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Quake in D.C. Serves As Reminder To Get Prepared

According to United States Geologic Survey, the mid-Atlantic Region of the United States experienced a 5.9 magnitude earthquake this afternoon. Along with the entire federal family, we are closely monitoring the situation and are in close contact and coordination with our federal and state partners in Virginia, the District of Columbia, Maryland and the surrounding areas.

There are no initial reports of significant damages, but we will continue to coordinate closely with our state and local partners to assess their needs.

Today’s earthquake in the mid-Atlantic region is a great reminder that emergencies can strike anywhere and often happen without warning. Be sure your family has an emergency plan and a kit of emergency supplies to sustain yourselves for at least 72 hours.

And as a reminder, here are a few tips on what to do during/after an earthquake:

  • If indoors, DROP to the ground; take COVER by getting under a sturdy table or other piece of furniture; and HOLD ON until the shaking stops. If there isn’t a table or desk near you, cover your face and head with your arms and crouch in an inside corner of the building.
  • If outdoors, move away from buildings, streetlights, and utility wires.
  • Voice data networks may be congested after a disaster, so send a text message or e-mail to loved ones to let them know you’re OK.
  • Follow the direction of local officials when making the decision to return home. Return home only when local authorities have said it’s safe.

Irene Update 4: Those Along East Coast Should Be Ready

Editor's Note: A list of emergency management agencies along the East Coast is below.  For our latest update on Irene, visit the Severe Tropical Weather category on the blog.
 

We’re continuing to closely monitor Hurricane Irene through our regional offices in Boston, Philadelphia, New York, and Atlanta. As the storm continues through the Caribbean, current forecasts from the National Hurricane Center project Irene may continue to strengthen and could make landfall anywhere along the East Coast.

We continue to be in constant 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. Yesterday, President Obama signed an emergency declaration for the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico, making available federal support to protect lives and property for all 78 municipalities there.

While the future path of Irene is uncertain, it’s important that those along the East Coast take steps to get prepared and stay informed as Irene approaches. Ready.gov/hurricanes has tips for getting prepared, and hurricanes.gov is the place for the latest forecast from the National Hurricane Center.

In an Associated Press story this morning, local officials along the east coast shared their concern as they make preparations for Irene. Here are some of their quotes from the full story:
 

"In terms of where it's going to go, there is still a pretty high level of uncertainty," said Wallace Hogsett, a National Hurricane Center meteorologist. "It's a very difficult forecast in terms of when [hurricane Irene] is going to turn northward."

"We want to make sure Floridians are paying attention," said Bryan Koon, director of the Florida Division of Emergency Management, who met Monday with the governor. "We are at the height of the hurricane season right now. If it's not Hurricane Irene, it could be the follow-up storm that impacts us."

"This is potentially a very serious hurricane," longtime Charleston Mayor Joseph P. Riley Jr. said. He led Charleston's recovery from the massive destruction of Hurricane Hugo's 135 mph winds and waves back in 1989.

"We must prepare for the worst and hope for the best," said Joe Martinez, chairman of the Miami-Dade County Commission.

Here’s a list of resources for state emergency management websites and social media accounts along the east coast:

Irene Update 3: August 22 Recap

Caribbean Area Division Director, Alejandro De La Campa provides the press with information about FEMA ongoing activities in support of the Puerto Rico government response operations to Tropical Storm Irene.
San Juan, Puerto Rico, August 21, 2011 -- Caribbean Area Division Director, Alejandro De La Campa provides the press with information about FEMA's ongoing activities in support of the Puerto Rico government response operations to Hurricane Irene.

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 as hurricane Irene approaches the continental U.S.  In advance of Irene moving through the territories, the federal government had taken proactive steps to support local officials and citizens.

