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Japan’s Long Term Recovery Path

2011 was full of natural disasters and emergencies – both large and small – but none rivaled the tragic scale of the earthquake and tsunami that hit Japan last March. Just before the start of the New Year, I had the opportunity to again visit Japan, seeing the most impacted regions of the Iwate Prefecture and meeting with government officials from around the world to discuss the rebuilding and recovery challenges that are ongoing.

As part of the two-day conference, (organized by the Japanese Cabinet Office, Japan International Cooperation Agency, United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific and Asian Disaster Reduction Center) and my visit to the hardest-hit areas of the country, it was apparent the temporary housing mission is significant. I visited Kamaishi City where temporary housing had to be constructed quickly to house 516 residents. Because of the large amount of elderly, the pre-fabricated housing units were configured facing each other, with common roofing, to create a sense of community and to prevent isolation of senior residents. The temporary housing area also includes a support center to assist with nursing care insurance application and health consultations. Within the temporary housing area, the city also has included a grocery store and other shops, a nursing center and a child care center.

Since I last visited Japan in May, the amount of debris has been substantially reduced, which has helped as rebuilding efforts continue. The sheer volume of debris as a result of the earthquake and tsunami is hard to fathom – there were an estimated 275,000 vehicles and a large amount of hazardous materials. Many disaster response officials estimated long-term recovery in Japan may take as long as 8-10 years due to the magnitude of the destruction.

For us at FEMA, events like the deadly earthquake and tsunami to hit Japan are reminders of the importance to continually plan and prepare for potentially catastrophic events. While we cannot predict when or where the next emergency will occur, we can take steps  within our nation, states, communities, neighborhoods and households to be better prepared should disaster strike. During my presentation at the conference, I talked about the recent disasters to affect the United States, FEMA’s whole community approach to planning, the Presidential Policy Directive 8 (which talks about nationwide disaster planning), and the National Disaster Recovery Framework.

In sharing expertise with other nations and learning from disasters that have affected them, it provides FEMA an opportunity to redouble our efforts to help Americans better prepare for, respond to, and recover from all hazards.

For more about how the United States is supporting recovery in Japan, visit the U.S. embassy website.

FEMA on the Hill: Tsunami Preparedness

On our blog we are always talking about the team effort that is involved when it comes to emergency management. This team effort was on display this past Thursday as multiple federal agencies, including FEMA Regional Administrators Nancy Ward and Ken Murphy, as well as our state partners in Alaska testified before the House Subcommittee on National Security, Homeland Defense and Foreign Operations regarding Tsunami preparedness for the United States.

Washington, DC, April 14, 2011 -- (From left to right) Mary Glackin, Deputy Under Secretary for Oceans and Atmosphere for NOAA, FEMA Region IX Administrator Nancy Ward, FEMA Region X Administrator Ken Murphy and John Madden, Director of the Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Management for the State of Alaska
Washington, DC, April 14, 2011 -- (From left to right) Mary Glackin, Deputy Under Secretary for Oceans and Atmosphere for NOAA, FEMA Region IX Administrator Nancy Ward, FEMA Region X Administrator Ken Murphy and John Madden, Director of the Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Management for the State of Alaska

As Regional Administrators Ward and Murphy pointed out in their written statement:

Tsunami preparedness is an important part of FEMA's catastrophic planning and preparedness efforts. However, we cannot do it alone. It is important to note that FEMA is not the nation's emergency management team - FEMA is just part of the team.

We work closely with the whole community, which includes our governmental partners at the federal, state, local, tribal and territorial levels; we leverage the resources of non-governmental entities, including private sector, faith-based, and non-profit organizations. Finally and most importantly, we work to instill a commitment to preparedness among individuals, families, and communities, who serve as our nation's 'first' first responders and the key to our success.

The tragic events in Japan serve as a solemn reminder to us of the gravity of our preparedness message. As we keep both the victims and survivors in our thoughts and prayers, please be assured we will continue to do all we can to ensure that we are as prepared as possible.

Watch the full hearing on YouTube and visit the Tsunami preparedness page on

Earthquakes, Tsunamis, and Getting Prepared

On a daily basis, we work very closely with our partners at the National Weather Service (NWS) as it provides invaluable information on severe weather conditions across the country. Earlier this month, during flood awareness week, Dr. Jack Hayes, National Weather Service Director, and FEMA Administrator Craig Fugate blogged about three steps to flood safety.

