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National EAS Test Two Days Away

Posted by: Public Affairs

With the national emergency alert system test only two days away, we wanted to remind you what you can expect during the test. As a reminder, the test will take place this Wednesday, November 9, 2011 at 2 PM EST.

  • The test will occur on all broadcast radio and television stations, cable television systems, satellite radio and television systems, and wireline video service systems. The test will last approximately 30 seconds, after which regular programming will resume. The test will not involve landline or mobile phones or other forms of communication such as internet or social media.
  • The test will look and sound very similar to local broadcasting tests of the Emergency Alert System that occur on a frequent basis.
  • The purpose of this test is to allow FEMA and the Federal Communications Commission to assess how well the Emergency Alert System would perform its primary function, to alert the public about a national emergency. We are testing our equipment and capability of properly responding to a national emergency, should they ever need to be used.

The emergency alert system test has been making local and national headlines in the news lately, and here are a few of the stories:

  1. "This is a Test….This is only a Test." ABC News
  2. First Nationwide Test Of The Emergency Alert System WPMT-TV Harrisburg (PA)
  3. First Nationwide Emergency Alert Is This Week Wisconsin Radio Network

Visit for complete information about the test and answers to frequently asked questions.

Colder Weather is Upon Us – Be Prepared for Power Outages

Posted by: Paulette Aniskoff, Director, Individual and Community Preparedness

Who would have thought the cold and blustery weather, along with the white fluffy stuff, would show up this soon? Although we are approaching the end of hurricane season, we were recently forced to shift our focus to winter weather risks as we were harshly reminded that disasters happen year-round.

While some may enjoy the colder weather and the accompanying snow, others like myself, prefer the warmer temperatures. Regardless of your view on cold and snow, now is the time of year when temperatures drop. It is also the time of year when gusting winds and accumulating ice and snow can bring power outages.

Utility crews work to restore power in the aftermath of a deadly winter storm.
Simsbury, Conn., November 5, 2011 -- Utility crews work to restore power in the aftermath of a deadly winter storm. Some areas of Connecticut were without electricity for more than a week. FEMA is assisting government and residents recover from the storm and is providing food and water, as well as generators for some public buildings and nursing homes.

Power outages can accompany virtually every natural disaster and are more common than you’d think. Power grids, generating plants, transformer stations, power poles and even buried cables are vulnerable to the elements of natural disasters. The rare October Nor’easter that struck recently left approximately 3.2 million customers on the East Coast without power. The effects can be devastating and outage durations can last a couple of hours or a couple of weeks depending on the severity of the event and service options available in the affected area. (How we’re supporting Northeast states after the severe winter storm.)

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) recently released its Winter Outlook for this December through February, which will be influenced strongly by La Niña causing shifts in weather patterns across the country. But with no way to be 100 percent certain about the weather to come, it’s important to be prepared for emergencies 365 days a year.

One thing we can do, as community leaders and preparedness advocates, is to take the time to encourage organizations, communities, individuals and families to review their disaster plans and update their emergency kits. Below are a few considerations you can share with community members when discussing how to prepare for a power outage:

  • Ensure you have a battery-powered or hand cranked radio to listen for emergency updates and news reports.
  • Have flashlights or electric lanterns on hand to provide light; candles may add a spark of adventure during power failures, but they are dangerous fire hazards. Flashlights and electric lanterns require batteries so consider, during extended outages, keeping a supply of extra batteries.
  • Remember, microwaves will not work! It’s important to keep a three- to 14-day supply of water and of nonperishable food such as ready-to-eat canned meats, fruits and vegetables, canned juices, milk, and soup. Additionally, have a hand-operated can opener available. FEMA recommends one gallon of water per person per day.

