much about the PDA process in general. Throughout the deployment, I learned so much about the emergency management team that Administrator Fugate often talks about. I witnessed the valuable work volunteer organizations do, and the community spirit that comes from neighbors helping neighbors when disasters hit small communities. I learned about all the organizations that are involved in PDAs, what type of data the teams collect, and the type of questions they ask homeowners and the county. And it was awesome meeting so many FEMA disaster reservists – the foundation of our workforce. Some of them are out in the field all day, interacting directly with survivors – and it shows just how important their role is, and how well they represent FEMA as the face of our agency.
My short deployment with the PDA teams and developing my knowledge of the process proved to be an invaluable learning experience for my career at FEMA. Working at HQ can often feel like I am worlds away from FEMA’s work of helping survivors in affected communities. The concept really came full circle for me. Looking ahead to my next deployment experience, I’m looking forward to working hand in hand with the dedicated federal, state, tribal, local and FEMA staff during the next recovery process.”
In my February blog, I said we would send out Notice of Waiver letters to disaster survivors who may be eligible for a waiver, and we were committed to implementing the law to the fullest extent and to offer the fairest resolution possible for those who received improper payments at no fault of their own. As of March 30, we mailed more than 87,000 Notices to disaster survivors who may be eligible for a waiver.
At this time, we are conducting thorough reviews of the debt waiver requests we have received, and we are approving requests that clearly meet the requirements for the waiver (more about this below). Starting this week, we will begin to notify applicants whose reviews have been completed and are approved for a waiver.
Important Note: For disaster survivors affected by the recoupment efforts who have not submitted debt waiver requests, you have 60 days from the date of the Notice of Waiver to submit a waiver request, and for a majority of disaster survivors who have received Notices, the deadline to submit your waiver request is between April 16 and 23. As an additional measure, FEMA will also be mailing reminder letters to those who have yet to request a waiver, urging them to do so.
When you respond to the Notice of Waiver letter, your written letter request must provide certain information that explains:
- Why collecting the debt would cause you serious financial hardship;
- What you spent the money on and why you are unable to return funds to FEMA. If you happen to have any receipts showing the disaster-related expenses, please provide those to FEMA as well;
- Any other personal circumstances that would make collecting the debt burdensome and unfair.
Although in the past you may have already provided us with information to request an appeal, a payment plan or a compromise on your debt, the standards we must consider for this waiver are different, and it is important that you provide us with as much information as you can to support your request to waive your debt.
This includes completing a form that provides a certification to FEMA of your household “Adjusted Gross Income” from your most recent federal tax return for either 2010 or 2011. This is a requirement under the new law.
As I mentioned above, in order to be eligible for a waiver, certain requirements need to be met, and those are:
- The improper payment was received from disasters declared between August 28, 2005 and the end of 2010. (NOTE: the law does not apply to recoupment efforts for disasters declared after Jan. 1, 2011);
- The improper payment was a result of an error solely on FEMA’s part – not on the part of a survivor;
- The improper payment cannot have involved fraud, presentation of false claim or misrepresentation;
- The survivor household’s adjusted gross income on their most recent Federal tax return was less than $90,000 (a survivor with an income of greater than $90,000 whose case meets the other qualifying criteria could be eligible for a partial waiver); and
- The collection of the debt would be “against equity and good conscience,” meaning that it would be unfair under the circumstances of the case to collect the debt.
It is important to note that Congress wrote this law to apply only to recoupment efforts for specific past disasters. In recent years, we have taken significant steps to put strong controls in place to cut down on the percentage of improper payments disbursed after disasters, and we will continue to do everything we can to reduce the need for any potential recoupments for current and future disasters.
If you have questions about the process to request a waiver, you may visit www.fema.gov/debtwaiver or contact
FEMA’s Recoupment Helpline
Monday through Friday
9:00 AM - 8:00 PM EST,
If you have a speech disability or hearing loss and use a TTY, call 1-800-462-7585 directly.
If you use 711 or Video Relay Service (VRS), call 1-800-816-1122.
Everyone at FEMA appreciates your patience as we all work through this process – thank you again.