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Closely Monitoring Severe Weather in the Midwest

Updated: 1:30 PM, February 29

We continue to closely monitor weather conditions and are in close contact with the National Weather Service following the severe storms that occurred last night and into this morning through parts of the Midwest. Our thoughts and prayers are with those who have lost loved ones and those whose lives have been affected by these storms.

Through our regional offices in Kansas City, Mo., and Chicago, Ill., we have been in close touch with state and local officials and we continue to monitor weather conditions across the Midwest states. State emergency management officials from Kansas, Missouri, Illinois and Indiana have reported damages from tornadoes in some areas. We will continue to work closely with our federal, state and local partners and stand ready to support the states, requested.

Beth Freeman, Region VII Regional Administrator commented on the storms that affected Kansas, Missouri and Nebraska:

On behalf of FEMA, I would like to express our deepest condolences to the families of those who were killed and injured by tornadoes that impacted Kansas, Missouri, and Nebraska late last night and into this morning. Also, I would like to commend the ongoing work of local and state first responders for the measures taken in the aftermath of these storms to protect lives and provide immediate assistance during this difficult time. FEMA has been in constant contact with officials at the Kansas Department of Emergency Management (KDEM), the Missouri State Emergency Management Agency (SEMA), and the Nebraska Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) since the severe weather hit. We encourage residents in impacted areas to listen to instructions from their local leaders on protecting life and property as response efforts continue.

Andrew Velasquez III, Region V Regional Administrator also commented on the storms that affected Illinois:

On behalf of FEMA, I would like to express our deepest condolences to the families of those who were killed or injured by tornadoes that impacted Illinois this morning. FEMA has been in been in constant communication with officials at the Illinois Emergency Management Agency (IEMA) since the severe weather hit, and I commend local and state first responders for their diligent and tireless efforts to protect lives and provide immediate assistance in the aftermath of these storms. We encourage residents in impacted areas to listen carefully to instructions from their local leaders and take the recommended protective measures to safeguard life and property while response efforts continue.

As Beth and Andrew stated, it is important to recognize the first responders, such as local emergency and public works personnel, volunteers, humanitarian organizations, and numerous private interest groups who provide emergency assistance required to protect the public's health and safety and to meet immediate human needs.

We also want to take the time to remind everyone that no matter where you live, it’s important to listen to NOAA Weather Radio and local news and to monitor for severe weather updates and warnings, and follow instructions of state and local officials.

If severe weather is expected in your area, keep in mind these safety tips:

  • Continue to monitor your battery-powered radio or television for emergency information.
  • Injury may result from the direct impact of a tornado or it may occur afterward when people walk among debris and enter damaged buildings. Wear sturdy shoes or boots, long sleeves and gloves when handling or walking on or near debris.
  • Do not touch downed power lines or objects in contact with downed lines. Report downed power lines and electrical hazards to the police and the utility company.
  • After a tornado, be aware of possible structural, electrical or gas-leak hazards in your home. Contact your local city or county building inspectors for information on structural safety codes and standards. They may also offer suggestions on finding a qualified contractor to do work for you.

For more information on preparing for an emergency, visit

Here’s a list of resources for state emergency management social media accounts :





American Red Cross

Planning for “What If”


It seems like there are plenty of disasters to test our capability as a nation and as individual communities, so why would we spend time thinking up – and planning for – a disaster even bigger than what we’ve seen in our lifetime, in the U.S.?

In 2011, we had a pretty impressive lineup of catastrophic tornadoes and flooding here in the U.S. Elsewhere in the world, there were more floods, as well as the 3-part crisis of Japan’s earthquake/tsunami/nuclear tragedy. Nobody ever thinks anything on that scale would happen, but it does. Less than a hundred years ago, the U.S. suffered upward of 650,000 deaths as the pandemic influenza of 1918 swept the globe, ultimately claiming an estimated 50 million lives around the world.

Although the majority of us will never live through an experience like that, and we hope never again to see something like that at home, we have an obligation as a nation to continue to push ourselves to prepare for what we call the “Maximum of Maximums.” Moreover, we as a nation must come together as a Whole Community to plan, prepare for, and if necessary, respond to a catastrophic event.

