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Faith-based, Community Organizations & Whole Community Approach to Emergency Management

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think tank table

Bennington, Vt., Aug. 17, 2012 -- FEMA Deputy Director, Richard Serino, (head of table) leads the FEMA Think Tank on the role of faith-based and community organizations in advancing the whole community approach to emergency management.

On August 17, we had a productive conversation about the role of faith-based and community organizations in emergency management. We heard a local story that involved Vermont organizations working together during Hurricane Irene. We heard about the creation of mutually-beneficial partnerships between faith-based, community organizations and emergency managers. And we heard about steps to enhance these existing partnerships.

More than 450 people participated by phone, and a number of participants traveled to Bennington College to join us in Vermont. We all benefitted from an engaging discussion on the whole community approach of faith-based and community organizations as a critical role in emergency management.

We were fortunate to have Max Finberg, senior policy advisor for the White House Office of Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships, who offered greetings from the President and the WHOFBNP office.  He stressed the importance of faith-based and community organizations in the response phase that came together during Hurricane Irene in his upstate New York hometown of Margaretville, located in the Catskill Mountains.

Working with Faith-based and Community Organizations across Vermont

Our first topic discussed a Vermont story on faith-based and community organizations working together during and following Hurricane Irene. This discussion highlighted the importance of building relationships with different organizations and denominations, including the American Red Cross, AmeriCorps, National Civilian Community Corps, and others. These relationships proved to be important in creating the post-Hurricane Irene Vermont Disaster Relief Fund to assist with long-term recovery assistance as well as a handful of Vermonters to put policies in place to meet unmet needs.

Community businesses also came to the table, including a bakery in Bennington that used social media to articulate community needs. The bakery partnered with the interfaith council to continue to assist the needs of the community. Ultimately, through the long-term recovery, these relationships were critical in focusing on the needs of survivors.

Creating Mutual Beneficial Partnerships between Diverse Faith-based Community Organizations and Emergency Managers

Miami-Dade County’s “Communities Organized to Respond in Emergencies” (CORE) highlighted creating mutually-beneficial partnerships between faith-based organizations and emergency managers.  CORE is part of the Department of Homeland Security effort to build resilience within diverse communities. The CORE program includes plans to assist 8,000 survivors after a disaster and expands this partnership to encourage others to reach out to additional partners.

Enhancing Partnerships with Emergency Managers, Faith-based and Community Organizations

Communication is key to enhancing existing partnerships during long-term recovery efforts after a disaster and is necessary to continue to know what organizations are doing to ensure coordinated efforts. Lessons learned included how to enhance existing partnerships, guidelines prior to disasters, and knowing contacts for government and other disaster resources.

The next Think Tank conference call will take place in September during National Preparedness Month. The theme for discussion will be engaging the next generation in public service.

I encourage participants to continue the conversation on the Think Tank Online Forum by sharing and discussing ideas.  A full audio and transcript of the August 17 conference call is available at www.fema.gov/fema-think-tank.

Preparing for Earthquakes on the Anniversary of Last Year’s East Coast Earthquake

Today is the anniversary of last year’s earthquake along the east coast – the biggest earthquake to hit the U.S. east of the Rocky Mountains.   To remember the importance of preparing for unexpected events, we visited the Washington Monument – it was damaged during the earthquake.  Many of FEMA’s partners also visited the Washington Monument today, including the National Park Service, Central U.S. Earthquake Consortium, U.S. Geological Survey, and representatives from the Virginia and D.C. governments. 

We met with Tim Manning, one of the big bosses at FEMA.  He talks about our visit to the Washington Monument and the importance of preparing for earthquakes and other emergencies.

We learned how to register for the Great Southeast Shakeout which will occur on October 18.  The Shakeout is an earthquake drill where schools and businesses practice “drop, cover, and hold on” – the appropriate steps to take if you feel the ground shaking.  We encourage you to register and participate with us!   

fema flat stanley and stella at washington monument

While we cannot always predict when a disaster will happen, we can at least prepare by practicing what actions to take.   We encourage you to visit Ready.gov/earthquakes to learn even more tips about preparing for earthquakes.

