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Recap 8: Response and Support Efforts for Southern U.S. Tornadoes and Severe Storms

Since the deadly tornadoes first struck parts of the country last week, the federal government has been in constant contact with all of the impacted states as they responded to and began recovery efforts from these devastating storms.

At the request of the respective governors, FEMA currently has teams on the ground in Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Mississippi, Kentucky, Tennessee and Virginia, as well as strategically pre-positioned commodities in the region to support the states.

Today, Federal Coordinating Officer Michael Byrne; Justo Hernandez, FEMA Deputy Coordinating Officer for Housing Operations in Alabama; and Alabama Emergency Management Agency Deputy Director Jeff Byard conducted briefings for congressional staff and state and local elected officials to speak about disaster response and recovery efforts.

Recap for Thursday, May 5th:

  • More than 42,000 people have registered for assistance in six states affected by severe weather and tornadoes in late April, including Alabama, Arkansas, Mississippi, Georgia and Tennessee, more than 700 of these registrations were completed through the mobile m.fema.gov site, and more than $17.9 million in grants has been approved for temporary housing and home repairs, low-cost loans to cover uninsured property losses, and other programs to help individuals and business owners recover from the effects of the disaster.
  • The joint Facebook page created by FEMA and the Alabama Emergency Management Agency currently has more than 3,400 fans.
  • U.S. Health and Human Services Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration is providing technical assistance to states on their grant applications and will provide grant management for the states when awards are made.
  • Federal Coordinating Officer Michael Byrne; Justo Hernandez, FEMA Deputy Coordinating Officer for Housing Operations in Alabama; and Alabama Emergency Management Agency Deputy Director Jeff Byard conducted briefings for congressional staff and state and local elected officials to speak about disaster response and recovery efforts.
  • The Humane Society of the United States is on the ground in Alabama and Mississippi, helping search for lost or injured animals.
  • To date, FEMA has posted more than 150 messages through its blog, Twitter and Facebook accounts, sharing information with disaster survivors on how to register for assistance, the role of disaster recovery centers and other information related to the federal government's support to the affected states and their residents.

Getting Supplies to Survivors is a Team Effort

Author: 

We have written a lot on this blog about what individuals can do to prepare for a disaster, and how we are working with the entire emergency management team to get the word out about the importance of preparedness, but we wanted to take a second and shed more light on the steps we and our state partners take to move needed emergency supplies to reach disaster survivors.

It's our job to be ready at all times to support our state and local counterparts when disaster strikes, and the way we get supplies to affected individuals and communities follows this same goal. At all times, FEMA has commodities (water, food, blankets, cots and generators), at our distribution centers that are strategically located throughout the United States and territories.

When a disaster is imminent or after the state’s governor has requested a disaster declaration, the state may make a request, through their FEMA regional office, for federal assistance if it believes its supplies may become exhausted. If the state’s request is approved, emergency supplies begin making their way to our state partners and disaster survivors.

These commodities are placed in pre-determined staging areas where the state then takes ownership and full possession of the requested emergency supplies. State and local governments then decide how and where to distribute these supplies to survivors.

To give an example of supplies in motion, we've featured a video of how we’ve been moving commodities and supplies to those affected by the southeast tornadoes and storms:



They often use three methods to get critical supplies to survivors:

  • Mobile delivery is a method that utilizes vehicles to drive into an affected area and provide commodities. This type of distribution is common in rural areas and where roads are damaged.
  • Direct deliveries is coordinating with a specific location, such as a shelter, feeding site, or hospital for the delivery of specific items and quantities and are usually larger in size and more specific in commodity type than what is delivered through mobile delivery.
  • Points of Distribution are centralized points where supplies are delivered and the public travels to the site to pick up life sustaining commodities following a disaster or emergency. The decision to activate, operate, and demobilize a POD is at the discretion of the local government.

So what emergency supplies are we talking about?
These commodities usually include shelf stable food and bottled water, blankets, cots, generators, tarps, plastic sheeting, infant and toddler kits, durable medical equipment, and a kit of basic medical supplies. Additional state requirements for supplies may be provided by our partners to supplement the original request.

U.S. Air Force and FEMA load water onto a Mobile Communications Office Vehicle.
Montgomery, AL, April 30, 2011 -- U.S. Air Force and FEMA load water for distribution.

Mobile Communication Operations Vehicles (see photo below) are another shippable commodity. These vehicles can perform a dual mission: to set up a command and control center or to serve as a disaster recovery center for survivors to get information and register for federal assistance.

FEMA Mobile Communcations Office Vehicles deploying to hard hit areas to start the disaster assistance registration process for surviors in need.
Montgomery, AL, April 30, 2011 -- Mobile Communcations Office Vehicles deploying to hard hit areas to start the disaster assistance registration process for surviors in need.

