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Faith-Based Groups Supporting Southeast Tornado Response

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FEMA Deputy Richard Serino and a Salvation Army Officer discuss ways to help survivors in the Tuscaloosa area from the April 27th tornado.
Tuscaloosa, AL, May 6, 2011 -- FEMA Deputy Richard Serino and a Salvation Army Officer discuss ways to help survivors in the Tuscaloosa area from the April 27th tornado.

Since a series of deadly tornadoes and storms struck much of the southeast last month, thousands from around the country have pitched in to help disaster survivors – by donating money, sending clothes or offering prayers.  A recent story in the New York Times highlighted the ongoing efforts of faith-based groups in the recovery, as they work with the emergency management team to meet the basic needs of disaster survivors.

The efforts of voluntary groups and their dedicated volunteers can help bring a community back together and drive their recovery following a disaster. Check out the article, and let us know how you’ve been playing a part in the ongoing recovery by leaving a comment below.

Red Cross workers are present at a Hispanic community meeting.
Tuscaloosa, AL, May 12, 2011 -- Red Cross workers are present at a Hispanic community meeting. Red Cross and FEMA are partners in responding to disasters such as the April storms and tornado in Alabama.

Another Busy Hurricane Season Ahead - Get Ready

Administrator addresses a crowd at NOAA headquarters.
Silver Spring, MD, May 19, 2011 -- Administrator Craig Fugate addresses reporters gathered for a press conference to release the 2011 National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration hurricane outlook.

With the official start of hurricane season just 13 days away, today the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration released its annual hurricane outlook, which predicts how many named storms, hurricanes and major hurricanes we can expect to see in the coming months.

So what can we expect this year?

An above-normal season, according to NOAA scientists. Across the entire Atlantic Basin for the six-month season, which begins June 1 and runs through November 30, we could see:

  • 12-18 named storms, which means storms with winds of 39 miles per hour or higher;
  • 6 to 10 of these storms could become hurricanes, which means winds of 74 mph or higher;
  • And 3 to 6 of these hurricanes could become major hurricanes (Category 3, 4 or 5), which means winds of 111 mph or higher.

Each of these ranges has a 70 percent likelihood, and indicate that activity will exceed the seasonal average of 11 named storms, six hurricanes and two major hurricanes.

So what does this mean for you, the public?

Well, despite also experiencing an active hurricane season last year, the U.S. has been lucky for the past few years – with no major hurricanes making landfall. But we know we can’t count on luck to get us through this season.

We all need to be prepared. Now is the time, if you haven’t already, to get your plan together for what you and your family would do if a hurricane or other disaster strikes.

Visit ready.gov to learn how to get a kit, make a plan, and be informed. And if you’re a small business owner, visit ready.gov/business to ensure that your business is prepared for a disaster.

The tornadoes that devastated the South and the large amount of flooding we’ve seen this spring should serve as a reminder to all of us that disasters can happen anytime and anywhere. As we move into this hurricane season it’s important to remember that the federal government is just part of an emergency management team that includes the entire federal family, state, local and tribal governments, the private sector and most importantly the public.

You’ll hear more from FEMA and NOAA over the coming days and weeks as we continue doing our part to get ready for hurricane season. And remember – next week, May 22-28, is National Hurricane Preparedness Week.

So do your part to help the rest of the team by getting ready. And help us spread the word.

 

From CDC - Preparedness 101: Zombie Apocalypse

Editor's Note: We wanted to share a blog post from our friends at the Centers for Disease Control.  Preparing for a zombie attack, or other fictional disasters, can provide useful tips to get prepared for a real disaster.  The following is an excerpt of the original blog post on the CDC Public Health Matters Blog May 16th, 2011 by Ali S. Khan.

There are all kinds of emergencies out there that we can prepare for. Take a zombie apocalypse for example. That’s right, I said z-o-m-b-i-e a-p-o-c-a-l-y-p-s-e. You may laugh now, but when it happens you’ll be happy you read this, and hey, maybe you’ll even learn a thing or two about how to prepare for a real emergency.

The rise of zombies in pop culture has given credence to the idea that a zombie apocalypse could happen. In such a scenario zombies would take over entire countries, roaming city streets eating anything living that got in their way. The proliferation of this idea has led many people to wonder “How do I prepare for a zombie apocalypse?”

