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It’s Wednesday: What’s in your car?

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It’s the middle of the week, “Hump Day” and most of us have begun the countdown until the weekend. Maybe your weekend plans include staying home to get some much needed R&R. Or maybe you are looking forward to going to a nearby park or to spending time with family.

If your weekend plans include taking a drive in your car or truck, take a minute during the rest of this week to make sure you have supplies in case an emergency should happen. Having emergency supplies in your vehicle could prove useful in situations ranging from popping a tire to being caught in a sudden flash flood. So take a quick inventory of the supplies in your car or truck and make sure it’s ready for wherever your weekend plan may take you.



For more tips on building your vehicle’s emergency kit, visit Ready.gov.

What We’re Watching: 5/11/12

At the end of each week, we post a "What We’re Watching" blog as we look ahead to the weekend and recap events from the week. We encourage you to share it with your friends and family, and have a safe weekend.

Weather Outlook
It looks like most of the nation will enjoy relatively nice weather this weekend as we celebrate Mother’s Day. Although there are no significant weather hazards at this time, NOAA forecasts below normal temperatures across the Northwest Coast and parts of the interior West Coast.

Additionally, heavy rain is expected across the interior Southeast and Central Gulf Coast with significant river flooding likely across parts of Southeast South Dakota. Here are some safety tips and flood terms to remember if heavy rain or flooding is expected in your area:


  • Flood Watch: Flooding is possible. Tune in to NOAA Weather Radio, commercial radio, or television for information. 
  • Flash Flood Watch: Flash flooding is possible. Be prepared to move to higher ground; listen to NOAA Weather Radio, commercial radio, or television for information. 
  • Flood Warning: Flooding is occurring or will occur soon; if advised to evacuate, do so immediately.
  • Flash Flood Warning: A flash flood is occurring; seek higher ground on foot immediately. 
  • Avoid walking or driving through flooded areas – it only takes six inches of fast-moving flood water to knock over an adult and two feet to move a vehicle. 
  • Be aware that flash flooding can occur. If there is any possibility of a flash flood, move immediately to higher ground. Do not wait for instructions to move.

Visit Ready.gov/floods for more tips and information on floods.

Weather conditions can quickly change, so we encourage everyone to monitor your area's local forecast by visiting weather.gov or mobile.weather.gov on your mobile device.

May Think Tank Call
Deputy Administrator Rich Serino will host the May Think Tank conference call next Tuesday, May 15 at 2:00 p.m. EDT from Joplin, Mo. The call will focus on recovery and how we can better plan pre-disaster to allow for a more rapid, cost effective, sustainable and resilient recovery following a disaster.

Here is the call-in information:

  • Date: Tuesday, May 15 
  • Time: 2 - 4 p.m. EDT 
  • Call-In Number: 800-593-0692 
  • Pass Code: Think Tank May 
  • Captioning for the event
  • Twitter: #femathinktank

We hope you can join us for this month’s call. Visit FEMA.gov/thinktank for more information.

What Mom Really Wants this Mother’s Day
For all you last minute shoppers still looking for the perfect gift to give your mom, grandmother or any other special person for Mother’s Day, why not give a gift of preparedness? In addition to buying a more traditional gift like flowers, jewelry or a gift card to their favorite store, add a flashlight with extra batteries or a cell phone charger for her car. These little gifts can motivate your loved ones to get prepared -- if they aren’t already.

Visit Ready.gov for more creative gift ideas and in case you missed it, here’s a few Words from Mom on the importance of being prepared.

Have a safe weekend and Happy Mother’s Day!

Words From Mom

Author: 

Editor’s Note: The views expressed by Mindy Kelley do not necessarily represent the official views of the United States, the Department of Homeland Security, or the Federal Emergency Management Agency. FEMA does not endorse any non-government organizations, entities, or services.

What do I want this Mother’s Day? I want to know that my kids are safe and happy. It may sound cliché, but if you’re a parent, you understand. And while I can’t ensure my children’s happiness, I can make them just a little bit safer by helping them prepare for a potential emergency.

