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What We're Watching: 2/25/11

Posted by: Public Affairs

Severe weather outlook
Looking ahead to the weekend and the next few days, the National Weather Service is forecasting another round of severe weather for much of the U.S.  Much of the Pacific Northwest, along with parts of the Northeast, are expected to experience rain, freezing rain, or snow (depending on elevation).  For those in the California and Arizona, predictions call for colder temperatures than normal.  And a common occurrence for this time of the year, parts of the Midwest should be prepared for increased risk of flooding. 

Get your latest local forecast at www.weather.gov and make sure you’re taking steps to get prepared for any severe weather that could come your way.

Christchurch, New Zealand earthquake
We had several blog posts this week about the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) leading the U.S. effort to support the response and recovery to the earthquake in Christchurch, New Zealand.  In case you missed any of them, here’s a quick recap:



Children in disasters
Also related to the Christchurch earthquake, we wanted to share this op-ed from Mark Shriver, Chair of the National Commission on Children and Disasters, on the Huffington Post website.  Mark points out (and we whole-heartedly agree) that emergency planning must consider the most vulnerable among us, including people with disabilities, the elderly, and children. 

We’re proud to partner with Mark, who chairs the National Commission on Children and Disaster and our many other partners who share this goal.  Learn more about our Children’s Working Group, which is working to ensure that the needs of children are considered and integrated into all disaster planning, preparedness, response and recovery efforts initiated at the Federal level.

Preparing for spring flooding

With the end of winter in sight, warmer weather is right around the corner. While most of us are happy to say goodbye to our winter coats, shoveling snow, and wearing snow boots, spring also means in increased risk of flooding in many areas of the U.S. The rainy months of March and April, combined with melting snow packs, can cause water levels to rise in rivers and streams in many areas.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) recently published an updated flood forecast for the North Central U.S., including parts of Illinois, Missouri, Iowa, Wisconsin, Minnesota, North and South Dakota, and Montana.

Our regional offices in Denver, Chicago, and Kansas City, MO, have already been working with the entire emergency management team (state, local and tribal agencies, volunteer and faith-based agencies, the private sector, and the public), to prepare for potential flooding. Check back for future posts on our ongoing preparations for spring flooding.

Even if you don’t live in the area included in the NOAA forecast, it’s wise to understand your flood risk and get prepared. Ready.gov is a great place to find information on getting prepared for flooding, breaking preparedness down into three simple steps: get a kit, make a plan, and be informed.

IMATs: Experts Supporting the Emergency Management Team

Author: 

This winter has been an especially active one in the Northeast. While I am accustomed to significant snowfalls being from upstate New York, Region II has been busy responding to this year’s major winter storms with our federal, state, and local partners throughout the region. I would like to share one particularly valuable element of FEMA’s support of first responders, the Incident Management Assistance Team, or IMAT.

IMATs are made up of dedicated and experienced senior-level emergency management professionals that are able to deploy upon a moment’s notice when requested by the state. IMATs are generally consist of 10 members, with expertise in operations, logistics, planning, and recovery. They are a rapidly deployable asset to anywhere in the region or the country, supporting our states and territories in their emergency response efforts.

IMATs provide a forward federal presence to facilitate the management of the national response to catastrophic incidents. The primary mission of an IMAT is three-fold:
 

  • rapidly deploy to an incident or potentially threatened venue,
  • identify ways federal assistance could be used to best support the response and recovery efforts, should it become available, and
  • work with partners across jurisdictions to support the affected State or territory.

One of the most important aspects of the IMAT’s role is to support and take their direction from the state. As our mission states, FEMA’s role is to “support citizens and first responders”. After a disaster, state and local emergency responders, along with voluntary agencies and faith-based groups, are called on to meet the immediate needs of the affected community, and IMATs are FEMA’s team of experts that stand ready to support if they are called upon.

Just last week, I visited the Region II IMAT who spent the week at New Jersey’s Regional Intelligence Operations Center, training with the region II Defense Coordinating Element. This opportunity allowed the team to sit in the actual space that New Jersey would provide them during a real incident and the team was tasked with making that empty room into a fully operational office. Even though it was an exercise, it is impressive to see the team in action as they support our states and territories.

Region II IMAT team leader, Tom Fargione (far left), discusses operational planning with other IMAT team members and Region II's Defense Coordinating Element during an exercise.

Trenton, NJ, February 10, 2011 -- Region II IMAT team leader, Tom Fargione (far left), discusses operational planning with other IMAT team members and Region II's Defense Coordinating Element during an exercise. Region II's IMAT and Defense Coordinating Element frequently train together to ensure seamless operations during actual deployments.

Within hours the IMAT and the Defense Coordinating Element were working together to support the state and had access to key communications channels and capabilities, such as video-teleconferencing. As part of the exercise, the participants also discussed operational planning to continue to improve procedures during an actual IMAT deployment.

