Sheree and I were deeply saddened to learn of Bob Lay’s passing earlier today. I was lucky to work closely with and learn from Bob for years, including during my time at the state and local level in Florida and here at FEMA. Like many of my colleagues, I consider him a friend, mentor and role model.
Bob embodied the mission of disaster management through his strong emphasis on preparedness, response and recovery. He brought a sense of true professionalism to the field and helped build a great respect for the work that first responders, emergency managers, non-profit organizations, and other members of the team do every day to protect their communities. Among his many accomplishments, he helped lead response and recovery efforts through many of Florida’s most severe hurricanes and was appointed by the Department of Defense to serve as its top point of contact for operations during Hurricane Andrew. Earlier in his career, he was a valued member of the FEMA team and remained a member of our extended family. In recent years provided FEMA with strategic counsel during his service as a key member of our National Advisory Council.
Throughout his career in Brevard County, Bob was a great friend to Florida’s Space Coast, working closely with our partners at Cape Canaveral to support many shuttle launches and missions. Bob’s passing is a tremendous loss for the people of Florida and for all of us across the emergency management community. Our thoughts are with his family, friends and colleagues during this difficult time.
"Duck and Cover." "Stop, Drop and Roll." "Shake, rattle and roll." There are a lot of slogans and catchphrases out there to help get our message across to the public about how to react in an emergency (OK, the last one I mentioned isn't really an emergency management one). I wanted to share an upcoming opportunity to focus on the catchphrase for what to do during an earthquake: "Drop. Cover. Hold on." Four weeks from today, on February 7 at 10:15 am central, millions of Americans will practice those very steps by participating in the annual Central U.S. ShakeOut.
This last year was an important reminder to all of us that earthquakes, like other disasters, can strike anytime, anywhere – not just on the West Coast. They come with little to no warning and their effects, such as shaking, can often be felt hundreds of miles and many states away from their epicenters. In August, when the 5.8 magnitude earthquake struck Louisa County in Virginia, shaking was felt as far south as Georgia and as far north as Quebec, Canada.
Last year, over 3 million people participated in the first-ever central U.S. shakeout drill, choosing to practice earthquake safety at their schools, homes, workplaces and countless other organizations. This year, we're looking for parents, businesses and institutions to take the lead and make earthquake preparedness even more front and center.
To date over one million people have registered for the ShakeOut across the central U.S. It’s a good start – but we know we can get more people and communities involved. So if you haven’t already – do your part. Sign up to shakeout and then check out Ready.gov/earthquakes to learn how you can better prepare your home, workplace or school for an earthquake.
And remember – even if you don’t live in the central U.S., the Shakeout isn’t about only practicing earthquake safety on one day, once a year. Take a few minutes each month to check your home, office or school to make sure these environments are as safe as possible if an earthquake would strike. And if you're a parent or educator, review earthquake safety on a regular basis if your children, reminding them of the three simple steps of drop, cover and hold on.
For businesses, schools and organizations, check out resources for hosting a ShakeOut event.
Follow the Central U.S. ShakeOut on Twitter and Facebook.
2011 was full of natural disasters and emergencies – both large and small – but none rivaled the tragic scale of the earthquake and tsunami that hit Japan last March. Just before the start of the New Year, I had the opportunity to again visit Japan, seeing the most impacted regions of the Iwate Prefecture and meeting with government officials from around the world to discuss the rebuilding and recovery challenges that are ongoing.
As part of the two-day conference, (organized by the Japanese Cabinet Office, Japan International Cooperation Agency, United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific and Asian Disaster Reduction Center) and my visit to the hardest-hit areas of the country, it was apparent the temporary housing mission is significant. I visited Kamaishi City where temporary housing had to be constructed quickly to house 516 residents. Because of the large amount of elderly, the pre-fabricated housing units were configured facing each other, with common roofing, to create a sense of community and to prevent isolation of senior residents. The temporary housing area also includes a support center to assist with nursing care insurance application and health consultations. Within the temporary housing area, the city also has included a grocery store and other shops, a nursing center and a child care center.
Since I last visited Japan in May, the amount of debris has been substantially reduced, which has helped as rebuilding efforts continue. The sheer volume of debris as a result of the earthquake and tsunami is hard to fathom – there were an estimated 275,000 vehicles and a large amount of hazardous materials. Many disaster response officials estimated long-term recovery in Japan may take as long as 8-10 years due to the magnitude of the destruction.
For us at FEMA, events like the deadly earthquake and tsunami to hit Japan are reminders of the importance to continually plan and prepare for potentially catastrophic events. While we cannot predict when or where the next emergency will occur, we can take steps within our nation, states, communities, neighborhoods and households to be better prepared should disaster strike. During my presentation at the conference, I talked about the recent disasters to affect the United States, FEMA’s whole community approach to planning, the Presidential Policy Directive 8 (which talks about nationwide disaster planning), and the National Disaster Recovery Framework.
