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Latino Summit Showcases Leadership & Partnerships

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Roberto E. Canino, International Ambassador to Latin America & the Caribbean for League of United Latin American Citizens addresses Administrator Fugate and summit participants.
Washington, DC, September 15, 2011 -- Roberto E. Canino (standing, right), International Ambassador to Latin America & the Caribbean for League of United Latin American Citizens addresses Administrator Fugate and summit participants.

Earlier this month in Washington we hosted the second annual FEMA Latino Leadership Summit. The summit brought top Latino leaders from around the country together with FEMA officials to talk about how we can build stronger partnerships and create more resilient, better prepared communities nationwide. Leaders from government, private sector, academia and faith-based and nonprofit organizations brainstormed new and innovative approaches to emergency management.

We talked about the importance of the family unit and teaching children how to react during disasters, reviewed past responses and talked about ways that organizations can formalize their partnerships with FEMA.

One of the highlights of the summit was an historic moment: we formally established a new partnership between the Hispanic Association of Colleges and Universities (HACU) and FEMA. It’s the first higher education organization to enter into a memorandum of agreement with FEMA and we hope that it will help to further develop the next generation of leaders in emergency management.

Dr. Antonio Flores, President and chief executive officer of the Hispanic Association of Colleges and Universities shake hands with FEMA Administrator W. Craig Fugate
Washington, DC, September 15, 2011 -- Dr. Antonio Flores (left), President and chief executive officer of the Hispanic Association of Colleges and Universities shake hands with FEMA Administrator W. Craig Fugate after signing the historic memorandum of understanding, the agency's first higher education collaboration.

A few examples of what this will mean going forward:

  • FEMA and HACU will develop innovative ways to educate students and faculty regarding emergency management issues, including having FEMA subject matter experts serve as visiting professors in courses related to emergency management.
  • HACU and their member institutions will promote FEMA and Department of Homeland Security student opportunities to their thousands of students, and participate in FEMA conferences and events.
  • HACU and FEMA will each designate three members of their organizations to form a leadership committee charged with fostering the partnership and implementing the tasks within the memorandum of agreement.

The partnership with HACU is a great example of the whole community approach to emergency management. We thank everyone who attended the summit and the signing ceremony and we look forward to keeping the collaboration moving forward.

What We’re Watching: 9/30/11

Every Friday, we post 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.

Hurricane Season Continues

We continue to closely monitor Hurricane Ophelia and tropical storm Philippe in the Atlantic. While forecasts from the National Hurricane Center call for Ophelia to stay in the Atlantic, the projected path of Philippe may bring it closer to the U.S. and its territories. While neither storm posts an immediate threat, they serve as a reminder to get prepared for severe tropical weather, especially if you live in coastal or inland areas.

Hurricane season lasts until November 30, so make sure you and your loved ones have taken steps to prepare in case disaster strikes. Visit Ready.gov/hurricanes for more information on preparing for tropical storms or hurricanes.

And no matter what the risks are in your area, Ready.gov has information on building your emergency kit and making your family communication plan so you can know how to stay safe if disaster strikes.


Continuing the Spirit of National Preparedness Month
Today marks the final day of National Preparedness Month, a time when many across the country share the importance of getting prepared for emergencies. And even though September has come to an end, emergency preparedness should remain a priority for everyone year round.

Next month, you can get involved and participate in the Great California ShakeOut, an earthquake drill where you can practice how to stay safe during and after an earthquake. (And you don’t need to live in California to participate.)

We encourage you to talk about emergency preparedness to others in your family and neighborhood, emphasizing the importance and potential benefits of getting a kit, having a plan, and staying informed. A great place to start is Ready.gov, where you will find information on how to keep your family and property safe if disaster strikes.

You can also receive regular preparedness tips via text message: text PREPARE to 43362 (4FEMA). Standard message and data rates apply.

And we’d like to extend a heartfelt “Thank You” to the thousands of National Preparedness Month Coalition members who pledged to share emergency preparedness during September. Successful emergency management takes a team, and we’re grateful for your commitment to play an important role!

Blackfeet Nation: Preparing Our Community

Editor’s note: The following is from Robert DesRosier of Blackfeet Nation, a tribal nation located in the northwest portion of Montana. 

All reservations have their own challenges when it comes to emergency preparedness. As the Director of Emergency Services for Blackfeet Nation, I can attest to the trifecta of challenges we face: (1) unique geographic location along Montana’s northwest border, (2) enormous breadth of territory – we span over one million acres, including 60 miles of international border, and (3) a cash-strapped budget.