What We’re Watching: 8/17/12

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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.

Weather Outlook

Looking ahead to the weekend, National Weather Service forecasts are calling for somewhat minimal thunderstorm activity across the U.S.  However, severe drought conditions are expected to continue for much of the country through next week. At FEMA, we are supporting our federal and state partners – and following the lead of the Department of Agriculture as they coordinate assistance to farmers and ranchers affected by the drought.

And of course, we continue to closely monitor the Atlantic for any potential tropical storm or hurricane activity. You can always follow the latest forecast from the NOAA National Hurricane Center at hurricanes.gov or on your phone at hurricanes.gov/mobile. Make sure you know what to do before, during, and after severe tropical weather by visiting Ready.gov/hurricanes.

National Preparedness Month Approaching

It’s almost that time of year! September 1 marks the beginning of National Preparedness Month. The theme for NPM 2012 is Pledge to Prepare – Awareness to Action.  This year we are encouraging individuals, businesses, government agencies, and nonprofit organizations to:

There’s an easy first step to getting involved in National Preparedness Month – register as a coalition member at Ready.gov/pledge.  As a Coalition members, you’ll join a community of thousands of individuals, emergency management professionals, businesses, and voluntary and faith-based groups, sharing emergency preparedness information and events so that everyone can be better prepared before a disaster strikes.  Members can also take advantage of the online community, resources, and tools available to help get you prepared for an emergency and spread NPM during September.

Have a safe and enjoyable weekend!

Vermont after Irene: Preserving storm-impacted fish habitats

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Vermont’s recovery from Tropical Storm Irene, which made landfall a little less than a year ago, has provided unique opportunities for federal, state and local partnerships. One example is how FEMA has been collaborating with state, federal and community partners to support damaged fish habitats in Vermont, a state where fishing annually generates at least $63 million. 

Half of the fish were wiped out by Tropical Storm Irene in Vermont, a state where the culture and history of fishing is as important as their economic benefits.

A submerged GoPro high definition camera captures underwater footage of juvenile brook trout in Rochester, Vt. Footage of the fish, a native Vermont species that was impacted by Tropical Storm Irene, is included in a FEMA video about fish habitat recovery in Vermont.

A submerged GoPro high definition camera captures underwater footage of juvenile brook trout in Rochester, Vt. Footage of the fish, a native Vermont species that was impacted by Tropical Storm Irene, is included in a FEMA video about fish habitat recovery in Vermont. Click here to view the video to learn more about this project.

In the town of Rochester, environmental recovery has brought many players to the table. FEMA is working in concert with the White River Partnership, the town of Rochester, Vermont’s Department of Fish and Wildlife, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s National Fish Passage Program, and the U.S. Forest Service.

The White River Partnership, a South Royalton, Vt.-based non-profit organization, worked with the town of Rochester to secure enhancement funding. Culverts, which clogged and failed during the flooding caused by Tropical Storm Irene, will be rebuilt stronger and larger to handle more storm debris.

What’s more, the culverts will be enhanced with sand, rocks and other elements to mimic natural, more eco-friendly passages for fish.

Rochester, Vt., July 29, 2012 -- U.S. Forest Service Civil Engineer Brian Austin sits outside a culvert on a tributary running through the Moosalamoo National Recreation Area in Arlington, Vermont. Tropical Storm Irene-damaged culverts in Rochester, Vermont will be similarly reconstructed, using rocks and sand to simulate a natural fish passage.

Above:  U.S. Forest Service Civil Engineer Brian Austin sits outside a culvert on a tributary running through the Moosalamoo National Recreation Area in Arlington, Vermont. Damaged culverts in Rochester, Vermont will be similarly reconstructed, using rocks and sand to simulate a natural fish passage.

