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Photos 5: Supporting Efforts for Southern U.S. Tornadoes and Flooding

We continue to support the affected states and the entire emergency management team in the ongoing recovery, from the severe storms in the Midwest to the heavy flooding along the Mississippi River.

Throughout every step of the process, we continue to work with our partners to support those impacted by the recent disasters. Here are some of recent shots from our photo library that show the emergency management team in action:

EMA personnel work inside a Mobile Emergency Response Support vehicle.
Joplin, Mo., May 29, 2011 -- FEMA personnel work inside a Mobile Emergency Response Support vehicle, equipped with video and telephone communications equipment. FEMA is supporting the ongoing recovery efforts in Joplin, Mo., providing assistance to disaster survivors and the affected community.

Administrator Craig Fugate surveys a damaged fire station with a Joplin firefighter.
Joplin, Mo., May 26, 2011 -- Administrator Craig Fugate surveys a damaged fire station with a Joplin firefighter. Visit the disaster page for the latest updates on the Joplin recovery.

Donna Wood, a Red Cross worker talks to a resident of Denning, Ark.
Denning, Ark., May 25, 2011 -- Donna Wood, a Red Cross worker, talks to a resident of Denning, Ark., whose home, in the background, was damaged when a tornado ripped through the area.

Larry Combs, Chase Lewis and Daniel Lewis replace power lines knocked down by a tornado.
Big Rock, Tenn., May 24, 2011 - Larry Combs, Chase Lewis and Daniel Lewis replace power lines knocked down by a tornado which struck May 23. FEMA supports and helps fund replacement of public equipment and facilities.

Members of the Florida Southern Baptist Disaster Relief Association are helping a homeowner cut and pull debris.
Sipsey, Ala., May 24, 2011 -- Members of the Florida Southern Baptist Disaster Relief Association are helping a homeowner cut and pull debris to the street for county pickup. Faith-based volunteers are important partners with FEMA in helping survivors recover from the deadly April tornado.

Logistics teams at the staging area in Camp Beauregard load supplies.
Pineville, La., May 23, 2011 -- Logistics teams at the staging area in Camp Beauregard load what are known as commonly used shelter items kits now part of the commodities delivered to shelters in the event of a disaster.

James Zemlicka, Hazard Mitigation specialist, answers questions for a Lowe's customer on rebuilding safely.
Memphis, TN, May 23, 2011 -- James Zemlicka, Hazard Mitigation specialist, answers questions for a Lowe's customer on rebuilding safely. Hazard Mitigation representatives are located at Lowe's and Home Depot stores throughout western Tennessee.

avid Rodriguez, an applicant assistant specialist, interviews applicants for assistance.
Brayton, Tenn., May 17, 2011 -- David Rodriguez, an applicant assistant specialist, interviews Dorothy L.Green (right), Peggy Giunta and her son Haeden Gray. The applicant interview is an important part of the recovery process.

Shnader Bellegrade, FEMA Community Relations Specialist collaborates with Todd Hallbaur of the American Red Cross.
Vicksburg, Miss., May 18, 2011 -- Shnader Bellegrade, FEMA community relations specialist, collaborates with Todd Hallbaur of the American Red Cross regarding assistance for evacuated survivors of the floods in Vicksburg Miss.

FEMA Community Relations Specialist Steve Huffstutler explains the registration process to a homeowner
Pratt City, Ala., May 17, 2011 – Steve Huffstutler, FEMA community relations specialist, explains the registration process to a homeowner that had some damage to her house. Teams community relations staff are going door-to- door in communities to encourage people to register for assistance and answer questions about the process.

Tennessee: Update on Recovery Efforts

Over the past month and a half, the Central U.S. has experienced a host of disasters – from the historic flooding along the Mississippi River to deadly tornadoes and severe storms that claimed hundreds of lives.

I wanted to take a minute to provide an update on the ongoing recovery efforts in the Volunteer State and make sure that survivors have the information they need to register with FEMA for disaster assistance.