Actions to take during a power outage:

  • If using a portable generator during a power outage, it should always be operated outside, away from doors and windows to avoid dangerous carbon monoxide.
  • Keep refrigerator and freezer doors closed as much as possible to prevent food spoilage.
  • During the winter, let the sun warm rooms during the day and close shades and curtains at night.
  • Avoid plugging emergency generators into electric outlets or hooking them directly to your home's electrical system - they can feed electricity back into the power lines, putting you and line workers in danger.
  • When the power comes back on, wait a few minutes before turning on major appliances, to help eliminate problems that could occur if there's a sharp increase in demand. If you think electric power has been restored to your area but your home is still without power, call your local power company.

Even if your community wasn’t affected by this recent winter-like storm, it’s still important to take the opportunity to inform your community about its risks and provide simple tips. Everyone can play a vital role in helping our communities prepare for severe winter weather.

North Dakota Partnerships Pave the Way for Recovery, Safer Future

Posted by: Public Affairs

Officials look over a map of Minot, North Dakota.
Minot, ND, October 20, 2011 -- David Miller (right), Associate Administrator of the FEMA's Federal Insurance and Mitigation Administration, North Dakota Governor Jack Dalrymple (second from right), FEMA Federal Coordinating Officer Deanne Criswell (center), FEMA Associate Administrator of Response and Recovery William Carwile (left), and FEMA Region VIII Flood Insurance and Mitigation Division Director Jeanine Petterson discuss flood recovery concerns with engineers and other state and local officials at Minot's City Hall.

Recently, David Miller, Associate Administrator, Federal Insurance & Mitigation Administration, and Bill Carwile, Associate Administrator for Response and Recovery, visited North Dakota. During their visit, they met with top state and local officials, toured flood damaged areas from the air and the ground, and saw first-hand the impacts of flooding along the Souris and Missouri Rivers and in the Devils Lake Basin, including the Spirit Lake Sioux Tribe. They came to look, listen and learn about the challenges and the hopes of area leadership.

Their goal was to look for ways to improve the local, state, tribal, private sector and federal partnerships needed for ongoing recovery and future mitigation.

David Miller shared his thoughts on the trip:

Bill and I toured areas of Bismarck and Mandan, Minot/Ward County and Devils Lake. We visited with FEMA and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers staff and met with state and local leaders, including Governor Dalrymple, Adjutant General Sprynczynatyk, State Flood Recovery Coordinator Major General Sagsveen, and representatives from the North Dakota Department of Emergency Services. On Friday morning, I also met with Senators Conrad and Hoeven and Representative Berg, and locals leaders representing the Souris River Basin, including Mayors Curt Zimbelman and Jerome Gruenberg.

Throughout our visit we engaged in a discussion of the recovery efforts for each of the affected areas. I listened to the passionate and well articulated concerns of state and local leaders and heard about their commitment to the future. It is apparent that while each area has unique challenges, the foundation for a safer future rest with building a sustainable, well-coordinated and comprehensive approach to their ongoing flooding risks.

Strategic Long Term Recovery
I returned from the visit to the Souris River Basin impressed that state and local officials are taking the lead to develop a strategy and program for recovery that will include floodplain management, control projects, and acquisitions along with plans for the environment, historical considerations and future development. These plans may include both structural and non-structural solutions. While flood protection needs to be driven at the state and local level, I see an opportunity for federal support and participation as their concepts are flushed out, goals further defined and specific projects indentified.

It was extremely valuable for me to visit the Devils Lake Basin, especially from the air – for which I thank the North Dakota National Guard. This is an area I have long heard about but this was my first visit. I want to thank the local leaders who took the time to brief me on the situation, and for their straightforward and clear summary of how this flood event (that began in 1993) has impacted their infrastructure, their communities and most importantly their citizens. I know we will have continued involvement as part of the state and Army Corps of Engineers-led efforts and I am committed to exploring ways our programs, can be used to support the Corps’ recovery and mitigation strategies.

