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Irene Update 20: Make a plan to keep in touch

As Hurricane Irene makes its way up the East Coast, millions may be affected by high winds, heavy rains, and potential power outages. During or after a disaster, voice calling networks may become overwhelmed, so placing a call on your cell phone may be difficult.

As we’ve said many times on this blog, make sure family members have multiple ways to get in touch with each other as part of your emergency plan. So here are a few tips, including some from the Federal Communications Commission, to remember when trying to contact friends and family during or after Irene comes through your area:
 

  • Identify an out-of town contact. It may be easier to make a long-distance phone call than to call across town, so an out-of-town contact may be in a better position to communicate among separated family members. Make sure all family members know that person’s phone number and have a cell phone, coins or a prepaid phone card to call the emergency contact.
  • Send an update to friends/family through social networks or e-mail, instead of calling. If you have a smartphone, learn to update your status or send an e-mail in case your computer’s not available.
  • Update your status on the American Red Cross Safe and Well site. It’s a website where disaster survivors can post their status after a disaster in case friends and family can’t get in touch with them; and where friends and family outside the disaster area can then search for messages from their loved ones by using a pre-disaster phone number or complete address.
  • Limit non-emergency phone calls. This will minimize network congestion, free up "space" on the network for emergency communications and conserve battery power if you are using a wireless phone. Keep all phone calls brief. If you need to use a phone, try to use it only to convey vital information to emergency personnel and/or family.
  • Try text messaging, also known as short messaging service (SMS) when using your wireless phone. In many cases text messages will go through when your call may not. It will also help free up more "space" for emergency communications on the telephone network.
  • Wait 10 seconds before redialing a call. On many wireless handsets, to re-dial a number, you simply push "send" after you've ended a call to redial the previous number. If you do this too quickly, the data from the handset to the cell sites do not have enough time to clear before you've resent the same data. This contributes to a clogged network.
  • Have charged batteries and car-charger adapters available for backup power for your wireless phone.
  • If you have call forwarding on your home number, forward your home number to your wireless number in the event of an evacuation. That way you will get incoming calls from your landline phone.
  • After the storm has passed, if you lose power in your home, try using your car to charge cell phones or listen to news alerts on the car radio. But be careful – don’t try to reach your car if it is not safe to do so, and remain vigilant about carbon monoxide emissions from your car if it is a closed space, such as a garage.

Irene Update 19: Stay Safe, Follow Direction of Local Officials

The latest forecast map from the National Hurricane Center.  For severe weather watches/warnings in your area, visit weather.gov.

As Hurricane Irene makes landfall on the North Carolina coast, we’re continuing to support our federal, state, local and tribal partners in the areas already affected, and those areas that may be impacted by the storm. If your community is under an imminent threat, it is critical that residents and businesses listen to the instructions of their local officials, closely follow news and weather reports, and evacuate, if told to do so.

While the “category” of a storm can fluctuate throughout a storm – the bottom line is this is a large and dangerous storm, and you don’t need to be directly in its path to be affected by the deadly hazards posed by hurricanes, such as coastal surges, inland flooding, tornadoes, flash flooding and high winds. Don’t put yourself at risk if the storm is affecting your area:

  • If sheltering in place, go to an interior room and stay away from windows and glass doors.
  • Make sure to have your family’s emergency kit with you, whether you’re told to evacuate or shelter in place. Your emergency kit should be able to sustain you and your family (including pets) for at least 72 hours.
  • Since heavy rains may occur, remember to stay away from flooded roadways and don’t try to walk through flooded areas. As we often say, turn around, don’t drown.

(Here's our full list of hurricane safety tips.)

What we’re doing
In advance preparation for the storm, FEMA and our federal partners have deployed support teams, resources and commodities into and near areas that could be affected by Hurricane Irene. President Obama has declared a federal state of emergency in Connecticut, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Massachusetts, Virginia, Maryland and Rhode Island – making additional federal resources available, if needed.

We have also proactively positioned eighteen Incident Management Assistance Teams along the coast to coordinate with state, tribal and local officials to identify needs and shortfalls affecting potential disaster response and recovery. Six national urban search and rescue teams have also been placed on alert in the event that search and rescue support is needed.

For a more detailed list of the actions of the federal family, check out today’s recap on the blog.

An important point to remember is that FEMA is just one part of our national emergency management team – state and local emergency management agencies and first responders up and down the east coast are also preparing for this storm, along with the entire federal family, state, tribal and municipal governments, the faith-based and non-profit communities, the private sector and most importantly the public.

Find your local severe weather watches/warnings at www.weather.gov or on your phone at mobile.weather.gov, and visit Ready.gov/hurricanes for tips on keeping your family safe.

Irene Update 18: August 27 Recap

Editor's note: This post was updated at 8 p.m. EDT, August 27.

The administration, coordinated through FEMA, is committed to bringing all of the resources of the federal family to bear to support the territories that have already been affected by Hurricane Irene and the states that are preparing for Hurricane Irene.

Through our regional offices in Boston, MA, Philadelphia, PA, New York City, NY, Atlanta, GA, and our Caribbean Area Office in Puerto Rico, have been in close contact and coordination with the territories that have been affected, and states that may be impacted.

Over the past several days, President Obama has declared emergency declarations for North Carolina, Maryland, Virginia, New Jersey, New York, Massachusetts, Connecticut, and Rhode Island, and earlier this week, declared an emergency for the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico, making available federal resources to support response efforts. Prior to Hurricane Irene's making landfall on the East Coast this morning, FEMA deployed teams and resources along the East Coast from South Carolina to Maine.

In advance of Irene moving through the territories earlier this week, FEMA deployed teams to both Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands to coordinate directly with local officials on the ground. At the direction of President Obama and DHS Secretary Napolitano, FEMA continues to work with our federal, state, territorial, tribal and local partners, as well as voluntary organizations, the private sector, and others to aggressively prepare for Hurricane Irene.

The following timeline provides an overview of these and other federal activities, to date, to support these territories, states, families and communities:
 

  • President Obama received the latest updates on the storm during a conference call with DHS Secretary Janet Napolitano, FEMA Administrator Craig Fugate and other senior members of his emergency management team. Secretary Napolitano and Administrator Fugate briefed the President on the intensity of the storm, the anticipated track of the storm and the response and recovery assets that have been pre-deployed along the east coast. The President asked the team that he be updated, as necessary, throughout the day and overnight.
  • President Obama visited the FEMA National Response Coordination Center to join DHS Secretary Janet Napolitano, FEMA Administrator Craig Fugate and representatives of response agencies for a briefing from states already affected or anticipated to be in the path of the hurricane.
  • President Obama signed a pre-disaster emergency declaration for the State of Maryland due to Hurricane Irene making available federal support to save lives and to protect property and public health and safety in six counties and one city. The emergency declaration covers Baltimore, Dorchester, Kent, Queen Anne's, Somerset, Talbot, Wicomico and Worcester counties and Baltimore City.
  • President Obama signed a pre-disaster emergency declaration for the State of New Hampshire due to Hurricane Irene making available federal support to save lives and to protect property and public health and safety for the entire state.
  • President Obama signed a pre-disaster emergency declaration for the State of Rhode Island due to Hurricane Irene making available federal support to save lives and to protect property and public health and safety for the entire state.
  • President Obama signed a pre-disaster emergency declaration for the State of New Jersey due to Hurricane Irene making available federal support to save lives and to protect property and public health and safety for the entire state.
  • President Obama signed a pre-disaster emergency declaration for the State of Connecticut due to Hurricane Irene making available federal support to save lives and to protect property and public health and safety for the entire state.
  • States, localities and the Red Cross have opened more than 150 shelters in eight states as local evacuation orders went into effect. The Red Cross is prepared to open more shelters. Last night, the shelter population was estimated at more than 13,000. More information about open Red Cross shelters is available at redcross.org and will continue to be updated as more shelters open. The Red Cross has staged hundreds of personnel, vehicles and other resources from across the nation in all the states along the path of Hurricane Irene on the East Coast. They will assist states and communities with mass care, feeding and other response needs.
  • FEMA disability integration specialists are positioned in North Carolina, Washington, D.C., Philadelphia, New York, and Boston to ensure that the needs of people with disabilities are fully considered when addressing the needs of the whole community.
  • The U.S. Department of Defense has positioned defense coordinating officers at FEMA's national response coordination center in Washington D.C., and in FEMA regional response coordination centers in Boston, New York City, Philadelphia, and Atlanta to support and coordinate any requests for defense assets and personnel.
  • Governors have activated 1,200 National Guard personnel in seven states (Fla., Conn., N.C., N.H., P.R., R.I. and Va.) to assist states with response efforts. In those states already being affected by the hurricane, National Guard forces are performing cleanup, communication, and search and rescue missions. The National Guard Bureau's Crisis Management Element has been activated. There are more than 83,000 National Guard personnel available in affected states to assist in hurricane relief efforts.
  • The Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) urges consumers to be especially careful during a loss of electrical power, as the risk of carbon monoxide poisoning and fire increases at that time. The CPSC and U.S. Fire Administration warn consumers NEVER to use portable generators indoors or in garages, basements or sheds. The exhaust from generators contains high levels of carbon monoxide that can quickly incapacitate and kill.
  • The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) activated the public health radio network which provides CDC, state, territorial, and local health departments with non-infrastructure dependent redundant communications capability - a back up method of communication when all else fails.
  • U.S. Postal Service (USPS) advised customers that normal service operations in the path of the storm may be affected in the event of unsafe conditions such as high winds, flooding or impassable roads. Depending on local conditions, some post offices may temporarily close their lobbies as Hurricane Irene makes landfall. If roads become impassable or unsafe for travel, mail delivery services may be curtailed, and mail collection schedules from mail collection boxes could be suspended. The latest information on USPS service updates is available at http://about.usps.com/news/service-alerts/welcome.htm.
  • FEMA has proactively positioned a total of 18 Incident Management Assistance Teams along the coast to coordinate with state, tribal and local officials to identify needs and shortfalls affecting potential disaster response and recovery. Six national urban search and rescue teams, comprised of more than 500 personnel, have been placed on alert in the event that search and rescue support is needed. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has deployed a total of five Disaster Medical Assistance Teams to staging areas.
  • Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) facilities along the United States' eastern seaboard have completed preparatory actions in advance of Hurricane Irene.

See yesterday's blog post for a recap of earlier federal activities.

Irene Update 17: An Update From Some Voluntary Agency Partners

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As I’ve been saying in several video updates this week, the entire emergency management team is busy preparing for and responding to Hurricane Irene. As part of our efforts, we’re working closely with voluntary and faith-based organizations, especially those part of the National Voluntary Organizations Active in Disasters (National VOAD).

This important partnership is vital in helping communities and individuals prepare for, respond to, and recover from disasters – because these organizations act as invaluable links to the communities they regularly serve. National VOAD is the forum where organizations share knowledge and resources throughout the disaster cycle – preparation, response and recovery – to help disaster survivors and their communities. Members of National VOAD form a coalition of nonprofit organizations that respond to disasters as part of their overall mission.

This afternoon, I held a call with Mickey Caison, President of National VOAD (www.NVOAD.org) and Director of Southern Baptist Disaster Relief (Southern Baptist Relief), and Major George Hood, National Community Relations and Development Secretary for The Salvation Army – two organizations commonly at the forefront of disaster response in the U.S. On the call, we discussed how the resources of the federal family and the hundreds of voluntary and faith-based organizations throughout the U.S. can best support state, local, and tribal responders, if additional help is needed.

FEMA Administrator Craig Fugate and Major George Hood who is the National Community Relations and Development Secretary for the Salvation Army listen to Mickey Caison in a conference call.
Washington D.C., DC, August 26, 2011 -- FEMA Administrator Craig Fugate (left) and Major George Hood, National Community Relations and Development Secretary for the Salvation Army listen in on a conference call with Mickey Caison, President of National Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster (NVOAD) and Director, Southern Baptist Disaster Relief. They are discussing current operations of NVOAD members in preparations for Hurricane Irene.

If your area may be affected by Hurricane Irene, I urge you to take steps now to get prepared, and follow the direction of local officials. Visit Ready.gov/hurricanes for tips on keeping your family safe, and visit weather.gov for the latest forecast conditions in your area from the National Weather Service.

And in case you aren’t familiar with the work of voluntary or faith-based organizations, here are some visuals of their efforts during the past few months :

This Florida faith based volunteer worker prepares to feed storm survivors at the First Baptist Church.
Double Springs, AL, May 6, 2011 -- A Southern Baptist volunteer worker prepares to feed storm survivors at the First Baptist Church following tornadoes in Alabama.

The Salvation Army staff partner with the Green Chair Project to help disaster survivors in North Carolina re-furnish their homes.
Raleigh, NC, May 12, 2011 -- The Salvation Army staff partner with the Green Chair Project to help disaster survivors in North Carolina re-furnish their homes. The Green Chair Project makes donated home furnishings available at a low cost to individuals and families identified and referred to Green Chair by its partner agencies.

An American Red Cross emergency vehicle provides meals and beverages to volunteers at the Wadena City Cemetery.
Wadena, MN, June 22, 2010 -- An American Red Cross emergency vehicle provides meals and beverages to volunteers at the Wadena City Cemetery which sustained severe tree damage during the June 17, 2010 F4 tornado.

Irene Update 16: August 26 Recap

FEMA Logistics Specialist Richard Page verifies transponder numbers, truck numbers and contents of each tractor trailer entering the Incident Support Base in Ft. Bragg, North Carolina. FEMA is staging equipment and emergency supplies in anticipation of Hurricane Irene on the coast of North Carolina.
Fayetteville, NC, August 26, 2011 -- FEMA Logistics Specialist Richard Page verifies transponder numbers, truck numbers and contents of each tractor trailer entering the Incident Support Base in Ft. Bragg, North Carolina. FEMA is staging equipment and emergency supplies in multiple locations to support state response and recovery efforts in anticipation of Hurricane Irene impacting the East Coast.

Through our regional offices in Boston, Mass., Philadelphia, Penn., New York, N.Y., Atlanta, Ga., and our Caribbean Area Office in Puerto Rico, have been in close contact and coordination with the territories that have been affected, and states that may be impacted.

Yesterday, President Obama declared an emergency for the State of North Carolina, and earlier this week, declared an emergency for the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico, making available federal resources to support response efforts.

In preparation for Hurricane Irene's East Coast landfall, we have deployed teams and resources along the East Coast from South Carolina to Maine. At the direction of President Obama and DHS Secretary Napolitano, we continue to work with our federal, state, territorial, tribal and local partners, as well as voluntary organizations, the private sector, and others to aggressively prepare for Hurricane Irene.

The following timeline provides an overview of these and other federal activities, to date, to support these territories, states, families and communities.

Friday, August 26

  • President Obama signed an emergency declaration for the State of New York due to Hurricane Irene, making federal assistance available to save lives and protect property and public health and safety in seven counties. This assistance is for Bronx, Kings, New York, Queens, Richmond, Nassau, and Suffolk counties.
  • Department of Homeland Security Secretary Napolitano and FEMA Administrator Craig Fugate briefed the President on ongoing activities in response to Hurricane Irene, including FEMA's support for territorial response activities in Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands, as well as FEMA's coordination of preparation efforts with the governors of potentially impacted states.
  • President Obama released a statement on the preparations for Hurricane Irene.
  • President Obama, Security Napolitano and Administrator Fugate held a teleconference with mayors of the East Coast's biggest cities to discuss the latest hurricane preparations and developments. They also asked the mayors if they anticipated any areas that would require additional support.
  • Administrator Fugate and National Hurricane Center Director Bill Read held a conference call with state, tribal and local officials to discuss response operations, the latest storm developments and preparations.
  • States, localities and the Red Cross are opening up emergency shelters along the East Coast up through New England as local officials announce evacuations along the coast and low-lying areas. The Red Cross is providing shelter information for residents who need to know where they can go. The information continues to be updated at www.redcross.org as more shelters open.
  • The Department of Health and Human Services has deployed three Disaster Medical Assistance Teams to staging areas. A Disaster Medical Assistance Team (DMAT) is comprised of medical professionals such as doctors, nurses, paramedics and pharmacists who are specially trained to provide emergency health and medical support to medical facilities such as hospitals and health centers.
  • In advance preparation for the hurricane, FEMA Incident Management Assistance Teams are staged in South Carolina, North Carolina, Virginia, New York, Massachusetts, and Vermont, and are en route to the District of Columbia, Connecticut, Delaware and Rhode Island. They will coordinate with state, tribal and local officials to identify needs and shortfalls impacting potential disaster response and recovery.
  • U.S. Coast Guard reports heightened state of readiness for various ports along the East Coast.
  • FEMA community relations teams are being staged to support states along the East Coast. These teams, if needed, help inform disaster survivors about available services and resources.
  • The FDA reminds consumers to take precautions for storing water and ensuring the safety of their food and medical supplies for themselves and their pets during and after this week's expected hurricane-related rain, possible flooding and power outages. Find out how to keep food safe during and after an emergency by visiting www.FoodSafety.gov.
  • The Small Business Administration urges business owners to prepare, in advance of the hurricane, and encourages everyone in the affected communities to listen to local public officials. If they say to close up shop or evacuate, don't hesitate.
  • The Nuclear Regulatory Commission is assessing nuclear power plant preparations, and NRC officials are in close coordination with state emergency operations centers.
  • FEMA Deputy Administrator Serino and National Hurricane Center Director Read held a conference call with congressional stakeholders to discuss response operations, the latest storm developments and preparations.

See yesterday's blog post for a recap of earlier federal activities.

Irene Update 15: North Carolina - Responding to and Preparing for Irene

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Editor’s note: We continue to work closely with several of our state, local and tribal partners as they respond to and prepare for Hurricane Irene. Here’s a guest blog from Doug Hoell, Director of North Carolina Emergency Management, on the work being done in North Carolina.


As Hurricane Irene approaches our state, the North Carolina Division of Emergency Management has been working to prepare for and respond to this event, getting people and supplies where they need to be to create the best chance for a successful response.

FEMA Logistics Specialist Demetrice Robinson labels and numbers each emergency supply truck entering the Incident Support Base at Ft. Bragg.
Fayetteville, NC, August 26, 2011 -- FEMA Logistics Specialist Demetrice Robinson labels and numbers each emergency supply truck entering the Incident Support Base at Ft. Bragg. FEMA is staging equipment and emergency supplies in North Carolina, should they be needed to supplement the state's response and recovery efforts.

On Wednesday, Governor Perdue declared a State of Emergency, clearing the way for the National Guard to assist in the state’s response to Hurricane Irene. On Thursday, the governor requested and received an emergency declaration from FEMA, which allows for federal assistance to the state and local governments that are affected by the storm.

We have taken steps to protect the lives and well being of our state’s visitors and residents. To help the evacuation process go smoothly, the State Highway Patrol has been directed to assist with evacuations ordered by local governments. They will be aided by members of the Civil Air Patrol, who will help monitor coastal evacuations to provide quick response as needed. In addition, troops from the NC National Guard are helping and swift water rescue teams are on standby and available to assist if needed.

We’ve also worked closely with our federal partners. At our request, FEMA has prepositioned food and water in the state, helping to cut down the time between the landfall and our response.

All of these steps are important, but none of these can replace the need for our citizens to be ready. To all North Carolinians, we ask that you get prepared and stay informed. Listen to your local officials. If they say to evacuate, then go. For anyone not in an evacuation zone but still in Irene’s path, make sure you have enough food, water and medication. Hurricanes can knock out power and shut down roads, so be sure that all of the supplies that you need are on hand.

For any questions on updated weather information, highway closings, shelter information and feeding sites, the state has set up a toll-free, bilingual hotline. English and Spanish speaking people should call 1-888-835-9966. Deaf and hard of hearing people may call 1-877-877-1765 (TTY) or 711 (Relay N.C.) The hotline will also serve as a referral line for people in need of help following the event.

For updates on storm preparation and response from NC Emergency Management, follow them on Facebook and Twitter @NCEmergency.

New Digital Tools: FEMA App and Text Message Updates

As Hurricane Irene threatens the East Coast, I’m excited to announce FEMA’s gone mobile (again). I wanted to share two new ways you can get information about how to prepare for and recover from hurricanes and other disasters on your mobile devices, and here’s Administrator Fugate to introduce one of them (and then continue reading for even more details):



FEMA App


In the new FEMA App, you’ll be able to:

  • Check off the items you have in your family’s emergency kit,
  • Enter your family emergency meeting locations,
  • Review safety tips on what to do before, during and after a disaster,
  • View a map of shelters and disaster recovery centers across the U.S., and
  • Read our latest blog posts.

When we built the app, we kept the disaster survivor in mind, making sure much of the information would be available even if cell phone service isn’t, so you’ll be able to access the important information on how to safe after a disaster, as well as your family emergency meeting locations.

So as Administrator Fugate said, you can download our app today in the Android market, and look for FEMA App for Blackberry version 6 devices and iPhones in the coming weeks.

FEMA Text Messages


A new and separate service from the new app, our text message updates will allow cell phone users to receive text message updates from FEMA.
 

  • Text PREPARE to 43362 (4FEMA) to sign up to receive monthly disaster safety tips
  • Text SHELTER + your ZIP code to 43362 (4FEMA) to find the nearest shelter in your area (example: shelter 12345)

    (For availability of shelters and services, contact your local emergency management agency.)
  • Text DRC + your ZIP code to 43362 (4FEMA) to find the nearest disaster recovery center in your area (for example, if you lived in Annandale, Virginia with a Zip Code of 22003, you’d text DRC 22003).

We’re excited to provide these two new ways you can access information on your mobile device, in addition to our already existing mobile site – m.fema.gov. Stay tuned to our blog, Facebook and Twitter channels as we roll out our app to the remaining smartphone operating systems and make enhancements to our text messages program.

So download the app or text PREPARE to 43362, and then leave us a comment and let us know what you think. We encourage you to tell a family member, friend, or neighbor as well, so they can have disaster safety information always at their fingertips.

FEMA app frequently asked questions

Q: Will I get emergency alerts and warnings through the FEMA App?
A: No. The FEMA App provides preparedness and disaster recovery information only. If you are in an emergency situation and need to reach a first responder, you should always dial 911. And remember to listen to your state and local officials for instructions and updates about emergencies where you live.

Q: Can I discontinue using the App at anytime?
A: Yes. To discontinue using the FEMA App, simply delete the icon on your smartphone or remove it just like you remove any other App on your smartphone.

Q: What are the future enhancements?
A: If you have suggestions/ideas for future enhancements, please send them to: FEMA-new-media@dhs.gov. FEMA will continue to develop enhancements and add them to updated versions of the App, and we welcome your input.

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FEMA text messages frequently asked questions

Q: Can I discontinue using this service at anytime?
A: Yes. To stop receiving Text Messages from FEMA, simply text: STOP to 43362 (4FEMA).

Q: How often will I receive these messages?
A: If you sign up for the monthly preparedness message, then obviously once a month. When we create additional keywords to sign up for more information, we will let you know how often we think we will send updates. At any time, you can unsubscribe from updates by texting: Stop to 43362 (4FEMA).

Q: What are the future enhancements?
A: If you have suggestions/ideas for other information you would like to receive via text message, please send them to: FEMA-new-media@dhs.gov

Q: Will I get emergency alerts and warnings through the FEMA Text Messaging?
A: No. FEMA Text Messages are not for emergency alerts or notifications. If you are in an emergency situation and need to reach a first responder, you should always dial 911. And remember to listen to your state and local officials for instructions and updates about emergencies where you live.

Irene Update 14: Now Is the Time to Get Prepared

We continue to stand ready to support the governors and those states that may be affected by Hurricane Irene. The federal government is aggressively getting ready for two phases of this operation – response and recovery – and has teams and commodities moving into all of the states/regions across the East Coast that will be impacted. For those along the East Coast that may be affected by Irene, the most important message for today is to follow the direction of local officials and make sure you’re making plans to keep your family safety.

Hurricane Irene is a large, dangerous storm that could affect millions in the eastern U.S. with high winds, heavy rains, and potential flooding. If your area may be affected by Irene, make sure to follow the direction of local officials and closely follow news and weather reports. If local officials give the order to evacuate, do so along your pre-determined evacuation route.

The National Weather Service has issued many severe weather watches and warnings along the East Coast, so here’s a reminder on the terminology in case your area may be affected:

  • A hurricane watch means means sustained winds of 74 mph or greater are possible within the specified area in the next 48 hours. Be prepared to evacuate. Monitor local radio and television news outlets or listen to NOAA Weather Radio for the latest developments.
  • A hurricane warning is means sustained winds of 74 mph or greater are expected within the specified area in the next 36 hours. If local authorities advise you to evacuate, leave immediately.
  • A tropical storm watch means that tropical storm conditions (sustained winds of 39 to 73 mph) are possible within the specified area within 48 hours. Be prepared to evacuate. Monitor local radio and television news outlets or listen to NOAA Weather Radio for the latest developments.
  • A tropical storm warning means that tropical storm conditions (sustained winds of 39 to 73 mph) are expected somewhere within the specified area within 36 hours. If local authorities advise you to evacuate, leave immediately.

Your local National Weather Service forecast office is the best place to find information about Hurricane Irene’s potential impacts in your area, so check your local forecast at www.weather.gov or on your phone at mobile.weather.gov. And as Irene may bring heavy rains and potential flooding to coastal and inland areas, here’s a refresher on flood terminology as well:

  • Flood Watch: Flooding is possible. Tune in to NOAA Weather Radio, commercial radio, or television for information
  • Flash Flood Watch: Flash flooding is possible. Be prepared to move to higher ground; listen to NOAA Weather Radio, commercial radio, or television for information.
  • Flood Warning: Flooding is occurring or will occur soon; if advised to evacuate, do so immediately, avoiding low-lying areas and roadways covered with flood waters.
  • Flash Flood Warning: A flash flood is occurring; seek higher ground on foot immediately.

Visit Ready.gov/hurricanes for information on getting prepared for a tropical storm/hurricane, and bookmark m.fema.gov on your smartphone for tips on staying safe before, during and after the storm.

Joplin Recovery: A Visit with Private Sector Partners

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Joplin, MO, August 22, 2011 -- Walgreen on 20th Street and Range Line re-opens after it was destroyed by the EF-5 tornado on May 22, 2011. Walls and a roof on the building only took nine days to build. FEMA is in the city to provide assistance to the disaster survivors.
Joplin, MO, August 22, 2011 -- Walgreen on 20th Street and Range Line re-opens after it was destroyed by the EF-5 tornado on May 22, 2011. Walls and a roof on the building only took nine days to build. FEMA is in the city to provide assistance to the disaster survivors.

On August 22, three months following the devastating tornado, I visited Joplin, Missouri. I wanted to see first-hand how the public and private sector were working hand-in-hand in recovery, bringing their community back – stronger and better than before. While touring the area, I met some amazing business owners and managers who are making things happen for their employees, neighbors, businesses and the community as a whole.

I visited with Darren Fullerton, vice president of Student Affairs at Missouri Southern State University (MSSU). MSSU was not in the path of the storm, so it was not damaged, but MSSU provided housing for survivors , first responders, and AmeriCorps volunteers. Their Health Science Building served as a temporary hospital and a temporary mortuary was set up as well. MSSU started the fall semester on time, as did schools that were damaged in the tornado – without missing a beat!

Joplin, MO, August 10, 2011 -- Firefighters who were first on the scene when an EF-5 tornado on May 22, 2011 tore a path in Joplin participated in the opening ceremony of the "I AM JOPLIN" event, a back-to-school gathering attended by thousands of school-aged children and their parents at Missouri Southern State University.
Joplin, MO, August 10, 2011 -- Firefighters who were first on the scene when an EF-5 tornado on May 22, 2011 tore a path in Joplin participated in the opening ceremony of the "I AM JOPLIN" event, a back-to-school gathering attended by thousands of school-aged children and their parents at Missouri Southern State University.

Moved by the Medicine Shoppe
I was moved by my visit to the Medicine Shoppe, a small business pharmacy whose building was destroyed. The morning after the storm, owners David and Sherree Starrett mustered their team. Working together with numerous community partners, friends and their insurance company, they were able to lease a new location, find new shelving, and begin calling all of their customers. The outpouring of support allowed them to reopen for business just six days after the tornado tore through Joplin. The Medicine Shoppe is a great example of small business recovery!

Lowe’s commitment to the community
Lowe’s demonstrated that the health and safety of the community comes first. As one of the few places in Joplin that still had power and phone service that fateful Sunday evening, they were instrumental to the immediate response in the Joplin community. When the fire chief told the store manager that they needed a mobile triage center for the injured, Lowe’s offered their facility and provided refrigerators to store blood during the response. They’ve also hosted FEMA’s Hazard Mitigation team members in their store, teaching homeowners about safe building techniques and rebuilding stronger after the storm.

More partners help spread the word
I met with Walmart, Chick-fil-A, Papa Johns, Con-way Truckload and Lamar Outdoor Advertising – all instrumental to the “I Am Joplin” event, to celebrate the return to school. They all helped in so many ways. I learned that Walgreens built a brand new store in just 83 days – a new record. I also toured the Home Depot tent and saw the construction efforts at their new building. They are including a safe room as part of that new construction – another first and a great example of preparedness, protection and mitigation. These companies and so many more members of the private sector in Joplin are proving themselves leaders in recovery.

Joplin Area Chamber of Commerce has also been a strong and caring leader in local business recovery. From the first day, they have been on the ground contacting every business that was in the tornado’s path, to assess the damage level and to discuss paths to recovery. I met with Gary Box, their Business Retention & Expansion Coordinator, and Rob O’Brian, Chamber President. They have already made historic strides in leading recovery and they have a plan for the future.

Joplin is a successful model and reminder that it takes the whole of community to recover. As we prepare for Hurricane Irene, we can be inspired to prepare and respond as a team as well.

Joplin, MO, August 22, 2011 -- David Starrett (left) owner of the Medicine Shoppe, meets with Dan Stoneking, director of FEMA's private sector division. The Medicine Shoppe store was able to reopen in a new location just six days after the tornado through working together with community partners, friends and their insurance company.
Joplin, MO, August 22, 2011 -- David Starrett (left) owner of the Medicine Shoppe, meets with Dan Stoneking, director of FEMA's private sector division. The Medicine Shoppe store was able to reopen in a new location just six days after the tornado through working together with community partners, friends and their insurance company.

Irene Update 13: August 25 Recap

FEMA's Region Response Coordination Center in Atlanta, Ga.

Atlanta, GA, August 25, 2011 -- The Region IV Region Response Coordination Center in Atlanta, Ga. has been fully activated to prepare for for the threat of Hurricane Irene impacting North and South Carolina. FEMA regional offices along the East Coast, in Philadelphia, Penn., Boston, Mass. and New York, N.Y. are also working closely with potentially affected states.

Through our regional offices in Boston, Mass., Philadelphia, Penn., New York, N.Y., Atlanta, Ga., and our Caribbean Area Office in Puerto Rico, have been in close contact and coordination with the territories that have been affected, and states that may be impacted.

On Monday, President Obama declared an emergency for the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico, making available federal resources to support response efforts. In advance of Irene moving through the territories, we deployed teams to both Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands to coordinate directly with local officials on the ground.

And at the direction of President Obama and DHS Secretary Napolitano, we continue to work with our federal, state, territorial, tribal, and local partners, as well as voluntary organizations, the private sector, and others to aggressively prepare for Hurricane Irene.

The following timeline provides an overview of these and other federal activities, to date, to support these territories, states, families and communities. For the latest updates on our activities, visit the Severe Tropical Weather category on our blog.

Thursday, August 25

  • Department of Homeland Secretary Napolitano and FEMA Administrator Craig Fugate brief the President on ongoing activities in response to Hurricane Irene, including FEMA's support for territorial response activities in Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands, as well as FEMA's coordination of preparation efforts with the governors of potentially impacted states.
  • In advance preparation for the storm, FEMA National Incident Management Assistance Teams (IMATs) are on the ground in North Carolina and Virginia and arriving in South Carolina, today in anticipation of further deployment to potential impact areas along the east coast of the U.S. In addition, Regional IMATs are also being deployed to Connecticut, Maryland, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Rhode Island and Vermont, to coordinate with state, tribal and local officials to identify needs and shortfalls impacting potential disaster response and recovery.
  • In addition to Incident Support Bases (ISBs) operating in Fort Bragg, NC and Fort Gordon in Augusta, GA to support federal operations to respond to Hurricane Irene, ISBs are being set up in Westover Air Reserve Base in Massachusetts and Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst in New Jersey, to support states within the regions. The Incident Support Base allows FEMA and federal partners to proactively stage commodities closer to areas potentially affected by severe weather, allowing us to quickly move needed supplies throughout nearby affected states, should they be needed and requested.
  • FEMA Liaisons are currently located in North Carolina, South Carolina, Massachusetts, Connecticut, Rhode Island and New York. Liaisons are also deploying New Jersey, Virginia and Maryland.
  • FEMA Deputy Administrator Serino and National Hurricane Center Director Bill Read hold a conference call with congressional stakeholders to discuss response operations, the latest storm developments and preparations.
  • Secretary Napolitano and Administrator Fugate later convened a call with state, local and tribal emergency management officials, homeland security advisors, elected officials and tribal leaders in all states potentially affected by Hurricane Irene as the storm travels up the East Coast-highlighting federal resources and coordinated federal, state, tribal and local resiliency efforts for Hurricane Irene.
  • Two Mobile Emergency Response System (MERS), one in Raleigh, NC and one at Fort Jackson, SC are staged to support emergency response communications needs.
  • A U.S. Army Corps of Engineers 249th Engineering Battalion (Prime Power) team is staged at the Fort Bragg, NC Incident Support Base.
  • U.S. Coast Guard Water Science Center deploys crews to North Carolina, South Carolina, Virginia and Maryland to deploy storm surge sensors to coastal areas. Additional sensors are being shipped to Florida, Connecticut and New York.
  • U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) facilities along the east coast have begun preparatory actions in advance of potential landfall of Hurricane Irene.
  • U.S. Department of the Interior units affected by the storm, primarily national parks and fish and wildlife refuges along the coast, are taking all appropriate actions and informing the public via local announcements as actions are taken. Among the preparations, the National Park Service and Fish and Wildlife Service are organizing and deploying Incident Management Teams and Law Enforcement Teams.
  • The American Red Cross begins opening shelters in North Carolina as local evacuation orders begin to go into effect. Additional shelters in North Carolina and other states are being prepared along the east coast. More information is available about open Red Cross shelters at redcross.org.
  • The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's (NOAA) National Hurricane Center is monitoring Hurricane Irene, issuing watches and warnings to affected areas as required, and flying jet surveillance missions to provide updated forecasts.
  • The Federal Communications Center (FCC) has deployed two Roll Call Spectrum Scanning teams to the FEMA regional offices in Atlanta and Boston. These teams conduct post scans after landfall to determine which critical communications systems might have been impacted.
  • U.S. Health and Human Services (HHS) is prepared to provide public health and medical support to states along the east coast in response to Hurricane Irene. The HHS is also coordinating with public health and emergency management agencies in U.S. territories and states along the projected hurricane path to make information available on how people can protect their health as they prepare for and respond to hurricanes and other natural disasters.
  • The U.S. Northern Command (NORTHCOM) has activated a Defense Coordinating Officer to the FEMA Regional Response Coordination Center in Atlanta in preparation for support to civil authorities as Hurricane Irene approaches the east coast of the United States. 

See yesterday's blog post for a recap of earlier federal activities.

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