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

Recap for Monday, August 22:

  • FEMA, through its regional office in New York, and its Caribbean Area Office in Puerto Rico, remains in constant contact and coordination with the governors and emergency management teams from the U.S. Virgin Islands and the Puerto Rico, as they continue response efforts and begin to assess damages from the storm.
  • FEMA, through its regional office in Atlanta, GA, is in contact with emergency management officials in Florida, Georgia, North Carolina, South Carolina, and other states that could be impacted by Irene later in the week, to identify any needs and potential shortfalls.
  • FEMA proactively deploys its National Incident Management Team to North Carolina in anticipation of any potential landfall to the southeastern U.S.
  • U.S. Coast Guard Sector San Juan personnel conduct port assessments and aids to navigation verification in Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands to reopen the ports as soon as possible.
  • National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)'s high-altitude research aircraft fly surveillance missions to assess the storm’s track.
  • FEMA’s Regional Response Coordination Center in New York activates to ensure that coordination of federal resources can be expedited and mobilized, should there be a request for federal assistance.
  • FEMA activates its National Response Coordination Center to 24-hour operations, to ensure federal coordination and resources are available to support the Regional Response Coordination Center and to monitor current storm conditions.


Sunday, August 21:
 

  • FEMA’s regional office in New York and its Caribbean Area Office in Puerto Rico continue their constant contact and coordination with the U.S. Virgin Islands Territory Emergency Management Agency and the Puerto Rico Emergency Management Agency.
  • Both the Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico activate their emergency operations centers.
  • FEMA embeds staff, called liaison officers, in the Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico emergency operations centers work directly with territory and local officials.
  • FEMA encourages residents in Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands to closely monitor weather conditions and listen to the direction of local and territory officials.
  • At all times, FEMA maintains commodities, including millions of liters of water, millions of meals and hundreds of thousands of blankets, strategically located at distribution centers throughout the United States and its territories. In Puerto Rico, for example, FEMA has more than 200,000 liters of water, more than 400,000 meals, and more than 1,400 cots and blankets, that could be used, if needed, to help with response and recovery efforts.

Saturday, August 20

  • FEMA proactively deploys Incident Management Assistance Teams to the U.S. Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico, to coordinate with territory and local officials to identify needs and shortfalls impacting potential disaster response and recovery.
     

Friday, August 19

  • FEMA begins closely monitoring the large tropical wave that eventually strengthens into Hurricane Irene.

Irene Update 2: Get Prepared

Editor's note: Video added at 1:52 p.m. EDT.



Last night, hurricane Irene passed over Puerto Rico, bringing heavy rains and high winds to the island. Our regional office in New York and our Caribbean Area Office remain in constant contact and coordination with the U.S. Virgin Islands Territory Emergency Management Agency and the Puerto Rico Emergency Management Agency, as Irene continues to move northwest this afternoon. A tropical storm warning is still in effect for Puerto Rico, Vieques and Culebra, so if you’re in the affected area, continue to follow the direction of local officials.

We currently have liaison officers and Incident Management Assistance Teams in the Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico emergency operations centers, working with territory and local officials to identify needs and shortfalls impacting potential disaster response and recovery.

While it’s still too early to tell how or where Irene may impact the continental U.S., it’s important that those in the Southeast, and especially those in coastal areas, take steps to get prepared. Visit Ready.gov/hurricanes for information on getting your home and family prepared, or visit m.fema.gov for hurricane safety tips on the go.


And for the latest forecasts from the National Hurricane Center on hurricane Irene, visit hurricanes.gov or hurricanes.gov/mobile on your smartphone. We will continue to provide updates about our role under the Severe Tropical Weather category on this blog.

(Para información sobre preparación en español, visite Listo.gov)

Irene Update 1: Warnings/Watches for Puerto Rico & U.S. Virgin Islands

(Entrada de blog en español / Spanish blog post)

Tropical storm Irene is currently churning in the Atlantic, where forecasters from the National Hurricane Center are expecting tropical storm conditions to begin in Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands this afternoon. We continue to closely monitor the storm through our regional offices in New York, N.Y., and Atlanta, Ga., as well as through our Caribbean Area Office located in San Juan, Puerto Rico.

We have positioned Incident Management Assistance Teams in both the U.S. Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico, and they are in close contact and coordination with both the U.S. Virgin Islands Territory Emergency Management Agency and the Puerto Rico emergency management agency (en espanol).

