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Be a Force of Nature

2012 National Hurricane Preparedness Week, Pledge to Prepare

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As we head into Hurricane Preparedness Week (May 27 – June 2) FEMA is asking you to join thousands around the country who are pledging to be a “Force of Nature” and taking action to prepare for the potential negative impacts of hurricanes and tropical storms. Hurricane season begins June 1 and extends through Nov. 30, and as we saw last year with Hurricane Irene and Tropical Storm Lee, severe tropical weather can impact coastal and inland areas alike.

Hurricanes and tropical storms are known for the unforgettable visuals we see on the news every year –trees bending due to high winds and heavy rains rendering TV cameras useless as they look over an abandoned beach. But in addition to these obvious effects, hurricanes and tropical storms can often disrupt life for those in coastal and inland areas through evacuations, prolonged power outages, and flooding.

With these risks in mind, we ask that you join in pledging to be prepared for hurricane season by: 

  • Knowing your risk: The first step to Being a Force of Nature is to understand how hurricanes and tropical storms can affect where you live and work, and how the weather could impact you and your family. Check the weather forecast regularly and sign up for local alerts from emergency management officials and obtain a NOAA Weather Radio.  
  • Taking action: Actions can be small, simple, and quick. You can pledge to develop an emergency plan based on your local hurricane, severe storm, and flooding hazard, and practice how and where you will evacuate if instructed by your emergency management officials. Post your plan in your home where visitors can see it. Learn how to strengthen your home and business against hurricanes. Download FEMA’s mobile app so you can access important safety tips on what to do before, during and after a hurricane. Understand the National Hurricane Center warning and alerts.  
  • Being an example: Once you have taken action and pledged (or if you already have), share your story with your family and friends. Create a YouTube video, post your story on Facebook, comment on a blog, or send a tweet. Or you can even post the Be a Force of Nature widget on your social media profiles.

Join us today and pledge to prepare during National Hurricane Preparedness Week.


Three Opportunities for Sharing Preparedness this Weekend


Today, I joined our partners at the National Hurricane Center to release the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s outlook for the upcoming Atlantic hurricane season (June 1- November 30). Even though the season “officially” starts next week, we have already seen the first named storm, Alberto, develop in the Atlantic. Alberto serves as an invaluable reminder: as much as we can try to predict, nature and disasters will inevitably throw the unexpected our way.

While we can’t stop a tropical storm, hurricane, earthquake or other natural disaster from happening, there are actions we can all take to lessen the impact these unexpected events can have on our families, homes and businesses. Whatever the risks are in your area (especially those where hurricanes/tropical storms can have an impact), I encourage you to visit to learn about the three simple steps to getting prepared before an emergency. But maybe you already know the risks in your area, have already assembled a family emergency supply kit or recently reviewed your family’s emergency plan – then you can play a part in taking preparedness to the next level. Join us by pledging to prepare for emergencies and telling three of your relatives, friends, coworkers, or social media followers to do so as well.

The upcoming three day weekend could be a great opportunity to practice and share emergency preparedness. Here are a few ideas:

  • If you will be in an area potentially impacted by hurricanes or tropical storms, review and talk about NOAA’s 2012 outlook for the season. Make sure friends and family know if they live in an evacuation zone and what their evacuation route is, in case local officials should give the order. 
  • Before you head out for weekend travel, make sure your car or truck has emergency supplies, like blankets, water, an AM/FM radio, jumper cables, and a flash light with extra batteries. Then when you get to your destination, show it off to family and friends! 
  • If you’re traveling by airplane, keeping a small first aid kit, flashlight, medication and extra cell phone charger with you could prove useful if your flight is delayed. (Other passengers could add these items to their carry-on luggage the next time they fly if they see you using your kit.) 
  • During the day off, take a few minutes fill a “go-bag” with emergency supplies. Many of the items are probably already be around your home, then add any additional needed items to our family’s grocery list for the week. 
  • Take 10 minutes with your family and practice your fire escape plan. After you’re done, posting a photo or status update to your social media accounts is a great way to spread the word and remind others to do the same.

And if you’re looking for more ideas or others ways people and organizations around the country are getting prepared for hurricane season, then you’re in luck. Next week is National Hurricane Preparedness Week, so FEMA and our partners will be talking about hurricane and tropical storm preparedness all week long on our blog, Twitter feed, Facebook page, and other online channels. So make a point to post your own updates about preparing for severe tropical weather, or you can even repost one from our sites!

