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The End of Hurricane Season...But Not the Need to Be Prepared

Posted by: Rachel Racusen, Director, Public Affairs

We've got some good news, some "not so good" news, and some more good news regarding hurricane season.

The first bit of good news is that today marks the official end to the 2011 Atlantic hurricane season.  And lest anyone forget, this year's hurricane season was very active.  2011 tied for one of the busiest tropical seasons on record in the Atlantic.  Since keeping records as far back as 1851, this season tied with 1887, 1995, and 2010, where there were a total of 19 tropical storms of which seven became hurricanes, including three major hurricanes.  

In fact, to get a good visual of the busy tropics, take a look at the 2011 season as viewed from space courtesy of our friends from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).  Each storm in the video loop is named.  Pay particular attention to the monster that became Hurricane Irene, the lone hurricane to hit the U.S. this year causing severe damage along the entire east coast.

Now a bit of "not so good" news.  No matter how hard we try to stop them from coming, there will be another hurricane season around the corner next year beginning on June 1, 2012 – and many other types of disasters in between.

So as always, we wish to remind you it is never too late to prepare, either for next hurricane season or for any type of disaster that may impact where you live, from severe winter weather to wildfires to flooding to tornadoes.  In fact, why not take advantage of the holiday gift giving season and help loved ones prepare by purchasing a gift of preparedness (i.e., flashlights, fire extinguishers, go-kits for the car, or an emergency supply kit).

But let's wrap up on a little bit of good news.  We're happy to let you know that when preparing for next year's hurricane season, due to 2012 being a leap-year, you’ll have one additional full day (February 29th) to get yourself prepared.  So instead of having the usual 181 days until the next hurricane season, you'll have 182 days.  Use them wisely to prepare.

As we say goodbye to this hurricane season and continue to prepare for all hazards, we also want to thank the entire team, including our state, local, tribal and territorial partners, the faith-based community, non-profits, the private sector, volunteer groups and of course the public. Each of these partners played a critical role in helping communities prepare for, respond to and recover from the different storms that made landfall this year and many of them are continuing to work hard on the ground as rebuilding efforts continue.

And don't forget to visit the new for more information on how you can get ready today.

On Cyber Monday, Don’t Let a Cyber Grinch Steal Your Holiday Spirit...or Your Passwords

Editor’s note: cross-posted from the DHS Blog by the Stop.Think.Connect. ™ Campaign


As bargain hunters take to the Web this Cyber Monday in search of holiday deals, the Stop.Think.Connect.™ Campaign reminds online shoppers to be wary of the cybersecurity risks of theft, fraud and abuse. While many businesses offer great deals during the holiday season, cyber criminals may try to take advantage of unsuspecting online shoppers.

Follow these simple steps to protect yourself and your personal information online – and remember: If a deal seems too good to be true, it probably is.

  • Pay close attention to website URLs. Pay attention to the URLs of websites you visit. Malicious websites sometimes use a variation in common spelling or a different domain (for example, .com instead of .net) to deceive unsuspecting computer users.
  • Protect your $$: When banking and shopping, check to be sure the site is security enabled. Look for web addresses with "https://" or "shttp://", which means the site takes extra measures to help secure your information. "Http://" is not secure.
  • Use a credit card - There are laws to limit your liability for fraudulent credit card charges, and you may not have the same level of protection when using your debit card.
  • Check your statements - Keep a record of your purchases and copies of confirmation pages, and compare them to your bank statements. If there is a discrepancy, report it immediately.
  • Check privacy policies - Before providing personal or financial information, check the website's privacy policy.
  • As always, keep your operating system, browser, anti-virus and other critical software up to date. Security updates and patches are available for free from major companies.

Cybersecurity is a shared responsibility and each of us has a role to play. For more basic tips to stay safe while shopping online, visit

This Year, Giving Thanks for the Entire Team

By: Craig Fugate, Administrator

Thanksgiving is a time to reflect. We are grateful and thankful at FEMA this year for the entire team and all of the work they have done over the past year to protect our communities and the American people.

