Blog

Main Content

Online Tools for National Preparedness Month

September is National Preparedness Month and this year’s theme is “A Time to Remember. A Time to Prepare.” With September right around the corner, I wanted to make sure you knew about the different online tools you can use to organize your community and spread the word about National Preparedness Month and emergency preparedness.

First, sign up on our website to access collaboration tools, templates, calendars, and other resources. You’ll join a community of thousands of individuals, emergency management professionals, businesses, and voluntary and faith-based groups who are sharing preparedness information so that everyone can be better prepared before a disaster strikes. We’re encouraging everyone to register and it only takes 97 seconds (yes, we timed it).

Second, copy and paste this graphic into your email signature or place it on your website:

Leave me a note after you put the widget on your site or paste the graphic in your email signature. And remember, it only takes 97 seconds to register at http://community.fema.gov/. Thanks for helping us spread the word.

News of the Day: Joplin schools reopen

Earlier on the blog today, we shared how the community of Joplin has been preparing for school’s to reopen on time this Wednesday – a huge victory for the town and an impressive feat given how badly their schools were damaged by the tornado. As Joplin students get ready to go back to school on Wednesday, we wanted to share the following story in USAToday:

Quinton Anderson's back-to-school routine won't be all that routine. Critically injured in the May 22 tornado that killed 160 people, including his parents, Quinton Anderson, will be walking into his senior year at Joplin High School on his own power.

Carefully on Wednesday, the slender 17-year-old will apply dressing to a left leg that was gouged and stripped of muscle when one of the deadliest tornadoes in U.S. history tore through his home and his life in May. Anderson's father and mother were killed.

For three days, their son was missing and presumed a victim, too. Anderson also suffered a broken back, a fractured skull, a shattered eye socket and scrapes so frightful that he needed treatment in a burn unit. Almost three months later, the leg, which required skin grafts, is virtually all that's left to mend.

"I was bound and determined to heal myself, I guess as quick as my body would heal," Anderson says. "I never once thought that I wouldn't be able to go back to school."

Others in this stricken city proclaim it little short of a miracle — that in two days the senior will walk without help through the doors of a makeshift Joplin High School, that those doors are swinging open at all, that school is restarting as scheduled only 87 days after 200 mph winds carved a path of unthinkable destruction through the middle of town. The storm killed 160 people and injured more than 900.

Check out the entire article at USAToday.com.

At FEMA, we're proud to be just one of many partners in the community’s effort to make this day possible. We have provided temporary classrooms and other facilities to several school campuses throughout the town. We have also provided temporary housing units to all families with school age children – ensuring that children can return to a sense of normalcy. We remain committed to providing assistance to residents of the Joplin community during the road to recovery, every step of the way.

"I am Joplin" - Celebrating Recovery, Return to Normalcy

Author: 

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.

After a community goes through a devastating disaster, like the EF-5 tornado that struck Joplin in May, the road to recovery can be long and daunting. While debris is removed and homes and businesses are rebuilt, survivors often look for signs that things really can return to normal. The "I am Joplin" event held August 10 was an important event for the city of Joplin because it did just that – bringing together parents, students, educators, voluntary and faith-based organizations, the private sector and government agencies to celebrate a staple of “normalcy”: the beginning of the school year.

Many of the schools in Joplin were severely damaged or destroyed from the tornado, and 260 teachers lost their classrooms. It's taken the entire community working together to make sure schools could open on schedule. Through federal disaster assistance, countless volunteer hours, the support of local businesses, and unwavering efforts of local officials and educators, this week students in Joplin will be able to start their school year on time.

Given the physical and emotional toll the tornado took on the school district and community, that’s no small feat – and one worth celebrating.

After a summer of uncertainty about debris, schools, rebuilding, finding housing and intense heat, “I am Joplin” offered school-aged children and their families the opportunity to focus on the upcoming school year, reconnect with classmates, and have a fun, lighthearted day. Throughout the evening’s event, it was apparent that everyone involved with the recovery and rebuilding is working toward a common goal: to make Joplin whole.

