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What We’re Watching: 6/8/12

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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.

Severe Weather Outlook

Yesterday, severe storms and tornadoes swept through the Rocky Mountain region, specifically affecting Colorado and Wyoming. We continue to closely monitor the situation as our partners at the state, local and tribal levels coordinate the response efforts. Over the weekend, we will be closely watching another line of potentially severe storms that could affect North and South Dakota, and portions of the Midwest.

In addition to the threat of thunderstorms, National Weather Service forecasts show portions of the Rocky Mountains and much of the Southwest will be at increased risk for wildfire outbreaks. Wildfires are common this time of year, so use extreme caution when you’re outside with objects that could start a fire (such as matches or your grill). Stay updated on your local forecast conditions at weather.gov (or mobile.weather.gov on your mobile device) and listen to the directions of local officials – for example, if they advise against outdoor grilling because of the threat of wildfires, prepare your meal inside.

And when you have a few minutes this weekend, visit Ready.gov to find out more about getting your home, family or business better prepared for the hazards in your area.

Promoting disaster preparedness in your town

Yesterday, I traveled to Houston, Texas with Administrator Fugate to meet with business owners, school officials, non-profit organizations, and preparedness experts at a “Disaster Preparedness Expo”. I wanted to share details about this event in our weekly “What We’re Watching” post for two reasons:

  • We’re always "watching" to promote events where people are sharing how they’re preparing, and
  • Hosting a similar event in your town is a simple way to build resiliency in your community.

Being resilient means being able to bounce back after an unexpected event, like a natural or man-made disaster. At the event in Houston, the Administrator emphasized the point that small business disaster preparedness remains a major gap in communities becoming more resilient.

As we say for personal preparedness, small steps can take you a long way. For businesses, the same holds true. Having a plan for how your business (or family) would operate after a disaster is a critical step in improving resiliency – and it’s not as hard as you think. Ready.gov/make-a-plan has some great tips on getting your family better prepared, and Ready.gov/business is a great starting point for business owners.

As we head into the weekend, I encourage you to think about the ways you can make resiliency a priority in your home or workplace. Drop us a comment below to let us know how you’re getting better prepared, that way your example can motivate others, too.

Update on the FEMA Reservist Program

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The Reservist Program introduction is in full swing and our National Cadre managers and Office of Human Capital teams are engaged to make this transition as smooth as possible. I’ve received quite a few emails and phone calls from you and realize some are concerned about the application process. We’re committed to making all of this as transparent and easy to understand as possible. Below is a list of important points concerning the application process.

Key Points:

  • The application period opening June 15th is for current DAEs only. This will be the only time that the application period is dedicated exclusively to DAEs. The application process during this time is closed to the general public.
  • You may apply to as many positions as you like, regardless of cadre.
  • On June 15, the employee website will have a page with all Reservist Program vacancy announcement links (one link per announcement) organized by cadre. Each link will redirect you to a vacancy announcement on USAJOBS.
  • In order to apply for a position you must have a USAJOBS account. When you click “Apply Now” in one of the vacancy announcements you will be directed to login to USAJOBS in order to continue. The USAJOBS presentation includes a step-by-step instruction on creating a USAJOBS account, as well as how to build your resume and upload your FQS Notification letter.
  • Your resume, FQS Notification letter for DAEs who have been rated under FQS, and OF-306 Declaration for Federal Employment are the only required documents for the application process. Download a PDF writeable version of the OF-306. If you are a current DAE, but did not receive an FQS Notification letter for the position, then only a resume and OF-306 is required.
  • USAJOBS will then automatically direct you to CareerConnector to answer a series of eligibility and competency questions related to the position. As an applicant you will have the opportunity to provide any additional documentation that you think will support the application for the position.
  • Upon completion of the application portion in CareerConnector, you will be redirected back to USAJOBS to confirm that your application has been submitted.

We will continue to hold our webcast/webinar series in order to help you with this application process. It is important to note that ALL DAEs must apply to become Reservists.

Our next webcast/webinar will be held Tuesday, June 12 at 1:00 pm EDT and we will continue to hold them every Tuesday at the same time. Expect a notification email 24-48 hours prior to the actual webcast.

More information to follow.

Effective Hurricane Preparedness Requires All of Us Working Together

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People often ask me why FEMA no longer calls people with disabilities and other people with access and functional needs “vulnerable” or “special needs”?

The answer is straightforward: it’s the people who fail to prepare who are the ones who are most vulnerable in disasters. When people with disabilities have a plan for disasters and are prepared, they are in a much better position to ensure that they have the best possible outcomes during and after a disaster such as a hurricane. With approximately 50% of the population having access and functional needs, those needs are not special, they are simply what the whole community needs to address when planning for disasters.

