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Administrator Fugate Visits FEMA Operations in Alabama

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FEMA Administrator Craig Fugate addresses employees at the Joint Field Office in Birmingham.
Birmingham, AL, June 27, 2011 -- FEMA Administrator Craig Fugate addresses employees at the Joint Field Office in Birmingham.

On Monday, Administrator Craig Fugate visited the Birmingham Joint Field Office, underscoring the agency’s ongoing focus on Alabama’s recovery from the April tornadoes. The Administrator toured the state in the immediate days following the storm, meeting with federal, state and local officials and ensuring they had the resources needed to respond and recover.

In a series of joint state and FEMA meetings, we briefed the Administrator on the progress made thus far and, more importantly, on our commitment going forward.

President Barack Obama recently called him "one of the busiest men in the nation," but the administrator assured everyone that the agency will remain in Alabama until all projects are closed and the communities in this state have what they need to rebuild – safer and more resilient than before.

FEMA Administrator Craig Fugate addresses employees at the Joint Field Office in Birmingham.
Birmingham, AL, June 27, 2011 -- FEMA Administrator Craig Fugate addresses employees at the Joint Field Office in Birmingham. Alabama was struck by a series of devastating tornadoes in April.

The administrator’s message was simple: “The urgency we put into getting the recovery started is the same urgency we need to get projects completed.” I cannot agree more, nor say it any better.

With last Friday’s announcement of a three-week registration deadline extension to July 18, survivors now have more time to register with FEMA and apply for U.S. Small Business Administration low-interest disaster loans.

More than $100 million in federal disaster assistance has already been approved to help survivors of the Alabama tornadoes, including more than $59 million in FEMA individual assistance program grants and almost $46 million in low-interest SBA disaster loans.

We expect those numbers to grow in the next three weeks as we focus on making certain disaster survivors are returning their SBA disaster loan applications.

Looking ahead, FEMA will be in Alabama long after the deadline, supporting the state and local communities for as long as it takes to rebuild the great state of Alabama.

To use Administrator Fugate’s words again, "We leave here when the work is done."

 

Travel Smarter & Safer This Summer


Summer is here, which often means vacations and more time on the road visiting the beach, national parks, amusement parks or camp grounds. While checking off items on your packing list, such as sun screen, shorts, towels, and gear, don’t forget a few tips to be safe and prepared while you’re on the go.



1. Pack your smartphone with safety info – Keep tabs on your latest local forecast at mobile.weather.gov, and visit m.fema.gov for safety and preparedness information on your phone. And if you’re flying to your destination, you can check airport status, travel tips, and even the security waiting times at www.tsa.gov/mobile.

2. If you’re driving, add an emergency kit to your vehicle - When you’re on the road, your vehicle is an extension of your home, so having an emergency kit can prove vital to keeping your family safe if an emergency occurs. Adding items such as a blanket, protein bars, bandages, and a solar powered cell phone charger are great to add to your vehicle’s kit.

3. If you’re flying, check out the Transportation Security Administration’s summer travel checklist – The TSA checklist is a great guide for air travel, with tips on what you can bring on the plane, the best ways to pack your bag, and more.

Make sure to plan for your pets, too - whether they’re making the trip with you, staying home, or spending time at a boarding facility. And as temperatures rise in the summer months, remember you can take steps to get prepared at http://www.ready.gov/.

This Weekend, Have Fun Safely

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Fireworks explode in the sky.
With all the Fourth of July celebrations this weekend, remember to be safe and leave the fireworks to the professionals.

Independence Day is a highlight of the summer and for many people there’s a lot of excitement around setting off colorful fireworks and grilling outdoors. As you plan your Fourth of July celebration with family and friends, I wanted to share a few safety tips to ensure your holiday weekend is a safe one, too.

Fireworks – Leave them to the Pros

Sadly, every year there are many injuries and deaths caused by amateur firework use. We ask that you leave the fireworks to the professionals this weekend, and remember:



  • Sparklers are not toys. They can reach 2,000 degrees Fahrenheit - hot enough to melt some metals.
  • In case pieces of fireworks end up near you after an event, leave them alone. Some may still be ignited and can explode.
  • Stand several feet away from the professionals lighting fireworks; fireworks can backfire or shoot off in the wrong direction.