As many as three culvert installations may be completed during the 2012 season; the remaining four will likely be completed in 2013.

One creative approach in the process will be to replace a culvert that was damaged in the Woodlawn Cemetery in Rochester with a discarded bridge the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service recycled from a salvage yard. Reclaiming and repurposing the discarded bridge will cost just $8,500, saving the city and federal governments thousands of dollars.

Rochester, Vt., July 25, 2012 -- White River Partnership Executive Director Mary Russ explains how a bridge she reclaimed from a salvage yard will be recycled to be used as a replacement for a culvert that was impacted by Tropical Storm Irene. The bridge will replace a culvert in the Woodlawn Cemetery in Rochester, Vermont.

White River Partnership Executive Director Mary Russ explains how a bridge reclaimed from a salvage yard will be recycled to be used as a replacement for a culvert that was impacted by Tropical Storm Irene. The bridge will replace a culvert over Nason Brook in the Woodlawn Cemetery in Rochester, Vermont. 

The efforts to preserve fish habitats in Vermont is just one way FEMA works to preserve and protect the environment after a disaster. Visit FEMA.gov for more on FEMA’s environmental and historical preservation.

FY 2012 Emergency Food and Shelter Grant Award

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The Emergency Food and Shelter Program is a unique grant program FEMA has outside of our traditional preparedness and disaster recovery programs. You may remember that we blogged about this program last year. Each year, Congress provides FEMA with the funding to support voluntary and governmental agencies that provide essential services to help hungry and homeless individuals and families across our nation.

This year, FEMA is awarding more than $120 million, through the Emergency Food and Shelter Program grant, to supplement agencies that provide food, shelter, rent, mortgage and utility assistance programs.  You can find a list of qualifying jurisdictions and their allocation amounts on the National Board’s website.

 

More about the grant program

These funds are distributed in accordance with the McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Act, which established the program and called for the creation of an Emergency Food and Shelter Program National Board. FEMA distributes the funds to the National Board through its fiscal agent, United Way Worldwide. Based on this annual award, the National Board qualifies jurisdictions for funding by using a formula that takes into account certain factors such as the current population, unemployment, and poverty levels.

The National Board is comprised of representatives from American Red Cross, Catholic Charities USA, The Jewish Federations of North America, National Council of the Churches of Christ in the USA, The Salvation Army, United Way Worldwide, and FEMA, with FEMA serving as chair.  The National Board has selected United Way Worldwide to serve as its Secretariat and Fiscal Agent.

For more information on grants available through FEMA, visit fema.gov/grants.

August Think Tank: Faith-based and Community Organizations

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Disasters can strike at anytime, anywhere, and can have a devastating impact.  Often the first on the scene to reach out to survivors and assist first responders are members of local faith-based and community organizations who are friends and neighbors. 

This will be the theme of this month’s Think Tank held in Bennington, VT.  Hosted by FEMA Deputy Administrator Richard Serino, the Think Tank’s discussion will focus on faith-based organizations’ role in advancing the Whole Community approach in working with Emergency Managers.

Callers from around the nation will be able to discuss a variety of related issues with a panel of subject matter experts, including the following topics:

  • Working with faith-based and community organizations during and in the aftermath of Hurricane Irene.
    • A discussion of faith-based and community organizations’ best practices resulting from Hurricane Irene.
  • Creating mutual beneficial partnerships between diverse faith-based, community organizations and emergency managers.
    • A discussion of how emergency managers can develop and maintain partnerships with diverse faith-based and community organizations.
  • Discussing steps emergency managers, faith-based and community organizations can take to enhance existing partnerships.
    • A discussion of how faith-based, community organizations and emergency managers can enhance communication and access to information for long term recovery programs.

There’s still time before the call to submit any ideas you may have or comment on existing ideas regarding issues in emergency management. 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:

WHAT: FEMA Think Tank
WHEN: Friday, August 17, 2012; 1 p.m. – 3 p.m. (EDT)
WHERE: Bennington, Vermont
Call In: 888-469-1565 Passcode: Think Tank
Captioning: Individuals who would like to access the captioning for this event may do so by following this link.

