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Arkansas: One Month Later – Continuing Down the Road to Recovery

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A FEMA Community Relations specialist speaks with a resident during an community event in Rogers, AR.
Rogers, AR, June 4, 2011 --A FEMA Community Relations specialist speaks with a resident during an community event in Rogers, AR. FEMA Community Relations specialists were at the fair to provide residents about FEMA's disaster relief programs and to encourage residents affected by recent flooding or tornadoes to register for assistance.

Over a month after FEMA’s arrival in Arkansas following the devastating spring storms and tornadoes, state and federal agencies have rushed over $22 million in assistance to families and communities. While much assistance has come quickly, we still have so much more to do as the emergency management team - a team includes Arkansas residents – continues to meet the needs of survivors and the affected communities.

Our operation depends on the more than 300 state and federal workers who are helping survivors get back on their feet. These professionals bring plenty of experience, skills and talents to work for Arkansas disaster survivors. Specialists have visited with more than 2,067 survivors in our 20 disaster recovery centers and disaster assistance centers across the state. Housing inspectors have looked at more than 7,032 damaged homes in the 30 counties eligible for individual assistance. And many folks, such as our call center professionals, continue to work behind the scenes to support our mission.

Each state and federal worker has a role to play in the disaster assistance process, and we encourage survivors to take advantage of this assistance by registering for assistance. Survivors can register in several ways, by calling 1-800-621-FEMA (3362) or TTY 1-800-462-7585, visiting http://www.DisasterAssistance.gov/, or via web-enabled phone http://m.fema.gov/. So far, more than 8,900 Arkansans have registered for assistance in one of these ways.

Those with questions about registration, housing inspections, assistance and the recovery process can visit a disaster recovery center or its streamlined cousin, the more mobile disaster assistance center. Of course, many have had an opportunity to visit with one of more than two dozen specialists who have visited all 30 counties designated for individual assistance. They have walked hundreds of miles through damaged neighborhoods handing out fliers and answering survivors’ questions.

A FEMA Mitigation specialist talks to a residents about what needs to be done to protect his home against flooding or potential high winds and tornadoes.
Conway, AR, June 3, 2011 --A FEMA Mitigation specialist talks to a residents about what needs to be done to protect his home against flooding or potential high winds and tornadoes. FEMA specialist are setting up information booths in local hardware stores throughout Arkansas to provide residents with information that may help them protect their property if the area is affected by damaging winds and/or flood waters.

Those survivors who have completed the registration process are among the ones who have qualified for nearly $14.6 million in housing assistance, more than $2.6 million in other needs assistance and over $5.4 million in loans from the U.S. Small Business Administration.

Even as millions in assistance have gone to individuals, families and businesses, our public assistance effort has swung into gear. Public assistance grants are obligated to the state to help make damaged communities whole again. These dollars go to local governments, state agencies, and certain nonprofits to help clean up communities overwhelmed by disaster-related debris, repair roads and bridges, put utilities and water systems back in order, repair hospitals and emergency services, rebuild schools and universities, and put playground equipment back in public parks.

Fifty-two counties across the state have been designated for public assistance. After the devastating flooding in the eastern part of the state, FEMA expedited $360,000 to the state to pay members of the National Guard who placed sandbags in communities to ward off approaching flood waters. Another $278,000 has gone to Garland County for expedited debris removal. The state and communities are now completing their applications for reimbursement of other expenses and repairs incurred as a result of the April and May storms and flooding.

We have had a busy month as our partnerships with local and state governments have shifted into high gear. We feel very proud of what we and our Arkansas partners have accomplished so far – and we will continue to work just as hard in meeting the needs of those individuals and communities affected by the storms.

For the latest updates on the Arkansas recovery efforts, visit the disaster page.

