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What We’re Watching: 12/16/11

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.

Potential Severe Weather
A regular part of our weekly What We’re Watching blog is a look at upcoming potential severe weather. Looking ahead to the weekend and into Monday, our friends at the National Weather Service are calling for heavy rains in northern Texas, Oklahoma, Arkansas, Missouri and Nebraska. And for those in Southern California, wind advisories and high wind warnings have been issued due to the return of the Santa Ana winds.

And as temperatures continue to drop around the country with the onset of winter, I remind you to visit to learn how you can prepare your family, home and business for severe winter weather.

And wherever your weekend plans take you, check (or on your phone) for your most up-to-date weather forecast.

Planning Our New Year’s Resolutions
Believe it or not, only two weeks remain in 2011 – which means it’s the time for us make our resolutions and promises for the New Year. As you mull over the many options you have for making a New Year’s resolution – from eating less sweets to reading more books – consider making a resolution to get more prepared for an emergency. As Administrator Fugate said earlier this week, it’s an easy commitment to keep, and one that could ultimately save your life or that of someone you love.

So visit today to learn about staying informed, creating a family communication plan, making your family emergency kit, and getting involved in your local community.

(For our partners in the private sector, emergency management, faith-based or non-profit organizations, visit for ready-made resources to share with your group about making this important resolution.)

Seeking Input on a New and Improved Approach for Mapping Flood Risk


As part of our ongoing efforts to reform and strengthen the National Flood Insurance Program, FEMA has been working with members of Congress and other stakeholders to revise our process for mapping the flood risk of communities and families living behind levees. Our goal is to improve the way we map that risk – so families have more precise information when making decisions about how to protect their homes and properties.

In recent months, we have explored multiple approaches by seeking extensive input from stakeholders, including independent technical experts and the public.

Based on this input, we now are proposing a new mapping process for levees that will help us compile more precise technical data and allow us to more effectively assess the actual flood risk faced by citizens in communities throughout the country. Specifically, our proposed approach would strengthen our current process by helping communities demonstrate the degree of protection that a levee may provide to the surrounding communities. Currently, our maps don’t recognize any level of protection if a levee has not been certified to meet FEMA standards.

And as we have throughout this effort, we will continue to seek comments from stakeholders and the public on this proposal to help us finalize this new process. This public comment period will be open until January 30, 2012. Anyone can get more information on this approach and provide comments by visiting the federal register.

As with other recently-adopted tools that have increased our mapping accuracy, such as digital mapping technology, these new methods will help us continue to improve our flood mapping and analysis efforts.

Flood mapping remains a team effort that requires close coordination between our agency, our federal, state, local, tribal and territorial partners and communities – and of course, the public. As we continue to work to improve our flood mapping process, families and businesses can better understand the flood risk they face within their own communities and take steps to protect themselves and their homes against a potential flood. These steps can include flood proofing techniques to mitigate flood risk to their own homes, supporting good land use and building codes in their communities, developing a family communications plan, putting an emergency kit together, and investing in flood insurance. We encourage families and businesses to learn more by checking out

A Resolution That’s Easy to Keep: Resolve to be Ready


What a year 2011 has been. It’s certainly been one of the most active in terms of disasters, with Americans in almost every state impacted by hazards of all kinds – tornadoes, hurricanes, flooding, winter storms, extreme heat and earthquakes. As 2011 comes to a close and we usher in the new year, why not make a New Year’s resolution that’s easy to keep?

Join us at FEMA and make a resolution to Resolve to be Ready for emergencies in 2012 by taking a few simple steps to prepare your family, home, business, and community for potential disasters.

Administrator Fugate is in on it, too:


As Craig said, take the first step and bookmark on your computer and on your mobile phone – so when you get a free minute this holiday season, you can learn how to get your home, family or business ready in the New Year.

If you’re joining us in getting prepared in 2012, leave a comment below and share what you’ve been doing to get ready.