One Christmas, I gave both of my daughters NOAA Weather Radios. I thought it was so cool that you don’t even need batteries or electricity to you use it – you can power it up with a hand crank. Did you know that? You can also program it to turn on and provide only certain warnings. Since my daughters no longer live with us, I also bought one for myself and my husband.

We didn’t plan preparedness as a theme, but one of my daughters gave me a waterproof flashlight the same year. She was excited to show me how the hot pink flashlight could light up or blink as a lantern as well. Our family never called this “preparedness” until we read about it at Ready.gov. I just knew it was a good idea to have a few supplies in case we lose electricity or if it isn’t safe to leave the house for some reason. These aren’t fun scenarios to think about, but we try to make it fun by finding gifts like these.

We learned from our experiences with a big ice storm we had in southern Virginia in 1998, and also during Hurricane Isabel in 2003. It may not happen often, but sometimes we have to manage without electricity for days. We used to light candles, but we’ve since switched to flashlights and battery-powered lanterns to be on the safe side. In the classroom, I encourage my students to learn from their experiences, too – like trials in the scientific method. Once you’ve survived a disaster, you can learn how to better prepare yourself for next time. But it’s better to think about these hypothetical situations before they happen!

I always tell my kids to have a plan, and also to have a “plan B.” It’s important that you know where your family is in a disaster, so we’ve all agreed to meet at our local church. We haven’t written it down yet, but that’s something I can ask for this Mother’s Day. My daughter who lives out of town learned after the earthquake last August that sometimes you can’t make a cell phone call, so we’re keeping in mind other methods such as emailing and texting to let each other know that we are safe.

So this Mother’s Day, I wouldn’t mind getting a new flashlight. Okay, maybe that and 18 holes of golf. Being ready for a potential disaster isn’t the only important thing in life, but it sure is an easy way to help keep your loved ones safe. Happy Mother’s Day.

Posted on Thu, 05/10/2012 - 14:18

National Flood Insurance Program Reauthorization Needed

Author: 
Editor's Note: this blog post was updated May 16, 2012.

Flooding is the most common and costly natural disaster to affect every state across the country. Flooding is so common, in fact, that Congress authorized the creation of the National Flood Insurance Program, under the Federal Emergency Management Agency, to lessen the financial impact of flood disasters on individuals, business, and all levels of government. That authorization is set to expire next month, on May 31, and only Congress can provide the authority for continued funding of the program.

If Congress fails to reauthorize the NFIP beyond May 31, many individuals, families, businesses and local communities will find themselves left vulnerable to the devastating effects of flooding, because, the NFIP will be unable to issue new policies, renew existing policies, or increase coverage on existing policies.

Here are a few examples of how this can impact you:
  • If you are a property owner in a high risk flood area, who would normally be required to purchase flood insurance in order to purchase your home, you would be unable to obtain affordable flood insurance. The National Association of REALTORS estimates that a lapse in authorization jeopardizes an estimated 1,300 sales each day, or about 40,000 mortgage closings per month.

If you have an existing policy and continue paying your premiums, you can file a claim for flood-related damages and it will be processed. Claims for new policies, or policy renewals, where the policies were received and held by your insurance company during the lapse will not be paid until Congress reauthorizes the NFIP. In this instance, your insurance company can still investigate your claim under a “non-waiver” agreement, up to the point of payment. Under a “non-waiver” agreement, your insurance company may not pay your claim if Congress does not reauthorize the NFIP to pay claims during the period of lapse.

  • In addition, if the NFIP experiences a lapse in authorization, the cash flow into the program from premiums will diminish, and the NFIP may have to halt payment of your claim if you have recently experienced flooding. 
  • If you are a homeowner, renter, or business owner and you are unable to purchase NFIP flood insurance, or renew your existing policies, and are impacted by flooding, you may need to look to the services and recovery support provided by voluntary and faith based organizations, state and local governments, and possibly even to federal assistance programs in their recovery, such as the Small Business Administration, who can offer low interest loans, or FEMA’s Individuals and Households program, which can provided very limited assistance in the form of grants.