Photos 6: Supporting Efforts for Southern U.S. Tornadoes and Flooding

Even though the national media attention has faded in recent weeks, we continue to fully support the state and local efforts across the southeast and central U.S. due to the tornadoes, flooding and severe storms. The response and recovery efforts are truly a team effort, with federal, state, tribal and local government, faith-based and non-profit groups, the private sector, and the public working together to meet the needs of disaster survivors and the affected community.

Here are some of the latest images from our photo library, showing our disaster recovery efforts in action.

And if you are a disaster survivor or know someone who sustained losses in a county designated for federal assistance, please share that you can apply for assistance at http://www.disasterassistance.gov/, on your phone at m.fema.gov or by calling 800-621-3362 / TTY 800-462-7585.

A FEMA mitigation specialist and Lowe's Store Manager review the plans for a ' DAWG HAUS' demonstration, which is a building method that helps structures withstand high winds.
Tuscaloosa, Ala., June 10, 2011 -- A FEMA mitigation specialist and Lowe's Store Manager review the plans for a ' DAWG HAUS' demonstration, which is a building method that helps structures withstand high winds. FEMA works with the private sector to get resources out to disaster survivors as they continue to rebuild their homes and businesses.



Mary Kay Leford, FEMA hazard mitigation specialist, discusses building safe rooms with Lowe's customer, Jack Kelley. Hazard mitigation specialists are providing information on how homeowners and business can rebuild at building supply stores in the declared counties.

Germantown, Tenn., June 8, 2011 -- Mary Kay Leford, FEMA hazard mitigation specialist, discusses building safe rooms with Lowe's customer, Jack Kelley. Hazard mitigation specialists are providing information on how homeowners and business can rebuild at building supply stores in the declared counties.

Applicant assistant Marie Hanzel reviews a disaster survivor’s case at the Carroll Country disaster recovery center.
Huntingdon, Tenn., June 8, 2011 -- Applicant assistant Marie Hanzel reviews a disaster survivor’s case at the Carroll Country disaster recovery center. FEMA disaster recovery centers are providing support as FEMA moves from county to county to be available in the areas that were recently declared.

A FEMA housing specialist inspects the kitchen in a small temporary housing unit that will be provided to an Arkansas resident whose home was damaged during the recent storms that swept across Arkansas.
Little Rock, Ark., June 8, 2011 --A FEMA housing specialist inspects the kitchen in a small temporary housing unit that will be provided to an Arkansas resident whose home was damaged during the recent storms that swept across Arkansas. FEMA is working with local, state, federal and private agencies to provide assistance to survivors of the recent storms which has impacted Arkansas.

Crews work to remove debris around Joplin, caused by the May 22 tornado.
Joplin, Mo., June 7, 2011 -- Crews work to remove debris around Joplin, caused by the May 22 tornado. FEMA has commissioned the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to oversee private contractors during the controlled debris removal.


Michael Padilla is one of 11,000 registered volunteers helping out in Joplin.
Joplin, Mo., June 4, 2011 -- Michael Padilla is one of 11,000 registered volunteers helping out in Joplin. Volunteers can register at Joplin's Volunteer Reception Center on the Missouri Southern State University campus. FEMA continues to work with volunteer-, community-, and faith-based groups as recovery efforts continue.

This mobile communications office vehicle is providing support to the disaster recovery center in Lauderdale County.
Ripley, Tenn., June 4, 2011 -- This mobile communications office vehicle is providing support to the disaster recovery center in Lauderdale County. The vehicles can set up and provide communications in areas where there is no communications support available.

A FEMA community relations specialist speaks with a resident during an community event in Rogers, Ark.
Rogers, Ark., June 4, 2011 -- A FEMA community relations specialist speaks with a resident during an community event in Rogers, Ark. FEMA community relations specialists were at the fair to provide residents about FEMA's disaster relief programs and to encourage residents affected by recent flooding or tornadoes to register for assistance.

HHS: A New Resource For Agencies That Send Text Messages

The kick off of the hurricane season in June serves as a reminder that any type of disaster can affect the health of individuals and entire communities. I wanted to share a new resource for state and local emergency managers and public health officials who send cell phone text alerts to the public after a disaster - a toolkit of texts with expert-approved recommended actions that people can take to protect their health.