In keeping with this theme, FEMA has launched the fourth topic for public discussion on its online collaboration site – The Whole Community: Planning for the Unthinkable. With this new topic, we invite the private sector, non-profits, voluntary organizations and the general public to brainstorm truly innovative ways to fill critical gaps in the first 72 hours of response, like search and rescue or operational communications or medical response.

Will something like this ever happen? Hopefully not. But by planning for the worst, we will be in better shape than ever to respond to the “likely.” I hope you will join us in a productive dialogue, and help spread the word.

Preparedness & Response: A Priority in Hillsboro


As the City Manager for a city of nearly 10,000 residents in Texas, I recently had the opportunity to attend resident training at FEMA’s Center for Domestic Preparedness, in Anniston, Ala. The city has benefited from CDP training for several years as we’ve been encouraging members from our emergency response departments to enroll in training at the facility, and I wanted to attend a course there as well.

As city manager, I have specific roles related to the overall oversight of municipal operations within the city. However, I am also active with emergency management, serving on Hillsboro’s Type 3 Incident Management Team as its incident commander, as well as serving as a liaison officer for the Type 1 Southern Area Incident Management Blue Team. The CDP training, without a doubt, makes a difference in the leadership decisions I make-- whether in the office, or in an emergency management situation.

Last week, I attended the Instructor Training Certification course. ITC allows me the ability to remain flexible and save the city money. Many of us have the ability to present courses, but ITC ensures those receiving specific training learn from certified instructors.

Anniston, Ala., Jan. 27, 2012 -- Jack Harper, city manager of Hillsborough, Texas, provides his classmates a hands-on learning experience during his final exercise before graduating the Instructor Training Certification (ITC) course at the Center for Domestic Preparedness. The ITC course allows Harper to provide required preparedness training from a certified instructor, saving his city travel dollars.

Anniston, Ala., Jan. 27, 2012 -- Jack Harper, city manager of Hillsboro, Texas, provides his classmates a hands-on learning experience during his final exercise before graduating the Instructor Training Certification (ITC) course at the Center for Domestic Preparedness. The ITC course allows Harper to provide required preparedness training from a certified instructor, saving his city travel dollars.

The City of Hillsboro also wins because we now have the capability to train locally, and save money from travel expenses. But, when resident training is necessary, I appreciate the fact FEMA provides the opportunity to receive CDP training, at no cost to the jurisdiction. The training is fully funded for state, local, and tribal employees. This type of funding is greatly appreciated, and a huge bonus for Hillsboro and Texas.

I recommend that elected, appointed, and senior employees of government take this training for a better understanding of what it is their first responders do, as well as show them the benefits of CDP training. I feel more prepared, and I believe it all starts at the top. If senior management places priority in certain areas then so will the entire organization.

Emergency management, planning and preparedness, is very important. The more prepared Hillsboro can be for any type of incident, the better off we all will be. I am better prepared thanks to my CDP training, and encourage more government leadership to attend the wonderful training environment that is the Center for Domestic Preparedness. Thanks CDP and FEMA!

What We’re Watching: 2/24/12

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
This weekend, the National Weather Service forecasts periods of high winds for parts of California, the Southwest and Southern High Plains, Central Rockies, Northern and Central Plains, and the Midwest. Below normal temperatures are expected for the Northern Rockies and Northern Plains and parts of Northern Alaska.

Additionally, heavy snowfall is forecasted for the Northern Plains and Upper Midwest. Severe drought conditions are expected to continue for parts of the Central and Southern Great Plains, and the South.

With severe weather occurring in parts of the South over the past few days, we encourage you to monitor your area’s local forecast as weather conditions can change. Stay up-to-date on your local forecast by visiting or on your mobile device.

FEMA APP for Blackberry
Last August, we launched the FEMA App for Android devices, followed by Apple devices. We are pleased to announce that we have now launched the FEMA App for Blackberry smartphones (version 6.0 and up) and the Blackberry Playbook.

The FEMA App allows users to:

  • Check off the items you have (and don’t have) in your family’s emergency kit,
  • Enter your family emergency meeting locations,
  • Review safety tips on what to do before, during and after a disaster,
  • View a map and get directions to shelters and disaster recovery centers across the U.S., and
  • Read our latest blog posts.

