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Flood Safety Awareness Week Wrap-Up

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Today marks the close of Flood Safety Awareness Week -- during which, FEMA has worked to bring awareness of the risks flooding poses to many of our homes and communities. Floods are one of the most common hazards in the United States and no two flooding disasters are alike.

Some flooding events develop slowly, while others such as flash floods can develop in just a few minutes with little notice and without any visible signs of rain. Many disasters and emergencies share this characteristic – appearing dramatically with no warning signs much like tornadoes and earthquakes.

But there are meaningful and practical steps that you and your family can take to be prepared for all hazards, not just flooding, to stay safe and mitigate damage to property.

The first thing you can do is to be informed and know your risk; familiarize yourself with potential risk where you live and work. Knowing what to do before, during and after an emergency is a critical part of being prepared and may make all the difference when seconds count.

Here are some additional steps you can take now to ensure you’re prepared for potential future flooding:


  • Making a Plan: Your family may not be together when a disaster strikes so it is important to plan in advance and create an emergency communications plan. Know how you will get to a safe place; how you will contact one another; how you will get back together.
  • Building a Kit: Assemble the items you will need in advance of an emergency. You may be instructed to evacuate at a moment’s notice. Think about what you may need immediately after an emergency. This should include food, water and other supplies in sufficient quantity.
  • Get Involved: There are many ways to get involved especially before a disaster occurs. Your whole community can participate in programs and activities to make your families, homes and communities safer from risks and threats. 

To learn more about flood risks in your area, visit www.floodsmart.gov.

For more information on all hazard preparedness and ways you can protect your family before, during and after an emergency or disaster visit www.ready.gov.

March Think Tank: Atlanta, Ga.

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As we start to get ready for this month’s conference call in Atlanta, I wanted to take a couple of minutes to thank everyone for your participation in the FEMA Think Tank. All of the ideas that you are sharing online and during the calls has been an example of creativity and collaboration at its best. Please keep the ideas coming!

I look forward to hosting these calls at different locations around the country so I can meet with those of you who are serving on the front lines of emergency management. Talking with practitioners, teachers, leaders in the access and functional needs community , non-profit and community organizers, business owners and entrepreneurs, tribal government officials, and others – all of which are the epitome of whole community – gives me, and everyone, a better understanding of the reality “on the ground.”

This month’s Think Tank discussion will be around strategies and approaches for incorporating and integrating access and functional needs issues and concerns into emergency management planning. Our philosophy at FEMA is that we shouldn’t be creating annexes for any stakeholder group. Instead, we should be planning with all stakeholders from the beginning. As Administrator Fugate has repeatedly said, we shouldn’t plan for easy – and I couldn’t agree more. That is why I’m excited about continuing this conversation, which will take place from Atlanta, Ga., on Thursday, March 22 at 3:00 p.m. and on Twitter #femathinktank.

I also want to extend an invitation for people to participate in person. That’s right, we have three additional seats available for those who are interested. In order to be considered, all you have to do is email us at fema-new-media [at] dhs [dot] gov (with March Think Tank in the subject line) by Tuesday, March 20 at noon EDT and we’ll randomly pick three people.

And just a quick word from our legal team: FEMA will not pay for any costs or expenses related to attendance at this event, including travel to or from the event, and any member of the public can participate.

There’s still time before the call to submit any ideas you may have or comment on existing ideas regarding access and functional needs issues in emergency management. Just click the link, visit our online collaboration tool, and share your thoughts under the “Think Tank” topic. It’s that easy.

I hope you can join the conversation over the phone and online. Here are the call-in details:

Date: Thursday, March 22

Time: 3:00 - 5:00 p.m. EDT

Call-In Number: 800-593-0692

Pass Code: Think Tank March

Captioning for the event

Twitter: #femathinktank

After you add this information to your calendar, please share this information with your friends and colleagues.

Thanks.

Flood Safety: Be Aware, Be Prepared

Flood Safety Awareness Week is an excellent opportunity for all Americans to become more educated about the dangers that flooding can cause and what steps to take to be prepared for the risk of flooding.

All floods are not alike, though. Some develop slowly during an extended period of rain or during a warming trend after a heavy snow. Others, such as flash floods and severe weather, can occur very rapidly, without warning or even any visible signs of rain. That’s why it’s critical to be prepared for flooding no matter where you live.