Remember to Grill Safely

By taking a few fire safety precautions when grilling, you can keep those around the grill safe:



  • Propane and charcoal grills must only be used outdoors. Using them indoors or in any enclosed spaces (such as tents), poses a fire hazard and a risk of exposing occupants to deadly carbon monoxide poisoning.
  • Place the grill a safe distance from lawn games, play areas, and foot traffic. Grills should be positioned at least 10 feet away from siding, deck railing, and out from under eaves and overhanging branches.
  • Keep, matches, lighters, and starter fluid out of the reach of children in a locked drawer or cabinet.

I hope that you and your family have a safe and enjoyable Fourth of July. For more information, visit the U.S. Fire Administration’s summer and firework safety pages.

Photos: North Dakota Flooding & Recovery


Several of our bloggers have talked about our role in supporting the flood-fighting efforts in North Dakota, providing assistance to individuals, business owners, and the affected state and local governments. Earlier today, Deputy Administrator Serino visited Minot, and we will provide more details of his trip tomorrow.

As the work of the entire emergency management team continues in areas along with Souris River, here are some photos highlighting both precautionary measures and response activities related to the flooding in North Dakota.

Federal Emergency Management Agency employee, K. Ordway assists a disaster survivor at the FEMA/State Disaster Recovery Center at the Auditorium in South Minot, North Dakota.
Minot, ND, June 27, 2011 -- Federal Emergency Management Agency employee, Katherine Ordway assists a disaster survivor at the FEMA/State Disaster Recovery Center at the Auditorium in South Minot, North Dakota.

Robin Finegan (center), Administrator, FEMA Region VIII, and Stacie Greff (left), external affairs officer, listen to disaster survivor, Dona Young at the Red Cross Shelter in the auditorium in South Minot, North Dakota.
Minot, ND, June 27, 2011 -- Robin Finegan (center), Administrator, FEMA Region VIII, and Stacie Greff (left), external affairs officer, listen to disaster survivor, Dona Young at the Red Cross Shelter in the auditorium in South Minot, North Dakota.

Aerial view of Burlington, North Dakota inundated with flood waters from the Souris River.
Burlington, ND, June 25, 2011 -- Aerial view of Burlington, North Dakota inundated with flood waters from the Souris River.

Aerial view of flooding from the Souris River in the Oak Park neighborhood in Minot. FEMA is providing disaster assistance to Ward and Burleigh counties.
Minot, ND, June 25, 2011 -- Aerial view of flooding from the Souris River in the Oak Park neighborhood in Minot. FEMA is providing disaster assistance to Ward and Burleigh counties.

National Guard load 1,000 lb. sandbags onto a flatbed truck to use on levees along the Souris River in Minot. FEMA is providing disaster assistance to Ward and Burleigh counties.
Minot, ND, June 25, 2011 -- National Guard load 1,000 lb. sandbags onto a flatbed truck to use on levees along the Souris River in Minot. FEMA is providing disaster assistance to Ward and Burleigh counties.

Officials from the National Guard and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service discuss flood fighting measures during a survey of the damaged area.
Minot, ND, June 24, 2011 -- Officials from the National Guard and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service discuss flood fighting measures during a survey of the damaged area.

Nicholas Boesl plays in the sand as his mother and sister fill sandbags at the Sertoma Sports Complex. Residents are sandbagging along the Souris River to try to prevent flooding.
Minot, ND, June 23, 2011 -- Nicholas Boesl plays in the sand as his mother and sister fill sandbags at the Sertoma Sports Complex. Residents are sandbagging along the Souris River to try to prevent flooding.

Construction crews contracted by the Army Corps of Engineers add height to a dirt levee, in an effort to hold back the Souris River from flooding Minot. FEMA is working closely with federal, state, local and tribal partners in the ongoing flood fight.
Minot, ND, June 23, 2011 -- Construction crews contracted by the Army Corps of Engineers add height to a dirt levee, in an effort to hold back the Souris River from flooding Minot. FEMA is working closely with federal, state, local and tribal partners in the ongoing flood fight.

National Guardsman, and U.S. Deptartment of Wildlfe Services travel by airboat through flooded Oak Park neighborhood in Minot, N.D. The team were on a reconnaissance mission to check on telephone/power stations.
Minot, ND, June 26, 2011 -- National Guardsman, and U.S. Deptartment of Wildlfe Services travel by airboat through flooded Oak Park neighborhood in Minot, N.D. The team were on a reconnaissance mission to check on telephone/power stations.

FEMA Mobile Emergency Response Support (MERS) vehicle parked near the emergency operations center in South Minot
Minot, ND, June 25, 2011 -- FEMA Mobile Emergency Response Support (MERS) vehicle parked near the emergency operations center in South Minot.