The text messages from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services are 115 characters or fewer (including spaces), and are designed so that emergency managers can modify them easily if necessary to fit the community’s needs.

The text messages are the latest addition to an HHS communications package that includes 30-second public service announcements for radio and TV on how people can stay safe after disasters such as hurricanes, floods and earthquakes. The packages, including the text messages, are available for voluntary use by emergency managers at http://emergency.cdc.gov/disasters/psa.

Subject matter experts from across HHS developed the messages, on such subjects as carbon monoxide poisoning, food and drug safety, and safety regarding damaged buildings. To help ensure the texts would be valuable, state- and local-level emergency officials worked on teams with HHS officials to select messages and craft the wording.

Managers who draw texts from the toolkit can free their communicators to respond to other disaster-related messaging while knowing that the texts’ recommended actions are based on careful consideration and state-of-the-knowledge science.

Please feel free to spread word of this project to other departments that would benefit from having access to these messages. We welcome questions and feedback through publichealthemergency@hhs.gov, or by leaving a comment below.

What We’re Watching: 6/10/11

Potential severe weather
Over the next few days, the National Weather Service Climate Prediction Center is calling for drought conditions to continue for much of the southern U.S., stretching from Arizona to Florida. These drought conditions have caused wildfires to spread in parts of Arizona, New Mexico and Texas, and we continue to support emergency responders and firefighters through Fire Management Assistance Grants. Widespread flooding is also expected to continue for parts of the Mississippi, Missouri, and North Platte rivers.

We will continue to monitor the threat of severe weather, coordinating closely with our partners at the National Weather Service. If you're in an area with severe weather, wildfires, or flooding, remember to listen to the direction of local officials and follow evacuation orders if given.

And as higher temperatures arrive and summer settles in, make sure you’re taking steps to stay safe. We encourage you to take time with your family this weekend to create your family emergency plan – it can ultimately save the lives of the ones you love.

Increase in disaster higher education programs
A story in the New York Times highlighted that colleges around the U.S. are increasing their programs related to emergency management, a trend that’s been influenced by high-profile disasters such as the September 11 terrorist attacks and Hurricane Katrina. Here’s an excerpt from the full story:

The number of emergency-management programs in higher education has jumped from about 70 in 2001 to at least 232 now, according to the Federal Emergency Management Agency. In 1995, the year after FEMA began encouraging the development of new academic programs to supplement training at its Emergency Management Institute in Maryland, there were just five. In addition, there are now at least 112 “homeland security” programs, which focus mainly on terrorism — all of them begun since 9/11.

A local perspective on preparedness training
Several of our guest bloggers have talked about their experience after taking preparedness training, specifically at our Center for Domestic Preparedness. One of the most recent graduates from the CDP training is George Rodericks, city manager of Belvedere, Cali., who blogged about his experience and take a ways from the course. The center offers hands-on training for federal, state, local and tribal emergency responders on Chemical, Biological, Radiological, Nuclear, and Explosive weapons, as well as specialized training for healthcare professionals in disaster preparedness.

For an inside look at what CDP training is all about, check out George’s blog posts:

Recap: Secretary Napolitano Visit to Joplin


Secretary Napolitano visited Joplin, Mo. yesterday, meeting with disaster survivors and touring the St. John’s medical facility that was severely damaged during the May 22 tornado. The entire emergency management team – federal, state, local governments; the private sector; voluntary, community, and faith-based groups; and especially the public – continue to support the recovery efforts in Joplin, as well as the other areas hit by severe storms, tornadoes and flooding this spring.

For some more perspective on Secretary Napolitano’s visit, check out these stories from the Joplin Globe, Associated Press, and CNN. And as she said during her visit,

We will not leave until the job is finished...and we will continue to support our team of federal, state, local and community partners that are working tirelessly to help the people of Missouri rebuild their communities.

