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Q & A with leaders of FEMA & the UNCF Special Programs Corporation

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Washington, D.C., Sep. 28, 2012 -- FEMA Administrator Craig Fugate and UNCF Special Programs Interim President and CEO, Michael J. Hester, sign memorandums of agreement between UNCFSP and FEMA.

Washington, D.C., Sep. 28, 2012 -- FEMA Administrator Craig Fugate and United Negro College Fund Special Programs (UNCFSP) Interim President and CEO, Michael J. Hester, sign memorandums of agreement between UNCFSP and FEMA.

As a federal agency, there are lots of policies, procedures, and agreements that dictate how you do business.  The best of these documents are the ones that are flexible, have practical implications regardless of who the leadership is, and inspire action that makes a positive impact.  

Last week, FEMA signed a memorandum of agreement with the UNCF Special Programs Corporation (UNCFSP) that embodies the characteristics of those meaningful documents that result in a positive impact.

The agreement will specifically allow for:

  • FEMA to participate in lectures, conferences and other events at minority institutions, providing students invaluable access to subject matter experts in emergency management and preparedness. 
  • UNCFSP to work with FEMA to distribute potentially life-saving information, such as training and other educational and organizational resources to support community-based disaster preparedness efforts.

After the signing ceremony, I was able to catch up with the leaders of both organizations so they could explain, in their own words, why this agreement will make a difference.  Here are the questions and answers:

Question: Why is it important to involve members of the UNCFSP in emergency management initiatives?

Answer from Michael Hester, Interim President & CEO, UNCF Special Programs Corporation:

We are certainly glad to sign this Memorandum of Agreement with FEMA.  We think that it is important to involve historically black colleges and universities in emergency management and preparedness – mainly in the sense that historically black colleges and universities are often the anchors of their surrounding communities and can serve as natural partners to FEMA in times of needs. And so we are glad to sign this MOA today and we certainly look forward to greater collaboration with FEMA.

Question: How does this agreement align with your strategic goals for FEMA and how can it make a difference in emergency management as a whole?

Answer from Craig Fugate, FEMA Administrator:

It’s a way to partner with historically black colleges and universities across this great country to increase the recruiting pool as we continue to build the FEMA team.  One of the things we’ve learned in trying to answer the question of “how do we respond better?” – is we have to plan for what’s real and not always what is easy for us, but what communities really need.  That is hard to do without different viewpoints and different experiences. So as we continue to build a team, we also continue to look at how do we grow a team that looks more like the communities we serve, so that we have a better understanding of the citizens we serve as well as viewpoints and ideas that we haven’t had before. So this opportunity to partner and continue to grow FEMA and build a team, is important to both our current success and our mission as well as future generations of emergency managers.

Question: What could this mean for students in historically black colleges and universities?

Answer from Early Reese, Chief Operating Officer of UNCF:

It is our belief that this is a natural alignment to have our colleges and universities and their students be trained to better serve their communities and be a resource for not only the development of the students but for helping and aiding in the event of a natural disaster. To that end, we are very positive about this. We bring our institutions from 38 members to this partnership. We believe that with their 60,000 students, there will be ample opportunities to get them engaged not only from a development standpoint but as future employees of the federal government and the FEMA agency specifically.


To learn more about UNCFSP, visit www.uncfsp.org.

Other links

- Last year, FEMA signed a similar agreement with the Hispanic Association of Colleges and Universities.

 

 

Our First Visit to a State Emergency Management Office

Did you know every state has its own emergency management office? A lot of big cities do too. We got to check out the Washington, D.C. Homeland Security and Emergency Management Agency (D.C. HSEMA) and we learned a lot about the important work people do at these offices every day.

First, HSEMA let us peek into their Emergency Operations Center.   Even though the room was empty, when there’s an emergency, it’s filled with people busy working to make things better.  The room fills with people from lots of different places -- federal agencies like FEMA, businesses like power companies, and volunteer groups like the American Red Cross.   Everyone has a chair at the table and is part of the team!  When everyone works together in the same room, it’s a lot easier to talk about emergencies and solve problems.

Washington, D.C., Sep. 27, 2012 -- Flat Stanley and Flat Stella visit Washington, D.C.'s Homeland Security and Emergency Management Agency emergency operations center.

The Emergency Operations Center also has a lot of monitors.  These screens help state and local emergency managers stay aware of current road conditions, watch the approaching weather, and see video of impacted areas.  

Washington, D.C., Sep. 27, 2012 -- Flat Stanley and Flat Stella visit the emergency operation center at Washington, D.C.'s Homeland Security and Emergency Management Agency (D.C. HSEMA).

D.C. HSEMA doesn’t just manage emergencies in their building – they take it to the streets!   We rode in their mobile emergency operations center, which is a big vehicle with radios and equipment so they can manage the emergency from anywhere.

 Washington, D.C., Sep. 27, 2012 -- Flat Stanley and Flat Stella visit Washington, D.C.'s Homeland Security and Emergency Management Agency.

For our last stop, we learned about the work D.C. HSEMA does day-to-day even when there isn’t a big disaster.  We toured the city’s 9-1-1 Call Center, a big room with people that answer emergency calls.  These people are called dispatchers, and they answer hundreds of calls every day.  They then talk on the radio with local police officers and fire departments who respond to that person’s emergency.  We were so impressed by how calmly the dispatchers responded to each person’s call for help.   

 Washington, D.C., Sep. 27, 2012 -- Washington, D.C. Homeland Security and Emergency Management Agency (D.C. HSEMA) call center.

We also learned that D.C. is one of only a few places that use Smart 9-1-1.   Smart 9-1-1 is a system that allows citizens to create a safety profile with information such as medical conditions and medications, if anyone in their household has access or functional needs, and other information that would be helpful for first responders to know when responding to their emergency.   When a citizen calls 9-1-1, all of this information pops up on the dispatcher’s screen.  This helps save time -- and lives.   It’s free for citizens to use, so we encourage everyone to create their own Smart 9-1-1 safety profile as part of their steps to get prepared for an emergency.  

If you live in the nation’s capital and want to stay informed, you can download HSEMA’s app on your phone.  Their smartphone app provides information about current alerts and warnings, preparedness tips, and how to respond to emergencies.  They even link to FEMA’s smartphone app!

 Washington, D.C., Sep. 28, 2012 -- Flat Stella at the Washington, D.C. Homeland Security and Emergency Management Agency (D.C. HSEMA).

Our visit to the D.C. emergency management office was very educational and we learned a lot about the important work our state partners do every day.   We can’t wait to visit our next emergency operations center.  Tell us where you think we should visit next!  

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