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A Week of Team Building

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Motivating residents of Dallas County, Texas
This week I had the opportunity to work with our state, tribal and local partners and reinforce the need for cooperation. I began the week by participating in a joint press conference with Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins, Dallas County Commissioner Elba Garcia, Dallas County Director of Health and Human Services, Zachary S. Thompson, Texas Department of Emergency Management Director Nim Kidd and other local officials. We reminded residents of Dallas County and the surrounding counties of disaster preparation, creating a plan, having a disaster kit ready and available for use and accessing available resources when needed.

Interagency and intergovernmental planning
On Tuesday and Wednesday, Region VI hosted a Regional Interagency Steering Committee (RISC) meeting. RISC meetings are venues for strengthening partnerships, coordinating interagency and intergovernmental planning, exchange ideas, identifying potential problems before a disaster strikes and focusing on what should be our emergency management priorities in the coming year. I was very pleased that emergency managers for all five states and tribal emergency managers in Region VI were able to attend this one.  I hosted an executive session with the state and tribal emergency managers; I find this type of collective partnership invaluable as we respond to disasters.

The RISC meeting allowed not only FEMA employees, but state, federal and tribal partners to receive updates, share best practices and reinforce the need for cooperation before a disaster or major event. 

Recognizing volunteers
Tuesday evening I was honored to deliver the address for the American Red Cross, Dallas Area Chapter President’s Volunteer Service Awards and pinning ceremony. It was held to recognize over 250 volunteers, adults who have contributed more than 100 hours or youth who have contributed more than 50 hours in the past 12 months. Each of the award recipients  received a pin, certificate, personalized press release and a letter from President Obama recognizing their commitment. It was a great privilege to participate in this awards ceremony especially since American Red Cross is a valuable partner agencies that FEMA works with.

I mention some of the partner specific activities I have participated in this week because it reinforces the team concept. FEMA supports and responds to local and state disasters and is part of the emergency management team. Our ability to prepare fore, respond to, and recover from disasters is strongly influenced by the strength of our relationships with our partners. I’m proud that FEMA is part of the team that includes county and parish officials, tribal officials, state emergency managers, various stakeholders across a myriad of disciplines, and individuals citizens. 

- Tony

Posted on Mon, 01/31/2011 - 17:01

A New Week - And A Multi-State, Multi-Day Winter Storm

It’s the start of a new week – and we're closely monitoring a major winter storm that is expected to hit many states, in many regions throughout the week. As of now, forecasters expect the storm to bring heavy snow and ice to the Midwest and as far south as Oklahoma, Arkansas, and Texas early this week, and to the Northeast later in the week.

Through our regional offices in Kansas City (Missouri), Denton (Texas), Chicago, Philadelphia, New York City and Boston, we are in constant contact with our state and local partners in all of the areas that could be impacted, as well as the National Weather Service. There have not been any requests for federal assistance yet, but we stand ready to assist state and local emergency response efforts if needed.

The storm's first impact, in the Midwest, could include heavy snow, destructive ice, tornadoes and bitter cold, and according to meteorologists "When everything is said and done, the storm may very well impact a third of the population of the United States; approximately 100 million people." Read more about the storm's path and expected conditions.

A storm of this size and scope needs to be taken seriously. It's important to follow the instructions of state and local officials, and listen to local radio or TV stations for updated emergency information. We urge all residents in areas that could be affected to listen to NOAA Weather Radio and their local news to monitor for updates and directions provided by their local officials.

And as anyone in the South, the Northeast, or other parts of the country that have already been hit with severe storms this winter can tell you, being prepared can make a world of difference when dealing with heavy snow, power outages, or icy roads. If you haven’t already, visit www.ready.gov for simple tips to help you get ready for the coming storm. And don’t forget to check on your neighbors, especially if they’re elderly or very young.

If you are a Twitter user, FEMA's Twitter accounts (including Administrator Fugate) are a great place to get updates on the developing storm, in addition to this blog.