In the aftermath of the devastating Japan earthquake and tsunami, Director Hayes and Administrator Fugate are reminding Americans that we are not immune from either earthquakes or tsunamis.  While new systems and technology have improved our detection and early warning capabilities, the bottom line is that all of us should take steps to prepare for disasters to lessen their impact on ourselves and our communities.

Today Dr. Hayes and Administrator Fugate’s published a joint op-ed -- check out what they have to say (courtesy of the Sacramento Bee).

Tsunami Awareness Week - Take the Time Now to Prepare

As rescue and recovery efforts continue in Japan, this tragedy should also serve as an important reminder that disaster can strike anytime and anywhere. This week happens to be National Tsunami Awareness Week, and our partners at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association are urging all Americans who live along U.S. coastlines to take the threat of tsunamis seriously.

There are a few simple tips to remember:

Warning signs of a tsunami

  • A strong earthquake, or one that persists for 20 seconds or longer
  • The ocean withdraws or rises rapidly
  • A loud, roaring sound (like an airplane or a train) coming from the ocean
  • Tsunami warnings broadcast over television and radio, by beach lifeguards, community sirens, text message alerts, National Weather Service tsunami warning center Web sites and on NOAA Weather Radio All Hazards

What you should do if you see these signs

  • Keep calm
  • Immediately move to your local tsunami shelter using defined tsunami evacuation routes
  • If there are no evacuation routes defined, move to higher ground that is at least 100 feet in elevation, a mile inland, or to the highest floor of a sturdy building and STAY there
  • If you are already in a safe location, STAY there
  • Move on foot when possible - do not drive - this keeps the roads clear for emergency vehicles
  • Stay tuned to NOAA Weather Radio or news broadcasts for changes in tsunami alerts
  • Stay away from the coast and low-lying areas until local officials say it's safe to return

This week should also serve as a crucial reminder for all Americans, no matter if you live near the coast or not, to take the time to get prepared now, before disaster strikes. Anyone can visit to learn how.

For more information visit or

On the Road with Our Pacific Area Partners


As the U.S. government continues to offer support to the people of Japan, and FEMA continues to stay in close contact with our state partners along the West Coast that were impacted by Friday's tsunami, I am traveling to Hawaii and American Samoa this week to meet with our partners in emergency management from across the pacific, and discuss how together, we can build more resilient communities.

Although this trip had been scheduled for quite some time, long before Friday, what just happened in Japan underscores the importance of building strong relationships, across the entire emergency management team. I started out my trip yesterday in Honolulu, where FEMA has our Pacific Area Office, also known as our PAO. The PAO, along with our regional office in Oakland, CA, was in constant contact with Hawaii state officials throughout Friday, and continue to work closely with them as they begin to conduct assessments of the damage the tsunami caused. While in Honolulu, staff from our PAO and regional office and I met with Governor Abercrombie and his staff, where we discussed the aftermath of the tsunami and how the state was faring. While there have been no requests for federal assistance yet, the Governor and I both agreed that our strong partnership helped during the state's immediate response. We were ready to help any way needed, and FEMA will continue to work to support the state as recovery efforts get underway.

For the next three days, I'm in American Samoa, where FEMA has been working to support the territory's ongoing recovery from the devastating tsunami that struck in September 2009. Today, I'll be meeting with Governor Tulafono and other territory and local officials and touring some of our ongoing recovery projects. Tomorrow, I'll be participating in the O'hana Pacific Area Risk Managers Annual Conference, which many of our federal, state and territory partners are attending. There's no doubt that the devastation in Japan will be on all of our minds -- and make our discussions all the more relevant.

The bottom line is, as the people of Samoa learned a year and a half ago, none of us are invincible to a catastrophic disaster. The recent earthquakes in Chile, in New Zealand, which I experienced firsthand, and in Japan should be an important reminder to all of us that earthquakes and other disaster can strike anytime, anywhere. We all need to do our part to be prepared.

I'm looking forward to a week of constructive meetings and dialogues that will help us continue to build on our efforts at FEMA. I'll continue to check in from the road - so stay tuned to the blog for more updates.