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

Please visit the Think Tank Online Forum and share your innovative ideas on how the role of faith-based and community organizations can advance the whole of community approach in emergency management.

What We’re Watching: 8/10/12

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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.

We’re in a visual mood at FEMA today, so this week’s What We’re Watching is done primarily “in pictures”:

Severe Weather Outlook

Going into next week, National Weather Service forecasts are calling for the severe drought conditions to continue for much for the U.S., as high temperatures will affect portions of central U.S.  If your area may experience summer heat next week, visit Ready.gov/heat for tips on staying cool.   For those dealing with the prolonged, extreme drought, make sure to follow any local restrictions on water use and visit the U.S. Department of Agriculture website for information on the federal government’s assistance to farmers and ranchers.

severe weather outlook

Tropical activity heating up

Along with our partners at the NOAA National Hurricane Center, we are closely monitoring several areas of organized storm activity in the Atlantic basin (shown below).  Tropical depression #7 is likely to develop into a named tropical storm this weekend and those in the U.S. Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico should keep a close watch on its development.

tropical weather outlook

 

The image below (also from the National Hurricane Center) shows the probability of tropical storm force winds in the areas that may be affected by tropical depression #7 today through August 15. As you can see, the U.S. Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico should closely monitor this system through local media or by visiting the National Hurricane Center full and mobile websites. Tropical storm force winds have an average speed of greater than 39 mph per minute.

(Editor's note: image removed on August 14)

Job opportunities at FEMA

Alright, the “visual” theme doesn’t apply to this section, but there are several open positions at FEMA right now.  I encourage you to visit our careers page to learn more about working at FEMA or search for current openings now at USAjobs.gov.  Here are two openings I wanted to highlight:

  • Management Analyst, Denton, Texas - ideal for a candidate who has extensive experience analyzing disaster assistance programs and providing expert advice to  key senior managers at the federal, state and local level. 
  • Training Specialist, Center for Domestic Preparedness, Anniston, Ala. - Provide oversight for daily operational and administrative aspects of an emergency responder training program.

 

Historical hurricane activity

Yesterday on the NOAA Facebook page, they posted this colorful photo showing the historical hurricane and tropical storm activity in the continental U.S.  Each color signifies a different intensity of storm, and you can research how many hurricanes and tropical storms have impacted your community with NOAA’s new “Digital Coast” tool.

The colors below can be dizzying, but it shows that hurricanes and tropical storms impact both coastal and inland areas.  Make sure you take steps to prepare your family, home, and business at Ready.gov/hurricanes before the next storm threatens. 

map of hurricane states

 

With that, have a great weekend and stay safe.

 

FEMA Youth Preparedness Council Kicks Off

This week members of the FEMA Youth Preparedness Council attended their inaugural meeting in Washington, DC to discuss steps to strengthen the nation’s resiliency against all types of disasters.

Council members had the opportunity to share their ideas, experiences, solutions and questions on youth disaster preparedness with FEMA leadership including Administrator Craig Fugate, Deputy Administrator Richard Serino, and Deputy Administrator for Protection and National Preparedness Tim Manning, other federal agencies and national organizations.

When meeting with the council, Administrator Fugate explicitly charged the Council with holding the agency accountable to the unique needs and interests of youth in emergencies. The Administrator encouraged the members to continue their community-based preparedness efforts but also pressed them to be candid about where and how FEMA can improve. 

youth preparedness council

Washington, D.C., Aug. 7, 2012 -- FEMA Administrator Craig Fugate takes a group photo with members of the National Youth Preparedness Council. The Council met with Administrator Fugate and discuss steps to strengthen the nation's overall resiliency.

The Council brought special insight to how FEMA and others can continue to use social media technology both to engage youth in preparedness activities and to organize youth volunteers during the response and recovery phases of a disaster.