- Rachel

What We're Watching: 1/28/11

East coast snow cleanup
The big story of the week was the winter storm that affected much of the east coast. Our regional offices in New York, Philadelphia and Boston are in close coordination with our state and local partners, but this won’t be the last winter storm of the season.  Forecasters are calling for more severe weather next week, so make sure you’re prepared with these tips from Ready.gov (see the National Weather Service forecast map).

Heavy, wet snow blankets cars in a residential neighborhood. Upwards of 8 inches of snow fell across the Washington, DC area. FEMA/Aaron Skolnik

Germantown, MD, January 26, 2011 -- Heavy, wet snow blankets cars in a residential neighborhood. Upwards of 8 inches of snow fell across the Washington, DC area.

Challenge deadline tomorrow
As we mentioned earlier in the week, our preparedness challenge ends tomorrow. Check out the more than 150 submissions and submit your own before the deadline!

All submissions will be judged based on originality, level of community engagement, and ease of implementation. FEMA leadership will review the submissions and feature the best idea on fema.gov.

Shout out to the Recovery Diva
Many thanks to a fellow emergency management blog, Recovery Diva, for featuring one of our job openings for a Disaster Recovery Reservist. We’re always looking for talented and dedicated folks to join our team who are looking to make a big impact on disaster preparedness, response and recovery. Visit fema.gov/careers for more information on joining the FEMA team.

Strengthening the team in Texas
We also wanted to highlight a news article about strengthening the emergency management team in Dallas County, Texas. Officials from all levels of government - local, state, and federal – got together earlier this week to discuss new ways they can collaborate to ensure the public is better prepared before a disaster strikes.

See the story on the Dallas Morning News website.

Seeing Fire Grants in Action: A Visit to Phoenix


Elizabeth Harman greets members of Phoenix Fire Department recruit class 11-1 during a break from live fire training on January 19, 2011. The class of 28 firefighters is funded by a Staffing for Adequate Fire and Emergency Response grant.
Phoenix, AZ, January 19, 2011 -- Elizabeth Harman greets members of Phoenix Fire Department recruit class 11-1 during a break from live fire training on January 19, 2011. The class of 28 firefighters is funded by a Staffing for Adequate Fire and Emergency Response grant.

Last week, I visited Phoenix, Arizona to speak at the Labor Management Initiative Conference co-sponsored by the International Association of Fire Fighters and the International Association of Fire Chiefs. This conference encourages cooperation between labor and management to improve the level of service provided to the public. I was there to share the many types of grants that are available to fire departments and local governments through federal grant programs.

While visiting, I also spent time at the Phoenix Fire Department’s training facility to talk with the current firefighter recruit class. It was their first day of live fire training, and they were all pretty excited. These 28 young men and women are now able to provide critical services to their community because of funding through our Staffing for Adequate Fire and Emergency Response (SAFER) Grants program. Since 2008 budget constraints have prevented Phoenix from hiring firefighters, but the assistance made available through the SAFER Grants, has enabled the city to begin to train a new class of recruits.

It is encouraging to see the level of energy and appreciation in these young firefighters and to see the SAFER grant program at work. How have federal grant programs, like SAFER, made an impact on the emergency response capacity in your town? Leave a comment and let us know.

- Elizabeth

In Photos: Training for a Mass Casualty Event

As several FEMA bloggers have mentioned before, training is vital to being prepared before a disaster strikes.  For those in the emergency response community (first responders, emergency managers, government officials), training is even more important.

At FEMA’s Center for Domestic Preparedness (CDP), we provide responders with knowledge to prevent, protect, respond to, and recover from chemical, biological, explosive, radiological, or other hazardous materials incidents.  I wanted to highlight one such course from last week – the Hospital Emergency Response Training for Mass Casualty Incidents. 

This training places emergency response providers in a realistic mass-casualty training scenario after a week of classes.  The training takes place at the CDP’s Noble Training Facility, which is a converted Army hospital now dedicated solely to training hospital and healthcare workers in all-hazards response, including terrorism and manmade disasters.  Below are some photos of the students in action, as they put their knowledge to the test in a simulated disaster scenario. 

As you take a look at the photos, think about the most relevant preparedness training experiences you’ve had.  Then, leave a comment and share what made the training so applicable to real world situations.