As we continue to strengthen relationships with other members of the emergency management team, IMAT’s are a critical part of making sure all members are collaborating with one another, providing the most coordinated response effort possible.

- Lynn

Photos from New Zealand

As we've mentioned in previous blog posts, Tim Manning, Deputy Administrator for Protection and National Preparedness, was in Christchurch, New Zealand when the earthquake struck on February 22.  Since the quake, Tim has been supporting U.S. officials as they assist in the ongoing earthquake response and recovery efforts. 

At the request of the New Zealand government, the U.S. Agency for International Development deployed a Disaster Assistance Response Team, a team that includes the Los Angeles County Fire Department Urban Search and Rescue team, also known as California Task Force 2 (CA-TF2), to assist with the search and rescue efforts.  For updates on the CA-TF2 team’s activities, find them on Facebook and Twitter.

Below are some photos of Tim - for the latest updates on the response and recovery, visit the New Zealand Ministry of Civil Defence & Emergency Management.

Tim Manning, left, Deputy Administrator for Protection and National Preparedness at the Federal Emergency Management Agency, inspecting earthquake damage in Christchurch.
Christchurch, New Zealand, February 25, 2011 -- Tim Manning, left, Deputy Administrator for Protection and National Preparedness at the Federal Emergency Management Agency, inspecting earthquake damage in Christchurch. Manning was in Christchurch attending a U.S.-N.Z. Partnership Forum when the earthquake struck. Manning, a first responder, immediately went to work with a local relief agency going door-to-door checking for structural integrity. FEMA/U.S. Embassy-New Zealand/Janine Burns

Tim Manning, left, Deputy Administrator for Protection and National Preparedness at the Federal Emergency Management Agency, working with the Red Cross in Christchurch.


Christchurch, New Zealand, February 25, 2011 -- Tim Manning, left, Deputy Administrator for Protection and National Preparedness at the Federal Emergency Management Agency, working with the Red Cross in Christchurch. FEMA/U.S. Embassy-New Zealand/Janine Burns
Posted on Thu, 02/24/2011 - 18:42

African American History Month: A Celebration of Pioneers in the American Fire Service

Author: 

Editor's Note: This post is from the U.S. Fire Administration's “Chief's Corner."

In celebration of African American History Month this February, I thought it would be most appropriate to look back and remember African Americans who have lead the way in making American fire service history:
 

  • The oldest documents identifying government sanctioned African American firefighters were found in New Orleans, Louisiana. A devastating fire in July 1817 led the governing body to organize its people to avoid another conflagration. All draymen and their equipment as well as individual free men of color and slaves were recruited.
  • The first woman firefighter was an African American. Molly Williams worked alongside the men of the Oceanus Volunteer Fire Company No. 1 of New York City in 1818.
  • Patrick H. Raymond was appointed on January 5, 1871 as the first African American Fire Chief in the United States (Cambridge, MA).
  • The International Association of Black Professional Fire Fighters was organized in Hartford, CT in 1970.
  • Robert O. Lowery was the first African American Fire Commissioner of a major U.S. city. He was the Fire Department of New York's 21st Fire Commissioner, serving from January 1, 1966 until September 29, 1973.
  • Toni McIntosh of the Pittsburgh (PA) Bureau of Fire was the first African-American woman to become a career firefighter in June of 1976.
  • Cecelia O. Salters (now Cecelia Owens-Cox) was the first woman to be assigned to a New York City truck company in 1984.
  • Black Women in the Fire Service was established as a subcommittee of the International Association of Black Professional Fire Fighters in 1988 to address rising issues related to African American firefighters. The organization became a stand-alone committee in 1996.
  • The first African American United States Fire Administrator, Carrye B. Brown, was appointed in 1994.
  • The first African American woman appointed as Fire Chief for a career fire department was Chief Rosemary Cloud with the East Point (GA) Fire Department in 2002.
  • The second African American United States Fire Administrator, Kelvin J. Cochran, was appointed in 2009.

It is important for the American Fire Service to recognize the accomplishments of these pioneering individuals. I encourage you to visit the African American Fire Fighting Museum's website for more information on the struggles and accomplishments of African American firefighters, and the links below for multicultural and diversity strategies for the Fire Service.

- Glenn

News of the Day: Tim Manning in New Zealand

Yesterday, FEMA Deputy Administrator for Protection and National Preparedness, Tim Manning continued to support U.S. officials working in Christchurch, New Zealand, to help Americans in need of assistance and the ongoing response and recovery efforts. Tim spoke to news outlets about what his experience was like during the earthquake, what the conditions are like on the ground, and how the local community has come together to help each other.