Don’t be caught off guard. Get the facts. Know the risks. Take action to protect yourself, your family, your business, and your finances—before a weather event occurs and it’s too late.

One of the most critical ways you can protect your home or business and its contents from flooding – the nation’s most common and costly natural disaster - is to purchase flood insurance. It only takes a few inches of water in a home or business to cause thousands of dollars of damage. The time to get protected is now. Between 2006 and 2010, the average flood claim was nearly $34,000. Take a moment to think about that -- it’s more than many survivors can afford to pay out of pocket for damages due to flooding. While no one wants a flood to impact them, with federally backed flood insurance, you have an important financial safety net to help cover costs to repair or rebuild if a flood should strike.
Most standard homeowner policies do not cover flood insurance. Remember, it typically takes 30 days for a new flood insurance policy to go into effect, so get your policy now. An average flood policy costs around $600 a year, and rates start at just $129 a year for homes in moderate-to-low-risk areas.

The National Weather Service may not be forecasting severe Spring flooding this year, but don’t wait until a flood is happening to make sure you are protected. Take time now to learn more about flood risk and your options for insurance coverage by visiting www.floodsmart.gov, or by calling 1-800-427-2419.

For more information about flood safety, visit www.Ready.gov/floods.

Jewish and Muslim Students Unite to Help Survivors of April 2011 Tornadoes

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The recent deadly tornadoes are a harsh reminder of the terrible outbreak of storms from last April 2011, when at least 173 tornadoes, thunderstorms, and severe winds ripped through the south, killing more than 300 and causing widespread destruction throughout several states.

The twisters leveled neighborhoods and left thousands homeless, with more than a million people without power. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration said it was the worst tornado outbreak since 1974.

President Obama called the loss of life "heartbreaking," and promised survivors the full support of the federal government. FEMA provided federal disaster aid to Alabama and several other affected states.

Although it has been nearly a year, the recovery efforts continue and much work needs to be done. Sixteen students – nine Jewish and seven Muslim – from New York University recently assembled in Birmingham to lend their hands to recovery efforts. There, they joined with local Muslim volunteers from the Birmingham Islamic Society and ICNA Relief USA.

The students from Bridges -- Muslim Jewish Interfaith Dialogue at NY0055, partnered with the New York-based Jewish Disaster Response Corps and ICNA Relief USA to participate in Habitat for Humanity’s rebuilding efforts. Accompanying the students were Imam Khalid Latif and Rabbi Yehuda Sarna.

Pratt City, Ala., Jan. 17, 2012 -- Nearly nine months after the deadly tornadoes struck the Southeast, rebuilding is still occurring. Jewish and Muslim NYU student volunteers at a job site where 2 new homes are being built. FEMA funding and coordination with volunteer agencies helped make this happen.
Pratt City, Ala., Jan. 17, 2012 -- Nearly nine months after the deadly tornadoes struck the Southeast, rebuilding is still occurring. Jewish and Muslim NYU student volunteers at a job site where 2 new homes are being built. FEMA funding and coordination with volunteer agencies helped make this happen.

The trip to Birmingham was Bridges’ community service initiative and part of President Obama’s Interfaith and Community Service Campus Challenge.

Importance of Voluntary and Faith-based Organizations

Following any disaster, survivors depend on voluntary and faith-based organizations to assist in recovery efforts.

“Rebuilding becomes the responsibility of the local community, which does not always have the financial needs to address concerns,” said Elie Lowenfeld, JDRC founder and director who also accompanied the students.

Chelsea Garbell, president of Bridges and a junior at NYU, said the main purpose of the trip was to facilitate religious dialogue.

“When we engage in religious dialogue and service work, we strengthen relationships among ourselves, and through those relationships we are able to provide invaluable assistance to the communities we encounter. While in some areas there is animosity between Muslims and Jews, if we can learn from one another, and develop an understanding of our similarities and differences, we can stand together as human beings in an effort to better the world around us.”

Fatima Kutty, a Bridges executive board member who hopes to go to medical school after graduation, said she enjoys working in an interfaith environment, and through “amazing conversations,” she has learned a lot about the Jewish religion and its people.

“Once relationships are established people are less likely to discriminate,” said Kutty.

Lowenfeld said that the trip was a unique opportunity for members of NYU’s Muslim and Jewish communities to develop meaningful relationships with each other, as well as provide service and hope to disaster survivors.