Our Blog Turns One – With the Help of the Team


One year ago today, we launched our first-ever blog here at FEMA and added a long overdue communications channel to our toolbox. As I explained in our inaugural blog post:

This won’t be another way to put out our press releases - this is a way to communicate directly with you…we will provide information before, during and after disaster strikes and we will highlight best practices, innovative ideas, and insights that are being used across emergency management and across the country.

Like many one-year-olds, our blog learned a lot during its first year of life about how to better serve our communities and disaster survivors.

For one, our blog turned out to be an effective tool for sharing critical information about what the entire team was doing to support communities before, during and after disasters. For example, during the tornadoes that swept across the southeast last spring and during Hurricane Irene, we used the blog to share what many federal agencies, state and local officials, private sector organizations, volunteer groups and other partners were doing across many states at once to help survivors and communities respond and recover.

We also used the blog to open up our doors to give an inside look at FEMA, highlight more experienced bloggers in sharing their message, and share the work of the entire emergency management team. And perhaps most importantly, we’ve found time and again that our best, most powerful blogs haven’t come from us – but from all of you. Such as:

And this is just the beginning – we will continue to find ways to improve this tool. So instead of a party or gifts for the FEMA blog’s one-year birthday, we’re asking that you continue to give your input, feedback and ideas. Keep pushing us to do better, keep letting us know what works well and what doesn’t.

Year two begins today – let’s get going. Let us know what you’d like to see in the comments below.

FEMA Engages Small Business through the Private Sector Representative Program


As many of you may know, over a year ago FEMA implemented a private sector representative program to support Emergency Support Function-15 in the National Response Coordination Center (NRCC). Since its inception, the program has improved the way the agency works with many private sector partners across the field of emergency management. We have had much success with private sector representatives from larger companies, such as Target, Big Lots, Brookfield Properties, and Verizon in this unique role; all bringing great expertise and knowledge.

This week, we are taking another great step forward by welcoming Hollis Stambaugh from System Planning Corporation as our first-ever small business representative within our private sector program. According to the U.S. Small Business Administration, small firms represent over 99 percent of all employer firms and employ half of all private sector employees in the United States. It was only right to bring in a small business representative into our program – to further expand on our ability to partner with private sector organizations larger and small.

Hollis and her company were nominated to serve in this position by our partners at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. System Planning Corporation is an Arlington, Virginia based high-technology and systems engineering company that employs more than 300 employees.

Through its TriData division, the company supports government and private sector emergency management and security through technical assistance and system solutions.. When asked about her readiness for the position, Hollis said, “I look forward to bringing my experience from Systems Planning Corporation as the Director of the Center for Public Protection to FEMA. Having studied and reported on dozens of disasters over the last 15 years, I know how critical business is to response and recovery”.

We hope that Hollis’s experience as a small business private sector representative here at FEMA is the first of many to come in 2012. Like much of our work at FEMA, this position will continue to be successful if we work together as a team, leveraging the resources of our many private sector partners and bringing more to the table. Let’s make it work and do amazing things!

If you or someone you know is interested in being a candidate, please click here. Our private sector team is available 24/7 and ready to work with you. And please continue to share your stories and ideas about how we can continue working with the private sector to better serve our nation and communities.

What We’re Watching: 12/9/11

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.

Weather Outlook

It looks like most of the country will enjoy relatively nice weather this weekend! According to the National Weather Service (NWS), there are not many weather hazards for the next several days. However, the NWS expects drought conditions to continue throughout parts of the South and Great Plains regions and some flooding in parts of the Midwest.

Although there are no severe weather threats, we encourage you to follow your area’s local forecast as weather conditions can change.

And while you are out this weekend thinking of creative gifts to give your family and friends this holiday season, I encourage you to consider giving the gift of preparedness.  Here are a few ideas to get you started: an extra cell phone battery or cell phone charger for a car; a first aid kit; a NOAA weather radio; an extra blanket for an emergency kit in a car; flashlight and batteries; or a carbon monoxide detector makes a great holiday gift or stocking stuffer.  Make sure your family and friends are prepared for an emergency by sharing the gift of preparedness!