David Miller, Associate Administrator, Federal Insurance and Mitigation Administration and William Carwile, Associate Administrator, FEMA Response and Recovery survey ongoing recovery efforts in Minot.
Minot, ND, October 20, 2011 -- David Miller, Associate Administrator, Federal Insurance and Mitigation Administration and William Carwile, Associate Administrator, FEMA Response and Recovery survey ongoing recovery efforts in Minot following historic flooding from the Souris River this Spring. FEMA is working with state and local partners to provide assistance to those who were affected by the flooding.

Bill Carwile emphasized the importance of seeing a disaster first-hand, and the importance of partnerships:

Let me add that I too benefited from seeing first-hand the complexities surrounding long-term recovery challenges in North Dakota. Seeing a disaster from the ground is always beneficial, but this trip proved especially valuable thanks to the time we were able to spend with the governor, state officials, and community leaders. I focused my time in the Souris River Basin and the surrounding areas.

Like David, I found both the aerial perspective and the ground tours extremely valuable. But nothing impacted me more than driving through flood damaged neighborhoods and then walking through a home that was destroyed. While state and local leaders, with supplemental support from FEMA, the private sector, other federal agencies, and the volunteer organizations have made progress, good progress, it is clear that there is still a long way to go. And while the challenges are great, so are the opportunities. One of my specific recommendations is that we coordinate with the State to evaluate the need to exercise components for the National Disaster Recovery Framework to help support the ongoing recovery efforts.

My message to the local community is to continue to build your local, state, federal and private sector team. As I told FEMA Administrator Craig Fugate when I returned from North Dakota, we need to do all we can within FEMA to support the state, flood-impacted communities, and individuals as they continue the efforts to rebuild, and define projects and strategies for future flood protection.

What We’re Watching: 11/4/11

Posted by: Public Affairs

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.

Emergency Alert System Test Next Week
The first nationwide Emergency Alert System test is next week- Wednesday, November 9, 2011 at 2 p.m. EST. As we’ve mentioned in previous blog posts the test will be conducted on all TV and radio stations and will last approximately 30 seconds. During this time an audio message will run, similar to local emergency systems test that happen more frequently. After the test, your regular scheduled programming will resume.

Visit for complete information about the test and to learn what to expect. Please share information about the test with family and friends and help us spread the word, including embedding this widget on your website:

Open Letter: Nationwide Emergency Alert System Test


Posted by: Craig Fugate, Administrator, Federal Emergency Management Agency and Julius Genachowski, Chairman, Federal Communications Commission

The first ever nationwide test of the Emergency Alert System will occur on Wednesday, November 9, at 2:00 p.m. EST. As part of our public education campaign, we wrote this open letter to ensure that all Americans are aware of the test and know what to expect.

Please share this information with your friends, family, and coworkers:

Dear Partner,

As part of our nation’s ongoing efforts to strengthen our resilience against all hazards, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), in close coordination with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association (NOAA), will conduct the first ever nationwide test of the Emergency Alert System on Wednesday, November 9, at 2:00 p.m. EST. The test will occur simultaneously across the United States and the U.S. territories and will last approximately 30 seconds, after which regular programming will resume. The test will appear on all broadcast radio and television stations, cable television systems, satellite radio and television systems, and wireline video service systems. The test will not involve landline or mobile phones or other infrastructure such as power grids.

The various disasters our country has faced this year underscore the need for effective and well-tested emergency alert and warning systems that could be used in a time of real national emergency, at a moment’s notice. Now, with the test less than a week away, we ask that you join us in efforts to educate your entire community about this important event.

Although the Emergency Alert System and its predecessors have been in existence for more than 50 years and are often tested at the local level, there has never been a nationwide test of these capabilities. The purpose of the test is to allow FEMA and the FCC to assess how well the Emergency Alert System would perform its primary function: alerting the public about a national emergency.

The first step toward building a modernized Emergency Alert System means testing the existing technology. Through preparations for the test, we have already identified areas that need improvement to ensure our entire population has full access to alerts and warnings. This nationwide test will help us identify any additional changes to the system that may be beneficial as we work to complete a modernized and fully accessible system.