In other cases, if the threat of disaster is imminent, in the form of flooding, hurricanes or other phenomenon, we will send some of our commodities forward from our distribution centers to an Incident Support Base closer to the impacted areas in anticipation of requests from our state partners. (As we did in anticipation of flooding in the Upper Midwest this spring.)

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. As the details above demonstrate, the effectiveness of getting supplies to disaster survivors depends on all members of the team working closely together.

One week mark: Continuing to Support States' Tornado Recovery

A week ago, states and communities across the southern U.S. were affected by a series of deadly tornadoes. Tragically, many lost friends and loved ones, while even more lost their homes, possessions, and peace of mind. Our thoughts and prayers continue to go out to those affected the storms and tornadoes as we support our state and local counterparts in the ongoing response efforts. A lot has been said and done since the tornadoes struck, and we wanted to provide a quick recap of the ongoing federal support, while looking back at our blog posts from the week.

We will continue to update this blog on a daily basis, sharing our role in the recovery efforts, as well as what our partners are doing. And while the recovery will continue in the south, we are closely monitoring the threat of flooding in some of these impacted states and across much of the Central U.S. As always, we stand ready to assist our state counterparts in minimizing damage to life and property.

Recap 7: Response and Support Efforts for Southern U.S. Tornadoes and Severe Storms

Since the deadly tornadoes first struck parts of the country last week, the federal government has been in constant contact with all of the impacted states as they responded to and began recovery efforts from these devastating storms.

At the request of the respective governors, FEMA currently has personnel on the ground in Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Mississippi, Kentucky, Tennessee and Virginia, and commodities strategically pre-positioned in the region to support the states. 

Today,  Veterans Administration Under Secretary for Health, Dr. Robert A. Petzel and William C. Schoenhard, Veterans Health Administration, Deputy Under Secretary for Operations & Management traveled to Alabama to tour the Tuscaloosa Veterans Affairs Medical Center and meet with our veterans.  The following timeline provides an overview of these and other federal activities, to date, to support the impacted states, families and communities.

Recap for Wednesday, May 4th:

  • Two additional counties are designated for disaster assistance for individuals, households and businesses as part of Alabama's federal disaster declaration. The latest additions are Lamar and Lauderdale counties, which brings the total number of designated counties to 38.
  • More than 34,200 people have registered for assistance, and we have provided over $13.6 million in grants for temporary housing and home repairs, personal property replacement costs, necessary expenses and serious needs caused by the disaster, and other programs to help individuals and families recover from the effects of the disasters in Alabama, Mississippi, Georgia, Tennessee and Arkansas.
  • More than 1,530 FEMA employees have been deployed to the affected areas, including 320 FEMA Community Relations staff on the ground in Alabama, Mississippi, Georgia and Tennessee meeting with disaster survivors and explaining the assistance available and to help them register for assistance.
  • Department of Homeland Security Civil Rights and Civil Liberties is working with FEMA, along with others within the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), to respond to community concerns and to ensure disaster response and recovery strategies respect the civil rights and civil liberties of all populations.
  • Approximately 1.3 million liters of water, 1.4 million meals, 106 generators, 107,633 tarps, 10 infant/toddler kits have been transferred to the affected states in support of disaster survivors impacted by severe weather and tornadoes in the Southeast. 
  • American Red Cross has served more than 550,000 meals and snacks;  more than 169,000 have been served in Alabama.
  • Veterans Administration Under Secretary for Health, Dr. Robert A. Petzel and William C. Schoenhard, Veterans Health Administration Deputy Under Secretary for Operations & Management are in Alabama to tour the Tuscaloosa Veterans Affairs Medical Center and meet with veterans.
  • FEMA's Disaster Recovery Center locator is now active on the agencies' mobile site (m.fema.gov).  Disaster Recovery Centers are staffed by state, voluntary agency and federal personnel who meet one-on-one with disaster survivors to explain assistance programs.  As we respond and support our local/state partners, we're opening up disaster recovery centers in multiple states, to better serve survivors in the affected areas.

Mobile Site: Find a Disaster Recovery Center Near You

The title says it all.  Disaster survivors can now search for disaster recovery centers on our mobile site (m.fema.gov).  This latest feature is part of our commitment to deliver information to the public in a timely and efficient way.  After a disaster, we want to make it as easy as possible for disaster survivors to get the information that they need.

If you’re not familiar with disaster recovery centers, they are staffed by state, voluntary agency and federal personnel who meet one-on-one with disaster survivors to explain assistance programs.  As we respond and support our local/State partners, we’re opening up disaster recovery centers in multiple states, to better serve survivors in the affected areas.

