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News of the day: Midwest Flood Fight

We’ve talked a lot about the flooding in the Midwest that’s forecasted, or is already happening, for the Midwest this spring. Previous blog posts have discussed how individuals can get prepared and what we’re doing to assist the other members of the emergency management team.

However, we wanted to specifically highlight some of the actions being taken by those team members --- State and local governments, voluntary and faith-based organizations, local businesses, and committed citizens --- in the Midwest flood fight.

The stories below are only a small sample of the many preparations being taken by individuals and communities across the Midwest:

If you haven’t taken steps to get prepared for a flood, visit today.

SMEM = Social Media in Emergency Management

As we've mentioned before on the blog, social media is becoming increasingly important to disaster survivors and emergency managers. 

Tomorrow, I will be attending an event on social media in emergency management with colleagues of mine, as part of the annual National Association of Emergency Managers Mid-Year Conference.  The goal of the social media event is to bring together the team --- emergency managers from the Federal, State and local levels, technology volunteers, private sector, and others who are involved in the social media space --- to continue the dialogue about using social media and technology in emergency management and beyond. 

Just like we saw after the Tennessee floods and just like we're seeing in Japan, the recovery process from any disaster can be long, and getting information out throughout the whole recovery process is just as important as during the response.

If you're completely new to social media, want to learn more, and/or want to start using social media in your emergency management capacity, I encourage you to follow the conversation on Twitter from tomorrow's event by following #smem11.  After tomorrow, you can participate in the conversation by following #smem and share your thoughts, ideas and experiences.

And as always, on Twitter you can follow @fema and Administrator Fugate @CraigatFEMA (see this article in Computer World for more information on Administrator Fugate's view of social media and technology at FEMA).

I look forward to hearing from you, either on Twitter or by leaving a comment below.

- Shayne

Two Documents for FEMA’s Future

Over the past year the agency has undertaken efforts to consider its foundations and to think strategically about the outcomes it will achieve over the next few years. This self-examination has resulted in the creation of two guiding documents: FEMA Publication 1 (Pub 1) and the 2011 – 2014 Strategic Plan.
Pub 1 outlines the agency’s principles and culture while describing its history, mission, purpose, and philosophy. Pub 1 also serves as the operational link to, and provides the context for, the implementation of the new strategic plan for the agency.
The strategic plan will serve as a guiding document for the agency as it looks to the future of emergency management. The strategic plan includes four initiatives to build the capabilities of FEMA as an organization and the emergency management team as a whole. These initiatives are:
  • Fostering partnerships and engaging the entire community in the practice of emergency management;
  • Establishing priorities to stabilize communities after a catastrophic event and contribute to a full recovery;
  • Building a shared understanding of risk among our partners; and
  • Enhancing the agency’s ability to learn and innovate.
These documents will have a significant impact on setting a direction for the future of the agency, and I’m excited about our direction. More information about the Strategic Plan or Pub 1 is available online at

- David

Training Updated for Citizen Responders


If you are thinking about getting trained in basic disaster response skills and becoming part of your local Community Emergency Response Team (CERT), or if you are already a CERT member or trainer, I encourage you to check out our updated CERT Basic Training course materials.

For those that don’t know, CERTs are a committed group of local volunteers who have received training in emergency response and preparedness who can play a vital role in assisting the community after a disaster. The updated CERT course materials cover topics ranging from first aid to search and rescue. We made some updates to improve the clarity of the training content, along with making sure that all of the procedures are up-to-date. We worked with multiple stakeholders, including local CERT trainers and technical experts, to update the Basic Training materials.

In addition to checking out the updated materials online, I encourage you to attend a webinar on the new and updated material on Tuesday, March 29th, 2011. Ensuring that communities are prepared before disaster strikes is a top priority for our agency, and making sure communities have the most up-to-date training curriculum is one piece of promoting individual and community preparedness.

If you have taken a CERT course recently or are interested in getting trained, I welcome your feedback on putting CERT training into action. As you are coming up with ideas, check out my last blog post about a CERT success story.