Despite early morning thunderstorms, schoolchildren and their parents patiently waited to receive free school supplies and clothing donated by communities across the country and "I am Joplin" corporate sponsors. It was hard to tell who was more excited – the schoolchildren clutching their new supplies and hugging classmates or their parents who realized that Joplin and the schools would be a safer and more resilient community.

Thousands of area children and their parents converged on Missouri Southern State University's stadium for a chance to show their Joplin Eagles’ pride. Elementary children enjoyed face painting and games while older students enjoyed the water slide, freebie golf and dancing to bands at the football stadium.

As the stadium seating quickly filled and students spilled over into the football field for the evening’s events, it quickly became apparent Joplin was not crushed by the May 22 tornado but stronger because of it. “Joplin” shirts were everywhere from the “I am Joplin,” “Joplin Eagle Pride” and “Hope for Joplin” to “Joplin will not be stopped by EF-5 Tornado,” “Joplin will Rise” and “Nothing Stops Joplin – Just watch.”

C. J. Huff, superintendent of schools, was presented the iconic photograph of the Joplin High School sign, reading “Hope High School”. Immediately after the tornado struck, Huff pledged the schools would be back in session within 87 days. And with the help of FEMA and the US Army Corps of Engineers the temporary classrooms and safe rooms will be ready for school’s first day – August 17. Here's a video from June where he talks about the August 17 recovery and the teamwork involved:



Yes, there were tears and hugs of joy, as well as tears of sorrow during a video tribute to the Joplin students and staff killed by the tornado. But "I am Joplin" accomplished its goal – the whole community is ready for the school year and rebuilding the entire community. The people of Joplin serve as an inspiration to the rest of the nation – and show us what is possible when the entire community engages in their recovery.

Sharing Technology & Expertise to Strengthen the Team

Author: 

Today, the U.S. and Canada signed a partnership agreement to adapt FEMA’s hazard assessment software technology for use in Canada and elsewhere outside the United States. Hazus or “Hazards U.S.” is a risk assessment software tool for emergency management professionals that combines science, engineering, and geospatial information technology to estimate potential loss of life and property damage from disasters and natural hazards.

The agreement follows increased cooperative efforts between representatives of FEMA and Natural Resources Canada to better assess common natural hazards of the two nations, such as the impact of any potential activity along the Cascadia subduction zone, the cross-border fault line that runs through the territory of both Canada and the Northwestern U.S.* The agreement, signed on behalf of Canada by Dr. Miroslav Nastev, Quantitative Risk Assessment Project Manager for Geological Survey of Canada, allows for FEMA’s Hazus modeling technology to project the potential impact of activity along the Canadian side of the Cascadia Fault line.

This is a great step forward as we continue to work with our international partners to ensure that we’re making strides to protect lives and property before, during and after disaster strikes. We often talk about the team approach here at FEMA and what better way to demonstrate it in an international context.

For more information about Hazus, visit: fema.gov/hazus.

A photo from the fifth annual Hazus Conference held this past week in Seattle, Wash., where we signed the agreement. The conference hosted hundreds of emergency managers, geologists, Geographic Information System (GIS) specialists and federal, state and local emergency management personnel from around the world, where they discussed assessing disaster risk and modeling using advanced tools such as HAZUS.
CAPTION: A photo from the fifth annual Hazus Conference held this past week in Seattle, Wash., where we signed the agreement. The conference hosted hundreds of emergency managers, geologists, Geographic Information System (GIS) specialists and federal, state and local emergency management personnel from around the world, where they discussed assessing disaster risk and modeling using advanced tools such as HAZUS.

* The agreement as a result of a joint agreement on Cooperation in Science and Technology for Critical Infrastructure Protection and Border Security, which is administered by both the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and the Centre for Security Science of Defence Research and Development Canada.

What We're Watching: 8/12/11

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.