And please keep in mind, you don’t need to go to a disaster recovery center to register for assistance.  There are three other ways you can apply:

  • Register online at http://www.disasterassistance.gov,
  • Register through a web-enabled mobile device at m.fema.gov, or
  • Call 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.

And in our effort to “free the data” because it’s a priority for Administrator Fugate, we’ve also made the locations of our disaster recovery centers available as a public data feed.  You can also check out other data feeds too.

If you know disaster survivors in an area affected by storms and they have a working smartphone, please call them and let them know about this new feature on our mobile site.

Photos 2: Support Efforts for Southern U.S. Tornadoes and Severe Storms

We wanted to highlight some of the photos from the last few days of the ongoing response and recovery efforts to the southern U.S. tornadoes.   To view all of our latest photos, visit our photo library.

Workers begin removal and salvage of what remains of the Tuscaloosa County Emergency Operations Center.
Tuscaloosa, Ala., May 3, 2011 -- Workers begin removal and salvage of what remains of the Tuscaloosa County Emergency Operations Center. The EOC was destroyed as a result of the April 27 tornado, and a temporary center has been set up at the Alabama Fire College with help from the FEMA Mobile Emergency Response Support to provide communications.


FEMA federal coordinating officer addresses FEMA staff during an all-hands meeting at the joint field office.
Garner, N.C., May 2, 2011 -- Mike Bolch, FEMA federal coordinating officer, addresses FEMA staff during an all-hands meeting at the joint field office in Garner, N.C. FEMA is responding to severe storms and deadly tornadoes that tore through the state April 16 that damaged or destroyed homes and businesses across North Carolina on.

Members of the Southern Baptist Convention work in partnership with the Red Cross to cook food.
Outside of the Belk Activity Center, members of the Southern Baptist Convention work in partnership with the Red Cross, cooking the food the Emergency Response Vehicles (ERV) take out on their feeding runs. Cheryl Peters, Southern Baptist chaplain, helps Red Cross volunteer Scott Brantley load a carboy of food onto an ERV. Photo courtesy of the American Red Cross (More Red Cross photos)


FEMA press secretary speaks with a Fox News reporter.
Birmingham, Ala., May 1, 2011 -- Prior to the press conference with Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano, Brad Carroll, FEMA press secretary, speaks with a Fox News reporter as Jason Nelson, chief of FEMA’s Disaster Branch, Legislative Division, approaches. FEMA works closely with the press to assure correct information goes out to help those impacted by the deadly April tornadoes.

Recap 6: Response and Support Efforts for Southern U.S. Tornadoes and Severe Storms

Since the deadly tornadoes first struck parts of the country last week, the federal government has been in constant contact with all of the impacted states as they responded to and began recovery efforts from these devastating storms.

At the request of the respective governors, we currently has personnel on the ground in Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Mississippi, Kentucky, Tennessee and Virginia, and commodities strategically pre-positioned in the region to support the states.

Recap for Tuesday, May 3:

  • Thirteen disaster recovery centers are open.  These are staffed by state, voluntary agency and federal personnel to help those whose homes or businesses were affected by recent storms and tornadoes. The centers will be open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. seven days a week until further notice.  At the centers, representatives from FEMA, state and other agencies meet one on one with disaster survivors, explain assistance programs and help survivors apply for disaster aid.

  • The American Red Cross teamed up with Tide to provide free laundry service for disaster survivors in Tuscaloosa, Alabama.

  • More than 300 inspectors are on the ground in Alabama, Mississippi, Georgia, Tennessee and Arkansas assessing damages in order to help applicants to receive financial assistance. The number of field inspectors is expected to increase rapidly over the next several days.More than 30,000 people have registered for assistance, and more than $9.5 million in grants has been approved for temporary housing and home repairs, low-cost loans to cover uninsured property losses, and other programs to help individuals and business owners recover from the effects of the disaster.

  • NOAA continues to update its online tornado information page. This site provides up to date stats and links.

  • Nearly 3,200 National Guard personnel (Alabama, Mississippi, and Arkansas) are conducting search and rescue, security, traffic control, and debris removal missions in support of tornado relief efforts.

  • DHS encourages individuals in affected areas to register for assistance and posted a widget to direct disaster survivors to http://www.disasterassistance.gov/ to register.  The widget also includes information to the FEMA mobile site and the (800) 621-3362, TTY (800) 462-7585 registration numbers.

How To Avoid and Report Scam Artists After a Disaster

After disaster strikes, many businesses, voluntary, faith-based, and community-based organizations, government agencies and committed citizens come together to try and meet the needs of the affected individuals and communities.  Unfortunately, disasters often bring out criminals who prey on the needs of disaster survivors by offering fraudulent services.

