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Hi - I’m Craig, KK4INZ

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Last week at FEMA HQ, I met with the American Radio Relay League (ARRL), the national association for Amateur Radio.  The ARRL is coming up on its Centennial Celebration next year and has been a valuable partner in emergency management through the decades.

amateur radio executives

CAPTION: Left to Right: ARRL General Counsel Christopher Imlay, W3KD; ARRL Chief Executive Officer David Sumner, K1ZZ; AARL Emergency Preparedness and Response Manager Mike Corey, W5MPC, ARRL President Kay Craigie, N3KN; FEMA Administrator Craig Fugate, KK4INZ; FEMA Chief Technology Officer Ted Okada, K4HNL.

For those of you that are not familiar with Amateur radio, or ham radio as it is sometimes referred, it is the use of certain radio frequencies as a hobby, to exchange non-commercial messages, as a tool for education and experimentation and for public service community activities including assisting in emergency communications.

As a radio amateur, I enjoyed talking with them about the contributions that Hams can make in times of disaster “when all else fails.”

We’re looking forward to their annual Field Day, coming up in June, where I will test my own field gear. It is a great event to encourage first responders and citizens to think about how to prepare for disasters and how to develop a plan for themselves and their communities. And perhaps it will inspire more to consider this great hobby that also has a long and legendary history of public service to the nation.

We’re grateful to our friends at ARRL and look forward to partnering with them in exercises and efforts to plan, prepare, respond and recover from future events that we may face.

-Craig, KK4INZ

What We’re Watching: 3/29/13

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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.

Hurricane Sandy Updates

bulldozer picking up debris

CAPTION: Breezy Point, N.Y., March 22, 2013 -- U.S. Army Corps of Engineers continues to work with local communities to remove debris from houses destroyed by Hurricane Sandy. More than 5.5 million cubic yards have been removed so far.

Recovery efforts continue at full speed in areas impacted by Hurricane Sandy.  If you or someone you know wants to know the latest on the recovery, here are a few online resources from FEMA and the impacted states:

In case you missed it…

  • We’re looking for young leaders interested in making a change and serving on FEMA’s Youth Preparedness Council. Youth leaders (ages 12-17) from across the U.S. who are dedicated to public service, who are making a difference in their communities, and who want to expand their impact as national advocates for youth disaster preparedness are encouraged to apply. You can also nominate someone you think deserves to serve on this distinguished council.

    The deadline to submit an application or nomination is April 19, 2013.  Visit Ready.gov/youth-preparedness for more information or to download an application today!
  • As part of the Department of Homeland Security’s 10-year anniversary, Administrator Fugate discussed a few of the milestones at FEMA and the agency’s priorities moving forward.  In part one, he answers “How has FEMA changed in the last few years?” and “What are a few of the milestones that mark those changes?”  Part two talks about building capacity at a national scale and the agency’s future priorities. If you’re an emergency manager or have an interest in public safety, both posts are a great read!

One volunteer’s story

Earlier this week, an AmeriCorps volunteer wrote about her experience helping those affected by Sandy; it’s a great short story that shows how disasters can leave an impact long after the event has passed.  Here’s a small section from her full story:

In weeks of mucking and gutting, I met homeowners who are ready to let it all go and move on and I’ve also met homeowners who are trying so hard to salvage even the moldiest items. There are residents who cannot even express the magnitude of their appreciation for our services.  We have worked with hoarders, do-it-yourselfers, first-time homeowners and one woman living in a house passed down from the 40’s. Through it all, we have spent long hours and many days working with one major goal in mind - bringing families home.

With that, have a great and safe weekend!

What We're Watching: 3/22/13

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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.

Flood Safety Awareness Week Recap

All week long we’ve shared flood safety tips, stories about the dangers of flooding, and reminders of the importance of being prepared for all types of floods as part of Flood Safety Awareness Week.  Flooding is the most common and costly natural disaster in the U.S. and just a few inches of water can cause tens of thousands of dollars in damage.  So be sure your family is prepared for the different types of flooding and know what to do by visiting Ready.gov/floods for safety tips and more information on preparing for floods.

It’s equally important to make sure your home is protected against flooding, even if you don’t live in a flood zone. Remember, it typically takes 30 days for a flood insurance policy to take effect – so get flood insurance before you need it! For more information on the ins and outs of flood insurance, visit FloodSmart.gov.

And in case you didn’t get a chance to read them, here are our blogs from the week:

Take a look at the Spring Flood Outlook published by our friends at NOAA.

