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Administrator Fugate Travels to Alabama

At the request of President Obama, Administrator Fugate is travelling to Alabama today to meet with Gov. Robert Bentley, and other state and local officials, to assess damage and ensure the state is receiving all support needed for response and recovery operations.  Details regarding Administrator Fugate’s visit to Alabama will be posted on the blog later today.

Since the tornadoes struck, through our regional office in Atlanta, Ga., we have been in constant contact with the governor’s office and state emergency management officials, and have deployed staff to Alabama’s emergency operations center to help with coordination needs. 

And in case you missed it last night, President Obama signed an emergency declaration for Alabama, providing federal support to state and local response efforts. 

For the latest information about FEMA’s response, see the Severe Storms / Tornadoes category on the blog.

Video: Update From Admin. Fugate on Southeast Tornadoes and Severe Storms

Posted by: Public Affairs

As many of you have no doubt seen, devastating storms and tornadoes struck the southeastern U.S. last night.  Here’s a video update from Administrator Fugate on the latest:



Forecasts from the National Weather Service are calling for more severe weather today.  If you are in the potentially affected area, be sure to stay updated with your local forecast and follow the direction of local officials.

For tips on staying safe before, during and after a tornado, thunderstorm or flood, visit Ready.gov or our mobile site (m.fema.gov).

To keep updated with our latest updates, visit the Severe Storms / Tornadoes category on the blog.

Alabama, Georgia, and Southern U.S. Hit by Tornadoes and Severe Storms

Our thoughts are with the families and communities in Alabama and Georgia that have been affected by the severe storms and tornados that have ripped through the region this evening and continue to impact the southern states.

Through our regional office in Atlanta, GA we have been in close contact and coordination with state emergency management officials, as they work tirelessly to meet the immediate needs of disaster survivors.

When natural disasters, such as severe storms and tornados, strike, the first responders are local emergency and public works personnel, volunteers, humanitarian organizations, and numerous private interest groups who provide emergency assistance required to protect the public's health and safety and to meet immediate human needs.

This evening, President Obama signed an emergency declaration for Alabama, providing federal support to state and local response efforts.

  • The President's action authorizes the Department of Homeland Security, Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), to coordinate all federal disaster relief efforts which have the purpose of alleviating the hardship and suffering caused by the emergency on the local population, and to provide appropriate assistance for required emergency measures, authorized under Title V of the Stafford Act, to save lives and to protect property and public health and safety, and to lessen or avert the threat of a catastrophe in all 67 counties in the State of Alabama.
  • Specifically, FEMA is authorized to identify, mobilize, and provide at its discretion, equipment and resources necessary to alleviate the impacts of the emergency.  Emergency protective measures, limited to direct Federal assistance, will be provided at 75 percent Federal funding.
  • At the request of the state of Alabama, FEMA is deploying a liaison officer to the state emergency operations center to assist in coordination efforts as the state continues to respond and begins to recover from this devastating storm outbreak.

More severe weather is forecasted throughout the south, so make sure you’re taking steps to stay safe before, during, and after the storm:

  • Follow the instructions of state and local officials,
  • Listen to local radio or TV stations for updated emergency information,
  • Make sure you have a safe place to go in case severe weather approaches,
  • Familiarize yourself with severe weather watch/warning terms
    • Severe Thunderstorm Watch: Tells you when and where severe thunderstorms are likely to occur. Watch the sky and stay tuned to NOAA Weather Radio, commercial radio, or television for information.
    • Severe Thunderstorm Warning: Issued when severe weather has been reported by spotters or indicated by radar. Warnings indicate imminent danger to life and property to those in the path of the storm.
    • Tornado Watch: Tornadoes are possible. Remain alert for approaching storms. Watch the sky and stay tuned to NOAA Weather Radio, commercial radio, or television for information.
    • Tornado Warning: A tornado has been sighted or indicated by weather radar. Take shelter immediately.

For complete tips on getting prepared for a tornado, severe storm, or flooding, visit Ready.gov or our mobile site (m.fema.gov).

Related blog posts: Our role in severe storms and tornadoes

ShakeOut Tomorrow - Help Us Get To 3 Million

The Great Central U.S. ShakeOut earthquake drill is tomorrow!  As we’ve mentioned several times on the blog, the ShakeOut drill is a great way to practice earthquake safety and connect with those who are also at risk for an earthquake.

So take a minute to sign up today – over 2.9 million people have registered across the 11 participating states.  And if you’re already planning on participating, check out these earthquake scenarios to practice in your home, school, workplace, or community.