In sharing expertise with other nations and learning from disasters that have affected them, it provides FEMA an opportunity to redouble our efforts to help Americans better prepare for, respond to, and recover from all hazards.
For more about how the United States is supporting recovery in Japan, visit the U.S. embassy website.
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.
Many of you may be enjoying warmer-than-normal temperatures, but winter has only just begun. We thought this might be a good time to remind everyone to stay informed about potential severe winter weather you could face this season. Remember to check weather.gov (or mobile.weather.gov on your phone) for the most up-to-date weather forecast in your area.
And as we get ready for potential severe weather, including heavy snow or bizzard conditions, we’re always on the lookout for innovative tools to help all of us get prepared. With that in mind, we wanted to share a recent story on a new smartphone app called the Winter Survival Kit. Available for Android and Apple devices, this app serves as both a source of winter preparedness information and a beacon that can direct help to your exact location, call 911, update your friends and family, and even monitor how long your gas will last.
(And in case you haven't had a chance to download the FEMA app in either the Android or iTunes market, it's a great way to have invaluable safety information, find a nearby emergency shelter or disaster recovery center, and keep a list of the items in your emergency supply kit.)
But, no app can substitute for good, old-fashioned preparedness. Get ahead of the game now by visiting Ready.gov for more information on preparing for winter storms and extreme cold.
Editor's Note: FEMA does not endorse any non-government websites, companies or applications.
Posted by: Rachel Racusen, Director, Public Affairs
With the new year underway, we have been talking a lot recently about how families, businesses, and communities can make a New Year’s resolution that’s easy to keep: resolving to be ready for disasters in 2012. Earlier this week, we shared some advice on how to get you and your family prepared by staying informed, making a family plan, building an emergency kit, and getting involved.
Today, we wanted to show you an article written by The Daily Ardmoreite which highlights how one state is taking this New Year’s resolution idea one step further. The Oklahoma Office of Homeland Security urged its citizens to “Resolve to be Ready” in 2012, but also offered an easy way for people to accomplish that resolution – with a free training program called “Map Your Neighborhood” to get citizens involved in making emergency plans for their community.
Here are a few highlights from the article:
“Map Your Neighborhood” is a free training program that assists in organizing emergency plans for neighborhoods. Kim Carter, Oklahoma Homeland Security Director, said the program teaches neighborhood leaders “how to walk their neighbors” through a simple step-by-step process to customize an emergency plan for their area.”
Carter also called emergency kits for homes, vehicles and workplaces the “first step” for individual and family preparedness.
“Instead of being fearful of the unexpected we hope to build confidence by helping Oklahomans prepare for a variety of emergencies,” Carter said. “By following a few simple steps in advance, you can minimize the impact an emergency can have on you, your family or your business.”
Check out the full article here, and view a list of suggested items for your emergency supply kit. And if you haven’t already, think about some ways you can get involved by checking with your community and state emergency management offices. For more ideas on how to Resolve to be Ready in 2012, visit Ready.gov/resolve.
As we begin 2012, many of us are now reflecting upon the smiles and cheer we brought to the children in and around our lives during the recent holiday season. And while we consider the effort we put into finding, just the perfect gift to brighten their day, it is also a perfect time to reflect upon their safety and well-being for the future.
Did you know, at the end of the 20th century, research showed an estimated 66.5 million children were affected each year by a natural disaster, and this number is expected to increase? Couple this with the fact that according to the National Climate Data Center, 2011 has seen more billion-dollar natural disasters than any year on record; and it clearly demonstrates the importance of increasing youth disaster preparedness knowledge, skills, and behaviors.
Youth preparedness is a priority at the Federal level, and is important to the resilience of any community. Leading educators and scholars in the field of preparedness education consider our nation’s youth to be the best envoy for taking preparedness messages home to their families.
So how can you help ensure our nation’s youth are prepared for any disaster or emergency event? Check out a few of the suggestions below:
- Promote interactive activities within families, such as the development of home emergency plans or home-based activities starting with simple, easy activities and progressing to other tasks.
- Give special consideration to bilingual children, as they can serve as con¬duits of information to their friends, family, and community members who do not fully understand English.
- Learn more about establishing a youth program in your community by participating in one of FEMA’s technical assistance workshops. However, you don’t have to wait to get started. For more information about integrating preparedness education into your local youth programs, send a message to email@example.com.
- Use real world events to teach about emergency situations and disasters (e.g., media coverage of a hazard). Also, use materials in the public domain (e.g., checklists, materials from FEMA, other Government agencies and nonprofit organizations) to better understand local hazards and appropriate preparedness and response actions.
