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Community Preparedness Starts with YOU!

It’s the beginning of a New Year and we are excited so many of you have taken part in our January activities. Two weeks ago we honored the Individual and Community Preparedness Award winners as Champions of Change at the White House and last week we celebrated the 10th anniversary of the Citizen Corps Program. As we continue to promote what you do, we also want to provide you with new resources, so I am proud to say the Individual and Community Preparedness Division (ICPD) hosted one of the most highly attended Community Preparedness Webinar Series webinars on record.


More than 1,800 individuals registered for the FREE Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) webinar. Every state within the U.S. was represented and FEMA Administrator Craig Fugate even stopped by to say a few words. He talked about the importance of these new CERT tools and resources for CERT volunteers, local program managers and those wishing to start a CERT program in their own locality.

The webinar highlighted new, accessible versions of the CERT Basic Training Course, recently made available in Spanish, low vision and in screen reader. These materials serve to expand the reach of CERT into the Whole Community in terms of preparedness.

CERT National Office Director Rachel Jacky, presented on the new CERT Program Manager and CERT Train-the-Trainer Courses. The program manager course helps prepare current and prospective CERT managers/coordinators to create and sustain an active CERT program, while the train-the-trainer course provides a standard curriculum for states, regions and the Emergency Management Institute to train CERT instructors.

For all of those who participated, thank you for your continued support. For those who were not able to participate, you can view the webinar and find the recording here.

Remember, Community Preparedness Starts with YOU!

Find us on twitter and make sure to sign up for our FREE weekly news digest. Stay in touch and receive updates such as the ones below:

  • Join us for the next monthly Ready call on Tuesday, February 7, at 3:00 ET/2:00 CT/1:00 MT/Noon PT.
  • Join your colleagues in viewing, contributing, and commenting on conversations about emergency preparedness, disaster response and recovery, and other emergency management topics. Don’t miss out – check out FEMA’s online community today -- it’s where ideas come to life!

Visit the CERT website to find your nearest CERT program.

National Disaster Recovery Framework Stakeholder Forums Continue in Kansas & Utah

To kick off the New Year, we hosted the second and third National Disaster Recovery Framework (NDRF) Stakeholder Forums in Kansas and Utah. Both NDRF Stakeholder Forums received excellent participation and continued the development, collaboration, and implementation of the key concepts of the NDRF, which was launched in September 2010. The first forum was held in New Orleans in December 2011.

Nearly 300 stakeholders participated in the forum in Kansas and more than 250 leaders attended the forum in Utah. In Salt Lake City, UT we partnered with the Utah Emergency Management Association's annual conference and the participation of such a broad audience furthered the discussion on how the key concepts of the NDRF can be used to not only drive recovery efforts in a community after a disaster, but also through pre-disaster recovery planning.

The NDRF is a tool that outlines how disaster recovery is supported and organized across the nation, and builds on scalable, flexible, and adaptable coordinating structures to align key roles and responsibilities, linking state, local, tribal and territorial governments, the federal government, private sector, individuals, and voluntary, faith-based, disability and community organizations – all who play vital roles in community-based recovery.

The NDRF Stakeholder Forums provide a valuable opportunity for us to engage communities and to listen to our partners in their home states and home towns. In every forum we affirm the principles of the NDRF and use input from the community and stakeholders to find innovative ways to support successful recovery, and to increase community resiliency and sustainability.

Additional forums are scheduled in Harrisburg, PA on January 31st and in Boston, MA on February 2nd. Visit our NDRF web page for further information and a list of the remaining upcoming NDRF Stakeholder Forums.

Beware of Fake FEMA Sites & Phishing Attacks

Just a reminder to everyone that FEMA does not provide emergency alerts (emergency, weather or otherwise) as this is a local responsibility. So we’re asking everyone to beware of phishing emails or websites claiming to provide official FEMA information or FEMA emergency alerts, as these sites are not operated by FEMA and can be harmful to your personal information or computer. If you are wondering how you can receive legitimate weather alerts, check out our blog post for a great list of weather alert sources.


Here’s a short blurb to explain phishing, not to be confused with fishing in a river or lake:

What is Phishing?
Phishing is an attempt by an individual or group to solicit personal information from unsuspecting users by employing social engineering techniques. Phishing emails are crafted to appear as if they have been sent from a legitimate organization or known individual. These emails often attempt to entice users to click on a link that will take the user to a fraudulent web site that appears legitimate. The user then may be asked to provide personal information such as account usernames and passwords that can further expose them to future compromises. Additionally, these fraudulent web sites may contain malicious code.