According to David L. Myers, director of the DHS Center for Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships, the students’ work in assisting recovery efforts exemplify the White House Office of Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships’ goals of fostering interreligious dialogue and cooperation, while also advancing the whole community approach to emergency management.

Pratt City, Ala., Jan. 17, 2012 -- Nearly nine months after the deadly tornadoes struck the Southeast, rebuilding is still occurring. David Myers, director of the DHS Center for Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships talks with NYU student volunteers. Jewish and Muslim NYU students are volunteering at a job site where 2 new homes are being built. FEMA funding and coordination with volunteer agencies helped make this happen.

Pratt City, Ala., Jan. 17, 2012 -- Nearly nine months after the deadly tornadoes struck the Southeast, rebuilding is still occurring. David Myers, director of the DHS Center for Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships talks with NYU student volunteers. Jewish and Muslim NYU students are volunteering at a job site where 2 new homes are being built. FEMA funding and coordination with volunteer agencies helped make this happen.

Things You Can Do To Mitigate Against Flooding

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Flooding is the nation’s number one natural disaster, and it can occur inland, along the coast, and across every region of the country. Even though you may think your community has little or no risk of flooding, the reality is that anywhere it rains, it can flood. In fact, roughly 25 percent of all flood insurance claims are filed in low-to-moderate flood-risk areas. It is important to keep in mind that the risk of flooding isn’t based only on your community’s history, but on a variety of factors like rainfall, topography, river-flow and tidal-surge data, and changes resulting from new construction in your community. Those all play a part in what actual flood risk you face.

There are steps that you can take to prepare yourself and mitigate against damages. The first thing you can do is know your risk, and we have information on risk, including a One-Step Flood Risk Profile. Next, you should create an emergency communications plan and build an emergency kit to ensure you and your family are prepared for a flood. As part of having a plan, we also encourage you to consider your coverage. A flood insurance policy can protect your home, property, or business from the financial damages of flooding. Most homeowner’s insurance does not cover damage from flooding, so visit FloodSmart.gov to learn more.

In addition to these steps, there are also small flood proofing measures that you can take to help prevent, or minimize the impact of flooding to your home and its contents. A few examples include:

  • Elevate your furnace, water heater and electric panel in your home, if you live in a high flood risk area.
  • Install "check valves" to prevent flood water from backing up into the drains of your home.
  • When practical, homeowners can construct barriers (such as sandbagging) to stop floodwater from entering your home.
  • Seal walls in your basement with waterproofing compounds.

Homeowners around the nation have taken proactive measures, like these, to reduce their risk of damage from flooding. Proactive communities work on mitigating strategies through a combination of flood control projects and good floodplain management activities. In addition, FEMA hazard mitigation grants across the country have helped homeowners and communities affected by flooding, prevent future damages. Here are a few examples of how grants have helped protect properties from subsequent flooding.

In New Jersey, a homeowner elevated her home after flooding from severe storms in Spring 2007, protecting her from flooding during the storm surge resulting from Hurricane Irene in August 2011.

In Washington, a homeowner elevated his home after flooding in 2006 with the help of federal and county funding, and was able to avoid damages from flooding that occurred in 2009 when a nearby river surged and floodwaters went under the elevated home.

An inland community in North Carolina that was affected by storms in 1996 used state and federal funding to improve the town’s stormwater management system, which included piping improvements and installation of floodgates and retention ponds. In 2011, when Hurricane Irene brought massive downpours and strong winds, town officials were able to open the floodgates and allow the water to flow as it rushed through the town.

The photo below shows how a hospital in Binghamton, New York, averted major storm damage from flooding in 2011 because of a floodwall and other mitigation measures that were implemented with hazard mitigation grants following 2006 flooding.

Binghamton, Ny., September 8, 2011 -- A floodwall, built with hazard mitigation funds from the Federal Emergency Management Agency and New York State protected this vital property from flood waters that devastated other parts of the city, even as rising water from the Susquehanna River engulfed the hospital’s parking lot during Tropical Storm Lee.

Binghamton, Ny., September 8, 2011 -- A floodwall, built with hazard mitigation funds from the Federal Emergency Management Agency and New York State protected this vital property from flood waters that devastated other parts of the city, even as rising water from the Susquehanna River engulfed the hospital’s parking lot during Tropical Storm Lee.