FEMA’s Office of Disability Integration and Coordination has been working closely with our partners and stakeholders in the disability community during this Hurricane Preparedness Week to spread the word about preparing for hurricanes, severe weather and other disasters. Last week, we held a call with representatives from the disability community and you can listen to the podcast and see the transcript from that call here.

Unfortunately, people with disabilities and others with access and functional needs aren’t always included in their community’s emergency preparedness efforts. Whether you have access and functional needs yourself or know of others who do, we ask that you Be A Force of Nature and help your family, friends, colleagues and neighbors to make sure they’re prepared for the next hurricane or severe weather event. Consider becoming more involved in local, regional, and state emergency management efforts. In this respect, full inclusion in community preparedness efforts ensures that no one is “special” or has “special needs”. Rather, everyone is working together towards a fully prepared community.

In the following video, Neil McDevitt, our Disability Integration Communications Specialist, joins me in talking about how the Office of Disability Integration and Coordination is working with our internal and external partners to enhance awareness of preparedness for the whole community and we’re also talking about steps we’re taking personally to prepare for hurricanes this year.

FEMA encourages all individuals in hurricane-prone areas to know your risk and make a pledge to prepare at www.ready.gov/hurricanes. You can complete your emergency preparedness plan, update your emergency kit and Be a Force of Nature and share your preparedness efforts with family, friends and Community partners.

Big Business - Small Business Mentorship

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On March 30, 2012, I challenged the 800+ private sector members subscribed to my email distribution and 30,000+ more subscribers to FEMA Private Sector Email Updates to develop a Big Business – Small Business Mentorship Program. I spoke about the need to connect the dots, especially in a disaster, and how an existing framework could make the difference for small businesses struggling to survive.

It did not take long for me to hear back. I am extremely pleased to recognize that the National Incident Management Systems and Advanced Technologies Institute at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette has partnered with the International Association of Emergency Managers to launch the Big Business – Small Business Emergency Management Mentorship Program this week to strengthen small business disaster preparedness by engaging willing and able big businesses as mentors.

I am equally pleased to recognize that the Walt Disney Company, Verizon, Lowe’s Companies Inc., LEAM Drilling Systems Inc., Walmart Stores Inc., and Sam’s Club, among others, have signed on as potential mentors, protégés or sponsors.

They are leading the way and ensuring a better path forward. NIMSAT and IAEM established the foundation for success. These businesses are the pillars of progress. The mentorship relationships that build from this structure will ensure more resilient communities in the face of the next disaster.

Today, I would like to extend and further the challenge for the rest of you to participate. Become a mentor or protégé. Read the Mentorship Guide and Register at www.DisasterB2bMentor.org. The process takes only a few minutes. The difference you make could last a lifetime.

At FEMA, we have also launched a campaign called Small Business is Big. We recognize the value of small businesses. On this page we have gathered tools, links and resources to make preparedness easier and more effective for small businesses. And we welcome your input to make it better.

Finally, Ready Business asks companies to take three simple steps: plan to stay in business; encourage your people to become Ready and protect your investment. Ready Business, an extension of the Ready Campaign, helps business owners and managers of small and medium-sized businesses prepare their employees, operations and assets in the event of an emergency. The Business section of Ready.gov contains vital information for businesses on how to get started preparing their business and their unique needs during an emergency.

Join the mentorship program. Use the tools. Be Ready. Make a difference.

Update on the FEMA Reservist Program

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Over the last several months, FEMA has made great strides in being more active and inclusive with our employee communication…especially as it pertains to those who are part of our reservist program. Using all the tools at our disposal, we’re even including the use of the FEMA blog to help ensure we’re providing information to our workforce in a timely fashion.

After the Town Hall meetings and Think Tank sessions, we have received e-mails from many of you suggesting that the Response Directorate stay in touch with you about the Disaster Assistance Employee transition to the Reservist Program. This blog will be a quick and direct way to do that. As the opening of the application process for the Reservist Program is fast-approaching, we have scheduled a webinar to share an overview of the application process and to provide resources to keep you informed during the transition.

First and foremost, we are committed to making sure that you know how to apply to the new Reservist Program, are aware of how these changes may affect you, and how you can get more information. Maintaining open lines of communication will continue to be a top priority as we move forward with the Reservist Program.

Staying Informed
There are several ways that you can continue to receive information on the Reservist Program.