We’re thankful for...

…all of our state, local, tribal and territorial partners, who constantly handle many incidents (big and small) that don’t always make headlines.

…all of the emergency personnel and first responders who are the front lines of disaster response.

…all of our private sector partners for their innovation and lessons learned.

…all of the faith-based and voluntary organizations that are often some of the most dedicated individuals facilitating disaster response or recovery.

…everyone in the disability community who pushes and encourages the entire team to be fully inclusive in all planning, preparedness, response and recovery efforts.

everyone here at FEMA for their hard work and commitment to carrying out our mission, day in and day out.

…and all of the members of the public who have done heroic work before, during and after emergencies – whether it was taking a few simple steps to get prepared or helping a neighbor evacuate in the face of a coming storm.

This year was an incredibly active one for all of us on the team and an incredibly challenging one for the survivors and the communities that were affected by many devastating and costly disasters. I want to thank you for the hope you gave the rest of us – for reminding us that rebuilding can be a powerful and inspiring process. Your stories of tragic loss, bravery and resilience remind all of us why we are in this line of work – and carry powerful lessons about what is possible.

To celebrate Thanksgiving, our friends at The Weather Channel have put together a compilation of what this year’s survivors are thankful for and I encourage everyone to watch it.

So as we reflect on our blessings, I ask that you take a moment to thank those around you who inspired you to support our neighbors in times of need. We mean it when we say that FEMA is just one part of the team. This year has been proof of the importance of the entire team and we thank all of you for your tireless efforts, your partnership and your service.

Share with us why you are thankful by making a comment below.


Holiday Cooking Safety

Posted by: Glenn Gaines, Deputy Fire Administrator for the U.S. Fire Administration

During the Thanksgiving holiday, many families gather in the kitchen to spend time together, but it can be one of the most hazardous rooms in your home. Before you begin your holiday meal preparations, I would like to remind everyone that cooking equipment, most often a range or stovetop, is the leading cause of reported home fires and home fire injuries in the United States. Cooking equipment is also the leading cause of unreported fires and associated injuries.

The number of cooking fires increases significantly during the holidays so it is important for you to stay alert and be watchful while you are cooking. Whether you are cooking the holiday family dinner or a leftover snack for the children, practicing these safe cooking behaviors will help protect you and your family:

  • Protect Children from Scalds and Burns. Young children are at high risk of being burned by hot food and liquids. Keep children away from cooking areas by enforcing a "kid-free zone" of 3 feet around the stove.
  • Watch What You’re Cooking. The leading cause of fires in the kitchen is unattended cooking. Stay in the kitchen when you are frying, grilling, or cooking food on the stop top or broiling food.
  • Choose the Right Equipment and Use It Properly. Follow manufacturers' instructions when using cooking equipment. Remember to plug microwave ovens and other cooking appliances directly into an outlet. Never use an extension cord for a cooking appliance, as it can overload the circuit and cause a fire. Cook only with equipment designed and intended for cooking, and heat your home only with equipment designed and intended for heating.
  • Avoid Using Deep Fat Turkey Fryers. The use of a deep fat turkey fryer can be very dangerous. If you do decide to use one, use it at a safe distance from buildings and other items that can catch fire. Never use a turkey fryer in a garage or on a wooden deck. Watch the fryer carefully, as the oil will continue to heat until it catches fire. To avoid oil spillover, don’t overfill the fryer. Oil-less turkey fryers are available. For more information, visit the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s website.
  • Keep Things That Can Catch Fire and Heat Sources Apart. Keep anything that can catch fire - potholders, oven mitts, wooden utensils, paper or plastic bags, food packaging, towels, or curtains - away from your stovetop. Keep the stovetop, burners, and oven clean. Wear short, close-fitting or tightly rolled sleeves when cooking.
  • Prevent Scalds and Burns. To prevent spills due to overturned appliances containing hot food or liquids, use the back burner when possible, and/or turn pot handles away from the stove's edge. Use oven mitts or potholders when moving hot food from ovens, microwave ovens, or stovetops.