Well, we’re here to answer that question for you, and hopefully share a few tips about preparing for real emergencies too!

Better Safe than Sorry

So what do you need to do before zombies…or hurricanes or pandemics for example, actually happen? First of all, you should have an emergency kit in your house. This includes things like water, food, and other supplies to get you through the first couple of days before you can locate a zombie-free refugee camp (or in the event of a natural disaster, it will buy you some time until you are able to make your way to an evacuation shelter or utility lines are restored). Below are a few items you should include in your kit, for a full list visit the CDC Emergency page.

  • Water (1 gallon per person per day)
  • Food (stock up on non-perishable items that you eat regularly)
  • Medications (this includes prescription and non-prescription meds)
  • Tools and Supplies (utility knife, duct tape, battery powered radio, etc.)
  • Sanitation and Hygiene (household bleach, soap, towels, etc.)
  • Clothing and Bedding (a change of clothes for each family member and blankets)
  • Important documents (copies of your driver’s license, passport, and birth certificate to name a few)
  • First Aid supplies (although you’re a goner if a zombie bites you, you can use these supplies to treat basic cuts and lacerations that you might get during a tornado or hurricane)

Once you’ve made your emergency kit, you should sit down with your family and come up with an emergency plan. This includes where you would go and who you would call if zombies started appearing outside your door step. You can also implement this plan if there is a flood, earthquake, or other emergency.

  1. Identify the types of emergencies that are possible in your area. Besides a zombie apocalypse, this may include floods, tornadoes, or earthquakes. If you are unsure contact your local Red Cross chapter for more information. Family members meeting by their mailbox. You should pick two meeting places, one close to your home and one farther away
  2. Pick a meeting place for your family to regroup in case zombies invade your home…or your town evacuates because of a hurricane. Pick one place right outside your home for sudden emergencies and one place outside of your neighborhood in case you are unable to return home right away.
  3. Identify your emergency contacts. Make a list of local contacts like the police, fire department, and your local zombie response team. Also identify an out-of-state contact that you can call during an emergency to let the rest of your family know you are ok.
  4. Plan your evacuation route. When zombies are hungry they won’t stop until they get food (i.e., brains), which means you need to get out of town fast! Plan where you would go and multiple routes you would take ahead of time so that the flesh eaters don’t have a chance! This is also helpful when natural disasters strike and you have to take shelter fast.

Never Fear – CDC is Ready

If zombies did start roaming the streets, CDC would conduct an investigation much like any other disease outbreak. CDC would provide technical assistance to cities, states, or international partners dealing with a zombie infestation. This assistance might include consultation, lab testing and analysis, patient management and care, tracking of contacts, and infection control (including isolation and quarantine). It’s likely that an investigation of this scenario would seek to accomplish several goals: determine the cause of the illness, the source of the infection/virus/toxin, learn how it is transmitted and how readily it is spread, how to break the cycle of transmission and thus prevent further cases, and how patients can best be treated. Not only would scientists be working to identify the cause and cure of the zombie outbreak, but CDC and other federal agencies would send medical teams and first responders to help those in affected areas (I will be volunteering the young nameless disease detectives for the field work).

To learn more about what CDC does to prepare for and respond to emergencies of all kinds, visit:
http://emergency.cdc.gov/cdc/orgs_progs.asp

To learn more about how you can prepare for and stay safe during an emergency visit:
http://emergency.cdc.gov/

To download a badge like the one above that you can add to your social networking profile, blog, website, or email signature visit:
http://emergency.cdc.gov/socialmedia/zombies.asp

NLE Recap: Participating in the Exercise, While Continuing to Support States’ Disaster Response and Recovery

Administrator Fugate meets with several people in Little Rock Arkansas during the National Level Exercise.
Little Rock, Ark., May 17, 2011 -- Administrator Fugate (Center) meets with several members of the emergency management team in Little Rock, Ark. during the National Level Exercise, a simulated earthquake drill. They are meeting inside a Mobile Emergency Response Support vehicle, which was deployed for the simulation.