  • Bob’s Blog – we started this blog section with you in mind, to provide a public place for you to receive information on all topics related to the Disaster Workforce Transformation.
  • The Employee Information and Resource Center Page at www.fema.gov/employees - this page is a great one-stop shop where you can find announcements, timelines, and videos. We posted step-by-step instructions for the application process—so be sure to download those.
  • The FEMA Weekly – another great place to find announcements and information about the transition. If you aren’t subscribed via e-mail, you can find the most recent newsletters posted to www.fema.gov/employees.
  • The FEMA Employee call center--the call center can be reached by calling 1-855-377-FEMA (3362), hours are from 9 a.m. - 6 p.m. EDT Monday – Friday.
  • Webinars – to discuss the Reservist Program, we will be conducting ongoing webinars on weekly basis with senior leadership from the appropriate offices. Be sure to closely monitor your e-mail or visit the employee resource page for upcoming dates and times.

I hope to hear from during one of the upcoming webinars, and look forward to sharing more news about the Reservist Program as it becomes available. In the meantime, feel free to post a comment below or visit the employee page on fema.gov for more information.

The Seven Rights of Hurricane Season Preparedness

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What’s the first thing you think of when someone says “hurricane supplies”? Maybe it is water, or batteries, or first aid supplies - all standard items in preparedness kits. What happened to those items before you purchased them? Someone had to buy the components, ship them, assemble the product, pack it, store it, ship it, store it again, market it, and finally, sell it to you. The companies providing those services, and you, the end consumer, are all part of a supply chain.

Now think about the things we use in disaster response – sandbags to stop rising floodwaters, food and water distributed in mass care operations, life-saving medicines used by first responders, even toys and games used by care-givers at shelters to give children a safe, low-stress environment. Imagine yourself as a disaster survivor needing those items, and the importance of resources to provide supply chain activities in emergency response hits home in a hurry. In fact, it is the success or failure of supply chains – the availability of life saving resources - that determines the magnitude of a disaster.

It is said that “information has to be accessible to be actionable”. In disaster response, the product has to be where it is needed to be useful. In supply chain management, we talk about the “seven rights” - the right product has to be delivered to the right customer, at the right time, at the right location, in the right condition, in the right quantities, at the right price. In a post-disaster scenario, a failure in any of those “rights” means that survivors don’t get the products and services they need, and the party responsible for product the products gets a black eye.

To ensure the “rights” are all met, we must ensure resiliency in both our commercial and disaster response supply chains. Yes, we need to pre-position products, but we also need to pre-position relationships that can be called upon when primary sources are inaccessible. We have to eschew rigid hierarchical structures and look for innovative, but secure, solutions. Like sharing for-profit private sector delivery networks, or using affinity groups to identify alternate sources. Creative answers are out there; we just have to ask the “whole community” to help us find and implement them.

At the American Logistics Aid Network, we harness the know-how and resources of the supply chain industry to bring relief to disaster survivors. ALAN connects relief organizations and emergency agencies responding to disasters with donations of transportation services, staging areas, warehouse storage, expert advice, and other vital resources. Visit www.ALANAid.org to learn more about our organization.

What We’re Watching: 6/1/12

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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. 

Weekend potential for severe weather 
I don’t know about you, but the four-day work week went fast. As we move into the weekend, our regional and D.C. offices are monitoring potential severe weather, including a storm system moving through the mid-Atlantic states this evening. Across other parts of the U.S., the National Weather Service is forecasting a wet weekend for those in the Northeast and portions of the Midwest, while portions of the Rocky Mountain region may experience thunderstorms and above average temperatures.

A great way to keep up with your latest weather forecast is at weather.gov (or a NOAA weather radio) and be sure to visit Ready.gov for tips on getting prepared before severe weather.

Recapping a week of hurricane preparedness 
With the start of hurricane season today, our blog has been packed with bloggers sharing their tips to get ready for hurricanes or tropical storms. In case you missed them during the week, below is a quick list of the authors and their posts. Hopefully the great stories and perspectives will inspire you to get your family, home, and business as prepared as possible for the effects of hurricanes or tropical storms.

Mark your calendar 
In addition to looking back at a week sharing hurricane preparedness, we’re also looking forward to two upcoming events:

  • Tuesday, June 5, 3 p.m. ET – National Preparedness Month kickoff, to discuss how you can become a National Preparedness Month coalition member and encourage those in your community to pledge to prepare. Learn strategies for sharing emergency preparedness at home, school, or the workplace from those who have been successful. Details at citizencorps.gov
  • Thursday, June 28 – FEMA Think Tank conference call, about increasing the coordination and collaboration between emergency management, healthcare and the public health sectors. Last month’s Think Tank call was a robust discussion about how the city of Joplin, Mo. has continued to recover from last year’s deadly tornado. Learn more at fema.gov/thinktank.