Red Cross volunteer, Phil Wendel talks to disaster survivors at the FEMA/State Disaster Recovery Center in the auditorium in South Minot, N.D.
Minot, ND, June 27, 2011 -- Red Cross volunteer, Phil Wendel talks to disaster survivors at the FEMA/State Disaster Recovery Center in the auditorium in South Minot, N.D.

For the latest on the ongoing recovery efforts, visit the disaster page.

NPM 2011: Encouraging Emergency Preparedness

This September marks the eighth annual National Preparedness Month. This year’s theme “A Time to Remember. A Time to Prepare” aims at turning awareness into action. Individuals, businesses, government agencies, and nonprofit organizations can now sign up to become a National Preparedness Month Coalition Member, joining a community who will share emergency preparedness information.

In the past, National Preparedness Month coalition members have worked to create a culture of emergency preparedness in the United States. This year, with your help, we hope to increase the number as we encourage Americans to get prepared before a disaster strikes. So here’s how to get involved:

  • Register to become a coalition member at www.Ready.gov/community to have access to a toolkit full of resources for promoting emergency preparedness and to receive e-mail updates.

    Even if you were a coalition member last year, it’s important that you register this year to have the benefits of a coalition member. And be sure that each level of your organization registers – branch offices, regional offices, retail stores, etc. – so they can promote preparedness at their location, too.
  • Check out the webinar on National Preparedness Month for an overview of this year's theme and other resources available to NPM 2011 Coalition Members.

There is no better time to prepare your business or organization from a disaster than now. We hope you’ll join us in promoting emergency preparedness in September, and all year round, by visiting Ready.gov today.

News of the Day: Disaster Assistance in North Dakota

Federal Emergency Management Agency employee, Katherine Ordway assists a disaster survivor at the FEMA/State Disaster Recovery Center at the Auditorium in South Minot, North Dakota.
Minot, ND, June 27, 2011 -- Federal Emergency Management Agency employee, Katherine Ordway assists a disaster survivor at the FEMA/State Disaster Recovery Center at the Auditorium in South Minot, North Dakota.

As Robin Finegan, Regional Administrator for Region VIII, pointed out, we continue to support the federal, state and local flood-fighting efforts in response to historic high waters along the Souris River in North Dakota.  We wanted to share two stories that emphasize our role in providing assistance to those affected by the flooding:
 

  • Last night, NBC Nightly News provided an update on the flooding, while interviewing a disaster survivor at a disaster recovery center. We currently have three recovery centers open, along with the North Dakota Department of Emergency Services, to answer questions about recovery programs and disaster assistance.

    For more on the resources available at a disaster recovery center, check out this video that was shot earlier this year, from our operations in North Carolina:
  • Today, the Minot Daily News published a story about our community relations teams reaching out to disaster survivors. These teams have been on the ground in Ward and Burleigh counties, encouraging those affected by the flooding to apply for disaster assistance.

    If you have sustained losses from the flooding, please apply with FEMA by calling 1-800-621-3362 (TTY 1-800-462-7585), or by visiting DisasterAssistance.gov or m.fema.gov on your smartphone.

Alabama: Two Months After, Recovery Continues

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Today, June 27, marks two months since severe storms and tornadoes – some with wind speeds of more than 200 mph – struck hard. It was a catastrophe unlike any other. Tragically, 241 Alabamians were killed. Thousands were left homeless.

Our records show that more than 83,200 disaster survivors have applied for financial assistance from state and federal agencies. Think about that. That’s more than the total population of many good-sized Alabama communities.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency was in touch with the governor and the state director of emergency management even before the storms hit. After the president declared most of Alabama a major disaster area, we moved quickly to meet immediate and long-term needs. Disaster recovery centers opened. Community relations teams hit the streets to talk to survivors. Inspectors assessed damages to homes and businesses. Rebuilding specialists set up displays in home improvement stores. More than $100 million has been approved in federal grants and low-interest disaster loans.

Phil Campbell, AL, May 14, 2011 -- FEMA Community Relations Specialists Laura Philpot and Tom Violette speak with a storm survivor in front of his former home. FEMA Community Relations canvass each storm stricken area to be sure everyone receives information on how to apply for FEMA assistance to recover from the deadly April tornado.
Phil Campbell, AL, May 14, 2011 -- FEMA Community Relations Specialists Laura Philpot and Tom Violette speak with a storm survivor in front of his former home. FEMA Community Relations canvass each storm stricken area to be sure everyone receives information on how to apply for FEMA assistance to recover from the deadly April tornado.