For more information on phishing visit U.S. CERT.

Also, the agency’s official website is fema.gov (notice the dot gov ending) and we created a page that has a complete list of all official FEMA channels (social media sites, collaboration forums, smartphone apps, text message programs, etc) for transparency and clarity.

If you are ever unsure whether or not a website is an official FEMA website and you can’t find any information about it on fema.gov, please send an email to FEMA-New-Media@dhs.gov and the team will get back to you.

Success Story: Preparedness & a Community Storm Shelter Saves Lives

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The Alabama town of Maplesville has a success story on its hands – one big enough to draw a visit from the governor.

Following Hurricane Ivan in 2005, Maplesville decided to build a community storm shelter because of its long history of storms. The town joined up with the Chilton County Emergency Management Agency and the Chilton County Commission and worked on a 5-year plan that ended with Maplesville receiving a storm shelter.

FEMA and the Alabama Emergency Management Agency helped the town fund it with Hazard Mitigation Grant Program money. The 2005 grant provided just more than $48,000 of the nearly $70,000 total project cost as the 60-person-capacity steel shelter went up not far from the town fire station. It opened in November 2007.


View from inside the shelter. Photo by Grieg Powers/FEMA.

The shelter has been used successfully many times, including the historic storms and tornadoes that hammered Alabama in April 2011. Following that federally declared disaster, one of the worst to hit the state, Governor Bentley vowed to make more safe rooms the legacy of that disaster.

The most recent proof of the value of the shelter came just a few days ago when severe storms and tornadoes raked parts of Alabama, including Maplesville. Well over 100 people – some coming from as far away as five miles – gathered inside that shelter to escape the storm. While the storm raged, two trees fell on the shelter – one of them a foot in diameter. Despite cosmetic damage to the shelter, no one inside reported any injuries.


Alabama Governor Robert Bentley is accompanied by (from left) by State Rep. Kurt Wallace and State Sen. Cam Ward. Photo by Grieg Powers/FEMA.

Alabama Governor Robert Bentley is accompanied by (from left) by State Rep. Kurt Wallace and State Sen. Cam Ward. Photo by Grieg Powers/FEMA.

Governor Bentley held a news conference in front of the virtually unaffected shelter, stating "You can see the result and how lives can be saved by having these all over the state."

Christine Epperson, a volunteer firefighter and assistant Emergency Medical Services chief commented, "My first thought is always to open the safe room. These people are my family, my life and I want to help protect them."

Following a disaster, hazard mitigation grants make funds available to states and communities to do work that will make structures and infrastructure more resistant for the next disaster. In this case, as Maplesville Mayor Aubrey Latham put it, "The shelter did what it was supposed to do."

Outside view of the shelter. Photo by Grieg Powers/FEMA.

What We’re Watching: 1/27/12

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 be able to enjoy relatively nice weather this weekend! According to the National Weather Service, there are not any severe weather hazards expected over 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 Northwest.

Although there are no severe weather threats, we encourage you to follow your area’s local forecast as weather conditions can change. Stay up-to-date on your local forecast by visiting weather.gov or mobile.weather.gov on your mobile device.

Save the Date: Administrator Fugate Keynotes Tech @ State (February 3)
Next Friday, February 3, Administrator Fugate will be the keynote speaker at "Tech @ State." The event will be held at George Washington University in Washington D.C.   Here’s some background information on the event:



Tech@State: Real-Time Awareness will focus on how to use the vast amount of data generated by social media and other internet technologies to deliver real-time awareness.  Specifically, we will be examining the range of challenges that exist when trying to create real-time awareness, especially in the context of breaking news or events, crisis response and citizen engagement.   We’ll discuss questions like:  Which data feeds are the most reliable?  What is the best way to filter the data?  How should the data be analyzed?  What’s the best way to convey the information to the user?  What do citizens expect when they use social media to communicate with governments?

Visit http://tech.state.gov for registration information, and if you’re on Twitter, follow @techATstate and contribute to the conversation by using #techATstate.