Monday at 10 a.m. EDT, we received simulated notifications that a catastrophic earthquake has struck the central United States – which means that the National Level Exercise 2011 was officially off and running. While our many partners participating in this exercise have long been aware of the basic premise of this event, we all immediately began to respond as we would in a real event. At FEMA, this meant we were doing simulated briefings with the governors and emergency management teams from the impacted states, to get ground truth about the extent of the damage and ensure that we were already coordinated and communicating as much as possible.

As part of the exercise, several federal agencies (including FEMA) are deploying staff to support the states’ simulated response efforts.  FEMA liaison officers are working in the state emergency operations centers in Illinois, Indiana, Missouri and Arkansas, coordinating the federal response within the exercise. Some of the other developments within the exercise have been:

  • The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is simulating an activation of the National Public Health and Radio Network to provide important information to survivors on how to protect themselves from health risks associated with the aftermath of the earthquakes. 
  • Approximately 9,000 National Guard Soldiers and Airmen on State Active Duty are supporting the simulated earthquake relief operations, including mock route clearing, search and rescue, and security operations across Alabama, Arkansas, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Missouri and Tennessee.
  • The Food and Drug Administration is providing information on food safety as part of the exercise.
  • Voluntary agencies are also engaged, like the American Red Cross, who set up several simulated emergency shelters and mobile feeding operations. 

As we noted on Monday, we are balancing this week’s exercise with the many real disasters we are currently working to respond to and recover from, supporting our state partners and the rest of the team. Having to conduct this exercise while dealing with flooding, the ongoing tornado recovery efforts, and other emergencies further underscores the purpose of the National Level Exercise and other drills – we have to test our abilities to respond to the worst case scenarios. In this case, testing our ability to respond to several devastating events at once will only strengthen our preparedness, especially going into what many expect to be a very active hurricane season.

Although some of our partners have understandably had to scale back their participation in NLE due to current disaster response efforts, this week thousands of players at more than 50 sites across the country are testing and following multiple emergency response plans and procedures at the federal, state and local levels. More than 355 people are controlling and evaluating each of these player sites. Also, over 140 observers are visiting player and control locations; including international, interagency, private sector, congressional and emergency management stakeholders.

In fact, some of our international stakeholders participating this week include Japan, Indonesia, Taiwan, Israel, Germany, Bolivia, Chile, Mexico, Canada, Australia, Romania, Thailand, the European Union, Peru, Brazil, and Trinidad and Tobago. After a year in which we have been reminded that disasters strike all of across the globe equally, and all nations can learn from each other, we are very glad to have them on hand for this exercise.

We also have representatives from some of our key partners in Congress, including observers from the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Government Affairs, the House Committee on Homeland Security, and the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure.

The first two days of NLE wrapped with all participating players on track with their various roles and responsibilities. We’ll continue to post updates on these activities throughout the week.  For more information on NLE, visit www.ready.gov/nle2011.

Perspective on NLE: Amtrak

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As a partner with FEMA on emergency preparedness efforts, Amtrak works hard year around to keep passengers safe and secure, and has been active in events like past National Preparedness Month outreach.

This week, Amtrak is one of hundreds of companies participating in the National Level Exercise 2011, to test how the entire team would respond in the first 72 hours after a catastrophic earthquake hitting many states along the New Madrid Seismic Zone.  As we have seen in recent months, this scenario is based on very real threats.

Amtrak is participating as a member of the National Business Emergency Operations Center (NBEOC), as well as a general player.  Through daily calls with the NBEOC, Amtrak joins other business emergency operations center representatives from companies and states, to hear the latest on the exercise situation and work together to resolve issues that arise- such as road closures, access issues, critical needs, and more.  (For more on how a Business Emergency Operations Center works, see this past blog post.)

While we are still assessing lessons learned in this exercise, one thing we have seen is the incredible capability that various parts of the private sector can bring to bear in a disaster – either in a simulated environment or a real event.  We’ve learned that none of us can do it alone, and we all have a role in resolving issues, meeting needs, and sharing critical information that helps decision makers in both the public and private sectors.  We’re also seeing that the challenges and opportunities after a disaster are very complex, from the local to the national levels, and that it takes a coordinated effort to help individuals and communities recover quickly.