To learn about flood risks in your area and for information on flood insurance, visit www.floodsmart.gov. For more information on flood preparedness tips and ways you can protect your family before, during and after a flood visit www.ready.gov/floods.

Exercise Design Training Program for International Audiences

In February 2012, four Chilean representatives from the National Office of Emergency of the Interior Ministry (ONEMI – Oficina Nacional de Emergencia del Ministerio del Interior), Chile’s equivalent to FEMA, and eight Mexican representatives from various agencies with emergency management functions traveled to the United States to participate in the Master Exercise Practitioner Program at the Emergency Management Institute in Emmitsburg, Md. The course was designed to help the Mexicans prepare for their own tabletop exercise to be hosted in Mexico City in September and to help the Chileans prepare for the Tsunami Table Top Exercise (TTX) in Valparaiso in May, as well as the Peru-Chile Functional Exercise in August. This was the first time the MEPP course was taught exclusively in Spanish by instructors from FEMA International Affairs, Customs and Border Patrol - El Paso Sector, and EMI and specifically tailored to the requirements of these delegations.

During the course, students learned about the National Response Framework, the National Incident Management System, national preparedness guidelines, as well as the exercise planning cycle and how to develop, run, and evaluate an exercise. Workshops and simulations reinforced the material presented by instructors and encouraged collaboration and interaction among participants. The students really enjoyed the simulation cells because they were able to take advantage of the facilities and technology to conduct live exercises and make the scenarios more realistic.

Emmitsburg, Md., Feb. 22, 2012 -- Chilean representatives from the National Office of Emergency of the Interior Ministry take the Master Exercise Practitioner Program course at the Emergency Management Institute. FEMA partners with international organizations on emergency management issues.

Emmitsburg, Md., Feb. 22, 2012 -- Chilean representatives from the National Office of Emergency of the Interior Ministry take the Master Exercise Practitioner Program course at the Emergency Management Institute. FEMA partners with international organizations on emergency management issues.

Both the Chileans and Mexicans were very interested in exploring a scenario similar to the one experienced by Japan in March 2011 with a high magnitude earthquake followed by a tsunami when they were developing their own TTX exercises. The Chileans developed an earthquake and tsunami scenario while the Mexicans chose to work with floods and an earthquake followed by a tsunami. The most common hazard for both countries is floods while earthquakes and a potential tsunami would be the most catastrophic scenario. Each country also brought their national earthquake plans to test during the course.

Examples of tabletop exercises performed by other organizations were pulled from the Lessons Learned Information Sharing network and disseminated to the students so that they could have workable templates, guidelines, and exercise examples to work with when developing their own exercises. Students found the exercise design structure to be the most useful part of the course and are definitely more confident in their abilities to use Homeland Security Exercise and Evaluation Program tools to develop and design exercises.

Emmitsburg, Md., Feb. 24, 2012 -- Chilean and Mexican government representatives take the Master Exercise Practitioner Program course at the Emergency Management Institute. FEMA partners with international organizations on emergency management issues.

Emmitsburg, Md., Feb. 24, 2012 -- Chilean and Mexican government representatives take the Master Exercise Practitioner Program course at the Emergency Management Institute. FEMA partners with international organizations on emergency management issues.

Emmitsburg, Md., Feb. 24, 2012 -- Chilean representatives from the National Office of Emergency of the Interior Ministry, Chile’s equivalent to FEMA, and eight Mexican representatives from various agencies with emergency management functions traveled to the United States to participate in the Master Exercise Practitioner Program at the Emergency Management Institute.


Emmitsburg, Md., Feb. 24, 2012 -- Chilean representatives from the National Office of Emergency of the Interior Ministry, Chile’s equivalent to FEMA, and eight Mexican representatives from various agencies with emergency management functions traveled to the United States to participate in the Master Exercise Practitioner Program at the Emergency Management Institute.

In addition to the MEPP course, the Chilean students were able to travel to Washington, D.C. to participate in official activities that highlighted the Chilean-American relationship. They attended a panel discussion on “America’s Role in the Rescue of the Chilean Miners” at the National Museum of Natural History and a Chilean embassy event at the Smithsonian American Art Museum which celebrated 200 years of friendship between Chile and the United States. Both events allowed the students to network with both Chilean and American officials as well as celebrate the relationship between these two countries and their accomplishments.