After the drill, visit the ShakeOut website and share your photos or stories of how you practiced earthquake safety.

Wildfires: Federal Assistance and Safety Tips

When natural disasters, such as wildfires strike, the first responders are local emergency and public works personnel, volunteers, humanitarian organizations, and numerous private interest groups who provide emergency assistance required to protect the public's health and safety and to meet the immediate needs of survivors.

In the case of the ongoing Texas wildfires, first responders and firefighters from more than 30 states continue to battle the blazes.  We sincerely commend their heroic efforts to protect public health and safety, fighting the fire to minimize damage to lives, property and critical infrastructure.

Through our regional office in Denton, Texas we are continuing to closely partner with the state of Texas providing financial support for ongoing efforts to fight and mitigate the volatile wildfire conditions.

During this fire season, the federal government continues to support the state of Texas with 22 Fire Management Assistance Grant (FMAG) declarations, including 16 FMAGs since the beginning of April.

So what is an FMAG, and how does it support the efforts of first responders and firefighters?

Basically, FMAG’s provide financial assistance so firefighters and first responders can focus all their efforts on reducing the negative impacts of the fire.  An FMAG authorization makes FEMA funding available to pay 75 percent of the state's eligible firefighting costs, under an approved grant structure.

Firefighting helicopter hovering over a lake.
Loveland, CO, September 13, 2010 -- Firefighting helicopter hovering over a lake. Heavy air tankers work on hot spots on the Reservoir Road Fire just west of the town of Loveland. FEMA authorized the use of federal funds to help with firefighting costs for the Reservoir Road Fire.

Items eligible for FMAGs can include expenses for field camps; equipment use, repair and replacement; mobilization and demobilization activities; and tools, materials and supplies.

In case you’re interested in the specifics, the program allows for the “mitigation, management, and control” of fires burning on publicly or privately owned forest or grasslands which threaten such destruction as would constitute a major disaster.  FMAGs are provided through the President's Disaster Relief Fund and made available by FEMA to assist in fighting fires that threaten to cause a major disaster.

A note on FMAGs: These grants do not provide assistance to individual home or business owners and do not cover other infrastructure damage caused by the fire.  A Governor must make a request for a major disaster declaration, including individual assistance, to receive federal disaster assistance for individual home or business owners.

If you’re in an area that may be impacted by wildfires, remember these safety tips:

  • Listen to and follow the guidance of state and local officials. If authorities order an evacuation, leave immediately, follow evacuation routes announced by local officials.
  • Create an area of “defensible space” around your home.  Clear items that will burn from around the house, including wood piles, lawn furniture, barbecue grills, tarp coverings, etc.
  • If you’re caught in the open during a wildfire, The best temporary shelter is in a sparse fuel area.  Clear fuel away from the area while the fire is approaching and then lie face down in the depression and cover yourself. Stay down until after the fire passes.

For more tips on staying safe before, during and after a wildfire, visit www.Ready.gov and our mobile site (m.fema.gov).

Severe weather continues across U.S.: Are you prepared?

A strong line of severe storms, tornadoes and heavy rains are continuing to affect much of the U.S., from Illinois to Arkansas.  Our thoughts and prayers are with the families and communities struck by the deadly tornadoes, severe storms and flooding that swept through areas of the Midwest last night including Arkansas, Kentucky, Indiana, Illinois, Missouri, Ohio and Tennessee and face more severe storms forecasted for this week.

Through our regional offices in Kansas City, Mo., Chicago, Ill. and Denton, Texas we have been in constant contact and coordination with the state’s emergency management teams in Arkansas, Kentucky, Indiana, Illinois, Missouri, Ohio and Tennessee to ensure they have the support they need.

There are currently no requests for federal assistance as a result of the yesterday’s storms, but FEMA will continue to stay in constant communication with the states and stands ready to support, if needed.  (Federal disaster assistance is available to residents of Atoka County in Oklahoma, and 18 counties in North Carolina resulting from damage of tornadoes and severe storms earlier this month.)

If you are in the storm’s path and may be affected, it’s important to follow the instructions of state and local officials, and listen to NOAA Weather Radio, local radio or TV stations for updated emergency information. If authorities order an evacuation, leave immediately, follow evacuation routes announced by local officials, and stay away from river banks and streams.

Here are some other tips on staying safe during a flood, tornado, or thunderstorm.  You can find more safety and preparedness tips on Ready.gov or on our mobile site (m.fema.gov).

