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Strengthening the team in Louisiana

FEMA’s recovery mission in Louisiana took an important new step recently, as I was honored to meet separately with outgoing Congressman Joseph Cao and representative-elect Cedric Richmond.

Our great partnership with the state was also exhibited, as top managers from the Louisiana Governor’s Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness (GOHSEP), also attended the meeting, along with FEMA staff, including Joseph Threat, our Acting Executive Director of the Louisiana Recovery Office.

Before becoming the Regional Administrator for FEMA’s Region VI, I served as the head of FEMA’s Louisiana Recovery Office, where I got to know Congressman Cao very well. He has been a long time advocated for recovery in Louisiana and placed a strong focus on institutions of higher learning, particularly in Orleans Parish. During our meeting, both FEMA and our state partners renewed our commitment to continue supporting these universities in their ongoing recovery efforts.

Representative Cao is being succeeded by representative-elect Richmond, who took the opportunity to meet with FEMA and the state of Louisiana leadership, to become more familiar with the ongoing recovery work and future plans for Orleans and Jefferson parishes. I look forward to working closely with representative-elect Richmond in the new Congress.

Both meetings generated positive feedback from everyone involved and helped to further strengthen our shared goal of supporting Louisiana’s continued revival.

Resolve to Be Ready: Be Informed

By Rachel Racusen, Director, Public Affairs

All week we have been sharing tips with you on the simple steps you can take to Resolve to be Ready in 2011. Earlier in the week, we went over how you can take the first two steps – getting an emergency supply kit for your home and you car and making a family communications plan. Now, with New Year’s Eve just a day away, it’s time to share our tips for the third and final step: being informed of the potential hazards in your community.

This past week was proof that no matter where we live, we all face risks posed by severe weather and other types of emergencies. In the Northwest, heavy rains and winds are continuing to cause significant flooding and mudslides. Residents in the Northeast are continuing to dig out from the massive blizzard that hit New York, New Jersey, Massachusetts and other states over the weekend. And in the Midwest, an earthquake hit Indianapolis, Indiana this morning. Luckily, there have been no reports of injuries or damages – but it’s another reminder that disasters can happen anytime, anywhere.

Like so many other things in life, when it comes to emergencies, knowledge is power. Knowing what emergencies could happen in your neighborhood or community, and knowing what resources you can turn to for the latest updates when those emergencies do occur can make a huge difference when an incident happens.

Click here for more information on how you can be informed about the various hazards in your community, from earthquakes to winter storms to wildfires and much more. You can also find contact information for your state and local emergency management agencies, local citizen emergency response teams, and other helpful resources.

And for those of you who have already taken this step, let us know your tips for staying informed. Leave a comment and start the discussion.

Be Ready in 2011: Make a Plan

Posted By: Rachel Racusen, Director, Public Affairs

We make plans for almost anything.  In a typical day, you might plan for how you’ll make your morning commute, what you will have for lunch, how you will accomplish projects at work, and what meal you will have upon returning home. 

As the New Year approaches, we’re encouraging Americans to take three simple steps to get prepared before a disaster strikes: get a kit, make a plan, and be informed.  Planning for a potential emergency can ease the stress of an emergency situation, and can ultimately save your life, or the life of someone you love.

We hope you will take this opportunity to Resolve to be Ready in 2011 and create your emergency plan today.  Here are a few tips from, FEMA’s preparedness website, to get you started:

  • Write down your family’s plan, and store it in a safe place (preferably with your emergency kit).
  • Decide on a safe meeting place in your home, in your community, and in a nearby town.  In case your home or community is damaged, family members will know where to go.
  • Review (and practice!) your family emergency plan at least two times per year.
  • Decide how family members will communicate after a disaster. Text messaging often works despite phone network disruptions, so teach family members how to use text messaging.  
  • Subscribe to alert services in your area. Many communities now have systems that will send instant text alerts or e-mails to let you know about bad weather, road closings, local emergencies, etc. Sign up by visiting your local Office of Emergency Management web site.

What creative ways does your family, or workplace, practice its emergency plan?  Leave a comment and start the discussion.

2010 in photos

Posted by: Public Affairs

2010 was a busy and eventful year for emergency management.  Here is a look back at 2010, featuring images from the FEMA Photo Library.