If you suspect anyone – an inspector, disaster survivor, or someone posing as one of these – of fraudulent activities, call our toll-free Disaster Fraud Hotline at 866-720-5721, or your local law enforcement officials.

To help you spot fraud, here is a list of consumer safety tips from federal and state agencies:

  • There is never a fee to apply for FEMA disaster assistance or to receive it. 
  • There is no fee for FEMA or U.S. Small Business Administration property damage inspections. 
  • The only ways to register for FEMA help are to call 800-621-3362 (TTY: 800-462-7585) or visit www.DisasterAssistance.gov. Or visit m.fema.gov from a smartphone or Web-enabled device.
  • Government workers will never ask for a fee or payment. They wear a photo ID. Watch out for middle men who promise you will receive money, especially if they ask for an up-front payment.
  • Get three written estimates for repair work. Then check credentials and contact your local Better Business Bureau or Chamber of Commerce to learn about any complaints against the contractor or business.
  • Before work begins, make sure you get a written contract detailing all the work to be performed, the costs, a projected completion date, and how to negotiate changes and settle disputes. 
  • Make sure the contract clearly states who will obtain the necessary permits. Consider having a lawyer review the contract if substantial costs are involved. Keep a copy of the signed contract. 
  • If the contractor provides any guarantees, they should be written into the contract clearly, stating what is guaranteed, who is responsible for the guarantee and how long the guarantee is valid. 
  • Pay only by check or a credit card. A reasonable down payment may be required to buy materials for some projects, but don't pay anything without a signed contract. 

News of the Day: Community Relations Workers On The Ground In the South

As we often say, it takes the hard work of the entire emergency management team to help disaster survivors get back on their feet as soon as possible.  Since the deadly tornadoes and storms struck the southern U.S. last week, we’ve been working to support our state and local counterparts, and getting the word out that individuals in eligible counties should apply for disaster assistance.

A story in today’s Washington Post highlighted our Community Relations teams, who go door to door to share information on how individuals and businesses owners can apply for assistance, and what the steps are in the process.

This video, taken last year after Hurricane Alex, gives another example of our Community Relations teams in action.  While the video references a hurricane, the teams operate in a very similar way from disaster to disaster:



As the response and recovery efforts continue, we will continue to work closely with the emergency management team – a team that includes state, local, tribal governments; the private sector; the public; and voluntary, faith-based, and community organizations – to support the needs of disaster survivors and the affected communities.

For the latest updates on the ongoing response and recovery to the southeast tornadoes, visit the Severe Storms / Tornadoes category on the blog.

Recap 5: Response and Support Efforts for Southern U.S. Tornadoes and Severe Storms

Editors note: this post was updated at 9:20 a.m. on May 3, 2011.

Since the deadly tornadoes first struck parts of the country last week, the federal government has been in constant contact with all of the impacted states as they responded to and began recovery efforts from these devastating storms.

At the request of the respective governors, FEMA currently has personnel on the ground in Alabama, Georgia, Mississippi, Kentucky, Tennessee and Virginia, and commodities strategically pre-positioned in the region to support the states.

Today, Administrator Craig Fugate, Tennessee's Governor Bill Haslam and state/local emergency management officials toured Greene County. Deputy Administrator Serino visited Dekalb County, Ala. to continue surveying the damage and meeting with state and local officials.

Recap for Monday, May 2:

  • Administrator Craig Fugate traveled to Tennessee to join Governor Bill Haslam, the Tennessee Emergency Management Agency and other state and local officials to tour the damages in Greene, County and visited with survivors of the tornadoes.
  • Deputy Administrator Rich Serino traveled to Alabama to meet with other federal, state and local partners to assess the damage and ensure the state is receiving all the support needed as they continue to recover from the devastating tornadoes that struck last week.
  • Administrator for Housing and Community Facilities Programs (USDA's Rural Development Agency) Tammy Trevino toured damage in North Carolina.
  • As federal-state-local damage assessments continue, 23 counties were added for individual assistance in Alabama, Georgia, and Mississippi to provide temporary housing and home repairs, low-cost loans to cover uninsured property losses, and other programs to help individuals and business owners recover.
  • Over 3,400 National Coast Guard officers supported security, traffic control and other operations in the affected area.
  • U.S. Small Business Administration officers were on the ground in Alabama, Mississippi and Georgia assisting disaster survivors with questions and support while filling out disasters loans applications.
  • A team of U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration aviators flew across Alabama and areas near Chattanooga, Tennessee to take aerial photos that assist federal, state and local managers with search and rescue operations, routing personnel and machinery, planning recovery efforts, and better understanding damage caused to the environment. Also, NOAA National Geodetic technicians captured images of disaster damage of 275 square miles from Tuscaloosa to Birmingham and additional 70 square miles of images in the vicinity of Cordova, Alabama.

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