As of 1 p.m. EDT:

  • A hurricane warning has been issued for Puerto Rico, Vieques and Culebra - A hurricane warning means sustained winds of 74 mph or greater are expected within the specified area in the next 36 hours.
  • A hurricane watch has been issued for the U.S. Virgin Islands – A hurricane watch means sustained winds of 74 mph or greater are possible within the specified area in the next 48 hours.
  • A tropical storm warning has been issued for the U.S. Virgin Islands - 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.

What you can do

Forecasts from the National Hurricane Center predict Irene will approach Puerto Rico tonight and potentially affect Florida later this week. Tropical storms and hurricanes cause high winds and heavy rains, increasing the risk of flooding and flash flooding, along with wind damage. If you're in south Florida, now is the time to get prepared.

If you’re in the potentially affected area, here are a few tips to stay safe:

  • Monitor weather conditions and listen to the direction of local and territory officials, which for the Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico could include sheltering in place. Stay informed through local news reports, and make sure you have a hand-powered radio as part of your emergency kit,
  • If local officials give the order to evacuate, be sure to know your evacuation route,
  • Know what supplies you and your family will need to shelter in place, if that is the advice given by local officials, and
  • Find tips for getting prepared for a tropical storm or hurricane at Ready.gov/hurricanes.

Be sure to visit www.hurricanes.gov for the latest forecast information from the National Hurricane Center. We will continue to provide updates on this blog as well.

Other links
- Follow the National Hurricane Center on Twitter and Facebook
- Follow the Virgin Islands Emergency Management Agency on Twitter and Facebook

What We’re Watching: 8/19/11

Every Friday, we do a “What We’re Watching” blog as we look ahead to the weekend. We encourage you to share it with your friends and family, and have a safe weekend.

Peak hurricane season is here
Since hurricane season started back on June 1, no major storms have affected the U.S. But that doesn’t mean the rest of the season will follow suit, especially with the busiest months of severe tropical weather still ahead. We’re closely monitoring several tropical waves in the Atlantic that may develop into stronger, more organized storms, and tropical storm Fernanda that’s currently churning in the Pacific.

In the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Adminitration’s hurricane season update, released August 4, they discussed the peak of this year’s hurricane season:

The atmosphere and Atlantic Ocean are primed for high hurricane activity during August through October,” said Gerry Bell, Ph.D., lead seasonal hurricane forecaster at the Climate Prediction Center. “Storms through October will form more frequently and become more intense than we’ve seen so far this season.

August through October are peak months of the Atlantic hurricane season, and FEMA urges people not to be lured into a false sense of security by the lack of hurricanes so far this year.

A major hurricane making landfall in the U.S. is not a matter of if, but when, and we all need to do our part to be prepared. If you live in an area susceptible to the effects of hurricanes or tropical storms (whether on the coast or inland) we encourage you to visit Ready.gov/hurricanes (or m.fema.gov on your smartphone) today to get information on getting prepared. And for the latest tropical forecast information, visit Hurricanes.gov (or hurricanes.gov/mobile on your smartphone) for updates from the National Hurricane Center.

Start of the school year in tornado-damaged areas
We’ve had several blog posts this week about the schools in Joplin, Mo. opening on time, despite the devastating and deadly tornado that hit the town May 22. And in Alabama, we’re working closely with state and local officials to provide temporary classrooms with safe rooms, as many of their schools opened last week.

The on-time start of the school year is the result of the entire team working together to bring back a sense of normalcy since the tornadoes. In case you missed it, here’s a look back at our posts from this week, along with a video:

From August 15 - “Joplin School Year is Starting”


 

From the American Red Cross Blog…
Back in May, the American Red Cross posted on our blog about their 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.

Earlier this week, on the Red Cross blog, they posted about their Safe and Well site, along with a short video. Check it out to learn more, and talk with your family members about using the Safe and Well site after a disaster strikes.

News of the Day: Joplin Students Return to School

Over the past few days, we’ve shared a lot of stories about how the Joplin community has pulled together to make sure their students could start their school year on time, after the devastating tornado earlier this spring. As the students in Joplin return to school today, we wanted to share some additional stories.

The Los Angeles Times had a touching article, “In Shattered Joplin, Kids Head Back to Class,” which told several personal stories from teachers and students who recall what it was like on May 22 when the tornado ripped through their city and schools. Seven students and one staff member died that day.