Looking for youth to serve on our Youth Preparedness Council

Our Individual and Community Preparedness Division is looking for youth leaders to serve on FEMA’s Youth Preparedness Council. The council is comprised of youth leaders from across the U.S. who are dedicated to public service, who are making a difference in their communities, and who want to expand their impact as national advocates for youth disaster preparedness. This is a unique opportunity for young leaders to serve on this highly distinguished national council; to complete a self-selected youth preparedness project; to voice their opinions, experiences, ideas, solutions, and questions on youth disaster preparedness with the leadership of FEMA and national organizations working on youth preparedness; and to participate in the Youth Preparedness Council Summit.

If you know someone between the ages of 12 and 17 who wants to make a difference in their community, have contributed to youth disaster preparedness in their community or have lived through a disaster and wants to share their experiences, nominate them for the Youth Preparedness Council today!

Photo of the Week

Staten Island, N.Y., March 16, 2013 -- FEMA's Disaster Recovery Centers (DRC) continue to register Hurricane Sandy survivors as the March 29th deadline for registration approaches. The DRC's offer information on repairing homes and businesses, financial, tax and legal help as well as other state and local advice.

CAPTION: Staten Island, N.Y., March 16, 2013 -- FEMA's Disaster Recovery Centers (DRC) continue to register Hurricane Sandy survivors as the March 29th deadline for registration approaches. The DRC's offer information on repairing homes and businesses, financial, tax and legal help as well as other state and local advice.

 

My Time in the Water: Flood Safety Lessons Learned

As part of the Swift Water Rescue Team for Fairfax County Fire and Rescue Department in Virginia, I have been involved in swift water responses for the past decade. Over the course of these responses, I have learned much about the power of water and the damage that floods can create. Floods, caused by nature or man-made, can occur at any time and can affect anyone. Being prepared and heeding warnings and public safety announcements may be the only way to ensure your safety.  Let me discuss a few of the situations I’ve seen as a rescuer and how they tie back to some of the common phrases we hear about flood safety:

“Be Prepared”

Being prepared for a flood, especially in times of increased risk is paramount to remaining safe and secure when the flood occurs. Flood safety plans should include identifying areas of risk around your home and neighborhood, knowing evacuation routes and staying clear of streams, drainage channels and areas that are prone to flash flooding. Be ready, heed the warnings of the National Weather Service and seek out higher ground. If you become trapped in high water and cannot escape, contact 9-1-1 and follow the directions of the public safety officials.

One of the incidents I discuss when I teach water rescue is one in which the gentleman that we rescued was not prepared for the flood, nor did he follow the directions of his rescuers. At shift change on a particularly raining morning, my crew was discussing and preparing for what we eventually knew would come. The tones went off for a car in a flooded roadway and we were on the road. We arrived on the scene to find a gentlemen sitting on top of his car, with water up to the bottom of the windows. We prepared to evacuate him, and when we got to the side of the car, the gentlemen would not leave the car. He was not panicked, or distraught, but had been told by the dispatcher to seek higher ground and the top of the car was as high as he could find! We were there to rescue him and take him to safety, but he was going to listen to the dispatcher. After a lot of discussion and coaxing, we were finally able to ensure the gentleman that the safest place was the higher ground out of the water and not the higher ground of his vehicle.

 Fairfax, Va., Aug. 12, 2010 -- This swift water rescue team helps people stranded in a vehicle due to flooding.

CAPTION: Fairfax, Va., Aug. 12, 2010 -- This swift water rescue team helps people stranded in a vehicle due to flooding.

“Turn Around, Don’t Drown”

Since 2001 when NOAA’s National Weather Service first produced the “Turn Around, Don’t Drown” public information campaign the number of people that have heard the warning cannot be counted. This however, does not mean that the campaign is complete. On nearly all of the swift water rescues that I have run, those that we set out to rescue have not heeded the warning and made the conscious decision to enter the flood waters. When a vehicle is driven into the water, the occupants typically do not realize the peril that they have placed themselves in. People can be swept off their feet in as little as 6 inches of water --most cars float at 12 inches. It only takes minutes in the right conditions for a meandering stream to become a torrent that can sweep vehicles away.

 Fairfax, Va., June 1, 2012 -- Cars attempt to drive through these flooded streets. It is important to remember, turn around, don't drown.

CAPTION: Fairfax, Va., June 1, 2012 -- Cars attempt to drive through these flooded streets. It is important to remember, turn around, don't drown.