Download the FEMA App for Android, Apple, and Blackberry for emergency preparedness resources in the palm of your hand.

New CyberSecurity Launch
Earlier this week, the Department of Homeland Security launched a new cybersecurity twitter feed. The @cyber account provides followers with cybersecurity safety and consumer tips to help ensure you and your family stay safe online.

HHS Selects Challenge Winners for Facebook Application
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Office of the Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response announced the winners of their Facebook application challenge, which called on software application developers to design new Facebook applications that could enhance individual and community resilience by establishing social connections in advance of an emergency. FEMA Administrator Craig Fugate was among the panelists who had the opportunity to review and offer his advice on these unique and innovative ideas. The first place app is anticipated to be launched in the coming months, prior to the start of hurricane season.

Photo of the Week
FEMA Administrator Craig Fugate gave remarks on fostering the whole community approach at the 2012 Domestic Preparedness Workshop at the Gaylord Hotel in the National Harbor, Md. The theme of the workshop is, “Communities – Focus of our Domestic Preparedness.”

National Harbor, Md., Feb. 23, 2012 -- FEMA Administrator Craig Fugate discusses the whole community approach at the 2012 Domestic Preparedness Workshop at the Gaylord Hotel.

Photos: Recognizing Champions of Change

Last month, Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano, Special Assistant to the President on Homeland Security Richard Reed, and FEMA Deputy Administrator Richard Serino recognized seventeen local leaders who have spearheaded creative and effective community preparedness projects. Their local efforts involve the whole community and contribute to building a more resilient nation. The honorees, selected as recipients of this year’s Individual and Community Preparedness Awards, were also recognized as White House Champions of Change.

At a White House event honoring these champions, more than 150 attendees listened as these leaders shared their experiences, ideas, and solutions, as well as their advice for how other citizens and organizations can emulate their success and make their communities stronger and more prepared for disasters. Over 4500 participants watched the event live online. A video of this impressive event can be viewed on YouTube. Deputy Administrator Serino later blogged about the event.

In case you missed it, we wanted to share some of the great photos from the event with all of you! In addition to the White House ceremony, the winners also enjoyed a Roundtable Discussion with Deputy Administrator Tim Manning, tours of the United States Capitol and the East Wing of the White House, and a reception on the Hill hosted by Representative Gus Bilirakis (FL-09), Chairman of the Emergency Preparedness, Response and Communications Subcommittee.

We felt honored to be in the presence of individuals so dedicated to the mission of engaging the whole community in emergency preparedness and response, including some who serve as unpaid volunteers. We look forward to seeing submissions for next year’s awards!


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A Year of Reflection: One Year Anniversary of Earthquake in Christchurch


One year ago, a deadly earthquake struck Christchurch, New Zealand, killing over a hundred people. I was in Christchurch when the earthquake struck and I can still recall that day vividly. On Wednesday, Feb. 22, I will participate at a commemoration ceremony at the New Zealand Embassy here in Washington D.C. In addition, I would like to share some of what I experienced by linking to a post of my personal accounts from the U.S. Ambassador to New Zealand’s blog. An excerpt from the blog, as well as the link to the full text is provided below.

At the airport I went to the airline desks, only to find it was still an hour before the flight would open. The couple behind me said hello.

As we talked for a moment, a very low audible rumble began. The shaking started soon after … building and getting louder as ceiling tiles fell, pipes burst, and glass walls shattered.

The crowd reaction ranged from inaction to calm dropping and covering, to yelling and running for the doors. The majority took the best cover they could and waited until the shaking stopped. The fire alarm began immediately. The airport began rapidly emptying out onto the side walk and parking lots.

The magnitude of the damage was not obvious yet. As we filed out of the airport, I knew that if the phone system was still working, it likely wouldn’t be for long, so I quickly called my wife to let know what happened and that I was OK, when the first large aftershock struck (an event recorded on her voice mail, much to her dismay).

The crowd moved quickly away from the swaying control tower, further from the airport building. As we checked on each other to make sure everyone was OK, the first reports from downtown started coming in. Widespread devastation, and unlike the September quake, this one struck at lunch on a workday with a central business district full of people.