Floods

  • Driving through a flooded area can be extremely hazardous. Almost half of all flash flood deaths happen in vehicles. When in your car, look out for flooding in low lying areas, at bridges, and at highway dips. As little as six inches of water may cause you to lose control of your vehicle.  Remember – turn around, don’t drown.
  • Familiarize yourself with flood alerts:
    • Flood Watch: Flooding is possible. Tune in to NOAA Weather Radio, commercial radio, or television for information 
    • Flash Flood Watch: Flash flooding is possible. Be prepared to move to higher ground; listen to NOAA Weather Radio, commercial radio, or television for information. 
    • Flood Warning: Flooding is occurring or will occur soon; if advised to evacuate, do so immediately. 
    • Flash Flood Warning: A flash flood is occurring; seek higher ground on foot immediately. 

Tornadoes

  • If a tornado is possible in your area, go to a pre-designated shelter area such as a safe room, basement, storm cellar, or the lowest building level. If there is no basement, go to the center of an interior room on the lowest level (closet, interior hallway) away from corners, windows, doors, and outside walls. Do not open windows.
  • Familiarize yourself with tornado terminology:
    • Tornado Watch: Tornadoes are possible. Remain alert for approaching storms. Watch the sky and stay tuned to NOAA Weather Radio, commercial radio, or television for information.
    • Tornado Warning: A tornado has been sighted or indicated by weather radar. Take shelter immediately.

Thunderstorms

  • Thunderstorms can bring heavy rains, winds, and lightning.  If you hear thunder, seek shelter indoors.  Stay away from doors and windows, and move to an interior room or basement.
  • Become familiar with thunderstorm terminology:
    • Severe Thunderstorm Watch: Tells you when and where severe thunderstorms are likely to occur. Watch the sky and stay tuned to NOAA Weather Radio, commercial radio, or television for information.
    • Severe Thunderstorm Warning: Issued when severe weather has been reported by spotters or indicated by radar. Warnings indicate imminent danger to life and property to those in the path of the storm.

Administration Officials to ShakeOut This Thursday

For weeks, we've been posting updates on this blog on the Great Central U.S. ShakeOut, which is now only three days away.

Today, we’re excited to share with you where some of our FEMA senior leaders, and other officials from across the administration, plan to be on Thursday, to take part in the ShakeOut.

Secretary Janet Napolitano, along with Education Secretary Arne Duncan, will be traveling to St. Louis, to join Governor Nixon, our Regional Administrator, Beth Freeman, and other state and local officials for a ShakeOut drill at Carnahan High School of the Future.

Our Deputy Administrators, Rich Serino and Tim Manning, will join elementary schools in Georgia and Oklahoma, respectively, for their ShakeOut Drills. Rich will join students at Milford Elementary School in Marietta, Georgia, and Tim will join students at Jones Elementary School in Jones, Oklahoma.

And they’re not alone. Over the next few days, our Regional Administrators, staff and other workers across the DHS and federal families will be some of the millions of Americans participating in the drill. To date, over 2.7 million people have signed up, including over 2,016 schools, 268 businesses, and 611 local government agencies.

Let us know how you plan to join in the ShakeOut in the comments below.

Monitoring Severe Weather in Missouri, Arkansas, Oklahoma & Texas

Our thoughts are with the families and communities in the St. Louis area, who were impacted by the severe storms that swept through the region on Friday night, and the severe weather continues today. A strong and long-lasting spring storm continues to bring rain into the region, causing flash flood warnings for parts of Missouri, Arkansas and Oklahoma, and severe weather, including Tornados, to parts of Texas.

Through our regional offices in Kansas City, MO and Denton, TX, we are continuing to closely monitor conditions as the severe storms and tornadoes continue. Since the initial storms struck, we have been in close contact and coordination with the Missouri Emergency Management Agency, Arkansas Department of Emergency Management, Oklahoma Office of Homeland Security, as well as the Texas Division of Emergency Management.

We commend the heroic efforts of the state and local officials and voluntary agencies that have been working around the clock to respond to the storms and protect the affected residents and communities. As an example, check out these photos from the American Red Cross showing how they’re helping disaster survivors.

When natural disasters strike, including severe storms and tornadoes, the first responders are local emergency and public works personnel, volunteers, humanitarian organizations (like the Red Cross), and numerous private interest groups who provide emergency assistance required to protect the public's health and safety and to meet immediate human needs. (See this blog post about FEMA’s role in severe storms and tornadoes.)

If you haven’t already, now is the time to get prepared for tornadoes, floods and other disasters. Visit http://www.ready.gov/ to learn more.