I hope either of these three - the NOAA hurricane season outlook, upcoming three day weekend, or National Hurricane Preparedness Week – can act as starters for making your family, home, or business more prepared for emergencies as we move into the “official” hurricane season.

A Tribute to EMS Professionals


Earlier today, I spoke at the Alameda County Emergency Medical Services Conference in California in recognition of National EMS Week. It was great event, and it underscored the important role that EMS professionals play in our communities.

In my speech today, I noted how the EMS field is a critical part of the larger emergency management team, operating at the intersection of public health and public safety. As someone who served in the EMS community for more than 35 years, I have watched how technology and new innovations have changed the profession. And while the tools that we use have changed over the years, one thing hasn't: the selfless commitment and dedication that EMS professionals bring to their jobs each and every day.

In a time of crisis, it is the EMS professionals who are the first on the scene. They are the first to offer care and comfort, and they are the first to offer that immediate assistance when we are most vulnerable and hurting. I am very proud and honored to not only be part of the EMS community, but also to salute my fellow EMS professionals for the great work they do to save lives, while sometimes putting their own lives at risk.

So please join me in thanking those in the EMS profession for their hard work and dedication. If you see someone who works in your local EMS, take a few seconds to thank them for the service they provide to your community. And take a minute to visit to learn more about President Obama’s proclamation of EMS week.

Editor’s note: Rich Serino, the Deputy Administrator of FEMA, previously served as the Chief of Boston EMS and Assistant Director of the Boston Public Health Commission.

One year later in Joplin: Uniting toward recovery

Today’s Day of Unity, including the walk and other celebratory events, emphasizes the true human spirit and compassion within the people of the greater Joplin area. At the start of the walk, over 5,000 people from all sectors of the community, including faith-based and non-profit organizations, local, state and federal partners, gathered to recognize the work and significant recovery efforts accomplished by the communities of Joplin and Duquesne in just 365 days.

At 20th Street, for example, as we passed the former Commerce Bank, my heart swelled as I looked behind me to see thousands of people marching forward in support of everything Joplin has encountered and is preparing for in the months and years ahead.

At the site of the former Joplin High School, hundreds were present, embracing the plan and sharing a vision for a new and expanded institution of education. As ground was broken for the new High School and Franklin Technology Center, I couldn’t help but think back to last August 17 when the school district delivered on its promise to open schools on time, helping families to take another step on their journey toward normalcy.

As we continued our walk down the 3.7 mile path of the EF-5 tornado, I was reminded of the importance of involving the whole community - in the immediate aftermath of disasters and after the spotlight has dimmed. The thousands of people who walked together today represent the power of the human spirit, persevering together and supporting one another through the long and sometimes arduous months of recovery. FEMA, like many of the organizations represented here today, remains committed to being here for the long term, until the work is done.

And as they say here, "Go Joplin Eagles (KAW, KAW)!

EMS Week in Prince George’s County, Md.


Editor’s note: Each day, in cities across America, people involved in medical emergencies call 911 for assistance. Within minutes, they hear sirens letting them know help is on the way. Whether employed by private organizations or local, state or event the federal government, emergency medical technicians are making a difference.

As we often say, a true team effort is what leads to effective emergency management - and the contributions of the Emergency Medical Services community are invaluable to that success. To help commemorate National EMS Week, here’s a blog post from the Prince George’s County, Md., Fire and Emergency Medical Services Department, about how they’re getting the word out.

National Emergency Medical Services Week is an opportunity for medical personnel to highlight their dedication and service to the community. This year, we will recognize EMS Week from May 20 - May 26, 2012. Wednesday, May 23 has been named “Emergency Medical Services for Children Day”.

The overall theme this year is “EMS. More than a Job. A calling.” This theme encompasses the entire EMS system from the Emergency Medical Dispatcher that answers the 911 call to the medical staff that renders care, to include First Responders and hospital emergency department staff.

We also acknowledge our less-visible personnel who work to ensure we are providing the best possible care: the instructors, quality assurance officers and supervisors of our first responders. Each of these groups of talented and highly qualified personnel attends countless hours of training and continuing education while working anything but normal hours. They are dedicated to providing the very best emergency medical care they can. EMS is more than a job, it’s a calling.