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Be Ready in 2011: Get a Kit

How many New Year’s resolutions have you managed to keep over the years?  If you’re like me, there have been more than a few resolutions that have not withstood the test of time.  Researchers say our resolutions often fail for a number of reasons: our goals were too lofty, we didn’t have a clear plan for success, or we didn’t have someone holding us accountable.

At FEMA, we’re encouraging everyone to Resolve to be Ready in 2011.  As we saw in 2010, disasters can strike anywhere in America, from hurricanes in southern Texas to ice storms in the Northeast, to flooding in the Pacific Northwest.  Being ready before a disaster strikes isn’t difficult – there are three simple steps to being prepared: get a kit, make a plan, and be informed. 

As the New Year approaches, why not take today to make your emergency kit?  It’s a simple step that can go a long way in saving your life, or the life of a loved one.  Having a complete emergency kit in your home, car and workplace will allow you (and your family) to last for up to three days in case local officials and relief workers cannot reach everyone immediately after a disaster. 

Visit, FEMA’s preparedness website, for resources and tips on making your emergency kit.  Be sure to tailor your kit to any special needs you and your family may have.  For example:

  • Include waterproof boots or shoes if your local area is vulnerable to flooding
  • Include refills of important prescriptions 
  • Include children’s games to keep them entertained

As Administrator Craig Fugate often says - “The public is an important part of the team.”  The more that individuals are prepared, the faster our towns and communities will bounce back after a disaster.

Leave a comment and share your ideas on creative and useful items for a comprehensive emergency kit for your home, workplace or vehicle.

- Rachel

FEMA's role in winter weather

Posted by: Rachel Racusen, Director, Public Affairs

With severe snow storms making all the headlines, many of you may be wondering where FEMA’s role comes into play?  Here’s an overview of what our role is when winter weather rolls in.

Before a storm
Before a winter storm or extreme cold front, we’re all about preparedness.  If you follow FEMA on Twitter or Facebook, or visit on a regular basis, chances are you’ve seen messages on the importance of being prepared before a winter storm.

We obviously can’t stop the forces of Mother Nature, but we can all play a part in limiting the personal effects of severe weather. And as soon as a storm is forecast to hit a certain area, our regional offices and watch centers will begin communicating with our state and local partners -- those who will be the first to handle the response efforts -- to make sure they have everything they need to prepare.

During a storm
If a severe winter storm seems imminent, our regional offices and watch centers will continue to stay in constant contact with other members of the emergency management team (including state and local governments, non-profit and faith-based organizations).

Our partners at the National Weather Service forecast office also play an important role in providing the most up-to-date weather information.

After a storm
After the storm, a state governor can request financial assistance to help with the costs incurred during snow removal.  The process for requesting snow removal reimbursement is the same as a state requesting a major disaster declaration, as specified by the Stafford Act:

  • A governor seeks a presidential declaration by submitting a written request to the President
  • FEMA reviews the governor’s request for assistance and evaluates it based on several objective standards
  • FEMA provides the President with a recommended course of action

With a major disaster declaration, the types of assistance that may be provided in response to a declared snowstorm could include providing grants to individuals with uninsured, disaster-related losses and providing states with at least 75 percent reimbursement for the costs of debris removal and permanent restoration of facilities, as warranted. 

In order to receive reimbursement for snow removal costs, each of the counties included in the Governor’s request for a declaration must have record or near record snowfall within a 48-hour period, and also meet other criteria described in the Snow Assistance Policy.  

This all is just a minimum. There are other ways we offer support to states throughout winter events -- including deploying liaisons and teams on the ground to work closely with state officials. We deploy these liaisons and Incident Management Assistance Teams (or "IMAT" teams) at the request of the states, to help with coordination.  For example, in anticipation of the storms in New England this weekend, we deployed a liaison to the Massachusetts emergency operations center to support in these areas.

But as you all know -- we're just part of the team when it comes to dealing with winter storms and weather.  What role can you play to help your family/community prepare for and respond to winter storms?  Leave a comment and let us know how you can be part of the team.

- Rachel

Other Links
Read FEMA’s complete Snow Assistance Policy.
Prepare for winter storms on

We're Extending the Deadline - Now you can share your preparedness ideas until Jan. 29

Posted by: Shayne Adamski, Senior Manager, Digital Engagement

Logo of site.