Save the Date: The Great Central Shakeout (February 7)
On February 7 at 10:15 a.m. Central time, millions of Americans will stop what they’re doing to participate in an earthquake drill and "Drop. Cover. Hold on." Signup today to participate and then check out Ready.gov/earthquakes to learn how you can prepare your home, workplace or school for an earthquake.

 

Picture of the Week
While touring damage in Jefferson County, Alabama Governor Robert Bentley visited the FEMA-funded Maplesville community storm shelter that housed more than 100 people who emerged uninjured following high winds and tornadoes that tore through the region in the early morning hours of Jan. 23. The governor was accompanied by (from left) by State Rep. Kurt Wallace and State Sen. Cam Ward.

While touring damage in Jefferson County, Alabama Governor Robert Bentley visited the FEMA-funded Maplesville community storm shelter that housed more than 100 people who emerged uninjured following high winds and tornadoes that tore through the region in the early morning hours of Jan. 23. The governor was accompanied by (from left) by State Rep. Kurt Wallace and State Sen. Cam Ward.

Progress Continues in Joplin

Last week I was able to pay a second visit to our Joint Field Office in Joplin, Missouri. My first trip to Joplin was back in July, about five weeks after the devastating EF-5 tornado struck the city. I spent much of my youth south of Joplin in Tulsa, Oklahoma, so I am no stranger to the effects of tornadoes. Despite this experience, I was struck by the destruction Joplin suffered from the May tornado. Fatalities numbered 161, hundreds were injured, and more than 7,500 structures were damaged and another 4,000 completely destroyed. About one-third of the city of 45,000 was totally flattened.

During my first visit I was extremely impressed with the partnerships and professionalism that were driving the first weeks of the recovery. The leadership of city officials and the high levels of engagement by dozens of volunteer agencies and the private sector were impressive. I was struck by the Expedited Debris Removal Program and how the many hours of back-breaking work by volunteers allowed for debris to be cleared facilitating the re-building of homes and businesses in the impacted areas. In addition to the obvious physical signs of the early recovery, there was a feeling of optimism and resilience in everyone I met, from the City Manager, to the wait staff in restaurants, and people on the streets, I got the feeling that “here is a community that will come back better and more resilient than ever…”.

On my recent visit, I was deeply impressed by the progress that has been made in the six months since I was in Joplin. The more I thought about how so much had been done to recover, the concepts of the whole community approach to responding to and recovering from disasters that we have been espousing in presentations around the country jumped out at me. The folks of Joplin, working with volunteer agencies, and individual volunteers, the private sector, supported by state and federal government, were making the “new normal” for their city a reality.

Debris (1.2 million cubic yards) had been cleared within 75 days to facilitate rebuilding (over 3,600 building permits issued), over $17 million had been made in donations to support debris removal not eligible for government reimbursement, 117,000 volunteers from around the country had come to assist in rebuilding homes and providing a wide range of assistance. Mark Rohr, the City Manager, has stated that, “recent numbers released by the Building Department have indicated that approximately 50% of the homes destroyed by the tornado are already under permit for repairs or reconstruction. In my mind, this is a surprisingly positive and bodes well for Joplin’s future”.

Joplin, Mo., August 2, 2011 -- Damage sustained inside of St. John's Regional Medical Center after the May 22 EF-5 tornado that struck the city. FEMA is working to provide assistance to disaster survivors.
Joplin, Mo., August 2, 2011 -- Damage sustained inside of St. John's Regional Medical Center after the May 22 EF-5 tornado that struck the city. FEMA is working to provide assistance to disaster survivors.

The major hospital that had been totally destroyed, but its capabilities to serve the community had been replaced by a temporary hospital and a 102 bed interim hospital is under construction. The promise of city officials to have facilities ready for children to return to classes in August had been met through Herculean efforts by government and the private sector. Five schools had been destroyed and six damaged. To assist, our Agency provided 167 temporary classrooms and 67 temporary safe rooms. While these contributed to building classroom capacity, former big box stores were re-configured into temporary schools, private companies provided classroom supplies and the United Arab Emirates contributed computer systems. Thousands of families had lost their homes. When I visited in July there were no available hotel rooms. Now, rental units have been found for families, and almost 600 temporary housing units were provided by our team. In July I walked on open fields owned by the city, there are now over 337 families living in communities created on those sites. There are also some empty spaces in which the units occupied by 74 families are no longer needed as they have permanent housing solutions.