Our remote location in a state as large as Montana and our status as a reservation demands we be equipped to independently respond to the full spectrum of hazards. Recognizing this fact, the combined force of our own initiatives and invaluable support from the federal government has allowed us to produce a more cohesive, capable response to support the reservation.

Here is some of the work we have accomplished:

More Effective Training

The most significant improvement in our preparedness is how we've trained our community for self-preservation topics: 5,000 of the 8,000 reservation’s residents are trained; this is up 3,500 who were trained ten years ago. And the Blackfeet Community College now offers an associate’s degree in homeland security and we emphasize the importance of the National Incident Management System and Incident Command Structure courses that are available.

Better, More Capable Equipment

FEMA-sponsored grants have gone a long way in supplementing desperately needed resources. Through the 2010 Tribal Homeland Security Grant program, the reservation was provided with state of the art equipment, such as thermal and night vision, outstanding 4-wheel all-terrain-vehicles that are ideal for patrolling our international borders, and enhanced interoperable communications for all our response communities.

Emphasizing the "Team Approach"

Our improved communications capabilities extend beyond advanced technology though. We have placed a strong emphasis on increasing interaction with fellow tribes and capitalizing on the myriad resources offered by FEMA, both of which have been met with great success.

Last year we kicked off the Tribal Nations Homeland Security Conference, with Tribes from the Northwest and as far away as Virginia, and we have led the effort in organizing the Tribal Nations Working Group, pulling together all seven Tribal Nations in Montana to start cohesively addressing plan readiness and mitigation measures. It’s been very positive, just based on the trust level we’ve established by community building.

The networking opportunities and information sharing we participate in at FEMA workshops has been instrumental in assisting our resource-limited reservation in optimizing our strategy and operations, and Blackfeet Nation is better prepared to support our citizens in the event of an emergency.

CDP Training Vital to North Dakota Flood Response

As National Preparedness Month winds down, I’d like to share another story about how preparing before a disaster can make a difference. I already shared the story of how St. John’s Regional Medical Center used their training at FEMA’s Center for Domestic Preparedness (CDP) to respond to the May 2011 tornado in Joplin, Mo. This preparedness story takes us to North Dakota, where in June 2011 the community of Minot was preparing for its worst flooding in more than 130 years.

As the ominous flood forecasts came in Bill Brown, a retired captain with the Minot Police Department and now the Southwest Regional Emergency Response Coordinator for the North Dakota Department of Emergency Services, was making arrangements to staff the city's Emergency Operations Center (EOC) and coordinate state resources to assist in the flood response.

Aerial view showing the severe flooding in Minot. The city of Minot, N.D. experienced the worst flooding in over 130 years in June 2011. FEMA is working to provide assistance to those that were affected by the flooding.
Minot, ND, June 24, 2011 -- Aerial view showing the severe flooding in Minot. The city of Minot, N.D. experienced the worst flooding in over 130 years in June 2011. FEMA is working to provide assistance to those that were affected by the flooding.

Brown, a veteran of 19 courses at the Center for Domestic Preparedness, has trained in a variety of subjects to include law enforcement protective measures and response to a mass casualty event involving Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD). However, during this event, it was not terrorists or domestic criminals threatening the streets of Minot, it was water. More than 10 feet of water from rivers surrounding Minot and other North Dakota communities poured through the streets, sweeping homes and store fronts away and forcing the evacuation of more than 12,000 people. Brown said a large scale evacuation always experiences problems, but added, his training "kicked in" and provided a sense of calm to a turbulent situation.

Combined with his experiences as a law enforcement officer and Regional Response Coordinator, Brown told us his Incident Command training at the CDP played a large role in the EOC response, coordination, and decision making. In particular, the Incident Command: Capabilities, Planning, and Response Actions for All Hazards (IC) course provided a solid foundation for planning and response.

Bill Brown, North Dakota Department of Emergency Services, attributes his CDP training to his successful response serving in the logistics department of the Minot, N.D. Emergency Operations Center. FEMA is providing assistance to residents who were affected by flooding.

Minot, ND, June 24, 2011 -- Bill Brown, North Dakota Department of Emergency Services, attributes his CDP training to his successful response serving in the logistics department of the Minot, N.D. Emergency Operations Center. FEMA is providing assistance to residents who were affected by flooding.