On behalf of the staff at the U.S. Fire Administration, I want to wish you and yours a very Happy (fire and burn-free) Thanksgiving.

What We’re Watching: 11/18/11

Published by: Public Affairs

At the end of each week, we post a "What We’re Watching" blog as we look ahead to the weekend and recap events from the week. We encourage you to share it with your friends and family, and have a safe weekend.

Severe Weather Outlook

This weekend, the National Weather Service predicts severe drought conditions to continue through the weekend in parts of the Central and Southern Great Plains. Below average temperatures with a possibility for snow are expected in the Pacific Northwest and Northern Plains throughout the weekend.

With the official start of winter (December 21) approaching and cold weather expected this weekend, we want to encourage you and your family to prepare for the winter months by taking some steps this weekend to get prepared:

  • Be sure to update your family's emergency supply kit and add items such as snow shovels, extra blankets, rock salt (or more environmentally safe products) to melt ice on walkways, and appropriate clothing (i.e., hat, gloves, and scarf).
  • Have an emergency kit in your car in the event you are stranded by a blizzard or traffic jam. Be sure to include items you would need to stay warm and comfortable.
  • Make a family communications plan. Your family may not be together when disaster strikes, so it is important to know how you will contact one another, how you will get back together and what you will do in case of an emergency.
  • Maintain your heating equipment and chimneys by having them cleaned and inspected every year, so if you’re overdue, schedule an appointment.
  • Learn how to shut off water valves (in case a pipe bursts).

FEMA Think Tank

Earlier this week, Deputy Administrator Rich Serino announced the FEMA Think Tank, which is a new initiative to allow the public to offer their input on how we can improve all aspects of emergency management.

The FEMA Think Tank has two components:

  • An online forum where anyone can submit your own ideas, comment and vote on others, and participate in conversations meant to generate creative solutions.
  • Monthly conference calls. Each month, we will discuss three to four ideas generated from the online forum that address improving emergency management at the federal level. The individuals that submitted these ideas will personally brief their idea to FEMA officials.

We encourage you to utilize this tool to help improve emergency management and encourage your family, friends, and colleagues to participate.

Careers at FEMA

FEMA is always looking for highly motivated people interested in a rewarding career in emergency management. Here are a few open positions with the agency:

Visit our Careers page to watch testimonials from employees, learn more about FEMA, and browse through other opportunities that are available.

Ernest Mitchell Jr. Confirmed as U.S. Fire Administrator

Published by: Michael Widomski, Deputy Director, Public Affairs

Today, the Senate unanimously confirmed Ernest (Ernie) Mitchell Jr. as the Administrator of the U.S. Fire Administration (USFA).

After the vote, Administrator Fugate praised the action:

With decades of experience fighting fires and leading fire service organizations, Chief Mitchell will be a great addition to our team at FEMA and a tremendous asset to firefighters and first responders around the country.

As with our other senior leaders at FEMA, he comes from a state and local background, which means he understands the kind of support our nation’s fire departments and fire service organizations need. He will be a tireless advocate for firefighters and the communities they serve and I look forward to working with him.

Here's a snapshot of Chief Mitchell's background:

  • Retired fire chief with more than 33 years of experience working in the fire service at the federal, state and local levels
  • Past president of the International Association of Fire Chiefs (IAFC)
  • Served as Fire Chief and Assistant Director of Disaster Emergency Services for the City of Pasadena, California, Fire Department; Fire Chief and Deputy City Manager of Monrovia, California; and Battalion Chief for the City of Compton, California
  • Holds the following degrees: A.S. in fire science from Long Beach City College, a B.P.A. from the University of San Francisco and an M.P.A. from California State University at Northridge

Please join all of us in congratulating Chief Mitchell on his confirmation.