The Prince George’s County Maryland Fire and Emergency Medical Services Department is a large combination, career, civilian and volunteer, system that responds to about 130,000 incidents per year. Of those calls, 80% are EMS related and all personnel are trained to a minimum at the Emergency Medical Technician level; many, up to the Paramedic level. They are available 24 hours a day, 365 days a year to help when it matters the most.

Prince George's County Emergency Medical Services Truck which accompanies a fire truck during an emergency response.

Largo, Md., Feb. 27, 2012 -- A Prince George's County Emergency Medical Services truck which accompanies a fire truck during an emergency response.

Help may arrive in the form of a fire engine, an ambulance or a paramedic unit, but each provider is trained and will provide emergency medical care to the very best of their ability, EMS is more than a job, it’s a calling. We are partnering with our local media to tell the story of our EMS providers. Several media outlets are being provided an opportunity to ride-along with our medics for a shift and translate our providers’ work into words so that our community can see that it is more than just a job, it’s a calling.

National EMS week offers an opportunity to highlight our personnel as much as it offers us the opportunity to highlight the need for our community to plan and be ready for a disaster when it strikes. Every family should also prepare themselves to help when it matters the most. Visit FEMA’s Ready Campaign at to find helpful information about your state of readiness in the event of an emergency.

Tips to help be better prepared for emergencies, and enhance access to help during disasters include:

  • Check on your access to 9-1-1. Some areas may not have 9-1-1. Some have E-9-1-1 where an address is automatically stored in a database. Know what is available where you live and work. 
  • Build a “72-hour Disaster Kit”, make a disaster plan, and keep a well-stocked first aid kit.
  • Make a list of emergency phone numbers. Write down the numbers you may need during a disaster and display them near all telephones in the house. 
  • Make sure your house number is visible from the street. To make it easy for police, fire officials or emergency medical personnel to find your house, put large house numbers in a highly visible area. Make sure the numbers are well lit and can be seen at night. 
  • Keep a clear and up-to-date record of immunizations. This can help doctors do a better job of diagnosing problems in an emergency. 
  • Write down your medical conditions, medications and their dosages. Being prepared in advance helps assure proper treatment and prevent drug interactions.
  • Make a list of allergies and reactions and consider medical I.D. bracelets or tags. 
  • Take first-aid classes. Some basic classes will teach CPR and proper ways to treat burns, wrap sprains, apply splints, and perform the Heimlich maneuver.

Recognizing EMS Week

The fire service is a major provider of Emergency Medical Services (EMS) in America. The U.S. Fire Administration (USFA) is committed to supporting EMS through the many training programs of the National Fire Academy (NFA) and the research and data collection activities of the National Fire Data Center. The 2012 National EMS Week – EMS: More Than A Job. A Calling – is May 20 thru May 26.

I would like to share with you some of USFA’s initiatives that will help ensure vibrant and effective EMS systems throughout the nation:

  • In partnership with the Department of Homeland Security’s Office of Health Affairs (OHA), USFA recently completed several project initiatives to support the EMS community including:
    Funding Alternatives for Emergency Medical and Fire Services (PDF, 3.7 Mb). This revised manual provides the most up to date information regarding funding for local level EMS and fire departments. The document includes sources of federal funding as well as other new and innovative funding sources not discussed in previous editions.
    Handbook for EMS Medical Directors. Produced with the assistance of the International Association of Fire Chiefs (IAFC) EMS Section, this handbook provides an overview of key roles and responsibilities to assist current and prospective medical directors in performing their important missions.
  • Also with DHS OHA, USFA is working on an EMS Responder Safety Study in partnership with the International Association of Fire Fighters (IAFF), as well as a soon to be completed project documenting model polices and protocols for EMS mass care incident deployment with the National EMS Management Association (NEMSMA).
  • In response to USFA’s Reauthorization Act of 2008, which authorized the NFA to provide advanced EMS training, four new courses have been developed: EMS Quality Management, EMS Functions in the Incident Command System, EMS Incident Operations, and Hot Topics Research for EMS. EMS examples, references, and activities are also included in all other appropriate NFA courses. In addition, NFA’s new Leadership Strategies in Community Risk Reduction course is a combined effort for fire prevention and illness/injury prevention through all-risk, all-discipline community risk reduction. 
  • USFA is a key partner on the Federal Interagency Committee on EMS (FICEMS). This committee seeks to ensure coordination across all Federal agencies with EMS mission responsibilities. FICEMS also coordinates the liaison efforts of Federal agencies with the Nation’s input to the National EMS Advisory Council. 
  • With the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ)/National Institute of Justice (NIJ), USFA has begun a study of emergent topics in emergency vehicle and roadway operations safety to assist in the development and demonstration of best practices for the emergency services, including EMS.