Announcing the Creation of FEMA Corps


Washington, D.C., March 13, 2012 -- Cecilia Muñoz, Director of the White House Domestic Policy Council, discusses the new partnership between AmeriCorps' Corporation for National and Community Service and FEMA. The new partnership is designed to strengthen the nation’s ability to respond to and recover from disasters while expanding career opportunities for young people.

Along with our partners at the Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS), we announced the creation of FEMA Corps, which sets the foundation for a new generation of emergency managers.  FEMA Corps leverages a newly-created unit of 1,600 service corps members from AmeriCorps’ National Civilian Community Corps who are solely devoted to FEMA disaster response and recovery.

The full-time residential service program is for individuals ages 18-24, and members will serve a one-year term including a minimum of 1,700 hours, providing support working directly with disaster survivors. The first members will begin serving in this August and the program will reach its full capacity within 18 months.

The program will enhance the federal government’s disaster capabilities, increase the reliability and diversity of the disaster workforce, promote an ethos of service, and expand education and economic opportunity for young people.

At today’s event, Cecilia Muñoz, Director of the White House Domestic Policy Council, remarked:

...[FEMA Corps], helps communities recover, it trains young people, helps them pay for college, and it doesn't cost taxpayers an additional dime. Whether you're a young person looking for work, a member of the community that's been hit by a flood or a tornado or just a citizen who wants your tax dollars to be spent as wisely as possible, this is a program you can be proud of. This is really government at its best.

And it's part of the president's larger vision for an America built to last. Today, so many of our young people have shown that they're willing to do their part to work hard, act responsibly and contribute to their communities. But in tough economic times, it's up to all of us to make sure that their hard work and responsibility still pays off.

We have to preserve what President Obama has called the basic promise of America, that no matter who you are, where you come from, you can make it if you try, if you fulfill your responsibilities and you make a contribution.

During the event, Secretary Napolitano described the program:

First and most important, it will help communities prepare for, respond to and recover from disasters by supporting disaster recovery centers, assisting in logistics, community relations and outreach, and performing other critical functions.

We know from experience that quick deployment of trained personnel is critical during a crisis. The FEMA Corps will provide a pool of trained personnel, and it will also pay long-term dividends by adding depth to our reserves -- individuals trained in every aspect of disaster response who augment our full-time FEMA staff.

Second, the Corps will help us make the best use of taxpayer funds as we bring in FEMA Corps members at a significantly lower cost.

Third, FEMA Corps will provide participants with critical job skills and training. Emergency management is a growing field, much larger than FEMA alone. The recent high school and college graduates entering this program will emerge with the training and the on-the-ground experience that provides a clear pathway into this critical profession.

And finally, this Corps -- it encourages and supports the ethic of public service tapping the energy and dedication to helping their communities that we see among so many young adults today. Many here today, myself included, know that a career in public service presents opportunities and rewards far beyond paychecks.

The new initiative will promote an ethos of national service and civic engagement by mobilizing corps members and community volunteers to provide critical disaster services. Once trained by FEMA and CNCS, members will provide support in areas ranging from working directly with disaster survivors, to supporting disaster recovering centers, and sharing valuable disaster information with the public.

Robert Velasco, Acting CEO of the Corporation for National and Community Service, spoke about this new chapter in national service:

By opening up new pathways in emergency management, this partnership will give thousands of young people the opportunity to serve their country and gain the skills and training they need to fill the jobs of today and tomorrow.  This is a historic new chapter in the history of national service that will enhance our nation's disaster capabilities and promote an ethic of national service while achieving significant cost savings for the taxpayer.

Deputy Administrator Serino discussed the importance of FEMA Corps:

People have asked, why is this important? Looking into the eyes of survivors, looking at communities that are devastated, having young people that can step up and help out in the time of a disaster who are trained will make a difference in people's lives. That's why we're doing this.

As we continue to move forward and we look for opportunities to be more efficient, to look for opportunities to get young people involved in government, to get young people involved in service to their country, [we] will make a difference. We've had the opportunity to work with CNCS in AmeriCorps in the past, and this is broadening that -- expanding it, so we have the opportunity to bring this talented, young, will-be-trained workforce to help our staff.

They are augmenting our reservists, augmenting our full-time employees. This will be an opportunity for us to strengthen our nation's disaster response capabilities, create pathways for young people and really help the ethos of national service.