Planes, Trains, and Automobiles -- Holiday Travel Safety Tips

Published by: Michael Widomski, Deputy Director, Public Affairs

Have you ever had a trip not go according to plans? The comedy film, Planes, Trains and Automobiles with Steve Martin and John Candy focuses on the efforts of a man trying to get home for the holidays. In true Hollywood fashion though, everything that could go wrong, does go wrong.

As you and your family gear up for the holiday travel season, I wanted to provide you with some travel safety tips. Because, albeit watching travel disasters on the screen makes for big laughs, these predicaments are far from funny when they happen to us. Here are some safety tips to keep in mind before you leave.

If you’re taking to the friendly skies, these tips are for you:

Travel Advice for Domesticated Turkeys: While you can fly on a plane, you can’t really fly. (the link takes you a YouTube video for an excerpt from a comedy TV show)
Turkey Trivia: Contrary to popular belief, turkeys prefer to travel on the "Gravy Train," rather than the "Gravy Boat."
  • When getting to the airport, unanticipated heavy traffic, road construction, and road closures can put a severe kink in your plan. Give yourself enough time to arrive at the airport early - there may be a longer wait than usual for the holidays.
  • Make a choice to not feel rushed while at the airport. Families and individuals traveling with medically necessary liquids this holiday season will be able to take advantage of TSA’s popular family lanes. Designed to let families take their time and ask questions without feeling rushed.
  • In this TSA blog post, they “talk turkey and gravy” and provide great tips for traveling this holiday season, including what to expect with wrapped packages; whether or not pies are allowed (along with this important note: additional screening of pies does not include TSA officers tasting the pie, no matter what they tell you… AND if you want to bring a live turkey, you might want to have a word with the airline first); and information on the type of razors that are allowed and how to pack makeup. To help lighten the stress of flying, they also offer up some turkey advice and trivia:

Speaking of trains, if you’re traveling by train, these tips are for you:

  • Have a personal emergency kit in your bags that includes items such as a small first aid kit, bottled water, snacks, medication, cell phone charger, and a flashlight.
  • Bring activities to keep yourself and family entertained during the trip.

And for those of you who are hitting the open road, these tips are for you:

  • Mother nature has a way of closing down and clogging the roads during severe weather. So besides the holiday gifts and goodies you transport this holiday season, be sure to have an emergency kit in your car with water and food, prescription medicines, blankets, and items unique to your family.
  • Plan your trip ahead of time - whether you’re using a GPS system or a traditional map, plan your travel route in advance, and let friends and family know the route and your anticipated time of arrival.
  • Cut down on the number of times you hear “Are we there yet?” Bring activities, games, and books to keep the little ones entertained so you can focus on arriving at your destination safely.

No matter how you are traveling, stay up to date on the latest local forecast at or

For more information from TSA on your phone, download the TSA App for iPhone and visit

There are four ways you can get preparedness tips and information from FEMA: visit the new, visit on your phone, download the FEMA app (Android & Apple users) and text PREPARE to 43362 (4FEMA) for monthly preparedness tips (standard message and data rates apply).

Remember, although mishaps are funny in the movies, they are a lot more frustrating in real life. So here’s wishing you and your family safe travels this holiday season.

Closely Monitoring Severe Weather and Tornadoes in the Southeast

Published by: Public Affairs

Yesterday a string of severe storms and tornadoes developed in many parts of the southeast, and as of this morning, several tornado watches and severe storm watches and warnings remain in effect for numerous locations. Our thoughts and prayers are with the families and communities that lost loved ones or suffered damage as a result of these storms and we encourage residents to continue to monitor weather conditions closely and to follow the direction provided by their local officials. If a tornado watch or warning is issued in your area, stay indoors until the watch or warning has been lifted.