- Denis



Michelle Hollingsworth, a registered nurse, listens for breathing following simulated life-saving measures during the Hospital Emergency Response Training (HERT) for Mass Casualty Incidents course.
Anniston, AL, January 21, 2011 -- Michelle Hollingsworth, a registered nurse, listens for breathing following simulated life-saving measures during the Hospital Emergency Response Training (HERT) for Mass Casualty Incidents course. HERT places emergency response providers in a realistic mass-casualty training scenario.

Healthcare workers rush to decontaminate a simulated victim during an exercise at the Center for Domestic Preparedness, located in Anniston, Ala.
Anniston, AL, January 21, 2011 -- Healthcare workers rush to decontaminate a simulated victim during an exercise at the Center for Domestic Preparedness, located in Anniston, Ala. These students were attending the Hospital Emergency Response Training (HERT) for Mass Casualty Incidents course that places emergency response providers in a realistic mass-casualty training scenario.

Healthcare workers triage a simulated victim during an exercise at the Center for Domestic Preparedness, located in Anniston, Ala.
Anniston, AL, January 21, 2011 -- Healthcare workers triage a simulated victim during an exercise at the Center for Domestic Preparedness, located in Anniston, Ala. These students were attending the Hospital Emergency Response Training (HERT) for Mass Casualty Incidents course that places emergency response providers in a realistic mass-casualty training scenario.

Note
Training at the CDP campus is federally funded at no cost to state, local, and tribal emergency response professionals or their agency.  For more information on the CDP's specialized programs and courses, please visit their web site at:  http://cdp.dhs.gov.

500 Supporters, Over 100 Submissions: What's Your Idea?

Since the end of October, we've been accepting your ideas for innovative and effective ways communities can get prepared before a disaster strikes.  I wanted to send out a final appeal to share your preparedness idea before our challenge closes on January 29.

To date, we have published over 140 submissions from the public.  To inspire your creativity, here are a few of them:

My last blog post also highlighted some other submissions, so check it out, too.  Challenge submissions can be sent through the Challenge.gov website or by e-mail.

As you browse others’ submissions and see an idea that piques your interest, I encourage you to share it in your local community.  We can all benefit from sharing good ideas and making our communities better prepared before a disaster strikes.

- Shayne

About the challenge
The deadline is January 29, 2011 and all submissions will be judged based on originality, level of community engagement, and ease of implementation.  Challenge submissions are moderated before posting to the site.

Another Way to Prepare Your Community for Winter Weather – Give Blood

After disaster strikes, the affected community often has a number of immediate needs.  In addition to food, clothing, shelter and medical care, communities affected by disasters often need something that is currently in short supply: blood. 

Having spent more than 35 years in local emergency services in Boston, I can tell you first hand that a strong local blood supply is a critical component to ensuring that first responders and medical staff can help those who have immediate medical needs during an emergency.  The need is real, the need is now.

The American Red Cross, one of the members of the emergency management team, is one avenue where you can donate blood.  They posted the following on their blog:

"We’ve often talked about our 3 steps to preparedness: Get a Kit, Make a Plan, and Be Informed. These steps go a long way towards keeping you and your family safe, but there’s another step that you can take to help keep your entire community safe: Give Blood.

Imagine the surge of need for blood when a disaster strikes. In order to help immediately after a disaster, the Red Cross uses blood that is already on the shelves to support disaster victims. Without a regular flow of donations, this supply may not be readily available. Additionally, accident victims, transplant and cancer patients and others rely on blood products during their treatment. If collections are impacted by a disaster, their long-term care needs could be affected."

What other ways can you help your community prepare before a disaster strikes?  Leave a comment and share your idea.

- Rich

Other links
Other organizations, in addition to the American Red Cross, accept blood donations, including: United Blood Services and America’s Blood Centers.

Cyclone Wilma Update: American Samoa response

We've been closely monitoring Tropical Cyclone Wilma, which passed over American Samoa on Sunday. According to the National Weather Service, a Wind Advisory remains in effect, today, for Tutuila, Aunuu and Manua. A wind advisory means winds of 30 mph or higher are expected.  Occasional showers and isolated thunderstorms are forecast through tonight, and scattered showers are expected through Saturday.