The NFIP identifies areas of flood risk; it encourages communities to implement measures to mitigate against the risk of flood loss; and it provides financial assistance to help individuals recover rapidly from flooding disasters. However, in recent years, a series of short-term reauthorizations and temporary suspensions of the NFIP have eroded confidence in the program among citizens and stakeholders, including state governments, tribal governments, local communities, individual policyholders, mortgage lenders, and the private insurance industry. To the individuals and business owners who live in an area with flood risk, have an upcoming mortgage closing that requires the purchase of flood insurance, and you need affordable flood insurance coverage, we urge you to apply for flood insurance immediately. It many instances, it takes 30 days for a flood insurance policy to take effect, and it must occur while the program is authorized.

FEMA Private Sector Division Director Honored for Contributions & Dedication

Posted by: Craig Fugate, Administrator

Every year, to mark Public Service Recognition Week, hundreds of candidates are nominated for Samuel J. Heyman Service to America Medals, also known as the SAMMIEs. These awards acknowledge America's dedicated federal workforce and highlights those who have made significant contributions to our country. Honorees are chosen based on their commitment and innovation, as well as the impact of their work on addressing the needs of the nation.

I am pleased to announce that Dan Stoneking, FEMA’s Director of the Private Sector Division, has been selected as a finalist for the 2012 Service to America Medal. Finalists for the award are outstanding federal workers who are making high-impact contributions critical to the health, safety and well-being of Americans.

Washington, D.C., May 9, 2012 -- Dan Stoneking, Director of the Private Sector Division, receives recognition for his nomination for the Samuel J. Heyman Service to America Medal.Washington, D.C., May 9, 2012 -- Dan Stoneking, Director of the Private Sector Division, receives recognition for his nomination for the Samuel J. Heyman Service to America Medal.

This nomination recognizes the accomplishments of the Private Sector Division and the importance of developing close working relationships and partnerships, in line with the Whole Community approach to emergency management. As I have emphasized many times, including most recently at the National Hurricane Conference this past March, I believe it is very important to give the private sector a seat at the table in the work that we do on a daily basis. When we look at the disasters last year, the unreported story was how the private sector was a part of the recovery team. The sooner private businesses and government-backed infrastructure get up and running, the sooner communities will recover.

My hat goes off to Dan, Dan’s team, and all who work to develop partnerships between government and the private sector. Their contributions are vital to forming unique partnerships to galvanize participation in the planning, response and relief efforts for communities struck by tornadoes, hurricanes and other disasters. This nomination is exceptionally rewarding because the nomination was prepared and submitted from a member of the private sector and not from a government colleague.

Here’s an excerpt from the nomination:
When tornadoes, hurricanes, floods and earthquakes strike communities throughout the United States, federal, state and local teams immediately rush to the scene to provide emergency aid and to assist in recovery and rebuilding efforts.

Often missing from the equation has been the full integration of the private sector into the government’s disaster planning and response—a limitation that Dan Stoneking of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) has been systematically addressing.

As head of FEMA’s Private Sector Division, Stoneking has been instrumental in linking the government and the private sector—trade associations, corporations, academia and non-governmental organizations—as partners in emergency preparedness and disaster assistance.

Under Stoneking’s leadership, a national team of private sector liaisons have maintained communication with FEMA during disasters to determine the damage to private facilities, what resources are needed and what capabilities the private sector can contribute to the relief effort. They have provided FEMA and local emergency officials with situational awareness about utilities, communications, medical facilities, the availability of food and supplies, the condition of roads and transportation networks and other critical issues.

Read the entire nomination to see the other finalists.
Of his nomination, Dan acknowledges this award as a team recognition and included the DHS, FEMA and U.S. Northern Command Private Sector teams, which have made significant accomplishments working together.