Mayor Walter Maddox, Tuscaloosa, Ala. also attended today’s announcement, and from the perspective a mayor of a town still recovering from a major disaster last year, the mayor expressed his excitement about the new agreement:

This new partnership between FEMA and the Corporation for National and Community Service will be crucial in supporting cities, counties and states in their time of need.  I commend FEMA and CNCS for understanding that to effectively respond during a crisis, we have to extend beyond political, geographical and even bureaucratic boundaries to ensure all resources are made available to the citizens we serve.

To recap, the purpose of the program is:

  • Strengthening the Nation’s Disaster Response Capacity: The partnership will provide a trained and reliable resource dedicated to support disaster operations, while enhancing the entire emergency management workforce.
  • Creating Pathways to Work for Young People:  By providing training, experience, and educational opportunity, the partnership will prepare thousands of young people for careers in emergency management and related fields.
  • Promoting an Ethos of National Service:  The partnership will strengthen our nation’s culture of service and civic engagement by mobilizing corps members and community volunteers to provide critical disaster services. 
  • Modernizing Government Operations to Improve Performance:  By working together, CNCS and FEMA will advance the President’s management goals of working across government, managing across sectors, and promoting efficiency.

To learn more about the new program, visit the AmeriCorps website or our FEMA Corps page.

Turn Around Don’t Drown

Flooding is the leading cause of severe weather-related deaths in the U.S. claiming on average nearly 100 lives a year. Most of these deaths occur in motor vehicles when people attempt to drive through flooded roadways. Many other lives are lost when people walk into or near flood waters. This happens because people underestimate the force and power of water, especially when it’s moving. The good news is it is preventable with the right knowledge and tools.

A mere six inches of fast-moving flood water can knock over an adult. And it only takes 12 to 18 inches of flowing water to carry away most vehicles including large SUVs. If you come to an area that is covered with water, you will likely not know the depth of the water or the condition of the ground under the water. This is especially true at night, when your vision is more limited. Play it smart, play it safe. Whether driving or walking, any time you come to a flooded road, follow this simple advice: Turn Around Don't Drown.

Here are a few more tips to keep you safe during flooding:

  • Always plan ahead and know the risks before flooding happens. Monitor NOAA’s All-Hazards Radio, or your favorite news source for vital weather related information before, during and even after a disaster.
  • If flooding is expected or is occurring, get to higher ground FAST! Leave typical flood areas such as ditches, ravines, dips or low spots, and canyons.
  • Avoid areas already flooded, especially if the water is flowing fast. Do not attempt to cross flowing streams. Turn Around Don't Drown.
  • NEVER drive through flooded roadways. Road beds may be washed out under flood waters. Turn Around Don't Drown.
  • Do not camp or park your vehicle along streams and washes, particularly during threatening conditions.
  • Be especially cautious at night when it is harder to recognize flood dangers.
  • Never cross any barriers that are put in place by local emergency officials. Not only is this dangerous, but many states and communities levy steep fines for people that ignore barricades or other road closure indications.
  • Play it safe, Turn Around Don't Drown.

Visit noaa.gov for more Turn Around Don't Drown resources and visit www.weather.gov for the latest weather forecast information.

The Advanced Hydrologic Prediction Services


This week, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and FEMA are once again partnering for National Flood Safety Awareness Week.  Each day of National Flood Safety Awareness week, we will provide key information related to flood hazards, and ways to protect yourself and your property.

The influences of weather, water and climate on our daily lives and economic well being are manifold, and at times profound. A fact highlighted by the devastating and heartrending events of the past few years.

NOAA's National Weather Service (NWS) provides weather, water, and climate forecasts and warnings to protect life and property and enhance the national economy.  To fulfill this important mission, skilled NWS meteorologists and hydrologists use state-of-the-art science and technology to monitor and predict weather, water and climate impacts for our nation and its citizens 24 hours a day, every day of the year.

Floods are our nation’s most costly natural disaster and, on average, is the leading cause of severe weather-related deaths.  Floods have claimed an average of 94 lives a year and $10.2 billion in economic damages in the decade 2001-2010 alone. Watch The Water’s Fury (Quicktime file) to see the power of water.