At the 2010 TEDMED Conference in San Diego, CA, Administrator Craig Fugate spoke about the need to expand the emergency management team and engage all Americans in better preparing our communities before disaster strikes.

He took the opportunity to challenge his fellow attendees to come up with ideas on how we can better prepare communities before disasters strike:
“How can we—as we play our many roles as part of businesses, governments, medical and emergency response fields, community groups, schools and families—make our communities more resilient?”

To further the administrator’s challenge, we’re currently accepting your preparedness ideas on until January 29, 2011.  Our original deadline was early January, but we are getting some great ideas, and want to give everyone the opportunity to submit their answer to our challenge.

We have received a lot of great submissions to date, and recently published a handful to give a sample of some of the ideas.  Here are a few:
  • Award boy/girl scouts with a merit badge for preparedness after they take a Community Emergency Response Team class
  • Host a “Get Ready Now” weekend in your local community, focusing on individual and family preparedness
We would love to hear your ideas on how to make your family, school, workplace or community more resilient.  Sharing ideas and collaborating are important steps in motivating everyone to think about preparing before a disaster strikes.  To submit your preparedness idea, visit our challenge today. If you wish to submit your idea without using the site, please email:

- Shayne

About the challenge
The submissions will be judged by FEMA leadership and the winning idea will be featured on  Submissions will be judged based on originality, level of community engagement, and ease of implementation.  Challenge submissions are moderated before posting.

Will You Be Ready in 2011?

Posted by: Rachel Racusen, Director, Public Affairs

The current snowstorms blanketing the East Coast are another reminder that its important to take simple steps now to be prepared -- and to Resolve to be Ready for emergencies in 2011.

As we get closer to the New Year, today our Deputy Administrator, Rich Serino, teamed up with the head of Massachusetts Public Safety, Mary Beth Heffernan, to urge everyone to consider making a new year's resolution that could make a real difference in the next snowstorm, flood, or hurricane:

"Nearly half of Americans make New Year’s resolutions. This year, why not make one that is easy to keep and could save your life: Resolve to be ready for disasters. It only takes a few simple steps and it starts with making a family emergency communications plan in advance of a disaster and staying informed.

For example, consider how you would get in touch with your children if their school was locked down. What if you were in a car accident and your cell phone was broken? What if another flood knocked out power for days?

We need you to do your part to become a member of our team, by getting ready now, because when disaster strikes, those of us who should have and could have gotten ready will be competing with our most vulnerable citizens for food, water and the critical resources of our first responders. We all share responsibility."

This message isn't just important for the Massachusetts and East Coast residents digging out from mounds of snow -- it applies to all of us.

So with the countdown to New Year's eve on, join us. Will you Resolve to be Ready in 2011?

- Rachel

(Read the full op-ed in the Boston Herald from Deputy Administrator Serino and Mary Beth Heffrnan)

Severe Weather on the East Coast

Posted by: Brad Carroll, Press Secretary

Snow plow working during a blizzard.
(Photo courtesy of FEMA Photo Library, 2006)

If you’ve turned on the news anytime in the past week, the headlines have been littered with stories of the ongoing severe weather across the U.S.  Last week, a powerful rain and snow storm affected much of the West coast.  Over the weekend, a blizzard moved in along the eastern seaboard.  Airports are closed, major sporting events have been affected, and thousands of residents are without power or sheltering in their homes.

We are in close coordination with our state and local partners, monitoring developments from the National Weather Service forecast office.  There has been no request for federal assistance at this time, but the governors of the following states have declared a state of emergency due to the storm:

  • Delaware
  • Maryland
  • Massachusetts
  • New Jersey
  • North Carolina
  • Rhode Island
  • Virginia

By declaring a state of emergency, the Governor makes available state government resources, such as personnel, equipment and facilities, to support and assist disaster response operations.

As the storm moves through, be sure to listen to local officials for safety information in your area.  Keep up with the latest local forecast at, or on your smart phone at  For tips on winter preparedness, check out, or if you’re on the go, visit our mobile site.

- Brad

Holiday Message from Administrator Fugate

Posted by: Public Affairs

In this video Administrator Fugate shares a special holiday message on being prepared before a disaster strikes. With New Year's right arond the corner, why not Resolve to be Ready in 2011?

You can start today at with three easy steps: get a kit, make a plan and be informed.  From all of us at FEMA, have a safe and happy holiday!

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