Severe Weather Outlook
The National Weather Service forecasts continued widespread flooding in the Midwest throughout the weekend. Excessive heat and drought conditions continue to impact parts of the U.S. along the Eastern and Southern regions. The National Weather Service also predicts periods of heavy rain this weekend for parts of the Northeast and East coast.

And as hurricane season continues, we continue to closely monitor the Atlantic for potentially severe tropical weather. NOAA recently increased the forecasted number of hurricanes and tropical storms we might see this year. Through our regional offices, we are monitoring three developing tropical low pressure systems in the eastern Atlantic Ocean.

  • A well-defined low pressure system is currently located north of Bermuda moving northeastward. The system has become much better organized during the past several hours and additional development is possible tonight or Saturday before this disturbance merges with a frontal system. There is a 60 percent chance this system will become becoming a tropical or subtropical cycle during the next 48 hours.
  • A tropical low pressure system is currently located east of the Northern Leeward Islands with weather conditions are gradually becoming more conducive for development. There is currently a 50 percent chance that this system could become a tropical cyclone during the next 48 hours.
  • The third tropical system is currently located southwest of the Southern Cape Verde Islands, and is producing a large area of scattered showers while moving westward. This system has a 40 percent chance of becoming a tropical cyclone during the next 48 hours.

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. We will continue to monitor this activity and provide updates as necessary. You can follow the latest updates from the National Hurricane Center at http://www.hurricanes.gov/, and get prepared at www.Ready.gov/hurricanes.

National Preparedness Month
National Preparedness Month is fast approaching. We encourage everyone to register to become a National Preparedness Month coalition member at http://community.fema.gov/ and take advantage of new web community and tools available this year. As a coalition member, you’ll join a community of thousands of individuals, emergency management professionals, businesses, and voluntary and faith-based groups sharing emergency preparedness information so that everyone can be better prepared before a disaster strikes.

There is no better time to prepare for an emergency than today, so sign up now to become a National Preparedness Month coalition member!

Ongoing Recovery Efforts
We’ve shared several blog posts highlighting our role in the ongoing disaster response and recovery efforts, from the flooding along the Mississippi River to the devastating tornadoes that struck several states in the Southeast. We continue to support ongoing recovery efforts in those areas.

Here is a video from our video library that shows some of the work we have done following the recent disaster in Alabama.
 

Mississippi: Reaching Survivors with Disabilities and Others with Access and Functional Needs

Author: 

When emergency managers and the disability community work closely together, it can help assistance reach a greater number of survivors, and change outcomes for individuals and communities after a disaster. After a series of storms and tornadoes that hit Mississippi in April and record-setting floods in May that brought widespread damage to lives and property – the importance of reaching out to the disability community was even more important.

Just after the disaster, we deployed a disability and integration team, led by a disability integration specialist, whose goal was to capitalize on the skills, knowledge, credibility and trust already in place with Mississippi’s disability leaders and utilize their networks to further outreach to impacted communities. In Missisippi, however, we noticed a problem: The percentage of people with access and functional needs applying for individual assistance did not match the demographics of the impacted population.

Regular conversations with disability leaders and state partners also highlighted the issue, and their feedback suggested that the low number of registrations most likely stemmed from:

  • Lack of trust in the federal government to meet their needs.
  • Fear they would lose their existing disability benefits if they received money from FEMA.
  • The need for disability accommodations to facilitate registration.

Recognizing that the percentage of applicants was lower than expected, federal, state and local emergency management organizations collaborated to increase and expand their efforts to reach the disability community. Ultimately, we overcame some of these challenges by:

  • Working collaboratively with disability organizations as trusted messengers who assisted us in expanding our outreach to survivors by visiting neighborhoods, distributing information in accessible formats at community gatherings, and networking with other trusted information sources, and
  • Emphasizing the importance of applying for disaster assistance to all survivors, including those that had existing benefits from the federal government.

In the following days, we saw a steady increase in disaster assistance applications from people with access and functional needs – a testament to our outreach efforts to the disability community.