Dept. of Transportation: FHWA releases Emergency Relief Funds

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Editor's Note: This was originally posted on June 9, 2011 on Fast Lane, the official blog of the U.S. Secretary of Transportation.  The photos are from the FEMA photo library.

The storms that hit Alabama on April 27 swept across the northern portion of the state in 42 counties, with tornadoes cutting huge paths as much as a mile wide.

Tuesday, I toured the devastation in Alabama with U.S. Representatives Spencer Bachus and Terri Sewell, Birmingham Mayor William Bell, Alabama Department of Transportation Director John Cooper, and Federal Highway Administrator Victor Mendez.

I must say, it’s simply heartbreaking, and our prayers go out to the families affected.

Damaged area in Tuscaloosa, Alabama.
Tuscaloosa, Ala., June 1, 2011 - A damaged area in Tuscaloosa.

We at DOT salute the tireless first responders, the dedicated clean-up crews, and the selfless volunteers who have brought hope and compassion to people who need it so badly.

In addition to the loss of life and destruction of houses, natural disasters can cause tremendous damage to roads and bridges, leaving a huge financial burden on the states affected. That's why the Federal Highway Administration's emergency relief program provides critical funds to repair or rebuild roads and bridges damaged by natural disasters or catastrophic events.

After touring the damage in Alabama, I announced that, as part of the Obama Administration's disaster response, DOT is making available $1.5 million in quick release emergency funds to begin the considerable job of restoring roads and bridges across the state.

This money, which is a part of the Administration’s all-hands-on-deck response to this tragedy, will reimburse the state for early and crucial repairs made following the storms, including debris removal, sign replacement and traffic signal repairs.

Assistance from the Federal Emergency Management Administration is a crucial part of the administration's relief effort. So, if you have been affected by these storms and haven’t yet signed up for financial assistance from FEMA, we encourage you to do so at www.disasterassistance.gov. It’s not too late.

As President Obama said, "Our biggest priority now is to help this community recover, and we are going to do everything we can to help Alabama's communities rebuild."

This administration is committed to helping Alabama residents recover from this tragedy, and here at DOT, we will continue to do all we can to support that effort.

Announcing First Nationwide EAS Test

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As we often say here at FEMA, it's critical that all members of the team, whether its federal, state, local and tribal governments, or the public, have an emergency communications plan. Knowing how you would get in touch with the residents in your communities, or your loved ones, is a key part of how we all can prepare for disasters, both natural and man-made.

One of the most important communications tools that helps federal, state, local, territorial and tribal authorities issue emergency information and warnings to the public is the Emergency Alert System. This system is frequently used and tested at the local level, but to date it has never been tested on the national level. Chances are you have seen or heard the Emergency Alert System tested in your area many times, whether while watching your favorite TV show or listening to the radio.

Today, as part of our larger efforts to strengthen our nation’s preparedness and resiliency, FEMA and the Federal Communications Commission announced that we will conduct the first national-level test of the Emergency Alert System on November 9th of this year at 2 pm eastern. Similar to the way local emergency alert system tests are conducted, the nationwide test will involve television stations (including digital television, cable, satellite audio and television services) and broadcast radio stations across the U.S. and several U.S. territories (Puerto Rico, Virgin Islands, America Samoa) at the same time.

We’re announcing this test date many months in advance because we want all of our partners, and especially the public, to be aware of this test, what it means, and have plenty of time to prepare. To help explain how the test will work and what we can expect, below are some common questions and answers.

What is the Emergency Alert System?

The Emergency Alert System (EAS) is a national alert and warning system established to enable a regional or nationwide alert to address the American public in all 50 states and several territories (additional territories will be capable of receiving EAS messages soon) during emergencies. NOAA National Weather Service, governors and state and local emergency authorities also use it to issue more localized emergency alerts. Under the FCC’s rules, broadcasters, cable operators, Satellite Digital Audio Radio Service providers, Direct Broadcast Satellite service providers and wireline video service providers are required to receive and transmit Presidential EAS messages to the public. While various components of the system are tested regularly, there has never been a nationwide, top-to-bottom, test of the system. Also, to date, the EAS has not been used to deliver a national-level or Presidential alert.