Finalists will come together in Washington, D.C., for an awards ceremony and gala in September when medal recipients will be announced. I congratulate Dan Stoneking and his team for this great achievement along with all nominees and finalists.

What We’re Watching: 5/4/12

Author: 
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
Our friends at NOAA forecast severe weather for most parts of the Middle Mississippi Valley on Sunday, May 6. If severe weather is expected in your area we encourage you to continually monitor weather conditions and listen to NOAA weather radios. Here are some terms you should be familiar with in the event a severe weather watch or warning is issued for your area:

  • Severe Thunderstorm Watch: Tells you when and where severe thunderstorms are likely to occur. Watch the sky and stay tuned to NOAA Weather Radio, commercial radio, or television for information. 
  • Severe Thunderstorm Warning: Issued when severe weather has been reported by spotters or indicated by radar. Warnings indicate imminent danger to life and property to those in the path of the storm. 
  • Tornado Watch: Tornadoes are possible. Remain alert for approaching storms. Watch the sky and stay tuned to NOAA Weather Radio, commercial radio, or television for information. 
  • Tornado Warning: A tornado has been sighted or indicated by weather radar. Take shelter immediately.

Visit the Severe Weather section on Ready.gov for more tips and information on how to prepare for severe weather.

Below normal temperatures are expected from Southeastern New Mexico, Western Texas and parts of Arkansas.

Heavy rain is forecasted for much of Iowa and parts of Southwestern Wisconsin. Ongoing river flooding is expected to continue along parts of the Washington-Idaho border. Possible flooding may occur across Southeastern Iowa, Southern Wisconsin, and parts of Northern Illinois.

Weather conditions can quickly change, so we encourage everyone to monitor your area's local forecast by visiting weather.gov or mobile.weather.gov on your mobile device.

Give Mother the Gift of Preparedness
With Mother’s Day around the corner -- next Sunday, May 13 for those who may have forgotten -- it’s time to start thinking of a gift that will really mean something to your mom, grandmother, or someone special. In addition to getting your mom a beautiful bouquet of flowers, or a nice day at her favorite spa, give her something more practical and valuable -- like a first aid kit, hand-crank or solar powered battery charger or a NOAA weather radio. After all -- it’s only right to help her get prepared after all the years she spent helping get you prepared for life’s biggest moments.

Visit Ready.gov/build-a-kit for more gift ideas and tips on how to get everyone in your family prepared!

Emergency Preparedness Plans
With the start of Hurricane Season less than a month away, we want to encourage everyone to make sure they’re prepared for an emergency. One step to being prepared is having an emergency plan or family communication plan, so be sure to tailor an emergency plan specific to you and your family's requirements.

Here’s a quick video reminding folks about the importance of having emergency preparedness plans.

FEMA and its Partners Release the National Preparedness Report

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Today, we released the 2012 National Preparedness Report. The report identifies significant progress the nation has made in areas of prevention, protection, mitigation, response, and recovery. Overall the report found that the nation has increased its collective preparedness, not only from external threats, but also for natural and technological hazards that face its communities.

The report is part of Presidential Policy Directive 8: National Preparedness.

PPD-8 aims to strengthen the security and resilience of the United States through systematic preparation for the threats that pose the greatest risk to national security, including acts of terrorism, cyber attacks, pandemics, and catastrophic natural disasters.

The report focuses on five mission areas as outlined in the National Preparedness Goal released in September 2011. Those areas are prevention, protection, mitigation, response, and recovery. These mission areas include 31 core capabilities essential to preparedness. The NPR offers an assessment of each of these 31 core capabilities.

Overall, the NPR found the nation has made significant progress in enhancing preparedness and identifies several significant areas of national strength. For example, the nation has built the foundation for an integrated, all-hazards planning architecture that considers routine emergencies and catastrophic events.