North Carolina: Disaster Recovery Centers

Working with our partners in North Carolina, we opened the first Disaster Recovery Centers after the severe storms struck the state and we plan to open more soon in other counties.

What is a Disaster Recovery Center you ask?  Good question.

We often set up Disaster Recovery Centers to help disaster survivors navigate the federal assistance process.  But an important thing to know is that survivors don’t need to come to the DRC to register, but anyone looking for face to face assistance is welcome to stop by.

If a disaster survivor’s county has been declared, they can also apply for assistance by:

To give you an idea of what to expect at a Disaster Recovery Center, we wanted to pull this video out of the archives.  It’s from 2009 after an earthquake and tsunami struck American Samoa.  In the video, Casey Deshong (FEMA External Affairs) gives a tour of a DRC in American Samoa and talks about the different types of assistance provided:



Here are some other things you should know:

Individual assistance can be provided to eligible individuals and households who are uninsured, or under-insured, and suffered losses due to disaster damage.
It’s important to remember that by law, the amount of individual assistance a person or household can receive is capped (just over $30,000 for this year), and may not cover losses to the extent that homeowner’s policy would. Flood insurance is another way you can protect against the damaging financial effects of a disaster, which is why we are often encouraging families to talk to their insurance agent about protecting your home or business.
This assistance is also intended to support only necessary and serious needs that resulted from the disaster. The best way to make sure you and your family are protected against the devastating impacts of flooding is to have flood insurance.

For additional updates and recovery information, please continue to visit the NC disaster page.

What We’re Watching: 4/22/11

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

North Carolina disaster
Earlier this week, the President declared a major disaster for areas affected by the deadly tornadoes, severe storms, and flooding on April 16. Federal disaster assistance is available to individuals and eligible state and local partners as they work to recover from the disaster. (If you are in one of the 18 declared counties you can apply for disaster assistance at www.disasterassistance.gov, or on your mobile device at m.fema.gov).

Volunteers assist a homeowner clean up branches after a tornado near Raleigh, North Carolina.
Raleigh, NC, April 20, 2011 -- Volunteer workers band together to help survivors clean up debris and complete temporary repairs following the severe storms and deadly tornadoes that damaged or destroyed homes and businesses across North Carolina on April 16, 2011.

Potential severe weather
Over the past few weeks, volatile spring weather has been in full force, and forecasts from the National Weather Service are calling for more of the same in the next week. Here are some of the severe weather highlights:

  • Southern U.S. – Drought conditions are expected to continue in Texas, New Mexico, Florida and several surrounding states. Weather conditions are favorable for wildfire outbreaks in Texas and New Mexico going into next week as well.
  • Midwest – Heavy rains are expected in the middle of the country, where flooding is taking place in many states. (See how we’re supporting the emergency management team in the Red River Valley flood fight.)
  • Northeast – While no spring storms are expected in the next few days, forecasters are calling for high winds in Massachusetts, Connecticut this weekend.
  • West – Over the next few days, be prepared for colder temperatures, especially in Idaho, Utah and Montana. 

For more details, see the full hazards assessment from the National Weather Service and view your local forecast. If severe weather is in your area, remember to listen to local officials and follow local news reports for the latest information. For tips on getting prepared for the hazards in your area, visit Ready.gov.

Texas wildfires
Through our regional office in Denton, TX we continue to closely partner with the State of Texas and provide financial support for efforts to fight and mitigate the volatile wildfire conditions that have affected the state this season. We are in constant communication with Texas Forest Service and Texas Division of Emergency Management (TDEM) and will continue to support firefighting efforts, as needed.

During this fire season, the federal government has been supporting the State of Texas with 21 Fire Management Assistance Grant (FMAG) declarations, including 15 FMAGs since the beginning of April.

An FMAG authorization makes FEMA funding available to pay 75 percent of the state's eligible firefighting costs under an approved grant for managing, mitigating and controlling designated fires. These grants do not provide assistance to individual home or business owners and do not cover other infrastructure damage caused by the fire.

Earth Day
April 22 is Earth Day – check out this blog post from Ed Connor, Acting Administrator of the Federal Insurance and Mitigation Administration about some of the ways we’re implementing sustainable practices and encouraging the emergency management team to do the same when preparing for, responding to, and recovering from disasters.

For tips on how you can “go green” at home, work, or in your community, visit the Department of Energy’s Earth Day page.

Sign up to shake out next Thursday
As several of our bloggers have mentioned, the Great Central U.S. ShakeOut is fast approaching. Join over 2.6 million participants in 11 states as they practice earthquake safety on April 28 at 10:15 CDT.

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