- Tim

From the White House: Ongoing Response to the Earthquakes and Tsunami in Japan

The White House released an overview of the United States' response in support of Japan:

Any U.S Citizens in need of emergency assistance should send an e-mail to with detailed information about their location and contact information, and monitor the U.S. Department of State website at

U.S. Agency for International Aid (USAID) is coordinating the overall U.S. government efforts in support of the Japanese governments response to the earthquakes and subsequent tsunami that hit Friday and are currently directing individuals to for information about response donations.

USAID's Office of Foreign Disaster Assistance (USAID/OFDA) set up a Response Management Team in DC and sent a Disaster Assistance Response Team to Tokyo, which includes people with nuclear expertise from the Departments of Energy (DOE) and Health and Human Services (HHS) as well the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC).

Two Urban Search and Rescue (US&R) Teams (LA County and Fairfax County teams) which total 144 members plus 12 search and rescue canines and up to 45 metric tons of rescue equipment are also on the ground in Misawa, Japan and will begin searching at first light March 14.

The Department of Defense has the USS Reagan on station off the coast of Japan and the USS Essex en route, and is currently using an air facility in Misawa as a forward operating base.

The American Red Cross (ARC) International Services team is supporting the Japanese Red Cross Society (JRCS) to assess the impact, determine response efforts, and assist the people of Japan.

Officials from the Department of Energy, NRC, and other agencies have maintained contact with Japanese officials and will provide whatever assistance the Japanese government requests as they work to stabilize their damaged nuclear reactors.

With regards to the United States, the NRC has released information stating that Hawaii, Alaska, the U.S. Territories and the U.S. West Coast are not expected to experience any harmful levels of radioactivity.

Read the full update on

Tsunami Update 5: Final tsunami advisory cancelled for U.S.

From the National Weather Service:

All Tsunami Warnings and Advisories have been canceled for the U.S.

Damaging tsunamis are no longer expected to impact the U.S. west coast states, Alaska, and British Columbia. As local conditions can cause a wide variation in tsunami impact, the all clear determinations must be made by local authorities.

Visit this interactive map to see the latest, official NWS watches, warnings and advisories currently in effect for all types of hazards.

Bookmark and on your smartphone so you're always prepared when you're on the go.

In Photos: Urban Search and Rescue Team Deploying to Japan

Yesterday, one of our updates about the Japan earthquake and tsunami highlighted the two Urban Search and Rescue teams deploying to support search and rescue operations. The teams are deploying at the request of the Japanese government, under the direction of the U.S. Agency for International Development.

See more about the Virginia Task Force 1 team (VA-TF1) as they make final preparations on Facebook or their website.

Tsunami Update 4: Urban Search & Rescue (US&R) deploying to Japan

At the request of the Japanese government, the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) is deploying two Urban Search and Rescue teams to assist in search and rescue efforts in Japan after the earthquake and tsunami.

As you may have seen in the news, the California Task Force 2 (CA-TF2) and Virginia Task Force 1 (VA-TF1) teams are deploying due to their direct agreement with USAID.  The teams consist of 70 multi-faceted, cross-trained personnel who serve in six major functional areas, including search, rescue, medical, hazardous materials, logistics and planning. In addition, they are supported by canines that are specially trained and qualified to be able to conduct physical search and heavy rescue operations in damaged or collapsed reinforced concrete buildings.

So how does FEMA fit into the picture? Here's part of our blog post when the CA-TF2 was deployed to New Zealand in response to the Christchurch earthquake:

You often hear US&R and FEMA in the same sentence, and the reason is because FEMA has developed disaster response agreements with 28 urban search and rescue teams located in various cities throughout the United States.   The teams are locally managed, but FEMA provides funding and program development support for the teams.

Other links
- CA-TF2 website, Facebook and Twitter
- VA-TF1 website

Tsunami Update 3: Helping those affected by the earthquake in Japan

As Administrator Fugate said this morning, our thoughts and prayers go out to those affected by the tragic earthquake and tsunami that struck Japan earlier today. If you would like to help the survivors, or families of the victims of the Japanese earthquake and tsunami, please visit for information on how to donate.

The United States Agency for International Development (USAID) remains the lead Federal agency when it comes to responding to international disasters, and we stand ready to assist if called upon. Within the U.S., we're working closely with other members of the emergency management team to support State and local response operations from the tsunami if needed.

Other links
- If you're looking for a friend, relative, or loved one in Japan, visit the Google Person Finder on the Google Crisis Response page.


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