- Use demonstrations by invited guest speakers who are credible and engaging, such as emergency management authori¬ties, fire service, and law enforcement personnel. Interventions are found to be more effective when the instructor is likeable, friendly, and viewed positively.
Remember, emergencies will happen, but taking action now can help minimize the impact they will have on our lives. Preparedness is contagious. What starts with one family can spread throughout a neighborhood. So take the time and be ready in 2012.
FEMA Deputy Administrator instructs students in Virginia in 2010 about the importance of brining emergency preparednes home.
At FEMA and in the emergency management community, we often talk about the importance of engaging the whole community in how we prepare for, respond to, recover from and mitigate against disasters. Experience has taught us that we must do a better job of providing services for the entire community. This means planning for the actual makeup of a community and meeting their needs, regardless of demographics, such as age, economics, or accessibility requirements.
Over the last eighteen months, we engaged many of our partners, including tribal, state, territorial, local, and Federal representatives, the academic sector, the private sector, nonprofits, faith-based organizations, the disability community and the public in a national dialogue on a Whole Community approach to emergency management. The recently released document, A Whole Community Approach to Emergency Management: Principles, Themes, and Pathways for Action synthesizes what we heard through research, conferences, listening sessions, and direct feedback from our partners about how this Whole Community approach is successfully working around the country.
Woven throughout the document and supported by several examples are three key Whole Community principles that emerged through the national dialogue: understand and meet the actual needs of the whole community; engage and empower all parts of the community to define their needs and provide ways to meet them; and strengthen what already works well in communities on a daily basis to improve resiliency and emergency management outcomes. Below are just a couple of the examples collected in this document that show the Whole Community approach being driven from community identified needs.
- Support Alliance for Emergency Readiness Santa Rosa (SAFER) was developed in order to bring together local businesses, faith-based, and nonprofit organizations to provide a more efficient service to disaster survivors after Hurricane Ivan devastated northwest Florida. The relationships SAFER formed while serving community residents provided the foundation for collective action when disaster strikes. During non-emergency periods, SAFER worked closely with other agencies to address the needs of the county’s impoverished and vulnerable populations.
- Days after the devastating series of tornadoes and severe storms that swept through Alabama this past spring, various agencies, organizations, and volunteers came together to form the Alabama Interagency Emergency Response Coordinating Committee. Understanding the community’s capabilities and needs, the committee united to locate recovery resources and communicate information about available resources to individuals. The committee also worked to ensure that individuals with disabilities received important recovery and assistance information. Conference calls were held daily to provide critical information to individuals with disabilities and chronic illnesses. Additionally, volunteers continuously scanned broadcast media, print and electronic newspapers to obtain the most accurate information on resources for disaster recovery. The committee worked together with many organizations including FEMA, American Red Cross, Alabama’s Governor’s Office and numerous others to ensure that all members of the community received information on disaster recovery and assistance resources available.
We hope you find this document useful as we continue working to strengthen the resiliency and security of our nation through a Whole Community approach. And as we continue our national dialogue, we encourage you to exchange ideas, recommendations, and success stories. If you have a good idea or example to support the Whole Community approach, let us know. Leave a comment below or submit your idea to the FEMA Think Tank or email FEMA-Community-Engagement@fema.gov.
You can learn more about the Whole Community approach by visiting /wholecommunity
We hope everyone had a safe and happy start to 2012. For our first post of this year, we wanted to remind everyone that it’s not too late to make a New Year’s resolution to be ready for disasters in 2012. It’s a resolution that is easy to keep and could make a world of difference in the event of a real emergency.
With that in mind, we wanted to share an op-ed written by our Regional Administrator in Chicago, Andrew Velazquez, in yesterday’s Beloit Daily News. Andrew offers some great advice on steps families, businesses, and communities in his region can take to get prepared in case disaster strikes:
Make a family emergency communications plan with your family. How would you contact your family if you were separated during an emergency? Have you already established a meeting place in the event that you are unable to communicate with family members?… Take a moment to sit down with your family and come up with a communication plan to deal with these kinds of scenarios.
Build an emergency kit for your home, office, and car. What if the roads were so bad, that you had to stay in your office overnight? It would be helpful to have supplies ready for the unexpected, such as food, clothes, and medications. In the New Year, treat yourself to a shopping trip dedicated to building a few emergency kits.
Third, know the risks in your community. In this region, we experience a wide variety of hazardous weather, such as severe winter storms, snow and ice, flooding, tornadoes, straight line winds, and extreme hot and cold temperatures.
You can check out his full op-ed here. If you haven’t already, take the time now to Resolve to be Ready in 2012. Get started with some ideas by visiting Ready.gov/resolve and join the conversation on Twitter by using the hashtags #ready2012 and #resolve.