Other info
- CERT is a FEMA program sponsored by local government to train and involve community members in disaster response and relief efforts. For more information on CERT and to access the updated training, go to

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

FEMA's Role in Nuclear Safety - Supporting State and Local Governments


The tragic earthquake and tsunami in Japan have resulted in extraordinary loss of life, injury, and property damage. Our thoughts and prayers continue to be with those affected by the disaster. When international disasters occur, they often raise questions about how we would deal with a similar event here at home.

Keeping nuclear facilities safe in the U.S. is a coordinated effort among the plant’s operator, federal, state, local and tribal government agencies. Following the Three Mile Island accident in 1979, Congress established emergency planning and preparedness as a condition for licensing and operations. With any commercial nuclear facility within the U.S., the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) has regulatory oversight for onsite activities within the plant. FEMA, in turn, has responsibility for working with state, tribal and local governments for offsite emergency planning and preparedness. Specific planning standards and evaluation criteria exist that must be satisfied in order for NRC to issue an operating license. This process is designed by law to ensure plans and preparedness “adequately protect the public health and safety by providing reasonable assurance that appropriate protective measures can be taken offsite in the event of a radiological emergency.”

FEMA’s Radiological Emergency Preparedness Program (REPP) provides state, tribal and local governments with processes to review and approve preparedness measures (e.g., plans, procedures, personnel, training, facilities, and equipment). It offers support and resources such as site assistance visits, planning guidance, and helping conduct exercises to ensure the health and safety of citizens living around commercial nuclear power plants, in the event of a radiological accident.

Here are some facts on the REPP:

Working with state, local and tribal officials
We work in close coordination to ensure plans and preparedness measures are in place to protect public health and safety. We ensure these plans can be used by emergency response personnel, and that they include sufficient resources and equipment. Planning and preparedness measures employ tools such as the National Incident Management System (NIMS), the National Response Framework (NRF), and Comprehensive Preparedness Guide 101: Developing and Maintaining State, Territorial, Tribal, and Local Government Emergency Plans.

As part of the REPP, we also evaluate the alert and notification system for nuclear power plants in case an accident should occur, including outdoor warning sirens and back-up systems.

We cooperate closely with the NRC and provide all findings from these evaluations to the NRC to use when making its licensing decisions.

Informing the public
As we do with all hazards, we are focused on making sure the public is aware of the various risks in their communities and providing preparedness and safety information about the potential impact of a radiological threat.

Families that live near or around nuclear power plants should become informed about steps they can take to protect themselves before an incident occurs by contacting their local Office of Emergency Management, referring to information in the local telephone directory and regular publications they receive by mail about emergency preparedness, or visiting

News of the Day: Urban Search and Rescue Teams Return from Japan

Over a week ago, two Urban Search and Rescue (US&R) teams were deployed to Japan by the U.S. Agency for International Development, at the request of the Japanese government.  The teams were sent to support search and rescue efforts after the tragic earthquake and tsunami that hit Japan on March 11.

Yesterday, Virginia Task Force 1 and Los Angeles Task Force 2 safely arrived home after their nine day mission.  Here are some links to local news coverage about the teams' mission and return home:

Join us in saying "thank you" to the US&R team members and their families.  For more information on US&R teams and FEMA, check out these blog posts:

Incident Support Bases, Spring Flood Edition


As Flood Safety Awareness Week continues, yesterday, the National Weather Service issued forecasts indicating communities in the Dakotas, Minnesota and other states in the Midwest are at a significant risk for major flooding this spring, and Montana, South Dakota, New Jersey and other states are already dealing with significant floods.

We have written a lot on this blog about what individuals can do to prepare, and how we are working with the entire team to get the word out, but we wanted to take a second and let you know about one of the steps we are taking here at FEMA to be ready – establishing an Incident Support Base in the upper Midwest.

What’s an Incident Support Base?

At all times, FEMA has commodities (like water, food, blankets, cots and generators), at our eight distribution centers that are strategically located throughout the United States. These centers contain millions of liters of water, millions of meals and hundreds of thousands of blankets, just to give you some sense of their size.