Making sure our message reaches and is accessible to all survivors is part of FEMA’s “whole community” approach to emergency management. This means planning for the actual makeup of a community, and making sure we work collaboratively to meet the needs of every disaster survivor regardless of age, economics, or accessibility requirements.

I’m proud of the work we’ve done in Mississippi to reach the entire community, and I encourage you to learn more about our recovery efforts at our disaster page.

Applications Being Accepted for Assistance to Firefighters Grants

I am excited to announce the application period for the 2011 Assistance to Firefighters Grants (AFG) program is opens August 9 and lasts until Sept. 9, 2011.

This means that fire departments and nonaffiliated emergency medical services organizations across the U.S. can apply for federal grant dollars to enhance their ability to protect the health and safety of the public from fire and related hazards. There are a few exciting changes for 2011 I wanted to share:

  • The program guidance is shorter, more user friendly, and highlights the funding priorities. This makes it easier to understand the funding that’s available and should result in less time needed to fill out the application,
  • Questions on the grant applications will enhance the panelists’ ability to review each application’s merits, and
  • The “Get Ready Guide” for the Assistance to Fire Fighters Grant program has been provided to answer your questions and to help you prepare your grant application.

Under the AFG program, Congress appropriated $404,190,000 in funding that will be an important part of the Administration’s larger, coordinated effort to strengthen homeland security preparedness. AFG will remain focused on firefighter life and safety as well as the safety of the public the firefighters serve.

I strongly encourage your department to review this year’s program guidance and apply at www.fema.gov/firegrants. Local first responders are a vital part of the emergency management team and we look forward to strengthening their capabilities through this year’s AFG program.

Public Private Partnership Conference

Author: 

Over the last two days over 250 people gathered from across the country at the first national conference on “Building Resilience through Public Private Partnerships,” with an additional 700 or so viewers joining via live webcast.

The conference put on by FEMA, the Department of Homeland Security’s Office of the Private Sector, the U.S. Northern Command and hosted at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Headquarters on Wednesday and the American Red Cross Headquarters on Thursday, provided participants not only an opportunity to hear from leaders and innovators in both government and the private sector, but to share ideas and build relationships.

The speakers ranged from Department of Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano, to executives from the likes of Lowe’s and Target, to representatives from local government like Mayor Bob Dixson of tiny Greensburg, K.S., and his partner in recovery, Mike Estes, VP of BTI Corporation, a John Deere distributor serving Greensburg KS and surrounding communities, who together spoke eloquently about their community’s benchmark experience at rebuilding better and greener after total devastation.

Washington, DC, August 3, 2011 -- FEMA Administrator Craig Fugate giving the keynote address at the first national Public Private Partnership Conference in Washington D.C. Administrator Fugate reinforced the importance of the whole community in building resilience to better respond to disasters.
Washington, DC, August 3, 2011 -- FEMA Administrator Craig Fugate giving the keynote address at the first national Public Private Partnership Conference in Washington D.C. Administrator Fugate reinforced the importance of the whole community in building resilience to better respond to disasters.

 Washington, DC, August 3, 2011 -- Department of Homeland Security Secretary Napolitano speaking at the first national Public Private Partnership Conference in Washington D.C. Secretary Napolitano addressed the private sector’s role as an important partner in strengthening the homeland security enterprise to better defend against evolving threats, including disasters.
Washington, DC, August 3, 2011 -- Department of Homeland Security Secretary Napolitano speaking at the first national Public Private Partnership Conference in Washington D.C. Secretary Napolitano addressed the private sector’s role as an important partner in strengthening the homeland security enterprise to better defend against evolving threats, including disasters.

For those of you who couldn’t be with us, you haven’t missed out – you can see the archived webcast for Day One and Day Two. For a schedule of the conference, you can check out the entire conference agenda.

Most importantly, this is not the end of the conversation. In the coming months we will share some of the outcomes of the working sessions that we called “Vision Sessions”, that tackled some of the sticker issues like information-sharing and credentialing, but in the meantime we also want to hear from you.