I encourage you to join us for both of the calls, and to have a safe weekend.

Red Cross: What’s in Your Emergency Kit?

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I have a confession – between public seminars, TV and radio interviews and even speaking to the kids at my daughter’s grade school about preparing an emergency kit, I’m the last person you’d expect to have dead batteries in a flashlight. But when Hurricane Irene knocked out the electricity for hundreds of thousands of Long Islanders last year, there I was, a Red Cross Volunteer, sitting with my wife and daughter watching the last flicker of light dwindle from the flashlight we strategically left in the kitchen.

As hurricane season begins, our partners at FEMA share the Red Cross’s dedication to making sure every family understands the risks they face, even in places where hurricanes and tropical storms aren’t common (just ask the folks in the mountains of Vermont or Pennsylvania.) You’ve probably heard the expression “Hope for the Best, Plan for the Worst.” You can visit RedCross.org or Ready.gov/hurricanes to learn the details of planning for a disaster and staying informed.

But for now, let’s talk about the one thing you should do right now – check what you have, and buy what you need to make an emergency kit. Why now? Because if you’re lucky to have enough warning of an approaching storm, by the time you get to your local store, your neighbors may have already bought the last bottle of water and battery in town. It’s a very unpleasant surprise.

Your family or office emergency kit will include some very important things. Most are obvious, others less so. See which of these you’d think of:

  • Water – one gallon per person, per day – 2 weeks’ worth
  • Food – non-perishable, easy-to-prepare items – 2 week supply for home 
  • Manual can opener – nothing worse than having cans and no opener! 
  • Flashlight – check each one now, and consider having several to keep in different rooms. Make sure they work! 
  • Extra batteries – Buy the right sizes for your flashlights and other devices. 
  • Battery-powered or hand-crank radio (NOAA Weather Radio, if possible) 
  • First aid kit 
  • Medications (7-day supply) and medical items 
  • Sanitation and personal hygiene items 
  • Copies of personal documents (medication list and pertinent medical information, proof of address, deed/lease to home, passports, birth certificates, insurance policies) 
  • Cell phone with chargers – remember, you can charge a phone in your car 
  • Family and emergency contact information 
  • Extra cash 
  • Emergency blanket 
  • Map(s) of the area

So far, so good? Don’t forget the unique needs in your family:

  • Medical supplies (hearing aids with extra batteries, glasses, contact lenses, syringes, cane) 
  • Baby supplies (bottles, formula, baby food, diapers) 
  • Games and activities for children 
  • Pet supplies (collar, leash, ID, food, carrier, bowl) 
  • Two-way radios 
  • Extra set of car keys and house keys

No matter how close you live to the historical “hot-spots”, your home and community are potential targets for a hurricane, tropical storm or unexpected flooding that can strike suddenly – hundreds of miles from the coastline.

Take the list above, go through the house right now, and determine what you have. See what works, and make a list of what you need. Be a good neighbor and check on any elderly or disabled folks who might appreciate a little help ahead of time. Then, make sure your family has an emergency plan, and know how to keep informed if a storm is heading your way.

While I hope you won’t need to use your emergency kit, here’s hoping we won’t bump into each other in the battery aisle and see nothing but empty shelves.

Visit RedCross.org for complete preparation details. Get a kit, make a plan and be informed.

Preparing for this Year’s Hurricane Season

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Editor's Note: This blog was originally posted on the White House Blog.

Today marks the start of the 2012 Atlantic Hurricane Season. Under the direction of President Obama, FEMA and DHS stand ready to support our state and local partners as the tropics start to produce their annual cyclones, storms, and hurricanes. On Wednesday, I joined Homeland Security Secretary Napolitano as well as partners from NOAA, DOE, the Army Corps of Engineers, and representatives from states and the private sector to brief the President on steps FEMA and our partners have already taken to meet the challenges of the 2012 hurricanes season. That briefing underscored the importance of the whole community, from the federal government to individual citizens, working together to get prepared before a potential storm threatens a region, state, or community.

Long before the start of this year’s hurricane season, FEMA has worked closely with our partners at the state, local and tribal levels. This includes openly sharing information and expertise that will improve resiliency across our nation, cities, towns, neighborhoods, and families. For FEMA, building relationships before a disaster strikes is vital to working closely together during and after an emergency situation.

But government doesn’t prepare for and respond to disasters alone. Right alongside are the hundreds of businesses, voluntary agencies, and faith- and community-based organizations who provide vital services to both communities and individuals affected by disasters. Some of these organizations provide for basic needs like food, water, and shelter – while others respond to needs such as financial consulting, animal sheltering, or help processing your insurance claim.