And the Joplin Globe wrote a story today that explained how Joplin schools are ready to help students through those emotional struggles many are still coping with. Several counseling organizations will be available at the school to help provide support to the kids who are still struggling.

The articles celebrate the start of a new school year despite all the obstacles the community has faced. School spirit remained high as the students and staffs of relocated Joplin schools moved into modular units, patiently waiting for their permanent school buildings.

And earlier in the week, Joplin Schools Assistant Superintendent Dr. Angie Besendorfer shared her thoughts on the progress:

Everyone is pulling together to get things ready. The arrival of the modulars, early on, said 'something's working,' and that was a lift. They are nice classrooms! They have windows and great lighting, they are a nice place to be and the teachers want to be there.

For more about Joplin schools re-opening, check out some of our previous blog posts:

Monitoring Tropical Storm Fernanda

Late this afternoon, Tropical Storm Fernanda formed in the Pacific Ocean, and we’re closely monitoring the storm through our regional office in Oakland, California and our Pacific Area Office in Honolulu, Hawaii. According to the National Hurricane Center, Fernanda could strengthen some over the next 48 hours and become a hurricane by Thursday.

While it’s too early to know if Fernanda will pose a threat to the Hawaiian Islands, we’re gearing up for the possibility. To prepare for all hazards, FEMA has strategically prepositioned communities at distribution centers throughout the United States and its territories, so we are ready to provide supplies on a moment’s notice.

We currently have pre-positioned commodities on the Hawaii islands, including more than 197,000 million of liters of water, 134,000 meals, 31,000 blankets, 8,000 cots, and 85 various size generators.

And although there are currently no coastal watches or warnings in effect for the U.S. at this time, history has taught us that storm tracks can change quickly and unexpectedly. So if you are located in coastal areas along the Pacific, take steps now to prepare. If you haven’t already, visit Ready.gov/hurricanes for tips on creating your family emergency plan and getting an emergency kit.

Here are some additional safety tips to remember:
 

  • Follow the direction of local officials – if the order is given to evacuate, do so immediately. It’s important to know your evacuation route ahead of time. They may also direct you to shelter in place, so know what supplies you and your family will need to sustain you for at least 72 hours,
  • Stay away from low-lying, flood prone areas – these are most susceptible to flash flooding,
  • Keep up to date on the latest forecast from the National Hurricane Center at hurricanes.gov, or on your mobile phone at hurricanes.gov/mobile (FEMA’s mobile site has tips on staying safe before, during and after a tropical storm or hurricane)

Keep checking for updates on our blog as we continue to monitor Tropical Storm Fernanda.

Visiting with State Partners In Delaware

Author: 

On Friday, I had the opportunity to visit the Delaware Emergency Operations Center in Smyrna, Del. with Administrator Fugate. Jamie Turner, the Director of the Delaware Emergency Management Agency, hosted us as we toured their facilities and talked about ways we can work together to prepare across the First State and nationally. FEMA is committed to supporting states, tribes and territories and we’re grateful to Jamie and his team for hosting us last week.

Here's a video of Administrator Fugate from our visit to the Delaware EOC, emphasizing the importance of the emergency management team:

Tomorrow – Ask Craig Your Questions About Hurricane Preparedness

It’s already been an active hurricane season and our busiest months are yet to come. While we are lucky that so far we have not had any major hurricanes threaten the U.S., as Administrator Fugate has said, it’s only a matter of time before that luck runs out. A major hurricane making landfall in the U.S. is not a matter of if, but when and we all need to do our part to be prepared. And tomorrow, you’ll get the chance to ask Craig how.

Join Administrator Fugate and the Weather Channel’s Hurricane Expert, Dr. Rick Knabb, tomorrow (Wed, Aug 17) at noon for a Lunchtime Live Chat with the Weather Channel on Hurricane Preparedness.

The chat will last an hour and it’s easy to participate. So bring your all burning questions about preparedness and join us tomorrow from 12:00-1:00 pm eastern. Visit the Weather Channel for more information on the Lunchtime Live Chat. And don’t forget to visit www.ready.gov/hurricanes to learn more about what you can do to be prepared for hurricanes and other disasters.

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