Economic recovery is key to long term efforts to achieve a “new normal”. It was heartening to see that, while the tornado destroyed more than 500 businesses, 90% have now reopened or are opening in the near future. Home Depot, and other major employers have quickly rebuilt stores that were totally destroyed and have re-hired hundreds of folks. A Citizens’ Advisory Recovery Team (CART) was established to represent the whole community. This body, along with the Joplin City Council, the School Board, the Board of Aldermen, Chamber of Commerce, and the CART Executive Committee, supported by FEMA Long Term Community Recovery folks have developed and presented implementation plans for the recovery. Jane Cage, a business owner who stepped up to lead the Council has indicated, “Recovery is broad. It has to touch on almost every aspect of life in Joplin for us to succeed. We only really get one chance to do this right….”.

Ms. Cage exemplifies the nature of the recovery in Joplin. It is an effort in which the entire community is engaged. While we in the federal interagency family are in support of these efforts, it is clear that the impressive progress, and a shared vision for the future is being lead by the people of Joplin. They truly represent the best of the “Heartland of America”.

Earthquake Preparedness & the Great ShakeOut on February 7

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You only have seconds to react to an earthquake, so it’s important to know what to do when the ground starts shaking – and I know this all too well. In 2011, I was in Christchurch, New Zealand to discuss emergency management issues when the deadly quake struck. I found myself putting to use years of knowledge and tips we at FEMA use to inform the public on preparing for emergencies.

I saw the devastation firsthand, and it’s a stark reminder that no matter where we live – earthquakes strike without any warning. Another recent example is last August, when a 5.8 magnitude earthquake struck Louisa County in Virginia; shaking was felt as far south as Georgia and as far north as Quebec, Canada. Because earthquakes are more common on the west coast, the “East Coast Quake” took most of us by surprise.

While we can’t prevent earthquakes or other disasters, we can take important steps to prepare for them, and I want to encourage everyone to join more than one million individuals, schools, businesses, governments, and other organizations across the central United States who will participate in the second annual Great Central U.S. ShakeOut on February 7, at 10:15 a.m. CDT. It is the largest earthquake preparedness event in central U.S. history.

It only takes a couple of minutes to participate in the drill and practice these three simple steps:

DROP to the ground
• Take COVER by getting under a sturdy desk or table, and
HOLD ON to it until the shaking stops

If you’re on Twitter you can join the conversation by using this hashtag: #shakeout

Everyone plays a critical role in helping our nation become well-prepared. While we don’t know where or when the next earthquake will strike, preparing for them will help our entire country become more resilient in the face of a disaster. What we do now to prepare before a big earthquake will help us bounce back after an earthquake occurs.

So if you haven’t already, join us and register for the ShakeOut and visit Ready.gov/earthquake for important earthquake preparedness tips that can help protect yourself and your loved ones in the event of an earthquake. You can also download the FEMA smartphone app (for Android and Apple devices) to access preparedness tips and an interactive emergency supply kit on your phone.

Join Us for the First FEMA Think Tank Conference Call

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Back in November, I first announced the launch of the FEMA Think Tank – an initiative with two components: an online collaboration forum and monthly conference calls. The online collaboration forum has been live for a few months now and tomorrow, Thursday, Jan. 26, I will be hosting the first conference call from the University of Wisconsin in Milwaukee. The goal of the calls are to discuss ideas generated from the online conversations, so I hope you can join me and others as we discuss ideas on how we can improve emergency management.

Here are the details:

  • Date: Thursday, Jan. 26
  • Time: 1:30-3:30 p.m. CDT / 2:30-4:30 p.m. EST
  • Call in number: 800-593-0692
  • Password: Think Tank January
  • Twitter hashtag: #femathinktank

The call is open to a national audience of state, local, and tribal governments, and to all members of the public, including the private sector, the disability community, and volunteer community, who share an interest in improving the Nation’s capacity in emergency management. For those who cannot join in on the call, you can follow the conversation and ask questions on Twitter.

The three ideas that we will be discussing on this call are:

Members from the community who submitted the ideas for this month’s call will brief me and all attendees, and afterward, we will open up the call to the national audience for further discussion, questions and answers.

This is the first of many important discussions on how we plan and implement innovative ideas captured in our online forum. Visit www.fema.gov/thinktank for more information and to submit your own ideas, comment on others, or participate in the online conversation to generate creative ideas.