A shortcoming of the system that we identified early in the process is that the fifty-year old system was not built to support open or closed captioning, translations, or other tools to supplement the audio portion of the test for broader accessibility. Consequently, many viewers, particularly cable television subscribers, will see the emergency alert on the screen that is accompanied by an audio explanation that "this is only a test," but may not see a corresponding visual message that "this is only a test." Knowing these limitations, FEMA and the FCC have targeted our outreach efforts to help ensure that the public knows what to expect when the test occurs. And, in these past weeks leading up to the test, the broadcast community, cable operators and programmers, and other communications service providers have conscientiously assisted in this effort by alerting their viewers and subscribers about the test—through visual and written communications.

Over the past year, our agencies have also been working extensively with our state, local, tribal, and territorial partners, and other critical stakeholders to help inform all members of the public regarding the nationwide Emergency Alert System test. In particular, we have conducted extensive outreach to the deaf and hard of hearing community to alert them about the test, including the technical limitations with the visual message, particularly with respect to cable television. To ensure that everyone is aware that the nationwide test on November 9 is only a test, we are also requesting your assistance with outreach. We particularly request that you provide information to people who are deaf and hard of hearing, people with cognitive or intellectual disabilities or mental health concerns, senior citizens, and people with limited English proficiency to build awareness and understanding about the test.

Specifically, we ask that you help us educate your communities regarding some important facts about the test:

  • The test will be approximately 30 seconds long and will look and sound very similar to the frequent local tests of the Emergency Alert System;
  • It will be transmitted via television and radio stations within the U.S., including Alaska, Hawaii, the territories of Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands, and American Samoa;
  • An audio message will interrupt television and radio programming indicating: “This is only a test,” though text may not indicate this same message on the screen on every television channel;
  • Organizations that serve people with disabilities or people with limited English proficiency should be aware that they may receive requests for information or assistance from broadcasters or other communications service providers and emergency managers in the days leading up to, during, and after the test; and
  • When the test is over, regular programming will resume. In the coming days, our agencies will be releasing additional information to help inform the public about this test. Resources, including videos in accessible formats, can be found at

As with all of our work, we know that the support of our state, local, tribal and territorial partners, along with the private sector, our faith-based and disability communities, and other key stakeholders, will be vital to effectively raising the public’s awareness of the test and minimizing undue public concern. We greatly appreciate your continued partnership as we prepare for this unique event and important public service. Your efforts to help us get the message out will be invaluable.


W. Craig Fugate
Federal Emergency Management Agency

Julius Genachowski
Federal Communications Commission

Continuing to Support States After the Northeast Winter Storms

Posted by: Public Affairs

We continue to closely monitor and support the response to the deadly severe storms that affected Mid-Atlantic and Northeastern states this past weekend. Our thoughts and prayers go out especially to the families of those who have lost loved ones or friends as a result of the storms.

As response and power restoration efforts continue, we remain in close contact with our state, local and tribal partners in New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Massachusetts, Connecticut and New Hampshire. Here’s a recap of what we’re doing:

  • Earlier this week, President Obama declared emergencies for Connecticut, New Hampshire and Massachusetts, authorizing FEMA to coordinate disaster relief efforts to save lives and to protect property and public health and safety. For instance, the types of support that can be provided include search and rescue, the delivery of food, water and other commodities, and generators to provide power to critical facilities. Once states are able to more fully assess the impact of the storm, FEMA is prepared to support them with joint federal-state damage assessments.

    These assessments are designed to give the governor of a state a better picture of damages, and to determine if further federal support is needed. At the state’s request, joint federal-state damage assessments will begin in New York and Massachusetts in the next week or so, as areas become accessible.
  • As of last night, we have delivered more than 218,000 liters of water, more than 248,000 meals, more than 5,200 blankets, more than 500 cots, and 42 industrial-grade power generators, for distribution by states, and will continue delivery of commodities, as long as they are needed and requested by states.
  • We’re also closely coordinating with voluntary agency partners that are operating shelters and providing meals and resources, and with federal agencies such as the National Weather Service and Department of Energy.