Significant progress is being made. Not only because of the efforts of FEMA and other federal agencies, such as the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, but due to the cooperation of the entire team – the Alabama Emergency Management Agency, state and local responders, nonprofit organizations, private businesses and individuals who were on the ground within hours following the disaster.

And our work continues.

Recovery officials estimate that the tornadoes and storms left behind a total of 10 million cubic yards of debris. That’s enough material to fill the equivalent of 67,000 18-wheelers. And if those trucks were lined up one behind the other they would stretch all the way from Mobile to Nashville and halfway back again.

But no task is too daunting when we work together as a team. As part of the federal response effort 70 percent of all the debris has been removed by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, private contractors and force account labor. We’re especially pleased that most of the Corps’ subcontractors are from Alabama.

With an eye toward planning for future natural disasters, the Alabama Emergency Management Agency and FEMA hosted a Safer Alabama Summit at the University of Alabama. Participants included state and local officials, financial organizations, contractors, builders, engineers, academic and scientific departments and organizations, insurance companies and trade associations. It was estimated that nearly 300 attended and there is great interest in safe rooms and community shelters.

Governor Robert Bentley also has established a Long-Term Community Recovery Partnership to work on issues of housing, economic development, natural resources, health and social services and community planning. Local elected officials, nonprofit leaders and educators are among those who are participating.

Meanwhile, FEMA’s voluntary agency liaison specialists are working to ensure the smooth creation and operation of Long Term Recovery Committees at the county level. The committees coordinate help provided by voluntary agencies and generous donors for filling the gaps between needs and government assistance. Priorities include financial assistance, storage and distribution of donations, emotional and spiritual support, mud and debris cleanup, minor home repairs, and rebuilding.

On behalf of the state and federal recovery specialists who have mobilized here, we offer our deepest condolences to the families who suffered the loss of a loved one, as well as our thoughts and prayers for those who sustained catastrophic damage to their homes. By working together to face the tremendous challenges currently facing the state, and doing our jobs with commitment, courage and compassion, Alabama’s recovery will continue. We’re in it for the long haul.

For the latest on Alabama recovery efforts, visit the disaster page.

Floodwaters Swamp Minot, But Don’t Dampen Resolve in the “Magic City”

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 Liva Rovig loads sandbags on the back of a flatbed trailer at the Sertoma Sports Complex. Residents are sandbagging along the Souris River to try to prevent flooding.
Minot, ND, June 23, 2011 -- Liva Rovig loads sandbags on the back of a flatbed trailer at the Sertoma Sports Complex. Residents are sandbagging along the Souris River to try to prevent flooding.

Images of the flooding in the picturesque Souris River Valley are streaming all over the world. National and international media have descended upon the city of Minot and smaller communities like Burlington, Sawyer and Velva. However, seeing those images on a computer or television screen and seeing them in person are very different experiences.

I have had the opportunity to travel around Minot with local officials, the Governor and the North Dakota congressional delegation. I have seen homes of which only the rooftops are visible. Parks that should be full of children enjoying the summer sunshine sit submerged. And the truly surprising thing is that this flooding has only just begun – in Minot up to eight more feet of water is expected by the weekend.

The residents of this area have displayed amazing composure in the face of this disaster. Despite knowing the historic flooding was heading their way, folks have helped each other pack personal belongings and evacuate in an orderly fashion. Neighbors are helping neighbors, with the flood pulling tight-knit communities even closer. I’ve learned that Minot is known locally as the “Magic City”, and this flood has brought about a magical sense of unity in the city.

Local officials like Minot Mayor Curt Zimbleman and Burlington Mayor Jerome Gruenberg have been great examples of leadership as they lead their communities through perhaps the greatest challenge in their history. These leaders have been valued partners, along with Governor Dalrymple and the North Dakota congressional delegation, as FEMA coordinates federal response efforts.

Already, six air boats from the Fish and Wildlife Service are staged to support rescue and response efforts in Minot and Burlington. The Red Cross has established two shelters in Minot and is ready to open another in Burlington if needed. Cots and blankets have been brought in for use at the shelters. FEMA has provided resources to feed up to 2,500 people for three days and water to match, with the ability to bring in additional commodities as needed.

A community is more than its houses, infrastructure and buildings. The heart of a community is its people and in the communities of the Souris River Valley I’ve seen, that heart is still beating as strong as ever.

- Robin

For more information about the flooding go to www.nd.gov/des/#souris.