The Council will continue their work of contributing to the national agenda for how young people play a role in emergency management through their regional work and specific projects that they will commit to execute during the coming year. Projects ranged from expanding Teen Community Emergency Response Teams (CERT) within their region and conducting a preparedness day fair in their community to creating a celebrity-driven preparedness campaign.

Youth Council members were recently selected through a nomination process for their work engaging communities in local preparedness. The council consists of 13 members ranging in age from 13 to 17 and a chairperson.

To learn more about FEMA’s youth preparedness efforts please visit: http://www.citizencorps.gov/getstarted/youth/youthindex.shtm.

To learn more about each council member visit: http://www.citizencorps.gov/getstarted/youth/youthpreparednesscouncil.shtm.

Updates from the National Preparedness Symposium

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Our National Preparedness Symposium is currently going on and includes stakeholders across all areas and levels of emergency management, discussing how to increase emergency preparedness in a way that builds community resiliency.  We will continually update this blog post throughout the Symposium as we get perspectives from those on the forefront of making their communities and America better prepared for emergencies.

(Posted 10:40 a.m. Eastern, August 9)

 

richard flores speaks at fema national preparedness symposium

Arlington, Va., Aug. 9, 2012 -- Richard Flores, FEMA's Special Adviser for National Tribal Affairs, provides an overview of emergency management practices in Indian Country as part of the FEMA National Preparednes Symposium.

 

Mike Pickerel, a planner with the Missouri Emergency Management Agency, discusses two tips for emergency managers when managing donations and volunteers after a disaster: controlling the message and documentation.

 


(Posted 5:30 p.m. Eastern, August 8)

jon carson speaks at the national preparedness symposium

Arlington, Va., Aug. 8, 2012 -- To wrap up the second day, John Carson, Director of the White House Office of Public Engagement, spoke about the importance of local communities connecting and building strong relationships.
 

elizabeth harman speaks at the national preparedness symposium

Arlington, Va., Aug. 8, 2012 -- Elizabeth Harman, Assistant Administrator, FEMA Grants Program Directorate, addresses the FEMA National Preparedness Symposium. Her remarks emphasized the importance of face-to-face meetings between partners and stakeholders in emergency management.

 

Herman Schaffer, Director of Community Outreach at the New York City Office of Emergency Management, discusses the efforts of Community Emergency Response Teams (CERT) in New York City reaching out to their entire community.
 

Major General Darryll Wong, Hawaii Homeland Security Adviser, talks about the successes of planning for and responding to emergencies in geographically separated communities.

(Posted 10:30 a.m. Eastern, August 8)

Lesleyanne Ezelle, FEMA Disability Integration Specialist, demonstrates several of the technologies used in Disaster Recovery Centers to assist people with access and functional needs. 
 

(Posted 8:45 a.m. Eastern, August 8)

June Kailes, Associate Director for the Center for Disability and Health Policy at Western University of Health, provides an overview of Functional Assistance Service Teams (FAST). These teams use locally available assistive technologies to reach out to those affected by disasters, especially those staying in shelters. More information about FAST at http://www.cdss.ca.gov/dis/PG1909.htm.



Updates from Tuesday, August 7

(Posted at 5:40 p.m. Eastern, August 7)

congressional staff take a question at the national preparedness symposium

A panel of Congressional staff members takes a question from a National Preparedness Symposium attendee. Their discussion at 1 p.m. Eastern centered around Department of Homeland Security and FEMA appropriations, as well as their efforts to support building capacity related to emergency preparedness.

(Posted at 2:50 p.m. Eastern, August 7)

paulette aniskoff speaks at the national preparedness symposium

Paulette Aniskoff, Director of the Individual and Community Preparedness Division, led a breakout session on strategy and here's a recap of our tweets during her session. (Click the links below to go directly to each tweet.)