There are important lessons to be learned – but more importantly, it is good to know that we are all on the same team.

Editor's Note: Companies that missed out on this year's exercise can find information at http://www.ready.gov/nle2011, along with preparedness tips.

In Case You Missed It: Tuscaloosa Mayor In The Spotlight

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Since deadly tornadoes struck Alabama and much of the southeast last month, emergency management teams from every level of government have been working tirelessly to aid survivors and the impacted communities. Administrator Fugate always says that FEMA is one part of the team, and our state, local, tribal, private sector, voluntary and faith-based partners have been demonstrating the importance of working together as part of that team every day since the storms.

With that in mind, I wanted to highlight a story from the New York Times last week about the leadership and foresight of Mayor Walter Maddox of Tuscaloosa. Just after the storms passed, local first responders went to work on meeting survivors’ immediate needs in the damaged areas. The initial response was critical.

An hour after the tornado hit, [Mayor Maddox] realized the damage was worse than he could have imagined. Power was out. The emergency communication system was inoperable. He even thought the city might lose its water supply.

As he watched hundreds of hurt and stunned residents wandering out of the destruction, he said he thought, “How am I going to help all these people?”

Just before he drove into the deepest part of the destruction that night, he and a police chaplain stopped their car and bowed their heads.

“That 30 seconds of prayer renewed our focus,” he said in an interview in his office last week.

Prayer is not all he has in his arsenal. Two years ago, he sent 60 city workers for Federal Emergency Management Agency training, a stroke of foresight he said has done more to help Tuscaloosa handle the disaster than anything else.

It’s a good reminder that even as we support our state and local partners in the recovery from the last disaster, we need to be ready for the next disaster, too. Which is why we FEMA offers emergency preparedness courses and integrated programs through our Center for Domestic Preparedness, Emergency Management Institute, and National Training and Education Division. These facilities and programs serve as the national focal point for the development and delivery of emergency management training to enhance the capabilities of state, local, tribal and territorial government officials, volunteer organizations, and the public and private sectors to minimize the impact of disasters and emergencies on the American public.

In many cases, training for state, local, or tribal government emergency responder is offered at little to no cost to the local jurisdiction. More information on these training programs and courses can be found here: http://www.fema.gov/training.

Our prayers and the support of the federal government are with Governor Bentley, Mayor Maddox and the rest of the team in Alabama and other states in their ongoing recovery efforts.

Flood Protection Against Intentional or Natural Flooding

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Editor's Note: This post was updated May 18, 8:45 a.m.

Over the past few days, as we have continued working with our other federal partners to support Louisiana and other states impacted by the Mississippi River flooding, we have gotten questions about whether or not flood insurance protects against intentional flooding actions, like the U.S. Army Corps' decision to open the Morganza Spillway, and what other forms of aid are available to people currently being impacted by these events.

These are great – and important – questions and we thought it would be helpful to share some of the answers with all of you.

If I live near the Spillway, how does flood insurance apply to me?

Under current law, as passed by Congress, if you live in a high-risk flood zone and have a mortgage from a federally regulated lender, you are required by your lender to purchase a flood insurance policy, which can be through the National Flood Insurance Program, which offers flood insurance at affordable rates to homeowners and businesses. In terms of the areas in Louisiana currently being impacted by the Morganza Spillway, some communities may be in a high-risk flood zone, and some may not. If you're not sure of your current flood risk, go to www.floodsmart.gov and type in your address to easily determine your flood risk. Anyone can purchase flood insurance as long as your community participates in the National Flood Insurance Program, regardless of your flood risk. Remember – under current law, in most cases, there is a 30 day waiting period between when you purchase flood insurance and your policy takes effect.

If you already have flood insurance, policies under the National Flood Insurance Program cover flood damages to insured buildings and contents, whether caused by an intentional opening of spillways or breaching of levees (or other actions taken to mitigate the impact of flooding), or whether simply caused by a natural flooding event. We suggest locating your policy and proactively contacting your insurance agent to find out what information you may need to have on hand if you need to file a claim.  For general flood insurance questions, a step-by-step guide to filing a flood claim, and more information about flood insurance, visit www.floodsmart.gov or call 1-800-427-4661.