I hope you can participate.

Celebrating Ten Years with Citizen Corps

Today FEMA’s Individual and Community Preparedness Division celebrates the 10th Anniversary of the Citizen Corps Program! Individuals from around the country have led the way of implementing the Citizen Corps mission of helping communities become safer, stronger, and better prepared to respond to disasters of all kinds.

To commemorate 10 years of service, Citizen Corps reaffirms its position and role as the table to which all organizations and members of the community are welcome to share ideas and learn about what to do before, during and after a disaster.

Citizen Corps Councils and their members continue to make a difference in communities and drive us toward becoming a more resilient nation. Some of the contributions of the more than 1100 Citizen Corps Councils include:

  • Increased awareness through public education and training. Citizen Corps Councils on average, support four to five types of outreach to increase personal preparedness. Most Councils (70.5 percent) provide all hazard public education and training. In addition, most councils provide education and training on essential local information includes local alerts and warnings (81.1 percent), local sheltering (75.5 percent), local evacuation (66.3 percent)*, family emergency planning (90.4 percent) or local drills (64.5 percent).*
  • Preparing communities through public service. Citizen Corps Council jurisdictions promote volunteer support for emergency managers through 176,669 volunteers as reported in 2010. Citizen Corps Council’s volunteer hours totaled 3,057,248 in 2010 alone.*
  • Promoting whole community in support of comprehensive emergency planning. 70 percent of Councils supported whole community planning by discussing, reviewing or providing input to key local plans such as community vulnerability/risk assessments, mitigation plans, evacuation plans and shelter plans.

The power of Citizen Corps is maximized with the support of its incredible Partner Programs and Affiliates. FEMA continues to support the Citizen Corps model to leverage existing programs and projects to advance the common goal of nationwide preparedness and resilience. No one can do this job alone and partnerships are the key to our success in keeping people safe.

Some recent partnerships include collaborating with the Department of Education and the American Red Cross to increase community engagement in Youth Preparedness and working with Operation Hope to ensure individuals have access to tools necessary to strengthen their financial stability in times of disaster. The work of Community Emergency Response Teams, USAOnWatch, the Medical Reserve Corps, Fire Corps and Volunteers in Police Service also play a strong role in providing communities with the capability to be more resilient in times of emergency.

FEMA is proud to be a part of the movement to prepare communities - to be a part of a team with a vision for a country that is informed, ready and self-reliant in times of emergency. FEMA thanks you for a decade of service and dedication and looks forward to what the next 10 years will bring.

We hope you will keep in constant communication with us, and share your ideas, hear about new resources and offer your opinions in 2012 and beyond by joining calls, webinars and online idea sharing:

  • Also be sure to join the monthly Ready.gov call held the first Tuesday of every month at 3:00 PM EST: Call-in number: 1-800-320-4330 Pin Number: 000147

*Information provided is reflective of the 2011 Citizen Corps Council Registration Data

Best Sources for Weather Alert Information

On January 23, ABC News mistakenly reported that individuals can sign up for weather alerts through FEMA. We’ve seen a lot of interest from the public following that report and we wanted to correct that point: FEMA does not send out alerts as this is a local responsibility. When natural disasters strike, it is important to follow the advice of state and local officials, and so here is some helpful information on ways you can get information and receive alerts.
  • Talk to your local emergency management agency.  There are actions that should be taken before, during and after an event that are unique to each hazard.  Identify the hazards that have happened, or could happen, in your area and plan for the unique actions for each.  Local emergency management offices can help identify the hazards in your area and outline the local plans and recommendations for each. You can also find out from your local government emergency management office how you will be notified for disasters.
  • Check on alert and warning systems for workplace, schools and other locations.  The methods of getting your attention vary from community to community.  One common method is to broadcast via emergency radio and TV broadcasts.  You might hear a special siren, or get a telephone call, or in rare circumstances, volunteers and emergency workers may go door to door.
  • Listen to NOAA weather radio and local news to monitor for severe weather updates and warnings.  The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's National Weather Service remains the source for official weather watches and warnings. You can sign up to receive their email weather alerts at weather.gov.

In addition, there are some other things you can do to prepare for the unexpected, such as assembling a supply kit and developing a family emergency plan.  You can get more information on preparedness tips at http://www.ready.gov/ or http://www.listo.gov/ to find out how you can protect your family during emergencies.

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