I’m proud to say that since President Obama made federal disaster assistance available on May 1, Tennessee has been approved for more than $9 million in federal aid. These funds have been approved for individuals to help with temporary housing, cover essential disaster-related needs or to provide low-interest loans to eligible homeowners, renters or business owners.

Through a team of federal, state, voluntary, faith- and community-based groups, we continue to get the word out that disaster assistance is available to those affected by the storms. To date, nearly 5,700 individuals have visited joint FEMA/Tennessee Emergency Management Agency (TEMA) Disaster Recovery Centers in affected counties.

FEMA Applicant Assistant Andres Lugo answers questions for an applicant at the Hope Shelter DRC.
Memphis, TN, May 24, 2011 -- FEMA Applicant Assistant Andres Lugo answers questions for an applicant at the Hope Shelter DRC. Disaster Recovery Centers are set up at the Shelby County Shelters so that applicants have easy access to FEMA. Marilee Caliendo/FEMA

Representatives from FEMA, the Tennessee Emergency Management Agency, the U.S. Small Business Administration and other agencies staff these centers to explain disaster assistance programs and help survivors apply for assistance. Check out this video as a disaster survivor goes through the various stations at a Disaster Recovery Center – even though it’s from North Carolina, the scene is very similar in Tennessee, too:

I ask that you keep those affected by the storms and flooding in Tennessee in your thoughts and prayers.  And if you or someone you know has been affected by the disaster in Tennessee, there are four easy ways to register:

Call 800-621-FEMA (3362), individuals with a speech or hearing impairment may call (TTY) 800-462-7585


Secretary Napolitano Visits Hackleburg, Alabama

Secretary Napolitano and Congressman Aderholt meet with volunteers at the Hackelburg volunteer coordination center.
Hackleburg, AL, May 29, 2011 -- Secretary Napolitano and Congressman Aderholt meet with volunteers at the Hackelburg volunteer coordination center.

Yesterday, as part of the Obama administration's ongoing commitment to assisting the long-term recovery efforts of communities affected by recent severe weather, Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano surveyed the progress made in response and recovery efforts in the month following the storms and tornadoes that struck the Southeast region this spring.

She was joined by Congressman Robert Aderholt (R-Ala.), Hackleburg Mayor Douglas Gunnin, Alabama Emergency Management Agency Director Art Faulkner, and Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) Federal Coordinating Officer Mike Byrne in Hackleburg.

Secretary Napolitano remarked:

We are proud to be part of a great team of state partners, local governments, faith based groups, survivors, long-term community recovery organizations and volunteers who have worked around the clock to help with response and recovery efforts-and we will not leave until the job is finished. The Obama administration remains focused on helping Hackleburg and communities throughout Alabama continue their progress towards rebuilding and recovering to be stronger than before.

Congressman Aderholt also noted:

We are on the road to recovery and we are on it together. I'm encouraged by the relief efforts that continue on the ground, as well as the coordination between all officials and organizations involved in the recovery process. I know Alabamians strength and resiliency will see us through and Alabama will come back, better than ever.

As part of the visit, Secretary Napolitano:

  • Joined Congressman Aderholt, Mayor Gunnin, a member of the Red Cross of Central Alabama, and other Alabama officials to tour Hackleburg High School to survey damages, discuss recovery efforts, and met with the Marion County School Superintendent, Hackleburg High School Principal and students who graduated with the high school's senior class on Friday.
  • Visited the Northwest Alabama United Way Volunteer Center where she met with first responders, as well as the survivors and families who have assisted in the community's recovery efforts over the past month.
  • Met with community leaders at Hackleburg's town hall to discuss the ongoing disaster relief efforts and the progress made within the community.

On April 27, Alabama received a FEMA Emergency Declaration, and on April 28, President Obama issued a Major Disaster Declaration to help communities recover from the damage inflicted by severe storms, tornadoes, and flooding-qualifying residents for individual assistance and Federal assistance.

As of May 27, 2011, FEMA has opened 28 Disaster Relief Centers across Alabama, including one in Franklin County to support the Hackleburg area.

The entire Obama administration has been deeply involved in response and recovery efforts since the storms first hit, including:

  • On May 1, Secretary Napolitano joined Housing and Urban Development Secretary Shaun Donovan, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, Administrator Craig Fugate and Small Business Administration Administrator Karen Mills to survey the damage and the early response and recovery efforts underway in Alabama and Mississippi.
  • On May 26, DHS Deputy Secretary Jane Holl Lute traveled to Joplin, Missouri to tour the damaged areas and meet with state and local officials and first responders on the ground.
  • Early last week, Administrator Craig Fugate, Deputy Administrator Richard Serino and other senior DHS officials traveled to the Joplin area following the devastating tornadoes on May 22, 2011 -- working on behalf of President Obama to coordinate the ongoing federal disaster response.
  • Yesterday, President Obama visited Joplin to personally survey the damage and discuss response and relief efforts with first responders on the ground.

Photo of U.S. Department of Homeland Security Deputy Secretary Jane Holl Lute (left) touring tornado damage in Joplin, MO
Joplin, MO, May 26, 2011 -- U.S. Department of Homeland Security Deputy Secretary Jane Holl Lute (left) tours tornado damage with Kathy Sullivan, Assistant Secretary of the Department oF commerce/National Oceanic and Atmosphere Administration, in a neighborhood near St. John's Regional Medical Center.

Photo of U.S. Department of Homeland Security Deputy Secretary Jane Holl Lute and Federal Emergency Management Agency Administrator Craig Fugate listening to first responders
Joplin, MO, May 26, 2011 -- U.S. Department of Homeland Security Deputy Secretary Jane Holl Lute and Federal Emergency Management Agency Administrator Craig Fugate listen to first responders describe events surrounding Sunday evening's tornado in Joplin.

Families and individuals that have been impacted by the tornadoes and storms, and need assistance have several options for getting help:

  • Registering online at,
  • Registering through a web-enabled mobile device at, or
  • Calling 1-800-621-FEMA (3362) or 1-800-462-7585 (TTY) for the hearing and speech impaired. The toll-free telephone numbers will operate from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. (local time) seven days a week until further notice.

From the White House: President Obama in Joplin: "It's an Example of What the American Spirit is all About"

Editor’s note: the blog post is cross-posted from the White House blog and updated May 30 with a video and photos.

Today, President Obama traveled to Joplin, Missouri to meet with those in the community who lost so much in the tornados last week and participate in a Memorial Service at Missouri Southern University.

Before the Memorial Service, President Obama visited one of the neighborhoods that was devastated by the tornadoes. After seeing the extensive tornado damage the President spoke to the people of Joplin and reminded them that they are not alone in this tragedy:

The main thing I just want to communicate to the people of Joplin is this is just not your tragedy. This is a national tragedy and that means there will be a national response.   Craig Fugate, who has probably been the busiest man in the federal government over this last bit of months, has been on the ground since just the day after this happened, and he's helping to coordinate with an outstanding team of state and local officials. We're going to do everything we can to continue whatever search and rescue remains. We are doing everything we can to make sure that folks get the shelter that they need, the support that they need.

The President also thanked all of the volunteers and community members who are lending a hand to their neighbors during this difficult time:

So to all the volunteers who are helping out -- one of the things that's been incredible is to see how many people from out of state have driven from as far a way as Texas, nearby Illinois, people just coming here to volunteer -- firefighters, ordinary citizens. It’s an example of what the American spirit is all about. And that gives us a lot of encouragement at a time when obviously people are going through a lot of hardship.

During the Memorial Service, the President spoke of the strength of the community coming together in response to the storm:

How we respond when the storm strikes is up to us. How we live in the aftermath of tragedy and heartache, that’s within our control. And it's in these moments, through our actions, that we often see the glimpse of what makes life worth living in the first place.