Supporting Louisiana's Flood Efforts

In Louisiana, it is still too soon to tell what the total scope of the damages from this flooding will be. As many of you may remember from our previous posts on how the disaster declarations process works, any requests for federal disaster assistance, whether for individual home repair or replacement funds, or for public infrastructure, begin with the governor. In Louisiana, we are currently working with Governor Jindal and his team to support their initial efforts to prepare for and respond to the flooding – and will continue to work closely with them as this flooding event continues. Our Federal Coordinating Officer on the ground, Gerry Stolar, is embedded with the state’s emergency management team, and he and other FEMA staff on the ground continue to stand ready to assist as needed.

And as we always say, we aren't alone – we're part of a much larger team, including other federal agencies. You can read more about how our partners at the U.S. Department of Agriculture are supporting the farmers impacted by the flooding events in Louisiana.

What other types of aid are available to help people being impacted?

We’re also continuing to closely monitor the ongoing flood fight in areas along the Mississippi River where the crest has past, such as Missouri and Tennessee, and in Mississippi, where waters are forecast to crest in the next few days. At the request of the governors, President Obama has declared major disasters for the states of Missouri, Tennessee and Mississippi, including individual assistance in many areas.

We continue to urge everyone who sustained losses due to flooding in designated counties to begin applying for assistance today by registering online at www.disasterassistance.gov, by web enabled mobile device at m.fema.gov, or by calling 1-800-621-FEMA(3362) or 1-800-462-7585 (TTY) for the hearing and speech impaired.

Great Hurricane Blowout: Get Engaged in Hurricane Preparedness

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Streets flood and power is out in Hidalgo County as Hurricane Dolly moves through Texas.
Welasco,TX, July 23, 2008 -- Streets flood and power is out in Hidalgo County as Hurricane Dolly moves through Texas.

As you probably know, we’re big on personal preparedness and with only a few weeks until the start of hurricane season, we’ve been using our blog to encourage those in hurricane prone areas to get ready for this season. We wanted to share another place for you and your family to find information on hurricane preparedness – the Great Hurricane Blowout.

An exciting part of this year’s Blowout are corresponding events to promote getting prepared throughout the season. One such event is the “National Hurricane Emergency Kit Party Day” on June 18, where individuals and groups pledge to host “kit parties” where hurricane emergency kits are built for neighbors in need. Act now! You can pledge to donate a kit by visiting the Great Hurricane Blowout website.

Check out the Blowout on the web, Facebook or Twitter for updates on Kit Party Day and other preparedness events. For a full list of items to include in a hurricane emergency kit (and other tips on getting prepared for hurricanes), we encourage you to visit Ready.gov. And if you have a smartphone, check out http://m.fema.gov for tips on your phone.

While we don’t know what the season may hold, we can take steps today to reduce the negative impacts of a hurricane.

Note:
The Blowout is sponsored by a collection of partners and presented by the Federal Alliance for Safe Homes.

Video: Supporting The Team In Louisiana

On Saturday, we shared how the emergency management team stood ready to support Louisiana as the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers made the decision to open the Morganza Spillway.  We continue to closely coordinate with the U.S. Department of Agriculture, and the Governor’s Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness to ensure the safety and recovery of the people and communities we serve.

Below is a video of Col. Ed Fleming, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, and Gerard Stolar, FEMA Federal Coordinating Officer, talking about ongoing federal support efforts as the spillway was opened:



For continued updates on the flooding in the Southern U.S., visit the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers “Operation Watershed” page on Facebook.  We will also continue to provide updates on this blog.

The National Level Exercise Kicks Off Today



Today, FEMA, along with other federal, state, local, private sector and other partners will kick off a week-long functional exercise, the capstone event of National Level Exercise 2011 (NLE 11), a White House-directed, Congressionally mandated cycle of planning and preparedness events.

The NLE 11 functional exercise, which will simulate a catastrophic earthquake in the New Madrid Seismic Zone, is scheduled to take place at venues in the national capital region and throughout the central U.S. These exercise activities are being carefully balanced with the current flooding and tornado-related disasters that FEMA and its partners are responding to, and adjustments have been made to exercise plans accordingly.

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