Here is how Mr. Brown described some of the training and how it prepared him for some of the worst flooding in Minot’s history:

I found the course of instruction at the CDP to be more of a real-world scenario allowing me to better retain the information. The IC class gave me the opportunity to better understand the roles of each division within the incident command structure as well as understanding the diverse perspectives of different responder disciplines. Having had this training allowed me to have a more effective understanding and better line of communication with the private, local, state, and federal organizations.

As far as decisions, when we were first assigned to the EOC, requests for resources were made to anyone who was available to take a note or a call. I decided early on to implement the use of the ICS request for resource form and advise all personnel that request for resources would be made at one central location. By doing so, resources and assignments were better assigned and tracked, status of existing personnel and equipment was monitored, and written documentation of all requests was available in the event federal reimbursement was approved.

Having been a police officer for over 30 years, I never really truly embraced or utilized the ICS concept until this flood. I was very surprised and pleased to see that it does work and it can make things run more smoothly and reduce your workload. I think all management staff including first line supervisors from every first responder organization as well as public works, highway department, city hall, finance and elected officials should attend the IC class.

Even though National Preparedness Month is winding down, it’s never too late to start preparing. I encourage local, state and tribal responders to take advantage of the unique, hands-on training that’s available at the CDP in Anniston, Ala.
 

“ShakeOut” For Some Hands-On Preparedness

During National Preparedness Month, many people are looking for ways to get involved in preparedness. In addition to creating your family emergency plan and getting a kit, I encourage your family, office, and community to participate in the Great California ShakeOut earthquake drill, coming up on October 20 at 10:20 a.m. Pacific Time.

FEMA is hosting a webinar on the ShakeOut tomorrow at 2pm EST that will help participants understand what the ShakeOut is and how to participate. A recording of the webinar will be available in the webinar library.

The ShakeOut provides a tangible way to participate in preparedness by focusing on the potentially life-saving actions of “Drop, Cover, and Hold On” during and immediately after an earthquake. The recent earthquake on the East Coast shows that earthquakes can happen practically anytime, anywhere, so I encourage you to participate even if you don’t live in California.

To join, go to ShakeOut.org/register and pledge your family, school, business, or organization’s participation in the drill. It’s free to sign up, and registered participants will receive information on how to plan their drill and how to talk with others about earthquake preparedness.

I hope you will join us in making the 2011 ShakeOut drill the largest preparedness event in U.S. history and join the 7.6 million people that have already signed up to participate.

While the Great California ShakeOut is coming up in less than a month, planning for other ShakeOut events is already underway. You may remember the Great Central U.S. ShakeOut from earlier this year, where over 3 million people across 11 states practiced earthquake safety. Here’s a look at the upcoming ShakeOut events:

If your state does not have its own ShakeOut, you can plan to drill on one of the dates above – anyone can participate!

For more information on ShakeOut earthquake drills, visit Shakeout.org and learn about getting prepared for earthquakes at Ready.gov/earthquakes.

What We’re Watching: 9/23/11

Every Friday, we post 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
As we go into the weekend, severe drought conditions are expected to continue into next week in New Mexico, Texas, Oklahoma and parts of Louisiana and Arkansas. In other parts of the U.S., especially along the east coast, rain is expected throughout the weekend and into the beginning of next week. Many of these areas are already saturated from substantial rainfall this summer, so those along the eastern seaboard should closely monitor conditions in their area and listen to the direction of local officials.

To learn about the disaster risks in your area and learn how to get prepared, visit Ready.gov today.

Recovery Efforts In Full Swing


A FEMA Housing Inspector talks with a home owner whose home was destroyed when a wildfire raced through her community.
Magnolia, TX, September 22, 2011 -- A FEMA Housing Inspector talks with a home owner whose home was destroyed when a wildfire raced through her community. FEMA is working with local, state and other federal and volunteer agencies to provide assistance to residents affected by fires.

In many areas around the county, emergency managers, voluntary and faith-based organizations, the private sector, and concerned citizens are helping their communities recover from recent disasters. As part of that team, we’re actively supporting our federal, state and local partners in providing assistance to the affected individuals and communities.

Below are a few news stories highlighting our efforts in the past week:

Opening disaster recovery centers

FEMA opens fire recovery center in Leander
Austin-American Statesman (Texas)

FEMA disaster recovery center opens
Daily Item (Sunbury, Penn.)

400 seek assistance at disaster recovery center in Bradford county
The Daily Review (Towanda, Penn.)