Often times, when we see the threat of disaster, in the form of flooding, hurricanes or other phenomenon, in anticipation of requests from our state partners, we will send some of our commodities forward from our distribution centers closer to the impacted areas and set up what we call an Incident Support Base (ISB).

FEMA generators are staged for rapid deployment to support emergency facilities and public buildings if needed. FEMA is one part of a team supporting North Carolina's preparations for and response to Hurricane Earl.
Fayetteville, NC, September 3, 2010 -- FEMA generators are staged for rapid deployment to support emergency facilities and public buildings if needed. FEMA is one part of a team supporting North Carolina's preparations for and response to Hurricane Earl.

You may remember last summer, when Hurricane Earl threatened the east coast. We set up two ISBs, one in the Northeast, and one in the Southeast, in case they were needed to support the states’ response.  Here is a video about one of the ISBs we stood up to prepare for Hurricane Earl:

And this week, in anticipation of potential flooding across the Upper Midwest, FEMA has a team on the ground in Minnesota, proactively establishing an Incident Support Base, to further enhance our ability to quickly move needed supplies throughout the Upper Midwest states affected by spring flooding, should they be needed and requested.

The Incident Support Base has already begun receiving supplies this past Monday that includes meals, water, cots, hygiene kits, infant and toddler kits and other items intended to support state requirements. Check out this video from local news.

If the Midwest states request supplies, items from the Incident Support Base will be sent forward to a Federal or State staging area, and ultimately transferred to the state for distribution to survivors. All points of distribution are identified and managed by the local/state emergency managers.

And as we often say, FEMA is not the team, FEMA is part of the team, a team that includes the entire federal family, state, local and tribal officials, the faith-based and non-profit communities, the private sector and most importantly the public. Individuals living in the affected areas need to take precautions and to continue to heed the information and warnings coming from their state and local officials.

If you haven’t already, visit to learn more.

- Eric

What We're Watching: 3/18/11

Editor's Note: On May 16, 2011, we removed an image of the National Weather Service Hazards Assessment map.

Japan earthquake and tsunami
Our thoughts and prayers are with the people of Japan as they recover from the tragic earthquake and tsunami that struck last week. The United States Agency for International Development (USAID) remains the lead federal agency when it comes to responding to international disasters, so visit for additional information on the Federal response.

Check out this blog post to see you how can help those affected by the disasters.

Potential severe weather
In the U.S., severe weather is forecasted to affect much of the country, from high winds on the west coast to heavy rain and possible flooding in the Midwest. In the south and southeast, drought conditions are expected to continue, and weather conditions are favorable for wildfires for parts of the southwest through the weekend.

For your local forecast and the National Weather Service (NWS) hazards outlook (pictured below), visit

The outlook for spring
In case you missed it, the NWS released its Spring Outlook yesterday. This year's outlook predicted major flooding for the Red River of the North, along with an above average risk of flooding across portions of the Northeast. For information on what we have been doing to prepare and what you can do, see our blog posts:

Sharing Flood Safety On Your Website Year-Round

Although Flood Safety Awareness Week comes to an end today it is just the beginning of a very busy flood season, as announced yesterday by the National Weather Service (NWS) in their annual spring outlook.

As flood season continues, you can share flood safety tips directly from FEMA on your website by using our flooding widget.  The widget provides current flood conditions, links to, interactive flood risk resources and other critical flood insurance information to help citizens get prepared for potential flooding.  And as the year goes on, the information and links in the widget will automatically update to reflect the flooding risks of the current/upcoming season.

Sounds great – how do I use it on my website? 

A widget is simply a piece of reusable code that can be embedded on a website – allowing multiple sites to display the same graphic and information.  So if you manage your own website, simply insert the code onto a web page that has sufficient space to display the widget.  If your site is managed by a web manager, then send them the code below, along with the place you would like the widget to display.

Copy this code for the Are you prepared for flooding? (English) Widget:

Copy this code for the Are you prepared for flooding? (Spanish) Widget: