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Irene Update 12: Administrator Fugate Offers Tips to Getting Prepared

We’re continuing to closely monitor Hurricane Irene as it threatens much of the East Coast, from Florida to Maine. While it’s too soon to tell exactly where Irene will make landfall or have the most significant impacts, Administrator Fugate has an update on the ways you can get prepared:
 


  • Know if you’re in an evacuation zone, and what your plan is to evacuate if local officials give the order.
  • If you’re not in an evacuation zone, be prepared for potential flooding and power outages. Make sure your emergency kit has supplies to sustain you, your family, and your pets for at least 72 hours.
  • Go to Ready.gov for information on building your emergency kit, making your family emergency plan, and staying informed. If you’re on the go, visit m.fema.gov for tips on preparing for a hurricane or tropical storm.
  • Visit hurricanes.gov for the latest forecast from the National Hurricane Center. And for the forecast for your local community, visit the National Weather Service website at weather.gov.

For the latest on our role, visit the Severe Tropical Weather category on our blog.

Irene Update 11: Mayor Bloomberg Urges Getting Prepared

Editor’s Note: As Hurricane Irene makes its way up the East Coast, our state and local partners are encouraging those in their communities to get prepared. For those in New York City, we wanted to share an important update from Mayor Bloomberg on how they can get prepared. This morning, the Mayor made remarks outside a place of worship in Queens, and here are excerpts of his address.

Visit nyc.gov for Mayor Bloomberg’s complete remarks. For information on getting prepared for a hurricane or tropical storm, visit www.Ready.gov/hurricanes.

 

By the time Irene gets to us, which is forecasted to do sometime on Sunday, it certainly will still be a powerful storm – possibly as strong as a Category 2 hurricane on Long Island, but anything can happen in terms of its direction and its severity…

At this point, the forecast does not indicate that the storm would hit New York City with that strength, but we certainly will still see its effects here, including tropical storm-like conditions such as heavy rains and winds of 60 miles an hour or more…

In the meantime, there are some steps that New Yorkers can take to prepare themselves for the storm. First, find out if you live in a hurricane evacuation zone. You can do this by going on the City’s website, nyc.gov and typing in your address, or by calling 311 and giving your address to the call-taker. If you do live in an evacuation zone, now is a very good time to check in with your friends or family in other parts of the city and identify a place you could stay if the weather gets bad…

Secondly, New Yorkers can prepare themselves by stocking up on some basic supplies and making what we call a ‘Go Bag,’ a bag that you could take with you if you had to leave home at a moment’s notice. Some of the things you should have in a ‘Go Bag’ are drinking water, a first-aid kit, a flashlight, any important medications that you take, essential documents, such as passports or other forms of ID, and an extra set of car and house keys…

We expect that Irene will have an effect on our beaches, and we are urging anyone who chooses to swim in the ocean today or this weekend to be extremely cautious and to watch out for riptides. In the event of rough surf at beaches, we are prepared to close those areas to the public and move equipment. But the most dangerous thing in this city, probably, where you’re the most likely to have tragedies, is people that go swimming…

Don’t go swimming if there isn’t a lifeguard there, don’t go swimming when the beaches get closed. I know some people love to go in the rough waves, it’s exciting, but it is dangerous and there’s no excitement that’s worth dying. And every year we say this, and then we still have tragedies. So please, if you have friends and neighbors or family members that are going swimming, try to convince them not to do so. It’s just better to be safe than sorry…

If any New Yorker wants to know what they personally can do to prepare, the Office of Emergency Management’s hurricane readiness guide is available in 11 languages on nyc.gov or by calling 311.

Irene Update 10: Preparations Happening All Along the East Coast

It’s still uncertain where Hurricane Irene will make the most impact along the East Coast – but one thing is certain – all those along the East Coast should take steps to get prepared.

Whether you live in a coastal area in South Carolina, an apartment in New York City, or a farm in Maine that’s away from the coast, it’s worth getting your family and home prepared. Whether Irene is a major hurricane or tropical storm when it comes to your area, it will bring significant rainfall and potentially damaging winds, increasing the risk of flooding and potential power outages.

As we continue to work with our federal, state and local partners all along the east coast, we’re taking proactive actions to support our partners in the potentially affected areas:
 

  • Incident Management Assistance Teams are either on location or en route today to North Carolina, Virginia, Maryland, New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, Rhode Island, Massachusetts, Vermont, New Hampshire and Maine. The primary mission of an IMAT is three-fold: rapidly deploy to an incident or potentially threatened venue, identify ways federal assistance could be used to best support the response and recovery efforts, should it become available, and work with partners across jurisdictions to support the affected State or territory.
  • State Liaison Officers are currently located in North Carolina, South Carolina, Massachusetts, Connecticut, and Rhode Island. Liaison officers are moving today for New York, New Jersey, Virginia, Maryland. These officials work with state officials to help coordinate federal support, if needed.
  • We’ve set up incident support bases and staging areas in several locations along the east coast that are pre-staging commodities commercial-size generators and communication equipment. These enhance our ability to quickly move needed supplies throughout the those states that may affected by the storm, should they be needed and requested.

And as we often say on our blog, we’re part of a larger team of voluntary- and faith-based organizations, other federal/state/local agencies, first responders, community groups, and members of the public that help the nation prepare for, respond to, and recover from emergencies.

What we’re doing is only a small part of the preparations being made at the national, state and local levels – it’s vital that individuals all along the East Coast to build their family emergency kit and make sure they have a family communication plan.

Irene Update 9: Entire East Coast Should Prepare

Posted by: Public Affairs

Hurricane Irene is currently making a turn along the East Coast, and forecasts from the National Hurricane Center project the storm could affect an area from Florida to Maine as it moves further north. We are continuing to closely monitor Irene and are in close contact and coordination with all of our state, tribal and territorial partners in the Caribbean and along the East Coast that have already or could possibly experience impacts from this storm.

As we’ve said all week, if you live along the East Coast (even in inland areas), take the storm seriously and make sure you’re taking steps to get prepared at Ready.gov/hurricanes. Hurricane Irene’s future path is still uncertain, and past experience tells us that hurricanes can change directions unexpectedly. (Administrator Fugate talked about the most important steps to get prepared in an interview with CNN this morning.)

Yesterday, we shared some hurricane safety tips, and today, we wanted to make sure you remember an important point:

  • Listen to the direction of local officials, and follow local updates – If local officials give the order to evacuate, do so immediately along your approved evacuation route.

    Your local National Weather Service forecast office has the most up-to-date information about the severe weather watches or warnings in your area. Visit weather.gov (mobile.weather.gov on your phone) for information directly from the National Weather Service.

What We’re Doing
In advance of the storm, our Incident Management Assistance Teams have been deployed to areas in North Carolina, South Carolina and Virginia, in anticipation of further deployment to potential impact areas along the east coast of the U.S.

We’re also pre-staging supplies and commodities along the East Coast to supplement state resources if needed - such as bottled water and meals-ready-to-eat. We’ve set up Incident Support Bases along the East Coast to proactively stage commodities closer to areas potentially affected by severe weather, allowing us to quickly move needed supplies throughout affected states, should they be needed and requested.

For more on the federal family’s actions to respond to and prepare for Irene, check out yesterday’s recap blog post.

Irene Update 8: August 24 Recap

Bill Read, Director of NOAA's National Hurricane Center, provides a briefing to federal and state partners on Hurricane Irene via videoteleconference.
Washington, D.C., August 24, 2011 -- Bill Read, Director of NOAA's National Hurricane Center (on-screen, center), provides a briefing to federal and state partners on Hurricane Irene via videoteleconference.

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.

Wednesday, August 24

  • Fort Bragg, North Carolina has been designated as an Incident Support Base to support federal operations to respond to Hurricane Irene. 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 affected states, should they be needed and requested.
  • The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has started deploying members of the 249th Engineering Battalion (Prime Power) to Puerto Rico to assist with restoring power to the island.
  • The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's (NOAA) National Hurricane Center is monitoring Hurricane Irene and flying jet surveillance missions to provide updated forecasts.
  • The National Guard Bureau has personnel on the ground in Puerto Rico providing support for clearing roads and debris, transporting equipment, communications, urban search and rescue efforts, and public safety and security needs.
  • U.S. NORTHCOM has deployed staff to Puerto Rico to help provide support and coordinate response efforts.
  • U.S. Coast Guard (USCG) Coast Guard is currently conducting port and air assessments in Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands to help re-open ports as soon as possible.
  • The American Red Cross is sending volunteers to North Carolina and South Carolina, and moving feeding trucks and communications equipment to east coast states. Local chapters are also getting ready for sheltering efforts.
  • The U.S. Department of Agriculture's Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) is issuing recommendations for residents in states that might be affected by Hurricane Irene to minimize the potential for foodborne illnesses in the event of power outages, flooding, and other problems that could be associated with the storm. Consumers with food safety questions can "Ask Karen," the FSIS virtual representative available 24 hours a day at www.AskKaren.gov. "Ask Karen" live chat services are available Monday through Friday, 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. ET.
  • FEMA Deputy Administrator Rich 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.

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


A FEMA logistics employee moves MRE's to get ready to load onto a trailer at the Atlanta Distribution Center in preparations for Hurricane Irene.
Atlanta, GA, August 23, 2011 -- A FEMA logistics employee moves meals ready to eat to get ready to load onto a trailer at the Atlanta Distribution Center in preparations for Hurricane Irene. The supplies will be moved to an Incident Support Base in North Carolina based on the storm's forecast track.

Tips for Back to School Safety

With the beginning of the school year fast approaching and already starting for some, I wanted to take the time to share some tips for students on back to school safety – especially those students off to college campuses. For some, college is the first time you’re leaving home so it can be an overwhelming thought.

Unfortunately, many students can lose a sense of reality while away at school because they’re in an unfamiliar environment, unaware of the potential hazards the area is prone to. As we've seen all year, from the deadly tornadoes this spring to the current hurricane season, disasters can strike anywhere, and can affect college campuses as well.

As you return to campus, remember to take a few steps to make sure you’re prepared in case of an emergency:
 

  • Take the time to learn your campus’ emergency plan, like where your evacuation route would be to leave campus, or who would give the order to evacuate.
  • Sign up for your college or university's emergency alert system. Many schools have a system that will alert students and faculty in the event of an emergency, either through a text message or an email, letting you know what to do and where to go.
  • If you are living in a dorm, learn and practice your dormitory’s emergency evacuation plan. Know where the nearest exits are from your room.
  • Use your phone as vital a communication vehicle - have emergency contacts saved in your phone so you will be able to call or text in the event of an emergency.
  • Learn to update your social networking sites through your phone- post/ update you status during an emergency to let family/friends you are OK.
  • If your cell phone has internet access, take advantage of mobile websites that are formatted to display information within your phone's internet browser. And remember to bookmark useful mobile websites such as The National Weather Service, Center for Disease Control, and FEMA.
  • And of course, get an emergency kit and store it under your bed or in your closet. Include items such as a NOAA battery powered weather radio, canned food and a manual can opener, and important documents. (More tips on building your emergency kit)

And with National Preparedness Month right around the corner, sign up to become a National Preparedness Month Coalition Member and encourage your fellow students to promote emergency preparedness on your campus all year long.

Whether you’re a student, educator, or parent, leave a comment and share the steps you’re taking to make your school a safer place.

Irene Update 7: Working Closely with Officials in Puerto Rico


Justo Hernandez briefs the media after Hurricane Irene.
San Juan, PR, August 24, 2011 -- Justo Hernandez, federal coordinating officer, briefs the media regarding FEMA's support of local officials after Hurricane Irene.

While much of the media attention is on Hurricane Irene's potential impacts along the East Coast of the U.S., FEMA is continuing to work closely with state and local officials in Puerto Rico - a U.S. territory that's already been affected by this hurricane. On Monday, Irene passed right over the island, bringing torrential rains and high winds, ultimately causing widespread power and water outages across the island. Shortly after, President Obama signed an emergency declaration for Puerto Rico, making additional federal resources available to supplement commonwealth and local response efforts.

I'd like to personally commend the efforts of first responders in the affected area, who are still working tirelessly to ensure the immediate needs of those affected are being met. They're an important part of the team, and I'm thankful for the strong relationship FEMA has with the first responder community in Puerto Rico.

We've already received a request to conduct preliminary damage assessments in the affected municipalities - and the weather conditions will allow us to do these assessments starting tomorrow. The teams will be looking for damage for both public assistance (which provides assistance to local government and private non-profit groups) and individual assistance (which provides assistance to affected individuals and business owners).

Our goal right now in Puerto Rico is to conduct these damage assessments as quickly as possible so we can help the governor determine whether the scope of the damages is beyond what the commonwealth is capable of handling, and if additional federal assistance is needed.

So for those along the East Coast of the U.S., I urge you to get prepared for Irene. The storm seems to be building strength as it moves further north, and we in Puerto Rico can attest to the importance of being prepared.