Recovery Center Opens in Ludlow
Rutland Herald (Ludlow, Vt.)

FEMA disaster recovery center opens in Manning Township
NJ.com (New Jersey)

FEMA opens disaster recovery centers in Broome, Tioga
Stargazette.com – New York


Continuing to reach out to disaster survivors through community relations teams

FEMA teams determine where storm-relief needs are
Poughkeepsie Journal (New York)

Officials: Register with FEMA
Yankton Daily Press & Dakotan (South Dakota)

Encouraging Emergency Preparedness in Alabama
As we enter the last week of National Preparedness Month, we wanted to share a video of outreach being done in Alabama to encourage emergency preparedness. Throughout the month, federal, state, and local partners are hosting “Be Ready Alabama” events in communities across the state, providing information on getting prepared before a disaster strikes.

There’s still time to host a National Preparedness Month event in your workplace, neighborhood or town.And even though September is recognized as National Preparedness Month, it’s not the only month when you can share the importance of getting prepared before a disaster strikes. Visit Ready.gov today to learn how you can get your family and property prepared, and share it with a family member or friend.

News of the Day: Administration Officials Visit Joplin

 Joplin, Mo., September 22, 2011 -- Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano (middle), FEMA Deputy Administrator Richard Serino (right) and Secretary of Education Arne Duncan tour the damaged high school. Just four months after a tornado destroyed the school, students were able to start the new school year on time in temporary facility.
Joplin, Mo., September 22, 2011 -- Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano (middle), FEMA Deputy Administrator Richard Serino (right) and Secretary of Education Arne Duncan tour the damaged high school. Just four months after a tornado destroyed the school, students were able to start the new school year on time in temporary facility.

Yesterday, we shared a blog featured on the Blog @ Homeland Security from Secretary Napolitano describing her visit to Joplin, Mo. alongside FEMA Deputy Administrator Rich Serino and Secretary of Education Arne Duncan to survey the progress of the ongoing recovery efforts.

They spent much of their day touring the temporary high school and visiting with students and local leaders who have been instrumental in the town’s recovery. Despite the local high school being destroyed from a deadly tornado this spring, students started this academic year on time- demonstrating the tremendous resiliency in the Joplin community.

Here are a few a few news stories recapping yesterday’s visit to Joplin:

As Secretary Napolitano stated, although great amounts of progress have been made, there is still much that needs to be done. For more information on the ongoing recovery efforts in Joplin, visit the state’s disaster page.

Obama Administration Announces New Approach to Strengthen Disaster Recovery Across the Nation

Editor's note: This was originally posted on the White House Blog.
 

Today, we are announcing a new multiagency effort to strengthen the way the federal family works together to support state, tribal, territorial and local communities to recover after disaster strikes.

For the first time, the National Disaster Recovery Framework defines how federal agencies will work together to best meet the needs of states and communities in their ongoing recovery, by aligning key roles and responsibilities among all our partners. The emphasis of this framework is that recovering after a disaster is a team effort – one that includes local, state, tribal, territorial and federal governments, the private sector, voluntary, faith-based and community organizations and the public.

Finalizing the National Disaster Recovery Framework was truly a collaborative process – accomplished through extensive stakeholder outreach and dialogue. The process began in Fall 2009 and has spanned across the country, gathering input from stakeholders that include professional associations, academic experts and communities recovering from disasters. In fact, some elements of the framework have already been implemented to save jobs in disaster affected areas of Tennessee in 2010, to open schools on time following the devastating tornado that tore through Joplin, Mo. and to support the recovery following the recent tornado outbreaks in the southeast this past Spring.

Here are some key aspects of the framework:

We encourage you to read through the National Disaster Recovery Framework.

  • The National Disaster Recovery Framework aligns with the long-standing, National Response Framework (which primarily addresses actions during a disaster response) and shares the same key features, such as the ability to scale to the nature and size of a disaster, establishing an operational structure and developing a common planning framework.
  • The National Disaster Recovery Framework recognizes that local, state, tribal and territorial governments have primary responsibility for the recovery of their communities. It identifies core principles to ensure all community members have equal opportunities to participate in recovery efforts in a meaningful way, and emphasizes that all resources, whether they are local or federal, should be brought to the table to best address the recovery needs of communities.
  • The National Disaster Recovery Framework introduces six Recovery Support Functions represented at the federal level by primary coordinating agencies such as Community Planning and Capacity Building (DHS/FEMA), Economic (Department of Commerce), Health and Social Services (Health and Human Services) , Housing (Department of Housing and Urban Development) Infrastructure Systems (United States Army Corps of Engineers) and Natural and Cultural Resources (Department of Interior) which are supported by more than 15 departments, agencies and organizations.
     