Operational coordination has also improved with the adoption of the National Incident Management System, which provides a common doctrine for incident management. In addition, intelligence and information sharing capabilities are stronger thanks to a national network of fusion centers and Joint Terrorism Task Forces that bring together federal, state, and local law enforcement, Intelligence Community resources, and other public safety officials and private sector partners.

The report also identified opportunities for national improvement in cybersecurity, long-term recovery, and integrating individuals with access and functional needs into preparedness activities.

Everyone plays a role in preparedness and continued progress depends on the whole community working together. FEMA developed the NPR in close coordination with leaders of federal departments and agencies, and the report reflects inputs from state, local, tribal, and territorial governments, private and nonprofit sector partners, and the general public.

The National Preparedness Report is the next step in implementing PPD-8. Since the President signed the directive in March 2011, FEMA and its partners have released the first edition of the National Preparedness Goal, the National Preparedness System description, and the working drafts of the National Planning Frameworks. For more information on PPD-8 and to download the report, visit FEMA.gov/ppd8 or contribute your ideas on our online collaboration forum.

Indiana Gets Head Start with Robust Storm Response

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Days after a string of unseasonal tornadoes thrashed southern Indiana, from Feb. 29 through March 3, the Indiana Department of Homeland Security began a robust disaster response campaign.

The IDHS distributed its first of many recovery newsletters on March 5 for Indiana residents. The daily newsletter, “Rebuilding: A Guide for Disaster Survivors,” headlined information that included road closures and rebuilding permit policies. It also included a list and schedule of organizations available at the state’s “one-stop shop” mobile operation of recovery staff and services.

A picture of the sign that says Federal/State Disaster Recovery - SBA Disaster Assistance with an arrow outside a disaster recovery center following the presidential declaration for Indiana.Sellersburg, Ind., March 28, 2012 -- A picture of the sign outside a disaster recovery center following the presidential declaration for Indiana.

The newsletter was emailed and faxed to businesses, libraries, faith-based groups and other community organizations in storm-impacted areas. Volunteers distributed the one-page publication to affected residents. Requests for the newsletter poured in, and within a few days the initial distribution of 200 soared to 1,500.

“The newsletter was an idea that became an effective tool,” said Joe Wainscott, IDHS executive director. “It’s an instrument we will use as we continue to seek better and more efficient ways to help disaster survivors.”

The newsletter included a schedule of traveling disaster recovery center stops, an operation the state launched on March 13. At every stop, representatives from the American Red Cross, the Bureau of Motor Vehicles, the Indiana State Department of Health and other essential services agencies met face-to-face with individuals recovering from the severe storms.

At the one-stop shop in Sellersburg, the state of Indiana provided laptop computers for storm-impacted residents to use to access recovery information and register for FEMA assistance. Through March 21, state representatives worked alongside federal disaster recovery specialists at the Sellersburg shop. Single day one-stop shops were also set up. One was established in New Pekin on March 14, and another in Holton on March 24.

Photo of Inside the state’s “one-stop shop” mobile operation of recovery staff and services.Sellersburg, Ind., March 14, 2012 -- Inside the state’s “one-stop shop” mobile operation of recovery staff and services.

Hoosiers met face-to-face with representatives of essential state and nonprofit agencies to discuss different resources, including:

  • American Red Cross – Basic necessities and essential items.
  • Bureau of Motor Vehicles – Replacement driver’s licenses, identification cards and permits were provided at no charge to customers impacted by the disaster. Other services included title replacement, registrations and license plates.
  • Department of Insurance – Interpretation of insurance policies, information on lost or damaged policies, guidance on obtaining copies of insurance policies, and car insurance assistance.
  • Department of Workforce Development – Application for state unemployment benefits.
  • Indiana Family and Social Services Administration – Replacement food stamps for families impacted by the disaster who were then receiving Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP-food stamps) benefits; counseling services.
  • Indiana Housing and Community Development Authority – List of emergency shelters, temporary housing and rental assistance.
  • Indiana State Department of Health – Vaccination information, including tetanus shots; clean-up advice; access and information to vital records, including birth and death certificates.
  • The Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives – Assistance in connecting disaster victims with resources provided by community organizations.