SBA Blog: Small Businesses Should Take Steps to Be Prepared

Author: 

Editor's note: This was originally posted by Karen Mills on the "Open For Business" blog from the Small Business Administration

Sometimes disasters strike without warning, such as earthquakes, including the one millions of Americans felt today on the East Coast. Other times, we have a few days to prepare, like we have right now with Hurricane Irene approaching the Carolinas. In the case of any natural or man-made disaster, small business owners should have a disaster preparedness plan in place and ready to go.

It’s often difficult for small business owners – some of the busiest people in America – to look beyond the most pressing, immediate business concerns. But an “ounce of prevention” today could mean the difference in whether a business is able to survive a disaster and quickly return to regular operations.

A few quick tips:

  • Make and keep an extra set of copies of important documents, such as insurance policies and financial records.
  • Check to make sure your employee and customer contact information is up-to-date and easy to access.
  • Be prepared to provide regular communications in anticipation of, during, and after a disaster to all of your stakeholders.

Most of all, we encourage everyone in the community to listen to local public officials. If they say to close up shop or evacuate, don’t hesitate.

In addition, I encourage small business owners throughout the country to check out federal resources and tips at www.ready.gov/business as well as a business readiness evaluation tool from the American Red Cross available for free at www.readyrating.org.

We’ve had many major natural disasters in the U.S. this year: floods, tornadoes, droughts, fires, earthquakes, and, now, hurricanes. The chances of a small business surviving a disaster is largely dependent on how prepared they are.

And make no mistake. After a major disaster strikes, the SBA will be there. We will activate our on-call reservists and start providing low-interest loans to homeowners, renters, businesses, and nonprofit organizations.

While we all hope that Hurricane Irene weakens over the coming days, we must remain vigilant. And we know that another hurricane – or another unexpected threat – could be just around the corner. There is no time like the present to ensure that America’s small business owners are ready for whatever comes their way.

Irene Update 6: A Few Safety Tips as Irene Continues its Approach

As Hurricane Irene continues to move through the Atlantic, we continue to be in close contact and coordination with all of our state and territorial partners in the Caribbean and along the East Coast that have already or could possibly experience impacts from this storm.  At this time, Hurricane Irene is a category three hurricane, according to the Staffir-Simpson scale, with maximum sustained winds of 115 mph.

What You Can Do

Yesterday, we emphasized that those along the East Coast should get prepared since Irene’s future path is uncertain. As Irene continues its approach toward the continental U.S., here are a few reminders:

  • Stay informed of the latest forecast – the National Hurricane Center continues to be the official source for Hurricane Irene forecasts and updates, which you can find at www.hurricanes.gov or on your phone at http://hurricanes.gov/mobile. If the storm approaches your community, your local National Weather Service forecast office is the best place to find any severe weather watches/warnings for your area (www.weather.gov or on your phone at http://mobile.weather.gov).
  • Know your evacuation plan – contact your local emergency management office to find out if you live in an evacuation zone and what the proper route would be if evacuation orders are given by local officials.
  • Have your emergency kit ready – make sure your emergency kit is capable of sustaining your family members (including pets) for at least 72 hours. Remember to include important documents, prescription medications, and other essentials for children and pets.
  • Review and practice your family’s emergency plan – make sure family members know how they will get in touch after a disaster, or where safe meeting locations are both in town and out-of-town. For more tips on making your family’s emergency plan, visit Ready.gov.

What We’re Doing

In advance preparation for the storm, FEMA National Incident Management Assistance Teams have been deployed to staging areas in Georgia and Virginia, in anticipation of further deployment to potential impact areas along the east coast of the U.S.

Earlier this week, Irene passed over Puerto Rico, causing widespread power and water outages for many on the island – which should act as an important reminder for those along the East Coast to get prepared. We’re continuing to work with commonwealth and local officials to conduct joint preliminary damage assessments, as weather permits, to help the governor determine whether additional federal assistance is needed.

Irene Update 5: August 23 Recap

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.

Last night, 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.

Tuesday, August 23

  • As part of a coordination call led by President Obama on the Virginia earthquake, Department of Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano and FEMA Administrator Craig Fugate also 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.
  • FEMA National Incident Management Assistance Teams have been deployed to staging areas in Georgia and Pennsylvania, in anticipation of further deployment to potential impact areas along the east coast of the U.S.
  • FEMA, and its federal partners, conduct a video-teleconference with the governors of the states and territories that already have, or could be impacted by the severe weather.
  • FEMA Administrator Craig Fugate and National Hurricane Center Director Bill Read hold 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.

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