While floods are not preventable, the loss of life and property can be reduced significantly with more timely and accurate forecasts and warnings.  An important means by which the NWS produces and distributes flood and water resource forecasts and information is through the Advanced Hydrologic Prediction Service, known as AHPS (pronounced A-Haps).

AHPS is an ongoing effort by the NWS to continue modernizing its hydrologic services and provides new information and products through the infusion of new science and technology.  It is a web-based suite of accurate and information-rich forecast products in graphical form that enables government agencies, private institutions, and individuals to make more informed, risk-based decisions to mitigate the dangers posed by floods and droughts.

Some examples of the products and information from AHPS include: hydrographs combining current water level observations from the U.S. Geological Survey with NWS river forecasts; extended range (i.e., 90-day) probabilistic forecasts conveying the chance a river will exceed minor, moderate, or major flood levels; inundation maps for water levels from flood stage through the flood of record, depicting where and how deep the flood waters will be in a neighborhood or community thereby enabling emergency managers and other decision makers to preposition people and resources to most effectively mitigate the impacts of a flood; historical floods impacts, and much more.

The broad reach of AHPS extends the range of forecasts from short-term (up to 6 hours) to long-term (out to weeks and months) and provides the public with more detailed and accurate answers to the following questions:



  • How high will the river rise?
  • When will the river reach its peak?
  • Where will the flooding occur?
  • How long will the flood last?
  • How long will the drought continue? and
  • How certain is the forecast?

AHPS forecast products and information support decisions regarding the operation and management of flood-control structures.  Emergency management officials at the Federal, state, territorial, tribal and local and state levels use these forecasts to fight floods, evacuate residents, and to take other measures to mitigate the impact of flooding.  Also, these products are used by a wide range of people, such as barge and dam operators, power companies and municipal water supply officials, recreational users, farmers, households, businesses, and environmentalists. Anyone and everyone who makes water-based decisions benefits from AHPS.

Get ready, be prepared and be FloodSmart before the flood starts.

Stay current with flood risk in your area with the latest official watches and warnings at weather.gov. For detailed hydrologic conditions and forecasts, click the "water" tab.

Meeting the Needs of Disaster Survivors with the Help of the Whole Community

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We are continuing to work closely with the states that were affected by the recent wave of severe storms and tornadoes in the Midwest and South. In response to those storms, the President has approved major disaster declarations in Kentucky and Indiana making federal aid available to supplement state and local recovery efforts. This federal assistance can provide funding to help eligible individuals and families recover. In Illinois, we are working closely with state officials on joint preliminary damage assessments to help determine the impacts to local governments and public infrastructure.

While federal assistance is an important step in helping people recover from events like the ones we saw recently, it is not always the best or only alternative. State and local governments have developed robust capabilities to respond to and recover from events. And we rely on the whole community’s participation, including the help of the public preparing for and insuring against the uncertainty of disaster.

The Stafford Act provides the process for a Governor to seek a disaster declaration from the President. By submitting a written request to the President through FEMA, a Governor certifies that the combined local, county and state resources are insufficient and that the situation is beyond their capability to recover.

When FEMA joins the state on joint preliminary damage assessments prior to a request - as we have recently in Illinois, Indiana, Missouri, Ohio, Tennessee and West Virginia - we are looking at things like assistance that is available from other federal agencies - like the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, charitable organizations, volunteers and other private interest groups. It is also important to know that we are looking at damage that would potentially be eligible for FEMA assistance.

As I’ve said before, the level of insurance can often be a major consideration when determining whether a state should request a FEMA declaration. Ultimately FEMA cannot duplicate benefits like insurance. In fact, insurance is often the first and best way of protecting your family and property from disaster. Depending on the coverage limits, disaster survivors may be made far more whole by their insurance policy than they would from supplemental federal disaster assistance.

Based on the factors I mentioned, FEMA might review a Governor’s request for assistance and determine that the damage is not beyond the capabilities of the county, city and state to recover. If and when this happens, that’s not necessarily the end of the story, in terms of federal government assistance.

The decision means that the state can proceed to work directly with other federal agencies that can help through their own authorities. These agencies include the Small Business Administration, HUD, Department of Agriculture and others, as well as voluntary agencies.

FEMA and our federal government partners stand ready to assist communities when needed. When the whole community comes together to respond to and help recover from these events - neighbor helping neighbor – we can often meet the needs of everyone, even when FEMA financial assistance is not determined to be necessary.

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