While all the players I mentioned play a part in keeping our nation and neighborhoods safer in case disaster strikes – these efforts will fall flat unless individuals take part in their own preparedness. Fortunately, the short amount of time and effort it takes to make our families and homes safer is well worth the payoff if an emergency should happen. For example, here are three simple steps you can take today:

So as we move into the traditional start of the Atlantic hurricane season, I encourage you to respond to the important role you play as part of the emergency management team. You can start with one of the three steps I listed out above, or by pledging to prepare at Ready.gov/hurricanes.

Joplin and Recovery: A Thought Provoking Discussion during the May Think Tank Call

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A little over one year ago, on May 22, 2011, an EF-5 tornado tore through the city of Joplin, MO and surrounding areas. This tornado caused significant damage and tragic loss of 161 lives. I was on the ground less than 15 hours after the event and saw firsthand the inspiration leadership displayed by community leaders. I drew inspiration from the people of Joplin-how the leaders gave hope to the residents of Joplin and hope to the country. And that is why I chose Joplin as the location for the May Think Tank Conference Call. It was an opportunity to return almost a year later and listen to community leaders while they shared their experiences and lessons learned with over 30 community members at Missouri Southern State University and more than 500 people on the phone nationwide.

The resilience of the community has been nothing short of amazing, which is both a testament to the city’s inspirational leadership and to some of the pre-planning that took place. In case you missed the call, here’s a quick recap.

Recovery Efforts in Joplin

Dr. Bruce Speck, President of MSSU, spoke about the integral role that the University played in helping the community recover. “Only three weeks before the tornado hit we finalized an agreement with the American Red Cross to serve as an emergency shelter. At the time, some may have wondered when we would ever be called to serve such a need. Little did we know that need was lying just ahead of us and would test our strength and resilience in a way we'd never imagined.” Soon after the tornado, MSSU stepped in and offered its campus as a shelter, surge medical clinic, and volunteer coordination point, among a number of other things.

Other speakers from Joplin included those first on the scene, like Mark Rohr, the City Manager of Joplin, and Keith Stammer, Director of the Jasper County Emergency Management Agency. Both have been integral to the response and ongoing recovery efforts of the communities affected by the tornado. Callers asked many questions about their experiences and lessons learned throughout the recovery efforts. Rohr stressed the need for strong local leadership and continued communication with the people affected by the disaster, while Stammer focused on the value of preexisting relationships and agreements such as the one between MSSU and the American Red Cross.

Jane Cage, Chair of Citizens Advisory Recovery Team, and Stephanie Brady, Director of Programs at the Independent Living Center, also spoke about their efforts. Cage and Brady’s comments supported the lessons learned that were shared by Rohr and Stammer. Brady discussed her role in representing the disability community in Joplin. Cage spoke about the impact that volunteers can have on a community’s recovery. Rohr pointed out that there were 130,000 volunteers for 755,000 hours of community service, valued at over $17 million and more than 82 years' worth of community service. Each story and lesson learned provided all the participants, myself included, with valuable lessons and insight into the recovery process. For more insight into the inspiration efforts of these community leaders, I encourage you to read this article from the Boston Globe.

Integrating Planning for Recovery

The second topic of the call focused on how to integrate recovery into all planning, stakeholder engagement, community participation, and Tribal and Federal partnerships. Deb Ingram, Assistant Administrator for FEMA’s Recovery Directorate, provided information about the National Disaster Recovery Framework and stressed the importance of the whole community coming together in pre-disaster recovery planning including economic, health and social services, infrastructure, schools and housing partners.

Amanda Phan from the Fairfax County, Virginia Office of Emergency Management, spoke about the comprehensive pre-disaster recovery plan recently completed by her office, highlighting the number the stakeholders involved in its creation. Phan explained some of the successful pieces of their planning process, such as how to get stakeholders engaged in the project.

I commend the people of Joplin for their resilience and the extraordinary progress that the city has made in less than a year. I would also like to thank everyone that worked, and continue to work, to help Joplin recovery. The team of citizens, volunteers, local, state, and federal government partners is essential; and has been an amazing source of hope to the survivors and country as a whole.

For the next Think Tank conference call, FEMA is partnering with Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response within the Department of Health and Human Services. The theme for the June call is Emergency Management, Healthcare and Public Health: Increasing Coordination and Collaboration and will take place on June 28.

Please submit your ideas and comments on this theme, or on any topic related to emergency management, to the Think Tank Online Forum. A full transcript of the May 15 conference call is available on the FEMA Think Tank page

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