The newsletter, tools and services the state of Indiana provided went a long way in setting storm-impacted communities on the road to recovery.

By all accounts, by the time FEMA arrived in Indiana, the storm recovery operation already set into motion by the state of Indiana was moving along in a robust fashion.. Responding with such effective tools as the newsletter and one-stop shops gave storm-impacted Indiana residents a head start on the road to storm recovery.

Delivering the Preparedness Message to Thousands of Chicago Commuters

During National Severe Weather Preparedness Week, FEMA and NOAA worked together to encourage the public that the time to prepare for severe weather is now -- before it strikes. In special partnership with Amtrak, FEMA Region V staff -- with the help of the Ready campaign -- encouraged commuters at Chicago’s Union Station to consider how they can prepare themselves, their families and their community for severe weather.

Everyday thousands of commuters make their way through the south concourse of Union Station as they travel in and out of the downtown area. Here’s a brief video showing the great success our preparedness booth had in spreading the message about preparedness:



Hundreds of people stopped by to listen and as they left, we encouraged them to tell their co-workers, family and friends to be prepared too. And many took additional copies of our literature to distribute to others.

Severe weather can strike with little or no warning and you may only have seconds to make life and death decisions. Preparing now can ensure you’re ready when severe weather strikes. Just because severe weather preparedness week is over, doesn’t mean our message isn’t the same. Remember: know your risk, take action -- by making your emergency plans -- and once you are prepared share your story on Facebook, Twitter and other social media sites, encouraging others to do the same.

You can find the same critical information we passed out at Union Station anytime by visiting us online at Ready.gov/severeweather.

The Great Utah ShakeOut: a Great Opportunity for Private Sector

Posted by: Angela Petersen, Vice President, Business Continuity for Zions Bank

Editor’s Note: The views expressed by Angela Peterson do not necessarily represent the official views of the United States, the Department of Homeland Security, or the Federal Emergency Management Agency. FEMA does not endorse any non-government organizations, entities, or services.

On April 17, 2012, the State of Utah participated in the Great Utah ShakeOut the largest simulated earthquake exercise in the state’s history. Several members of my organization were fortunate enough to be asked to participate in the state simulation cell during the exercise. What a great opportunity to strengthen both our knowledge of the operation of the state during a crisis, as well as our organizational response plans and how we can better respond during an event.

Through the actual experience, and being able to spend time talking with our FEMA regional representatives about their past response to significant events, I am able to take away practical knowledge that will be used to benefit my organization.

One of the most important messages I will take back deals with communications. As a financial institution, we have always known that our customers are the most important focus of our recovery. The exercise reinforced the importance of pre-planning for communications following a significant event.

Making sure we deliver messaging through every aspect of the business will make all the difference in our ability to respond effectively. This means we need to talk more about what we would expect to hear from our clients and employees, and prepare ourselves with the methodology to effectively disburse messages and ensure they are communicated as uniformly as possible.

An organization’s understanding that it is not “business as usual” when it comes to customer service is vitally important. The staff we have on hand today to handle customer and media-based inquiries will need to become more robust following an event. The stresses of not only the situation but also the repeated requests for information quickly take a toll on people.

The exercise reinforced my belief in the need to pre-plan a communications staff and train for these types of situations. It is one of the greatest steps an organization can take to reduce their reputational risks following an event.

Overall, I believe each member of the business community owes it to their employees, as well as their customers to build a plan that not only encompasses the business function, but the human element of business as well. Our being prepared to sustain ourselves and our respective businesses while the state focuses on placing critical response measures in place is vitally important. Basically, we need to do our part to be prepared now.

I congratulate the State of Utah for a well-run exercise, and thank its leaders for their encouragement of private sector business and community involvement in the exercise, and for the ever-present message of preparedness.

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