In the last week, that’s what Joplin has not just taught Missouri, not just taught America, but has taught the world. I was overseas in the aftermath of the storm, and had world leaders coming up to me saying, let the people of Joplin know we are with them; we’re thinking about them; we love them. (Applause.)

Because the world saw how Joplin responded. A university turned itself into a makeshift hospital. (Applause.) Some of you used your pickup trucks as ambulances, carrying the injured -- (applause) -- on doors that served as stretchers. Your restaurants have rushed food to people in need. Businesses have filled trucks with donations. You’ve waited in line for hours to donate blood to people you know, but also to people you’ve never met.


What a FEMA Determination Letter Means

The survivors of the tornadoes in Joplin, Missouri, in Alabama and Mississippi, and in all other states currently recovering from disasters have been through a lot and we are committed to helping them every step of the way.

When survivors apply for individual disaster aid through FEMA, their needs are assessed based on a number of factors, based on eligibility requirements laid out under federal law. After a survivor registers with FEMA, they receive a letter from us explaining the status of their application, and whether or not they will receive assistance.

We know the recipients of these letters may have questions about what they mean, especially when coping with tragic and heartbreaking circumstances. We wanted to take a few minutes to explain what options people have when receiving these notices:

If you receive a letter from FEMA saying you are not eligible for assistance, it does not necessarily mean your case is closed. If your letter says you’re not eligible for assistance, it also tells you how to appeal the decision or what additional information you need to provide to FEMA, in order for your case to be reviewed again.

Before you begin your appeal process, read the letter carefully – and ask for help if you don’t understand any part of it – FEMA may only need you to provide additional information.

Sometimes people do not qualify for financial help right away. For instance, FEMA may not have received information on your insurance settlement. Under federal law, FEMA cannot duplicate assistance that comes from insurance benefits or other government sources, but FEMA’s initial determination of ineligibility may change if private insurance or other government assistance is not sufficient to cover all the eligible damage.

Some of the reasons for an initial turn down can be:
  • You might not have gotten your insurance settlement;
  • You may not have given FEMA all the information we need;
  • You haven’t given us proof of ownership or residence;
  • You may not have returned the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) disaster loan application;
  • You may not have provided records that showed the damaged property was the primary residence at the time of the disaster;
  • You may not have signed essential documents.

Bottom line – these letters are the start of a conversation between you and FEMA, and not the end.

You can call the helpline at 800-621-FEMA (3362) or TTY 800-462-7585 or visit a disaster recovery center, where you can talk with someone about your particular situation. Either way, you can get more information about what to do next.

And you can give information to FEMA that might change our determination about your status. So again, everyone should read their letters carefully, ask questions, ask for help, and tell us if you think we got it wrong. We are here to serve you – the disaster survivor – and it is your right to ask us to reconsider our decision.

As we Honor Memorial Day, Thanking the Heroes of Joplin


As part of the FEMA team, we see a lot of disasters. Each is unique and yet, surprisingly similar. Across the board, disasters are devastating. Whether they touch one person or 1,000, lives are changed forever.  There is heartache. And there are heroes.

This spring has been particularly harsh. Much of our country has felt the cruel wrath of nature.

Joplin, Missouri is among the latest examples.

Last Sunday, an EF-5 tornado brutalized an estimated one-third of Joplin, a city in the southwestern corner of the state. So far, more than 130 lives have been lost. Search and rescue efforts continue but there is worry that more victims will be found.

I went to Joplin to look, to listen, and to see what FEMA can do to help. Amid the shock, sadness and fear of the unknown, I found amongst the survivors great resilience and a determination to recover.

So many people were focused on helping their neighbors when they, themselves, had lost everything. Like Joplin Fire Chief Mitch Randles. Thankfully, the most important thing to him – his family – survived. Everything else Chief Randles had is gone. Yet he's tirelessly worked to help find survivors, suppress fires, and meet the challenges of a community in need.

There are others, too. I saw first responders dig through rubble in hailstorms and blinding rain to search for and rescue survivors. Volunteer and faith-based groups have fed, sheltered, and comforted many. They’ve helped move debris that stretches for miles.

Businesses have brought in food, water, equipment and supplies. They’ve provided free phone calls or Internet access to help family members and friends find one another. They’ve washed clothes. They’ve powered lights. And they’ve brought hope.

Local leaders truly stand out as well. They’ve provided calm and decisive leadership. They've listened. They've asked for help when it was needed. Joplin City Manager Mark Rohr is among those who have led by example in the face of heart-wrenching adversity.

The state and federal governments have marshaled numerous resources to support Joplin and help give it a fighting chance to recover.

Response and recovery in Joplin has truly been a "whole community" effort. Lives have been saved, and there are so many great examples of what individuals, business owners, volunteer organizations, and government can do when they work together as a team, even under the toughest circumstances.

As we say thank you to everyone on the ground in Joplin, this Memorial Day weekend, we honor those in uniform who made the ultimate sacrifice and say thank you to their families for their service.

Day 7 - Hurricane Preparedness Week: Tips To Stay Safe

As National Hurricane Preparedness Week comes to a close, we wanted to share tips on how to prepare both your home and families before, during, and after severe tropical weather.  All week, we've been sharing ways you can get prepared for the various hazards associated with a hurricane, so we wanted to end the week with a more tips on protecting your home and family from a hurricane.

In addition to the tips below, you can get more information on preparing for hurricanes and tropical storms at

Tips for protecting your home:

  • Make plans to secure your property.  Permanent storm shutters offer the best protection for windows.  A second option is to board up windows with 5/8” marine plywood, cut to fit and ready to install. Tape does not prevent windows from breaking.
  • Install straps or additional clips to securely fasten your roof to the frame structure. This will reduce roof damage.  Close storm shutters, and secure outdoor objects or bring them indoors.
  • If a storm is imminent, turn off utilities if instructed to do so.  Otherwise, turn the refrigerator thermostat to its coldest setting and keep its doors closed.  Also remember to turn off propane tanks.
  • After a storm, carefully walk around the outside and check for loose power lines, gas leaks, and structural damage.  If you have any doubts about safety, have your residence inspected by a qualified building inspector or structural engineer before entering.

Tips for keeping your family safe:

  • Remember to include items like a flashlight, hand-crank radio, and a solar powered cell phone charger to your emergency kit.  Hurricanes often bring power outages, so be sure your emergency kit can sustain your family for at least 72 hours after the storm.
  • Your family may not be together when disaster strikes, so it is important to know how you will contact one another, how you will get back together and what you will do in case of an emergency.  After a disaster, cell phone networks may be congested, so teach your family how to send and read text messages as a way to get in touch after a hurricane.
  • Make copies of important family documents such as insurance policies, identification and bank account records. Store them in a waterproof container.
  • Know where you will find the latest information if a storm is approaching. If you have a smartphone, bookmark useful sites like to track the storm's path, and to find safety tips.

There is no better time to prepare for an emergency than now. Hurricane season is right around the corner (starting June 1), so we hope you'll take steps today to get prepared.

Other blog posts for National Hurricane Awareness Week
- Day 1: What we're doing to prepare
- Day 2: Storm surge
- Day 3: Wind danger
- Day 4: Inland flooding
- Day 5: The team effort
- Day 6: Make a plan

Clearing Up a Few Questions on Federal Disaster Aid

In the past few days, we've heard questions about what percentage of funding FEMA covers for aid to disaster survivors and states when a presidential disaster declaration is approved for a given area.

As Administrator Fugate took a few minutes to explain, there is a difference between the "cost-share" or funding responsibility FEMA takes on for individual disaster survivors and for states.

If you are an individual living in a disaster area that has been approved for individual assistance, which can help cover repair or replacement costs for your home, FEMA covers the entire amount of aid you are eligible for. There is no "cost-share" – whatever the amount of aid you are awarded, which depends on your personal need and circumstances, is 100 percent funded by the federal government. For Other Needs Assistance, another type of individual aid which can cover other personal losses or basic needs like medical and dental assistance, funeral costs, clothing, household items or supplies for school or work, FEMA covers 75 percent of the costs and the state covers 25 percent of the costs.