A single shelter remains open on the island and local response agencies, including the American Red Cross, are addressing immediate needs.  No significant damage or casualties have been reported.

A FEMA liaison officer has been deployed to support coordination at the American Samoa Emergency Operations Center in Pago Pago, and FEMA staff in our region IX office in Oakland, California and our Pacific Area Office in Honolulu, are also in constant communication with territorial officials.  Although there has been no request for federal disaster assistance yet, we have teams ready to deploy with help if needed.  FEMA has more than a dozen recovery staff on-island for post Tsunami rebuild, and they are another asset available should that become necessary.

As American Samoa begins to assess damages and starts the process of recovery from Wilma it is an important reminder that tropical storms aren’t limited to hurricane season. Tropical storms and other types of severe weather can occur year-round.  FEMA encourages individuals to do your part to be prepared. If you haven’t already, visit www.Ready.gov and learn how you can protect your homes, families and communities from severe storms and other hazards.

For local updates of the storm on Twitter, follow the National Parks Service of American Samoa.

News of the Day: Volunteers Continue to Help Nashville Recover and Rebuild

Last May, Tennessee was hit with deadly flooding, affecting thousands of residents across 46 counties.  The entire emergency management team responded, providing assistance to disaster survivors in the affected communities. The recovery efforts have been and continue to be an important part of our work here at FEMA, as we keep working with our partners at the Tennessee Emergency Management Agency, with local officials, the private sector, faith-based and voluntary groups, and many others to help the impacted communities rebuild.

In short, this recovery has continued to be - and shows the value of - a team effort.

After a disaster happens, it takes many organizations and agencies working together to help individuals and the community get back on their feet quickly.  A critical member of the emergency management team is the volunteer community.  Through the generous giving of their time and energy, volunteer agencies provide many valuable services to disaster survivors.

In that light, we wanted to share this Columbus Dispatch story, highlighting how volunteer agencies are continuing to make an enormous difference in Tennessee’s recovery efforts.

To learn more about volunteer opportunities related to disaster response, visit the National Voluntary Organizations Active During Disasters website.

- Gracia

Other links
Videos of the Tennessee flood response and recovery
Other volunteer opportunities at Serve.gov

Team approach conference helps families in need

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Nearly all of the 92,000 Louisiana families living in travel trailers, mobile homes and park models following hurricanes Katrina and Rita have transitioned into longer term housing. This is a real, tangible sign of progress in the ongoing recovery of Louisiana. However, it is clear that the less than 500 remaining families are in need of additional resources before they can move on.

That is why I participated in the Team Approach Conference at the Louisiana Recovery Office (LRO) in New Orleans this week. It was the latest effort, hosted by FEMA in partnership with the State of Louisiana, to discuss and help establish permanent or longer-term housing plans for these remaining families.

In addition to FEMA Region 6 and LRO personnel, the group included representatives of the Governor’s Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness, Louisiana's Office of Community Development, state volunteer organizations and the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

This round-table discussion focused on identifying and matching unmet needs with available local, state or federal resources to assist the temporary housing unit residents achieve more permanent housing. Everyone in the room had something to offer, whether it was background on what a family may need, knowledge of resources available through an agency, or advice and guidance - all critical components that will help families make a better life for themselves.

We are working with these remaining families every day to ensure we are doing everything within our power to help them down the road to recovery,  and this round-table discussion was another important step in that process.

One thing that we have learned in disaster recovery is that positive outcomes derive only through coordinated and collaborative efforts. All of us - whether from the federal government, the State of Louisiana, a non-profit organization or a local organization - will continue to work together to ensure that the remaining families have access to the resources that can help them move into a more permanent housing solution.

- Tony

Tony Russell, FEMA Region VI Regional Administrator addresses the the Team Approach Conference at the Louisiana Recovery Office.
New Orleans, LA, January 19, 2011 -- Tony Russell (center), FEMA Region VI Regional Administrator, addresses the Team Approach Conference at the Louisiana Recovery Office. The event, hosted by FEMA in partnership with the State of Louisiana, was held to discuss and help establish permanent or longer-term housing plans for these remaining families.

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