USFA recognizes the critical importance of EMS provided by fire departments and other agencies and is dedicated to meeting your needs. For additional information regarding USFA’s training and research efforts which support EMS, visit the EMS section of our website.

Atlantic’s First Tropical System Comes Thirteen Days Early


Extreme (and not so extreme) swings in the weather occur all the time. We often experience warm days in the winter and cold days in the summer.  So I guess we shouldn’t be all that surprised when Mother Nature decides to launch her first tropical storm thirteen days in advance of the scheduled start of hurricane season (June 1).

Yesterday gave up the first tropical system for the Atlantic season with the formation of Tropical Storm Alberto off the South Carolina Coast.

As of this afternoon, according to the National Hurricane Center, the center of the storm is located 90 miles southeast of Charleston, South Carolina and is moving toward the west-southwest at near 6 mph.  Alberto is expected to slow down and move little through Monday, and after that it is expected to make a northeastward acceleration Monday night and Tuesday. On this track, the center of Alberto is forecast to remain offshore of the Carolina and Georgia coasts.

This early storm formation should encourage coastal residents in Georgia and the Carolinas to monitor weather conditions and take steps now to get prepared for potential severe weather.  Tropical waves or tropical storms can bring heavy rains and high winds, so it’s important that you take steps to prepare your property and family.

In fact, all those who live in hurricane prone areas should heed this early storm as a sign to be prepared for the season. Visit ( para español) to learn how to prepare your home and family for a hurricane or tropical storm.

Tropical Storm and Hurricane Preparedness and Safety Tips:

  • Now is the time to be prepared if you live in a coastal area or could be affected by severe weather.  Build your own emergency supply kit—personalized with the non-perishable foods you like, your medications, personal documents.
  • Visit or for tips on creating your family emergency plan and putting together an emergency supply kit.
  • Monitor local radio and television news outlets or listen to NOAA Weather Radio for the latest developments. Your local National Weather Service forecast office is the best place to find information about the weather that may affect your area, so check your local forecast at or on your phone at

As we continue to closely monitor Tropical Storm Alberto, everyone should get familiar with the terms that are used to identify a severe weather hazard and discuss with your family what to do if a tropical storm watch or warning is issued. Terms used to describe severe tropical weather include the following:

  • A tropical storm watch means that tropical storm conditions are possible, in this case within 24 hours.
  • A tropical storm warning means that tropical storm conditions are expected within 36 hours.
  • A Hurricane watch means that hurricane conditions are possible within 48 hours.
  • A Hurricane warning means that hurricane conditions are expected within 36 hours.

With this early development of the first tropical system, FEMA is taking our part seriously as we monitor developments through our regional office in Atlanta, Ga.  We encourage residents to do the same.  After all, as she has proven once again, and as the saying goes…”It’s not nice to fool with Mother Nature.”


Recognizing the 32nd Annual Building Safety Month


President Barack Obama proclaimed May as National Building Safety Month, recognizing the key role safe building codes and standards play in the fight against loss of life and catastrophic damage caused by disasters.

Building Safety Month highlights the importance of resilient building, to save energy, protect the environment, and lessen the effects of disasters. During this month of building safety awareness, we want to emphasize our commitment to support communities in their efforts to build stronger and safer, now and all year long. FEMA, in consultation and coordination with building science experts, encourages construction that can lessen the damaging effects of disasters like hurricanes, tornadoes and flooding.

Here are a few examples of how we encourage better building:

  • We work with organizations, like the International Code Council, and state and local building officials to help develop, and encourage the adoption of disaster-resistant building codes and standards. These standards, when adopted, will lead to the construction of buildings that can help reduce damages and protect lives.
  • FEMA, through our Building Science Branch, works with scientists and design professionals from federal, state, territorial, local, non-profit, tribal and private sector organizations to assess disaster damages, capture research results, and develop technical guidance for building stronger and safer. This guidance focuses on both construction and retrofitting of existing buildings. We also provide technical guidance to disaster affected areas through workshops, in-person meetings, and other outreach events.
  • Most recently, we published the Mitigation Assessment Team Tornado Report this month, which was developed in response to the tornadoes that impacted the Southeast and Mid-Western Regions in the spring of 2011. Following these tragic events, we sent out investigative teams to evaluate the damages and to look at the resilience of the structures left standing. These teams documented the observations and conclusions of these events and developed recommendations for improvements in building design, construction, code development and enforcement and materials. Additionally, they documented mitigation activities that increased resiliency and aided new construction and post-disaster building repair and recovery. 