Why is the EAS System being tested now?

The EAS has never been tested on a national level before, and conducting this test is an opportunity to test the system and its capabilities. The EAS test plays a key role in ensuring our nation is prepared for all hazards and people within its borders are able to receive critical and vital information, should it ever be needed.

While EAS tests may be temporarily disruptive to radio and television programming, they are important to ensure that the EAS is functional and that EAS participants are prepared to issue alerts, and it is our intent to minimize disruption and confusion to the extent possible. The November 9 date is near the end of hurricane season and before the severe winter weather season begins in earnest. The 2 PM EST broadcast time will minimize disruption during rush hours, while ensuring that the test occurs during working hours across the United States.

What will people hear and see during the test?

On November 9, the public will hear a message indicating that “This is a test.” The audio message will be the same for both radio and television. However, the image on the screen and the text/crawl at the top of television screen may not be the same for all viewers. When the EAS test is over, regular programming will resume.

As we continue working with all our partners to prepare for the test in the months ahead, FEMA and the FCC plan to conduct outreach to organizations representing people with hearing disabilities to prepare that community for the national EAS test. Outreach will include specific information tailored to the needs of those with hearing disabilities that will be readily available at online sites.

How long will the test last?

We anticipate that the test will last approximately 3 minutes. While most messages, such as tsunami or hurricane warnings, are limited to 2 minutes by the EAS system, the Presidential message capability does not have a time limit. So to evaluate if the system properly interprets the Presidential message code in this test, the message duration must be longer than two minutes in length.

And because, as with all areas of emergency management, this test will involve many members of the team, here is a quick overview of who does what to prepare for a national test:

FEMA develops, operates and maintains the national-level EAS; conduct test and exercises; ensures the national-level EAS keeps pace with emerging technologies through the use of low-cost innovation techniques.

The FCC maintains the regulatory responsibility, rules and enforcement of the Emergency Alert System with broadcasters and wireline service providers.

NOAA’s National Weather Service provides imminent weather threat warnings to the public. During the test, the NWS will provide situational awareness of possible severe weather and climate threats to the United States. If NOAA needs to activate the EAS for severe State/localized weather alerts, test managers may delay the test in that area to make way for the imminent threat weather alert.

State Emergency Operations Centers may monitor the tests and transmissions.

The private sector, including organizations such as the National Association of Broadcasters (including State Broadcast Associations), the Society of Broadcast Engineers (SBE), the National Alliance of State Broadcasters Associations (NASBA), American Cable Association (ACA), the Primary Entry Point Administrative Council (ACA), National Cable and Telecommunications Association (NCTA), Society of Cable Telecommunications Engineers, Broadcast Warning Working Group, and others provide extraordinary input for this test.

This test is another reminder that everyone should establish an emergency preparedness kit and emergency plan for themselves, their families, communities, and businesses. Anyone can visit www.ready.gov for more information about how to prepare for and stay informed about what to do in the event of an actual emergency.

As we continue to work with all our partners in the months leading up to this test, visit the FCC’s Public Safety and Homeland Security Bureau web page, at www.fcc.gov/pshs for updates and developments. We will also continue to post updates on this blog.

Adrian - First Named Pacific Storm Forms

Hurricane season is here, and the first named storm of 2011 is currently churning in the Pacific. Adrian, currently 350 miles south of Acapulco, Mexico, is currently forecasted to move out further into the Pacific and not pose a threat to the U.S. or its territories.