What We’re Watching: 6/24/11


Ongoing Severe Weather

We continue to closely monitor and work with our state and local partners as flooding continues along the Souris River. As you’ve probably seen in the news, local officials have issued evacuation orders for some communities along the river, specifically in Burlington and Minot. As we’ve said on this blog before, we will continue to work with the emergency management team to meet the needs of disaster survivors and the affected communities. Forecasts from the National Weather Service are calling for more rain in the Great Plains and the Midwest, so be sure to follow the direction of local officials and take steps today to get prepared.

And as rivers swell in some parts of the U.S., other areas are fighting a prolonged drought and wildfires. We continue to closely coordinate with state and local officials as wildfires continue across the south in Arizona, Georgia, New Mexico, Texas and Georgia, to name a few.

For your latest weather forecast, visit www.weather.gov or mobile.weather.gov on your smartphone.

NFL Players Encourage Preparedness

Over the past several months, we've worked with many partners from the private sector to encourage disaster survivors to apply for assistance, including the NFL Players Association. In the video below, Vonnie Holliday, defensive linebacker for the Washington Redskins, talks about the importance of getting prepared before a disaster strikes. Check out the video below, and Be sure to take a few minutes to visit Ready.gov this weekend to make a kit, get a plan, and be informed.



Continuing to Reach Out to Disaster Survivors



Providing disaster assistance doesn’t mean much if survivors don’t get the help they need. We’ve talked about community relations teams before; the FEMA employees who go door to door to share information on how individuals and businesses owners can apply for assistance, and what assistance may be available.

With this spring’s tornadoes, severe storms and flooding, our community relations teams have been busy reaching thousands of disaster survivors. We wanted to share the latest video and photos showing the teams in action.

And if you’ve been affected by the recent storms, tornadoes and flooding and live in an eligible county, you can apply for assistance by visiting http://www.disasterassistance.gov/ or m.fema.gov on your smartphone, calling (800) 621-3362 / TTY (800) 462-7585, or visiting a disaster recovery center.



 


 

Chattanooga, TN, June 18, 2011 -- Teisha Jeter (right), a community relations field worker, discusses special needs assistance with Delores Smith, who is visually impaired, as Joyce Morgan, her community relations team mate, looks on. Community relations field workers help special needs survivors find the help they may be eligible for.
Chattanooga, TN, June 18, 2011 -- Teisha Jeter (right), a community relations field worker, discusses special needs assistance with Delores Smith, who is visually impaired, as Joyce Morgan, her community relations team mate, looks on. Community relations field workers help special needs survivors find the help they may be eligible for.

Big Rock, TN, June 15, 2011 -- Foudiya Henri (left), a community relations field worker, talks with Tom Whitehawk as Shavonne Westerfield, Tennessee Emergency Management Agency, and Kristen McEnroe (background), Federal Coordinating Officer Cadre listen in. Community relations field workers are often the first face-to-face contact many survivors have with the agency.
Big Rock, TN, June 15, 2011 -- Foudiya Henri (left), a community relations field worker, talks with Tom Whitehawk as Shavonne Westerfield, Tennessee Emergency Management Agency, and Kristen McEnroe (background), Federal Coordinating Officer Cadre listen in. Community relations field workers are often the first face-to-face contact many survivors have with the agency.

Rogers, AR, June 4, 2011 --Gina Cortez, a FEMA Public Information officer, talks to a resident about registering with FEMA after her home was affected by recent flooding. Members of FEMA's Community Relations team attended a local fair to make sure visitors were given the opportunity to talk to FEMA representatives about disaster assistance.
Rogers, AR, June 4, 2011 --Gina Cortez, a FEMA Public Information officer, talks to a resident about registering with FEMA after her home was affected by recent flooding. Members of FEMA's Community Relations team attended a local fair to make sure visitors were given the opportunity to talk to FEMA representatives about disaster assistance.

Smithville, MS, May 28, 2011 -- FEMA Community Relations Specialist Toby Rice shares information with other FEMA Community Relations Specialists as they prepare to disseminate information to residents of Smithville Mississippi following a devastating tornado. FEMA works to insure that all affected by disaster are aware of available benefits.
Smithville, MS, May 28, 2011 -- FEMA Community Relations Specialist Toby Rice shares information with other FEMA Community Relations Specialists as they prepare to disseminate information to residents of Smithville Mississippi following a devastating tornado. FEMA works to insure that all affected by disaster are aware of available benefits.

For the latest information on a specific disaster, visit its disaster page.

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