Our interest in building safety covers a wide range of natural and technological hazards including wind, earthquake and even flood. Through the National Flood Insurance Program, FEMA helps communities and individuals make informed decisions about where and how to build buildings to make them flood resilient.

Natural disasters such as floods, earthquakes, tornados, snow storms, wildfires and others will still occur; however, FEMA and our partner’s efforts to build stronger and safer are helping communities and citizens across the nation prepare for, withstand, and recover from disasters.

Visit or the Building Safety Month Website for additional information and resources and learn simple steps you can take today to better prepare their home or business property for a disaster.

What We're Watching: 5/18/12


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. 

Wildfires, warmer temperatures, and droughts
We are closely monitoring the ongoing wildfires in several Rocky Mountain and southwest states, working with our state, local and tribal partners to ensure they have the support they need in fighting the fires. The National Weather Service forecast centers are calling for warmer temperatures and drought conditions to continue in states such as Arizona, Colorado, Nevada, New Mexico and Texas, while the Southeast continues to go through a dry spell as well. As you are out and about this weekend, remember to keep flammable items away from dry foliage and vegetation to cut down on the risk of starting a fire.

New director of the National Hurricane Center
Today, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration announced Dr. Rick Knabb will be the next director of the National Hurricane Center, succeeding outgoing Director Bill Read. Administrator Fugate released this statement on the appointment:

Dr. Rick Knabb’s selection as the next Director of the National Hurricane Center showcases the continued coordination and partnership that FEMA has enjoyed with outgoing Director Bill Read. The Hurricane Center has always been a steadfast partner in promoting a message of preparedness while tracking tropical storms and hurricanes and informing the public on their impact. As everyone here at FEMA wishes Bill the best in his new endeavors, we welcome the new partnership with Rick. As we approach the beginning of the Hurricane Season on June 1st, I’m confident that the employees of FEMA and the new leadership and staff at the Hurricane Center will continue to serve the nation well.

Check out NOAA’s website for more on the appointment.

Joplin tornado one-year anniversary approaches
Next week, May 22, will mark one year since a deadly tornado swept through Joplin, Mo. We continue to support individuals, families, and the community affected by the terrible storm – and the recovery continues to be led by those at the local level. This past week, FEMA Deputy Administrator Rich Serino hosted a call (as part of our monthly FEMA Think Tank series) with civic leaders from Joplin to discuss the ongoing recovery efforts. As the nation continues to reflect on this deadly tornado, we hope the many news stories will serve as a reminder of the importance of getting your family, home, or business prepared before a disaster strikes.

While we cannot control where or when tornadoes will occur, we can all take steps now to lessen their impact on our lives. For more on getting prepared before tornadoes or severe thunderstorms, visit

Cute Pet Photos. Need We Say More?


Many of our blog posts tend to throw a lot of information out there about how you can get prepared for emergencies. But for today, we just wanted to post cute photos of how pets can make sure they’re prepared before disasters strike, too. Hurricane season begins June 1, so now is a great time to make sure your family (and pets) have an emergency plan and have extra supplies. And even if you don’t live in a hurricane prone area, getting prepared for the risks in your area could help keep your family safe, reduce the stress during an emergency, and give you peace of mind.

And now, to the photos:

This is Hermes. He printed out this brochure from and is learning how to stay safe after an emergency.

This is Hermes. He printed out this brochure from</a> and is learning how to stay safe after an emergency." width=400 height=400>

Here’s Betty. She lives in California and made sure a pet life jacket was included in her owners’ emergency supply kit.

Here’s Betty. She lives in California and made sure a pet life jacket was included in her owners’ emergency supply kit.

Jonas has waterproof gear in case a severe storm or flood should happen – useful to add to any pet (or human) emergency supply kit.

Jonas has waterproof gear in case a severe storm or flood should happen – useful to add to any pet (or human) emergency supply kit.

Pets are part of your family, too. Make sure you have a plan for taking care of them after an emergency and have extra food, water & pet medications in your emergency kit. Get more information about preparing your animals (and other family members) at