To read the full post, visit the U.S. Ambassador to New Zealand’s blog.

That day served as a stark reminder that no matter where we live, it’s important to be prepared for any type of emergency -- even one that may be uncommon in your area. Visit for tips on how you can get prepared today.

What We’re Watching: 2/17/12

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

This weekend, the National Weather Service will be tracking some potentially dangerous weather across portions of the country. Heavy rain is possible for parts of the Pacific Northwest, with the risk of dangerous thunder storms in areas of the Gulf Coast and the South. Additionally, heavy snowfall is expected throughout parts of the Appalachians and Mid-Atlantic. With the mild weather and lack of snow this winter season this snow may come as a bit of a shock. So for those in areas that are expecting snow, here are some tips to help prepare for the severe weather:

  • Be sure to update your family's emergency supply kit and add items such as rock salt or more environmentally safe products to melt ice on walkways, snow shovels, extra blankets, and appropriate clothing (i.e., hat, gloves, and scarf).
  • Have an emergency kit in your car, in the event you are stranded by a blizzard or traffic jam. Be sure to include items you would need to stay warm and comfortable for at least 72 hours.

The NWS also expects high wind conditions across parts of the Pacific Coast, Southwest, and Southwest Alaska. Severe drought conditions are expected to continue for parts of the South, Central and Southern Great Plains, and Upper Mississippi Valley.

Job Opportunity

Our Intergovernmental Affairs team is looking for an Intergovernmental Affairs Specialist. As an Intergovernmental Affairs Specialist you will work with state and local governments, tribal, territorial, elected officials, and various organizations on issues related to emergency management policies, protocols, and procedures and communicate FEMA program information and policies. You’ll also facilitate development of instructional materials and other information designed to guide IGA stakeholders in developing their own emergency management practices at various levels of government. If you’re interested or know anyone who may be up for the challenge, visit for more details on the position or to apply.

Also, check out other career opportunities here at FEMA.

Community Relations on the Ground

Following the tornadoes that hit several Alabama communities in January 2012, FEMA Community Relations teams were on the ground to assist survivors in providing information on what assistance is available to them and encourage registration.

Adding One More Tool to the Responder’s Tool Box

Wednesday morning, February 8, at 9:57 a.m. CST, as most people were probably going about their workday, a historic event happened at FEMA’s Center for Domestic Preparedness in Anniston, Ala. At that moment, the first group of state, local, and tribal responders went through live agent training inside CDP’s Chemical, Ordnance, Biological and Radiological, or COBRA, training facility using biological materials.

Since the CDP opened in 1998 the facility has provided the only location in the U.S. where civilian responders could train with chemical agents GB and VX. As of Wednesday, those same responders can now include biological materials in their training repertoire.

Anniston, Ala., Nov. 18, 2011 -- A lab technician prepares biological materials for use in training scenarios at the Center for Domestic Preparedness (CDP).

Anniston, Ala., Nov. 18, 2011 -- A lab technician prepares biological materials for use in training scenarios at the Center for Domestic Preparedness (CDP).

Wednesday’s inaugural training was the result of more than a year of preparation, planning, remodeling, internal training, curriculum development, and practice by CDP staff. The CDP embarked on this journey because it was the right thing to do for our nation’s responders, it meets a growing threat to the nation, and it can be done safely using the CDP’s live agent training facility and experienced staff inside the COBRA. In recent years, responders coming through the CDP consistently expressed the desire for enhanced biological agent training to accompany the existing chemical agent training at CDP.

As recently as Nov. 1, 2011, the FBI arrested four men in Georgia accused of plotting terrorist attacks on U.S. cities using Ricin. Additionally, the Feb. 2010 Quadrennial Homeland Security Review Report stated that, among others, the threats and hazards that challenge U.S. interests are “high-consequence weapons of mass destruction.”

While we can’t always predict when or where such attacks might occur, we can make sure our nation’s local, state and tribal responders are prepared in case the unthinkable does happen. That is why the CDP trains more than 12,000 responders a year at our facilities here in Anniston, Ala. I take great comfort in knowing that the responders who train at the CDP can now return to their own communities with the added confidence that they can respond safely and effectively to a biological incident in their hometown. That is the kind of training that truly enhances our nation’s preparedness.