Under federal law, for states and localities eligible for FEMA Public Assistance, there is a cost-share, or shared responsibility among the federal government and state. FEMA always covers a minimum of 75 percent of expenses for states that are declared eligible for this kind of assistance. That percentage may be adjusted to a greater amount based on the severity and the total cost of a disaster.

Public assistance covers needs like debris removal, emergency protective measures the state takes immediately during a disaster response (such as evacuations, equipment for first responders, or police barricades), and longer-term rebuilding of critical infrastructure, like schools, roads and firehouses, to name a few.

Again, it's important to remember that FEMA is just part of the team that provides resources for individuals, states and local governments following a disaster. There are many other types of aid that our federal partners and other members of the team, from voluntary agencies to private sector organizations, bring to bear -- and different rules may govern those types of aid. Additionally, FEMA Public Assistance cannot duplicate benefits and many times public entities do carry insurance. In the coming weeks, FEMA and the states will continue to meet with local jurisdictions to go over specific information on insurance coverage and needs.

And as Craig says, if you are an individual, the amount of aid you may receive may be different than your neighbor. Your eligibility for FEMA aid is always based on your unique situation and your unmet needs. And we work with you to determine how to best provide that assistance. We know this is an incredibly trying time for so many people, and we continue to encourage all survivors to register for FEMA assistance by calling 1-800-621-FEMA (TTY 1-800-462-7585), or by going online to or applying directly from your smartphone at

News of the Day: Update on Joplin Recovery

We wanted to share two stories from Joplin, Mo. about the ongoing recovery efforts:

As the recovery continues in Joplin, we'd like to say "thank you" to the entire emergency management team - state and local officials, the private sector, voluntary, community, and faith-based groups, and especially the public - as we work together to support disaster survivors and the affected community.

We will continue to provide updates on this blog, so check back often.

What We’re Watching: 5/27/11

Severe weather outlook
This Memorial Day weekend, forecasts from the National Weather Service are calling for potentially severe weather in many parts of the U.S., including:

  • continued flooding along the Mississippi River, and in parts of the Great Plains,
  • the eastern half of the country will experience high temperatures than normal through the weekend, and
  • severe drought conditions across the south, stretching from parts of Arizona into Florida.

Visit the National Weather Service’s Climate Prediction Center for a full forecast, and make sure to take steps to get prepared for the hazards in your area at

President Obama, Administrator Travels to Tornado Impacted States
On Sunday, President Obama and Administrator Fugate will be in Joplin, Missouri to meet with the governor and other state and local officials and continue to assess the damage. Also on Sunday, Secretary Napolitano will join Congressman Robert Aderholt to visit Hackleburg, Alabama survey ongoing recovery and response efforts on the ground following the tornadoes and severe storms that devastated the region last month.

Ongoing recovery efforts
We’ve had several blog posts about our role in the ongoing disaster response and recovery efforts, from the historic flooding along the Mississippi River to the devastating tornadoes that struck several states in the southeast, Minnesota, and Missouri. You can see our latest updates on the Severe Storms / Tornadoes or Floods categories of the blog, or

  • Check out Administrator Fugate’s recent interview with National Public radio, talking about the high volume of recent disasters and FEMA’s role,
  • Our multimedia and photo libraries have the latest images and video from our ongoing disaster recovery efforts.

National Hurricane Preparedness Week
In addition to the disaster updates this week on the blog, we’ve also been emphasizing getting prepared for hurricane season, which starts June 1. Check out this week’s blog posts on hurricane preparedness listed below, and be sure to visit for more information on getting prepared for severe tropical weather.

- Day 1: What we’re doing to prepare
- Day 2: Storm surge
- Day 3: Wind danger
- Day 4: Inland flooding
- Day 5: The team effort
- Day 6: Make a plan


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