Even though Adrian isn’t expected to threaten the U.S., it serves as a good reminder that now is the time to be prepared if you live in a coastal area or could be affected by severe tropical weather. Ready.gov/hurricanes has tips for creating your family emergency plan and getting an emergency kit, so check it out today. And visit this blog post from yesterday to see how you can stay informed before a disaster strikes, with resources for the latest information about hurricanes and tropical storms from the National Hurricane Center and others.
 

  • Here are some safety tips to remember, in case a hurricane or tropical storm threatens your area:
  • Listen to the direction of local officials. Be sure to know your evacuation route in case evacuation orders are given.
  • Install straps or additional clips to securely fasten your roof to the frame structure. This will reduce roof damage.
  • Be sure trees and shrubs around your home are well trimmed – as high winds may cause loose branches to break free during a hurricane.

Other links
In addition to high winds, hurricanes and tropical storms can cause significant rainfall and flooding. Purchasing flood insurance is a great way to protect your home or business from the financial damages of flooding, so visit www.FloodSmart.gov today. Flood insurance policies take 30 days to become effective, so be sure to purchase flood insurance before you need it.

Hurricane Season 2011: Stay Informed Online or on Your Phone

The 2011 hurricane season began last week, so we’ve been blogging about ways you can get prepared for the hazards associated with severe tropical weather. While there hasn’t been a named tropical storm or hurricane yet this year, I wanted to share some resources you can bookmark or save that could be very helpful before, during and after disaster strikes.

So whether you are a parent, student, teacher, emergency responder or website manager, the resources below will keep you connected to the latest information on hurricanes and tropical storms. Take a look and share them with your friends and family – this isn’t an exhaustive list, so I encourage you to leave a comment and share other helpful resources out there. And be sure to visit Ready.gov/hurricanes to get prepared today.

National Hurricane Center – the official source for severe tropical weather (tropical cyclones, tropical storms, hurricanes) advisories and forecasts.

Full website / Mobile website
Facebook full site / Facebook mobile site
Atlantic Basin: Twitter full site / Twitter mobile site
Pacific Basin: Twitter full site / Twitter mobile site

And even if you don’t have a Twitter account, you can still get updates from the National Hurricane Center through your phone’s text capability: text follow NHC_Atlantic to 40404 (this is Twitter’s text message number and standard data rates apply).

National Weather Service – the official source for severe weather advisories, watches and warnings.

Full website / Mobile website
Facebook full site / Facebook mobile site

FEMA

Full website / Mobile website
Facebook full site / Facebook mobile site
Twitter full site / Twitter mobile site

You can also get Twitter updates from FEMA through your phone’s text capability: text follow FEMA to 40404 (this is Twitter’s text message number and standard data rates apply).

State Emergency Management Agencies – Find localized information on your state’s emergency management website or other digital channels. Many states also have Facebook or Twitter accounts, so be sure to check out our list of state Twitter accounts and “Favorite” Facebook pages.

Other Resources

 



News of the Day: Fire Escape Plan Proves Its Worth

One of the reasons people don’t prepare for an emergency is the mindset that “it could never happen to me”. But over the weekend, a potentially tragic fire at the home of country singer Trace Adkins proved the importance of having a plan before a disaster strikes.

According to news reports, a fire broke out in the garage and quickly spread to other areas of the home. CNN.com gives an account of Rhonda Adkins, Trace’s wife, after she heard about the fire from a neighbor:

Her three young daughters and their dog were inside the home with their nanny when the fire started. Rhonda Adkins was driving a few blocks away when a neighbor called her.

“She said that the house was on fire and we looked up in the air and we saw the black smoke," Adkins said. "And I said, 'Oh, my God, this isn't happening, this isn't real.'" When she pulled up to her yard, she found her children there unhurt, she said.

"They ran to their safe place like we practiced, in the front yard at a big tree," she said. "And it worked. You know, fire safety is so important, and today we used it."

Read the whole story on CNN.com, and take the opportunity to create or practice your family’s fire safety plan or emergency communications plan today. Like it did for the Adkins family, having an emergency plan that you practice can ultimately save the lives of the ones you love.

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