As part of its training CDP will be using two biological materials: Ricin A-chain and Bacillus anthracis delta Sterne. These materials will allow our first responders the opportunity to detect biological agents they might encounter. However, the CDP will only be using the nonpathogenic forms of both materials. These two strains will help us maintain the safety of everyone associated with the training because they do not produce the same toxins/disease as the uniquely different sister forms of these materials.

Reminder: Think Tank Call Tomorrow

Deputy Administrator Serino will host the second Think Tank conference call tomorrow, Feb. 17 from 1:00 p.m. EST (10:00 a.m. PDT) from San Francisco, CA. This month’s call will focus on technology in emergency management including smartphone apps and amateur radio.

Here are the three ideas that we will discuss:

Smartphone Apps

Amateur Radio

The call is open to the public, so anyone interested can join the call. Here’s the call-in information:

  • Time: 1:00 – 3:00 p.m. EST (10:00 a.m. – 12:00 p.m. PDT)
  • Call in number: 800-369-1986
  • Password: Think Tank February
  • Twitter hashtag: #femathinktank

If you’re on twitter, you can follow the discussion and ask questions by searching and using #femathinktank. There were over 650 participants on last month’s call and we look forward to even more on this call.

Thinking Outside the Candy Box

You’re familiar with the candy hearts with the sayings, “Be Mine,” “Cutie Pie” or “Sweet Talk.” What if there were hearts that read “Be Prepared” or “Get Ready”?

Washington, D.C., Feb. 13, 2012 -- This Valentine's Day show your sweetheart you care and help get them prepared.

Every year on Feb. 14th, the streets are usually filled with people carrying flowers and boxes of chocolates.

This Valentine’s Day, why not think outside the candy box and truly demonstrate your devotion by helping loved ones be prepared? Think about it. In the end you’ll also be helping yourself by ensuring that the ones you love are around for a long time to come.

So, how can you do this?

All of us here at FEMA have provided some suggestions below that we believe will be much better than a balloon-shaped heart (which eventually deflates) or the conventional dozen red roses (which eventually wilt and wither). These items pair well with any Valentine’s Day plans.

  • Give your main squeeze a disaster supply kit to go with the chocolates you may have already bought; get started with one gallon of water per person per day for three days, and a non-perishable food supply per person for three days. Disasters can strike faster than cupid’s arrow, and if your loved ones aren’t prepared, they won’t have time to get the supplies they need in the midst of the chaos of a disaster. What better way to show your love than to help your sweetie prepare?
  • If you’re feeling less romantic or are more family-oriented this Valentine’s Day, consider preparing all the loved ones in your life for the unthinkable. When you’re at dinner, tell your family you’d like to sit down together afterward to create an emergency plan. Some things you should discuss are where to meet in an emergency and who to contact. You won’t regret this quality time spent planning to protect your family.
  • Do you send a greeting card or bouquet of flowers to your mom each year? This year, follow up with an in-person visit, and help them to winterize their home or vehicle. Use this holiday to fulfill the promise of visiting more often, and at the same time you could also help your whole family learn about their risk to flooding and how to reduce it. Spring flooding is just around the corner, but it’s never a bad time to reduce our risk to life or property that is brought on by the onslaught of floods.
  • If you’re getting into the Valentine’s spirit and want to share the love with your community, this might be a good time to get involved with emergency management training or to join a local volunteer organization. For example, you could get your CPR certification or volunteer to bring meals and preparedness information to seniors. (HINT: This also makes for a great date idea, and you’ll impress your date with your thoughtfulness of others).
  • Finally, if you normally buy treats for your four-legged friends for Valentine’s Day, continue to buy them treats…they don’t even realize what Valentine’s Day is. However, this is an opportunity to be selfish and take the steps needed to ensure your pets are prepared. Keep supplies on hand for your pets such as food, water, and medication. Don’t forget, faithful companionship is a two-way street. They show you love and affection all the time…you should do the same in return and ensure they are prepared.

This Valentine’s Day, show you care – help prepare yourself, your main squeeze, your family, friends and pets for a potential disaster. Show the love – Be Ready!