Send us an email (fema-private-sector@dhs.gov) with your thoughts on how you we can improve public, private partnerships.

I believe we all made a difference at the conference – and together we will make a bigger difference through an expanding discussion at the national, regional, and local levels.

My Story of First Responder Training

Anniston, AL, August 4, 2011 -- Todd Jones, superintendent of the Center for Domestic Preparedness (CDP), simulates decontamination of a survivor during an exercise at the center. The CDP, in Anniston, Ala. instructs responders to determine their response tactics, select required equipment, personal protective levels, and decontamination procedures. The CDP specializes in providing advanced, hands-on, all-hazards training for state, local, and tribal emergency responders.
Anniston, AL, August 4, 2011 -- Todd Jones, superintendent of the Center for Domestic Preparedness (CDP), simulates decontamination of a survivor during an exercise at the center. The CDP, in Anniston, Ala. instructs responders to determine their response tactics, select required equipment, personal protective levels, and decontamination procedures. The CDP specializes in providing advanced, hands-on, all-hazards training for state, local, and tribal emergency responders.

As the superintendent of the Center for Domestic Preparedness, when I have the opportunity, I believe it is important to participate in our courses to see first-hand how well our training meets the needs of the responder community and what we can do to improve our courses in order to better support their training needs.

I’ve blogged about the payoff of emergency preparedness training, but last week I saw the hands-on training offered at FEMA’s Center for Domestic Preparedness at a whole new level. I had the privilege of training alongside responders from across the nation in the Technical Emergency Response Training course or TERT as it’s called. The TERT course provides the fundamental skills responders need to answer the call to a chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear, or explosive incident.

I was struck by both the complexity and the unique challenges responders face with these hazards. Having gone through TERT, it’s obvious to me that the hands-on training we received, combined with the opportunity to practice these skills in a live toxic agent environment, are critically important in preparing our firefighters, police officers, emergency medical professionals, and other response providers to safely and effectively save lives in a potentially deadly incident.

Anniston , AL, August 4, 2011 -- Center for Domestic Preparedness (CDP) Superintendent Todd Jones (pictured front-left), along with other members of his team, carry a simulated victim through the decontamination process during an exercise at the CDP. The CDP, in Anniston, Ala. instructs responders to determine their response tactics, select required equipment, personal protective levels, and decontamination procedures. Responding to All-Hazards, Mass-casualty events is a highlight and core principle behind CDP training.
Anniston , AL, August 4, 2011 -- Center for Domestic Preparedness (CDP) Superintendent Todd Jones (pictured front-left), along with other members of his team, carry a simulated victim through the decontamination process during an exercise at the CDP. The CDP, in Anniston, Ala. instructs responders to determine their response tactics, select required equipment, personal protective levels, and decontamination procedures. Responding to All-Hazards, Mass-casualty events is a highlight and core principle behind CDP training.

Anniston, AL, August 4, 2011 -- (Left to Right) New York Fire Fighters Donald Cosman and William Farrell stand with Todd Jones, superintendent of the Center for Domestic Preparedness (CDP), following a training exercise at the Chemical, Ordnance, Biological, and Radiological (COBRA) Training Facility. COBRA courses prepare responders for a CBRNE incident by providing them the opportunity to practice their knowledge and skills in the nation’s only toxic chemical training facility for civilian emergency responders.
Anniston, AL, August 4, 2011 -- (Left to Right) New York Fire Fighters Donald Cosman and William Farrell stand with Todd Jones, superintendent of the Center for Domestic Preparedness (CDP), following a training exercise at the Chemical, Ordnance, Biological, and Radiological (COBRA) Training Facility. COBRA courses prepare responders for a CBRNE incident by providing them the opportunity to practice their knowledge and skills in the nation’s only toxic chemical training facility for civilian emergency responders.