Meeting with Future Emergency Management Leaders

Recently, I had the privilege of talking with three students from the University of North Texas in Denton as part of a class project. One of the students, Kristopher Davis, is considering a career in emergency management, and came to FEMA looking for guidance and information as he ponders this important decision.

Kristopher and the other students asked me questions about working in the emergency management field - what kind of experience it takes to become an emergency management leader, what aspects of my job would I keep and what would I change if I could, what are the rewards and benefits of emergency management as a career, and what advice would I give to a person who wanted to follow a similar career path.

Denton, Texas, Nov. 18, 2011 -- Tony Russell, FEMA Region 6 Administrator, meets with students from the University of North Texas to discuss FEMA's role in emergency management. L to R: Luc Tran, Mary DiStefano, Tony Russell & Kristopher Davis.

Denton, Texas, Nov. 18, 2011 -- Tony Russell, FEMA Region 6 Administrator, meets with students from the University of North Texas to discuss FEMA's role in emergency management. L to R: Luc Tran, Mary DiStefano, Tony Russell & Kristopher Davis.

I shared with them some of what led me to a career in emergency management, which began with my desire at a young age to help others. I explained how after serving with the military, I joined FEMA as a Federal Coordinating Officer. Being a military officer, I learned the importance of service and sacrifice which translated greatly to FEMA, which has the same ethos and focus. After eight years as a FCO, I headed up the FEMA office in Louisiana and was then appointed as the FEMA Region VI administrator.

I also shared with them some of the challenges they could face during an emergency management career. The stress of working a disaster for months, being away from your family and friends for extended periods of time, as well as the reality of the constraints we all face when state and federal budgets are tight are all sacrifices we must make to help disaster survivors.

I was thoroughly impressed with their intelligence, interest and drive, and was proud to offer up some of my expertise and experience and, hopefully, peak their interest in working for a federal agency such as FEMA in the coming years.

We are proud of our partnership and collaboration with UNT and are committed to working with the university to help develop coursework and cultivate opportunities for students. I look forward to the day when these students graduate and become emergency management leaders in Texas and across the nation.

News of the Day: Experts Discuss How to Make Emergency Planning Fully Inclusive

Here at FEMA, we continually emphasize the importance of including and meeting the needs of the whole community. A principle foundation in emergency management is to continually take into account, understand, and support the needs of the entire community in the work that we do. It’s important for all of us to plan for the true, diverse makeup of our communities, and every day we make strides closer to achieving this goal.

With that in mind, we wanted to share the following story from the North Jersey/Bergen County Record, which captures how FEMA, through our disability integration specialists out in the field, work with all of our partners to ensure that we are fully including Americans with access and functional needs in all of our disaster planning, response and recovery efforts. Last week, Marcie Roth, Director of the Office of Disability Integration and Coordination, spoke about this work at a panel with other state and local emergency management partners:

"This is a priority. This is something we talk about on a regular basis," said Ridgewood Councilman Paul Aronsohn, who helped organize the event. "What we hope to do today is to really start a community-wide conversation, an opportunity to share lessons learned, things that work and don't work."

The community as a whole needs to come together to make sure everyone stays safe during a disaster, according to FEMA Regional Disability Integration Specialist James Flemming. Everyone has a stake in safety during times of emergency, and they need to work together to make the community as a whole better prepared, Flemming said.

"You know better than I what happened here when Hurricane Irene hit," he said. "That is not the time for people to hold onto their turf. That is not the time for people to say, 'Well that is not my job.’”