Returning to Joplin with Secretary Duncan and FEMA Deputy Administrator Rich Serino

Editor's Note: This was originally posted on the The Blog @ Homeland Security of the Department of Homeland Security on September 22.

Today I visited Joplin, Mo. with Secretary of Education Arne Duncan and FEMA Deputy Administrator Rich Serino, to survey the progress of recovery efforts on the ground. When I last visited Joplin in June, I told our team of federal, state, local and community partners that we would not leave until the job was finished and today, three months later, we remain committed to helping the people of Missouri rebuild.

Education Secretary Arne Duncan (end of counter), Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano (middle) and FEMA Deputy Administrator Richard Serino (right) purchase a drink at the Joplin High School coffee shop.
Joplin, MO, September 22, 2011 -- Education Secretary Arne Duncan (end of counter), Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano (middle) and FEMA Deputy Administrator Richard Serino (right) purchase a drink at the Joplin High School coffee shop. The coffee shop is a student run business to help purchase items for the temporary high school as their original high school was destroyed in the May tornado.

As I toured the areas affected by the May 2011 tornado, the scale of devastation is still difficult to comprehend. We know that the recovery process will take time, but it’s inspiring to see the work already underway. Despite the destruction of its campus, Joplin High School started its school year on-time, which is a testament to the resiliency of the Joplin community. At DHS, we often talk about the importance of engaging the entire community in responding to and recovering from disasters. Joplin is a community determined to bounce-back, and they are a true model for others.

This Administration is committed to supporting recovery efforts in Joplin and other areas impacted by natural disasters. We will continue to work with affected communities and I personally look forward to going back to Joplin to see the progress firsthand.

Importance of Thinking Global & Acting Local in Emergency Management

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I’ve done several blog posts about our Strategic Foresight Initiative, which looks to the future and the potential factors that may affect emergency managers. As part of the Initiative, we’ve identified nine drivers that will play a role in the future of emergency management – and in this post I wanted to examine how emergency managers should begin to consider how they will be affected by continuing global interdependence, potential climate change, and the changing role of the individual.

Global Interdependence

From the 2010 eruption of a volcano in Iceland (affecting international travel) to the recent earthquake and tsunami in Japan, it is clear that global events have a significant effect on American life. Although every emergency manager’s first concern is ensuring the safety and security of his/her local community, there are many global drivers that will likely influence the practice of emergency management over the next few decades.

The March earthquake and tsunami in Japan (in addition to tragically taking thousands of lives and causing widespread catastrophic damage) disrupted the production of cars, semiconductors and other goods, sending ripples through the world’s economy. What would happen if an event disrupted the manufacturing of latex gloves in Malaysia, which produces 60 percent of all rubber gloves worldwide? And particularly, what if this event occurred during a pandemic, when rubber gloves were in high demand? Scenarios like this are why emergency managers should keep in mind how their responsibilities can be impacted by events that happen outside of their community.

Potential Climate Change

Climate change is a global trend that will have wide-ranging consequences for emergency managers. The Strategic Foresight Initiative team had many conversations with the emergency management community at the state and local level, and the general feeling was that we should plan for the climate changing regardless of the cause.

Emergency managers need to work together to understand how the nature and consequences of disasters will change with the climate. This includes how operating conditions may change. For example:

  • How will rising seas affect infrastructure in coastal areas?
  • How many of these homes and businesses will become subject to flooding?
  • Will increased erosion and flooding of roads and bridges affect evacuation routes?

Changing Role of the Individual

Another factor emergency managers need to consider is the role of the individual. This role is changing globally, largely due to the increasing role of technology in people’s lives. Americans are more mobile than ever before, with the ability to communicate over long distances and the expectation they can gather information and connect with friends and family almost instantly. Individuals at disaster sites already engage in “spontaneous reporting” uploading pictures, video and messages from the scene to the internet. However, if a disaster disrupts cellular communications, individuals who have grown accustomed to constant connection have a hard time adjusting to this momentary absence of technology.

My objective is to broaden the dialogue and generate feedback and new perspectives on the nine drivers we’ve identified as part of the Strategic Foresight Initiative. Additional information about these three drivers can be found at our website. I invite you to post any comments, thoughts, or suggestions you may have.

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