The threat awareness portion of this course reaffirmed to me that these hazards still exist today and having a trained cadre of responders to handle such events is a key factor in our overall preparedness as a nation. At CDP, it’s our mission to provide meaningful, interactive and hands-on training for emergency responders to build our capacity to prevent and respond to emergencies in their communities – I encourage you to learn more about what we can offer to emergency responders across all levels.

For more information about CDP’s TERT course from the students’ perspective, check out this video:





 

What We’re Watching: 8/5/2011

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.

Tropical Storm Emily
Since our last blog update on Tropical Storm Emily, we continue to monitor the remnants of what was Tropical Storm Emily. The National Hurricane Center forecasts that the weather system remains disorganized but conditions are favorable for the system to possibly regenerate into a tropical cyclone over the weekend. Our regional offices in New York and the Caribbean remain in close contact with the Puerto Rico Emergency Management Agency, which has remained activated since Tropical Storm Emily passed the area this week.

Although at this time it does not appear that Emily will have much impact in the Southeast region of the U.S., we encourage residents to continue to monitor weather conditions. History has taught us that storm tracks can change quickly and unexpectedly, and it is still very early in this hurricane season –it’s critical that all members of the public that live in coastal areas get ready.

Tropical storms can often create heavy rainfall which in turn causes flooding hundreds of miles inland. Here are some safety tips to remember, in case severe weather, tropical storms or hurricanes threaten your community:

  • Listen to the direction of local officials. Be sure to know your evacuation route in case evacuation orders are given.
  • Install straps or additional clips to securely fasten your roof to the frame structure. This will reduce roof damage.
  • Driving through a flooded area can be extremely hazardous. Almost half of all flash flood deaths happen in vehicles. When in your car, look out for flooding in low lying areas, at bridges, and at highway dips. As little as six inches of water may cause you to lose control of your vehicle.

For the latest information on Tropical Storm Emily, visit http://www.hurricanes.gov/ or visit www.ready.gov/hurricanes for tips to get prepared.

Weather Outlook
The National Weather Service forecasts widespread flooding continuing in the Midwest over the weekend. Excessive heat and drought conditions continue to impact many parts of the U.S. along the Eastern and Southern regions. The National Weather Service expects the excessive and dangerous heat and humidity to continue throughout the weekend.

Read our blog post on tips to stay safe and cool and remember:

  • Stay indoors as much as possible and limit exposure to the sun.
  • Drink plenty of water and limit alcohol intake.
  • Check on family, friends, and neighbors who do not have air conditioning and who spend much of their time alone.

Check Out Our Latest Photos and Videos
As we continue our ongoing recovery efforts in areas that have been impacted from the severe weather over the past several months, we encourage you to take a look at our photo and video libraries. Here are a few of our recent photos to get you started:

Tuscaloosa, AL, August 2, 2011 -- Habitat for Humanity volunteers work in 100 degree heat to rebuild homes on 5th Street in Tuscaloosa after they were destroyed by a series of tornados that struck Alabama on April 27. FEMA supports the generosity and expertise of volunteer agencies (VOLAGS) like Habitat for Humanity. FEMA attempts to coordinate the agency's recovery efforts through its VOLAG liaison and VOLAG specialists.
Tuscaloosa, AL, August 2, 2011 -- Habitat for Humanity volunteers work in 100 degree heat to rebuild homes on 5th Street in Tuscaloosa after they were destroyed by a series of tornados that struck Alabama on April 27. FEMA supports the generosity and expertise of volunteer agencies like Habitat for Humanity. FEMA attempts to coordinate the agency's recovery efforts through its volunteer agency liaison and specialists.

Joplin, MO, August 1, 2011 -- Contractors completed the transfer of 20 temporary houses to Roger Hines site. FEMA is providing assistance to those who were affected by the storms in Missouri.
Joplin, MO, August 1, 2011 -- Contractors completed the transfer of 20 temporary houses to Roger Hines site. FEMA is providing assistance to those who were affected by the storms in Missouri.

Pages

Back to Top