“FEMA, as well as other branches of government, are already reaching out to entire communities when making their preparations, according to Marcie Roth, director of FEMA's Office of Disability Integration and Coordination (OCDI). Modifying a plan then hanging it for people with disabilities will not adequately take into account everyone's needs, which can lead to dangerous situations in an emergency, including the death of residents who do not have the means for proper evacuation."

If we wait and plan for people with disabilities after we write the basic plan, we fail," Roth said, quoting FEMA administrator Craig Fugate. "It's time that children, people with disabilities, or any other segment of our communities who are traditionally underserved be more fully and consistently integrated into planning and preparedness on every level of government."

You can check out the full article here and encourage you to share it with others in your community. And if you have a good idea or approach for how we can be more inclusive, let us know. Leave a comment below or submit your idea to the FEMA Think Tank.

A Long Overdue Policy Change to Recognize the Sovereignty of Tribal Governments

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

As demonstrated time and time again through many disasters across America, emergency management requires a team effort. Our country's tribal nations and leaders are an essential part of the team. The Obama administration has long been committed to supporting Indian Country in efforts to build resilient communities, prepared for all hazards.

Last week, on behalf of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and the administration, I met with tribal leaders as a participant in the 2011 Tribal Nations Conference hosted by the White House. The goal of this multi-day event was to continue an honest, meaningful discussion between tribal leadership, the administration and federal agencies, to listen, learn and explore how we can continue to strengthen our government-to-government relationship.

During these conversations, I had the opportunity to announce -- consistent with our strong government-to-government relationship and after a lengthy review process -- that the administration supports amending the Stafford Act to allow federally recognized tribal governments to make a request directly to the president for a federal emergency or disaster declaration. Under current law, only states, through the governor, can make such requests.

Amending this legislation will acknowledge the sovereignty of federally recognized tribes and the trust responsibility of the United States, enhance FEMA's working relationship with tribal governments, and improve emergency responsiveness throughout Indian Country.

PPD-8: National Preparedness System Description Announced


We first talked about the Presidential Policy Directive on National Preparedness last March and since then we have released the National Preparedness Goal outlining the capabilities necessary to prevent, protect against, mitigate, respond to, and recover from the threats and hazards that pose the greatest risk to the nation.

Today, we took the next step in our ongoing efforts to work together to improve for a wide range of these threats and hazards, such as acts of terrorism, cyber attacks, pandemics and catastrophic natural disasters, by releasing a description of the National Preparedness System. What makes this preparedness system unique is that it involves the whole community – individuals, businesses, community- and faith-based organizations, schools and all levels of government. We recognize that the nation will be most prepared for threats and hazards when we work together and the National Preparedness System outlines the approach, resources and tools for achieving that goal.

The system has six main components for improving our preparedness:

  • Identifying and assessing risks;
  • Estimating capability requirements;
  • Building or sustaining capabilities;
  • Developing and implementing plans to deliver those capabilities;
  • Validating and monitoring progress made towards achieving the National Preparedness Goal; and
  • Reviewing and updating efforts to promote continuous improvement.

Each of these components calls for specific actions that we can take to improve our national preparedness. The first component, for example, will create a common way to assess risks, so we can more fully understand all of the risks that communities face. This clear view will help us figure out how best to work together to ensure we’re making wise decisions to keep people safe from harm.

With the National Preparedness System description released, we will now focus on the details of how we will achieve our National Preparedness Goal. Over the next few months, we will continue to work with the entire community to determine roles and responsibilities as well as develop frameworks to support the coordination needed to effectively deliver the core capabilities outlined in the goal. Those coordination points will be detailed in a series of national frameworks and interagency operational plans. In addition to the recently released National Disaster Recovery Framework, frameworks will be developed for prevention, protection and mitigation as well as updates made to the National Response Framework. Federal interagency operational plans will also be developed for all five frameworks. As with the previous steps in this process, we look forward to incorporating input from the whole community as we work to strengthen our nation’s resilience to all hazards.

To read the system description or learn more about Presidential Policy Directive 8: National Preparedness, visit


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