The time to get prepared for colder weather or a winter storm is before it is threatening your community. So before winter settles into your community, visit for simple steps you can take to prepare your home, business or family for winter weather (or on your mobile device).

If you have an Android smartphone or an iPhone, you can also download the FEMA App and use the interactive emergency kit checklist or lookup a shelter or disaster recovery center.

And for more on FEMA’s role before, during and after winter weather, check out this previous blog post.

Vermont: The Cows & Coffee Cups Are On Message

Posted by: James N. Russo, Federal Coordinating Officer, Vermont Tropical Storm Irene

A mobile hay wagon displays FEMA's disaster assistance information on Route 7 in Charlotte, Vermont.
Charlotte, VT, October 16, 2011 -- A mobile hay wagon displays FEMA's disaster assistance information on Route 7 in Charlotte, Vermont. The Vermont Farm Bureau and FEMA are working together to encourage those affected by Tropical Storm Irene to register by the October 31 deadline.

In a state where billboards are banned, FEMA has had to get a little more creative about getting our message to the public.

Much of Vermont was flooded by Tropical Storm Irene in late August and our private sector liaisons and state counterparts have been busy coming up with new and unique ways to let those affected know where they can turn for federal assistance. Normally, we coordinate with the state to display disaster assistance information on digital billboards where it will be seen by as many motorists as possible.

But many Vermonters feel very strongly about keeping the views of their scenic mountains and valleys unobstructed. In 1958, the state was the first to ban billboards, followed by Hawaii, Alaska and Maine. However, the folks here have learned to blend their message into the natural landscape in enterprising and cost-effective ways. When we asked our state counterparts the best way to post a banner with disaster assistance information, they suggested we do the same thing that local farmers do to promote their produce stands: place it on a hay wagon. With the help of the Vermont Farm Bureau, the wagon has already made a stop at a tractor parade and will continue en route throughout the state to be strategically placed at highly-trafficked farm fields.

Another example of how we work with the private sector: Partnering with local coffee shops in each of the 12 federally-declared Vermont counties, each of whom agreed to use recycled cup sleeves with FEMA’s web address and FEMA registration number (1-800-621-3362) printed on them.

FEMA's Private Sector division found creative ways to get information to the public after Tropical Storm Irene flooded much of the state by printing disaster assistance information on coffee sleeves.
Burlington, VT, November 1, 2011 -- FEMA's Private Sector division found creative ways to get information to the public after Tropical Storm Irene flooded much of the state by printing disaster assistance information on coffee sleeves. FEMA is providing assistance to those who were impacted by Tropical Storm Irene.

We may have tackled coffee and hay, but our work isn’t done. Our next challenge is to figure out a way to promote our messages through the bovine community, since Vermont has more cows per capita than any other state. We figure if we can find a way to get the word out by using cattle as billboards, we may have found new meaning to the phrase "cattle branding."

For more on the ongoing recovery efforts in Vermont, visit our disaster page. And as a reminder, the deadline to apply for federal assistance in Vermont is November 15, so if you or someone you know is in an eligible county and was affected by the storm, apply today.

And if you have a great idea about how we can continue to use creative means to communicate with and support survivors here in Vermont, let us know. Leave a comment below.

Editor’s note: FEMA established the Private Sector division in 2007 to improve information sharing and coordination between government and the private sector. This partnership has proven extremely beneficial to the recovery and resilience of a community affected by disaster.

Honoring Native American Heritage


Posted by:Camp Gwen, Director, Intergovernmental Affairs

November is nationally recognized as Native American Heritage Month. Here’s a brief message from Administrator Fugate about the importance of engaging tribal leaders and nations in emergency preparedness, response, and recovery:

As we focus on engaging the entire community in building better prepared and more resilient communities, FEMA is committed to working with American Indians and Alaska Natives, elders and other tribal leaders on how we can best support them.

For more on how tribal leaders, members and nations can get prepared for emergencies, visit