As Tim points out, in the midst of the heartbreaking losses the people of New Zealand have suffered, the sight of neighbors helping neighbors and residents risking their lives to help others gives us hope. The thoughts and prayers of Tim and all of us at FEMA continue to be with the people of Christchurch, New Zealand and all of those affected by this tragic earthquake.

To listen to Tim discuss the ongoing recovery efforts on the ground:


News of the Day: Citizen and EMT's honored for saving a life

An alert citizen, combined with a well-trained team of first responders, can save a life.  Just ask Col. Lawrence Barrett Holmes, the Defense Coordinating officer at FEMA's regional office in Atlanta. 

Col. Holmes was dining at a restaurant while on assignment in Kentucky when he suffered a stroke. His waitress, Sandy Beanblossom, noticed a change in behavior and alertly called 9-1-1.  Because of her quick action and the work of the emergency medical technicians who quickly arrived on the scene, Colonel Holmes’ effects from the stroke have been minimal (read the full article from the Louisville Courier-Journal).

On Friday, February 23, the Kentucky Emergency Management Agency and Bullitt County Judge-Executive Melanie Robert honored Sandy and three members of the EMT team for their quick, decisive and ultimately life-saving actions.

Like Sandy, you can make a difference in your community, too - whether it's calling 9-1-1 when you notice an emergency, making sure the batteries in your smoke and carbon monoxide alarm are working, or helping your employer prepare for an emergency.  We encourage you to look into the training opportunities offered in your community, like CPR, first-aid, or an emergency preparedness course.  And if you're interested in helping your community better prepare for disasters, then contact your local Community Emergency Response Team for specialized training opportunities.

U.S. Urban Search & Rescue Team Deploying to New Zealand

Author: 

At the request of the New Zealand government, the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) is deploying a Disaster Assistance Response Team (DART), a team that includes the Los Angeles County Fire Department Urban Search and Rescue team (US&R), also known as California Task Force 2 (CA-TF2), to assist with the search and rescue efforts.

You may remember the LA County US&R team from this YouTube video that was taken in the aftermath of the Haiti earthquake in early 2010.

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.

Two of these teams are classified under United Nations Guidelines for international response. The two USAID-sponsored international classified teams are USA-TF2 (CA-TF2) and USA-TF1 (Virginia Task Force 1, VA-TF1) from the Fairfax County Fire and Rescue Department.  These “international teams” have direct agreements with USAID, and it is under this agreement and the direction of USAID that CA-TF2 is being deployed to New Zealand.

Ever wonder what a US&R team base of operations looks like?  Administrator Fugate and USAID Administrator Dr. Rajiv Shah got a tour on a visit to Haiti in the aftermath of the quake that struck there last year.



What is a National Urban Search and Rescue (US&R) Task Force?

The 28 National US&R Task Forces, made up of teams of state and local first responders, can be activated for major disasters to assist in rescuing victims of structural collapse incidents or to assist in other search and rescue missions.

All 28 teams are “Type I task forces,” which are made up of around 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.

Each task force can be divided into two 35-member teams to provide 24-hour search and rescue operations. Self-sufficient for the initial 72 hours or more, the task forces are equipped with convoy vehicles to support over the road deployments and their equipment caches can be quickly reconfigured to be able to deploy by military or commercial airlift.  The task forces can also be configured into Light Task Forces to support weather events such as hurricanes and tornadoes and other similar incidents.

-Bob

News of the Day: Update on Tim Manning in New Zealand

As Administrator Fugate pointed out yesterday, FEMA Deputy Administrator for Protection and National Preparedness, Tim Manning was in Christchurch, New Zealand when the earthquake struck two days ago. 

Specifically, Deputy Administrator Manning was about to board a plane when the earthquake struck.  Check out Ed O’Keefe’s story from the Washington Post to see Tim's answers to some pointed questions, including:

  • What did you do right after the quake?
  • What’s the first thing a person should do immediately after an earthquake?
  • What should people do to prevent potential quake damage to their home or office?
  • How much longer will you be there?

Our Thoughts & Prayers Go Out to the People of New Zealand

Author: 
The thoughts and prayers of every member of the FEMA team go out to the victims and survivors of the terrible earthquake that struck New Zealand yesterday. As with all international disasters, FEMA is supporting the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) with the U.S. Government’s response to the earthquake.

FEMA Deputy Administrator for Protection and National Preparedness, Tim Manning was in Christchurch at the time of the quake, as part of a trip to New Zealand and Australia to discuss a broad range of emergency management issues, as part of ongoing international cooperation efforts. Tim is safe and is in close contact with the U.S. Embassy.

If you are looking for information or have information regarding U.S. citizens in Christchurch, New Zealand, the U.S. Embassy in Christchurch is asking people to email chchquake@state.gov.

In addition, here are some of the social media resources that are available and have popped up in response to the quake:
 

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