  • Aniskoff: "What motivates people to get prepared and how can we apply it?" #NatlPrep
  • Aniskoff discusses how we get preparedness into the mainstream media including an earned media plan & using multiple channels. #NatlPrep
  • Aniskoff: "Aligning a relevant campaign & localizing the information so folks know the hazards that are most impactful to them." #NatlPrep
  • Successful preparedness campaigns include 1-be affordable 2-unify a message 3-target schools & workplace 4-target social networks #NatlPrep
  • Sept. is Natl Preparedness Month-empower the leaders & help reach more people w/ discussion boards, hub of resources & events. #NatlPrep
  • Aniskoff discusses using IDEA SCALE. Visit http://fema.ideascale.com  and join the conversation. #NatlPrep
  • FEMA working to align to share information & make decisions about community preparedness together w/ state & local partners. #NatlPrep
  • Demonstration is key to teaching emergency preparedness. Get hands-on training into the hands of community leaders. #NatlPrep

(Posted at 2:00 p.m. Eastern, August 7)

panelists speak at the national preparedness symposium

John Madden, Director, Alaska Division of Homeland Security (L) and Richard Reed, Vice President, Preparedness and Resilience Strategy, American Red Cross (R), participate on a discussion panel about national preparedness.

fema administrator craig fugate speaking

FEMA Administrator Craig Fugate gives the keynote speech as he kicks off the Symposium.  In his remarks, Administrator Fugate talked about the need to clearly define what emergency preparedness is, who should be involved, and what the end goal of our preparedness efforts are.  A few themes from his speech:

  • "A jurisdictional approach to preparedness isn't the most effective - disasters don't know borders or boundaries - we need a national level view to build capacity."
  • "Reporting on preparedness is more than saying 'This is what we spent, this is what we bought.  If you can't quantify an outcome that you are changing with your preparedness efforts, you're just adding stuff."

Learn more about the Presidential Policy Directive 8, which sets a strategic, national-level vision for emergency preparedness.

(Posted at 1:00 p.m. Eastern, August 7)

We grabbed Administrator Craig Fugate right after he stepped off the stage at 9:45 a.m. ET:

Stanley & Stella: Seeing our first FEMA regional office

Hi, everyone and thanks for following us as we learn about FEMA! It didn’t take long before we were able to have our first adventure. We recently went to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania with Administrator Fugate as he visited FEMA’s regional office there.

We saw Independence Hall…

Philadelphia, Pa., July 31, 2012 -- Flat Stanley and Flat Stella visit the region III office in Philadelphia. While there they also took a tour of the city and saw Independence Hall.

The Liberty Bell…

Philadelphia, Pa., July 31, 2012 -- Flat Stanley and Flat Stella visit the region III office in Philadelphia. While there they also took a tour of the city and saw the Liberty Bell.

And then we went to the FEMA Region 3 office!

Philadelphia, Pa., July 31, 2012 -- Flat Stanley and Flat Stella visit the region III office in Philadelphia.

We found out that there are 10 regional offices across the country. Regional offices help states get ready for, respond to, and recover from disasters. Region 3 helps Delaware, Maryland, Pennsylvania, Virginia, Washington, DC, and West Virginia. Can you find which region you are in from the map below?

Map of FEMA Regions.

We helped them open a new part of their building, too!

Philadelphia, Pa., July 31, 2012 -- Flat Stanley and Flat Stella visit the region III office in Philadelphia. While there, they helped with the unveiling of the new regional response center. During and after a disaster, other agencies and groups work alongside FEMA and state workers in the regional response center.

This section of the office is where the region helps a state respond to a disaster, called the regional response center.  During and after a disaster, other agencies and groups work alongside FEMA and state workers in the regional response center.

We were so busy at the office that we didn’t even get to have a philly cheesesteak sandwich! We had so much fun visiting and learning about FEMA that we can’t wait to take another trip to other regions and states.

If you would like to suggest an adventure or ask us a question, you can comment below, find us on the FEMA Facebook page, or even e-mail us at our new e-mail address!

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