As a reminder, make sure you’re familiar with the terms associated with tornado watches and warnings:

  • Tornado Watch means tornadoes are possible in your area. Remain alert for approaching storms. Know what counties are in the watch area by listening to NOAA Weather Radio or your local radio/television outlets.
  • Tornado Warning means a tornado has been sighted or indicated by weather radar. Take shelter immediately.

Since yesterday, we have been closely monitoring these storm outbreaks and their aftermath through our regional offices in Atlanta, GA and Denton, TX, and have been in close contact with our state and local partners across the southeast. While local officials are just beginning to assess the damage, and there have not yet been any requests for federal assistance, we stand ready to assist them – if needed.

For those not impacted by the severe weather, now is a good time to make sure your emergency supply kit is ready. It should include at least a three-day supply of food and water, a battery-powered or hand-crank radio, extra flashlights and batteries, and other items specific to your family’s needs. To help you build your kit, download the FEMA smartphone app (Android & Apple devices) and use the interactive checklist.

For more information on preparing for an emergency, visit the new

Launching the FEMA Think Tank -- a Forum to Facilitate Discussion in the Field of Emergency Management

Posted by: Richard Serino, Deputy Administrator

In the two years that I have been with FEMA, I have had the opportunity to speak with many survivors and emergency managers from all over the country. During these conversations, I often heard innovative ideas about how to address some of the challenges we face in emergency management.

Craig and I realize that you are on the front lines, you know the problems, and, more importantly, you know the solutions to these problems. I know that many of you have creative ideas how we can improve the way we do business. We want to continue to hear your thoughts and suggestions and encourage more discussions.

Earlier this morning, I spoke at the International Association of Emergency Managers (IAEM) Annual Conference in Las Vegas where I announced the creation of the FEMA Think Tank -- a new forum where you will be encouraged to provide your input on a variety of emergency management issues, such as how as we prepare for, respond to, recover from, or mitigate against all types of disasters.

The FEMA Think Tank will have two components:

  • The first will be an online forum where anyone who wants to discuss a variety of emergency management issues can. Simply submit your own ideas, comment on others, or participate in conversations meant to generate creative solutions.
  • The second will be monthly conference calls. Each month, we will discuss three to four ideas generated from the online forum that address improving emergency management at the federal level.

The individuals that submitted these ideas will personally brief me during the call. The call will then be opened for questions and further discussion.

And as this is a new initiative, please help us spread the word. And if you're on Twitter, follow @fema and join the conversation by using the hashtag #femathinktank.

We look forward to a productive conversation that will generate innovative solutions and move us forward as a team!

Alaska Storm Update 4: Wind Speeds Diminish Significantly

Posted by: Public Affairs

As of this morning, the National Weather Service reports that Bering Sea water levels and winds speeds affecting the West Coast have diminished significantly. In scattered areas along the West Coast, severe winter storm, blizzard and coastal flood warnings remain in effect, as a result of a smaller storm system that is passing through. We urge Alaskans in affected areas to monitor local news for severe weather updates and warnings.

We continue to be in close communication with our state, local, tribal and federal partners including Alaska Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Management, National Weather Service, U.S. Coast Guard and U.S. Department of Defense. Over the past two days, the U.S. Coast Guard has been conducting flyovers along the Bering Sea coast to gain an aerial and photographic assessment of damaged areas.

The state has been receiving reports of coastal property loss and wind damage. As access to coastal areas increase, the state will work with Boroughs and local government to plan for damage assessments. As we mentioned yesterday, we placed liaison officers and a regional Incident Management Assistance Team in Alaska in advance of the storm to coordinate with the state if federal support is needed and we have preliminary damage assessment teams standing by should their assistance be required.

And whether you live in Alaska or another part of the country, you can access preparedness information four different ways:

  1. Visit our full preparedness website:
  2. Visit our mobile website:
  3. Download our smartphone app for Android & iPhones
  4. Text PREPARE to 43362 (4FEMA) for monthly preparedness messages (standard message and data rates apply)