One of my most memorable swift water rescues occurred at a location that floods often and is familiar to many because of this. The incident was at the height of a long rain storm that had flooded many locations throughout the county. We had been at the intersection earlier in the storm and had evacuated a couple from their car before it was lifted and taken into the woods. The evacuation occurred quickly and was uneventful. After the incident, the police closed the road with cones, banner tape, and a police cruiser was standing by until a more significant barricade could be put in-place. A couple of hours had gone by since the first evacuation, when we were called back to the location for another vehicle stranded in the water. As we responded, we were all trying to determine if we were going back to check the car that we had evacuated earlier or if this was a new rescue. We arrived on the scene, saw a new car in the water and questioned the police officer as to what had happened. His response was that the car had driven around the cruiser, over the cones, stopped at the water’s edge, and then proceeded to try to cross the water. After evacuating the woman from the car, her response to why she did it was that “the water didn’t look that deep.” Little did she realize that her actions tied up numerous emergency response units, and put our lives in jeopardy as we evacuated her from the water that she should never have driven into.

Tuscan, Ariz., July 23, 2007 -- A woman waits to be rescued by Tucson Fire Department firefighters from the roof of her car that was swept down the Rodeo Wash just south of East Irvington Road and west of South Park Avenue Monday July 23, 2007. Heavy rains hit Tucson in the early afternoon flooding washes and downing power lines across the city.

CAPTION: Tuscan, Ariz., July 23, 2007 -- A woman waits to be rescued by Tucson Fire Department firefighters from the roof of her car that was swept down the Rodeo Wash just south of East Irvington Road and west of South Park Avenue Monday July 23, 2007. Heavy rains hit Tucson in the early afternoon flooding washes and downing power lines across the city.

“Floods can occur anywhere, at any time”

All floods, including flash floods can occur anywhere, at any time. Although it has been related that “anywhere it rains, it can flood,” this does not accurately characterize the flood threat. Floods can be caused by a number of reasons, and not just precipitation. Snow can melt, and mechanical devices such as dams and pipes can break. When this happens, the potential for floods becomes a reality.

The weather on December 23, 2008 was frigidly cold and clear. Another day at the firehouse, my crew was thinking more of building fires due to space heaters, than water rescues. With no precipitation in the forecast there wouldn’t be a flood, and no one would dare go near the river in this cold. But, as has been proven time and again, floods can occur anywhere, any time. My rescue squad was dispatched to assist a neighboring county with a swift water rescue. The cause was a burst water pipe that at the height of the break was spewing 135 million gallons per minute down River Road. The torrent trapped a number of motorists and multiple rescues occurred through the quick actions of the numerous first responders on the scene. By the time the water was turned off and the incident stabilized all those trapped were rescued and we were once again reminded of the power of moving water.

I urge you to learn from my experience.  The three phrases we commonly hear about flooding - “be prepared”, “turn around, don’t drown”, and “floods can occur anywhere, at any time” – they all have valuable meaning behind them that can save lives.  Take the opportunity this week to learn about staying safe from flooding. 

Editor’s Note: The views expressed by Scott E. Schermerhorn 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.

From Hermine to Heroes: Arlington, Texas Promotes Flood Safety with Unique Idea

The City of Arlington’s Flood Safety Awareness Campaign is an annual week long outreach campaign corresponding with National Flood Safety Awareness Week.  It is geared toward raising awareness about flood safety and preparedness.  This year, the week of March 18-22, 2013 is devoted to revealing how residents’ simple actions can help protect lives and property during a flood. 

In 2010, remnants of Tropical Storm Hermine caused widespread flooding in Arlington, submerging many low-lying pockets under several feet of water. Firefighters had to use ladders and boats to reach stranded residents and over twenty roadways, including several arterial streets, were flooded and closed due to hazardous conditions.  The flooding caused intermittent power outages, temporary road closures, evacuations, contaminated water supplies in some areas, and hazardous post flood conditions.   Approximately 250 homes were flooded or left uninhabitable throughout the city.  Residents were confused about why their homes flooded and why the city was unable to prevent the flooding.  Many did not have insurance or were unaware that their homeowner’s and renter’s policies did not cover flood damage. 

Each year, the city aims to create an all-inclusive flood safety outreach campaign, targeting youth, adults, and seniors because flooding affects everyone, regardless of age.  Given the size of the target audiences, it is important that our city utilize different methods to reach different age groups.  Thus the Flood Safety Awareness Campaign in 2013 is designed not only to use traditional outreach methods to reach local residents but more modern and creative methods as well during Flood Safety Awareness Week. 

Traditional outlets include newspaper advertisements, utility bill inserts, and local partnerships.  Specifically, newspaper advertisements promoting flood safety will run throughout the week and over 93, 000 households will receive information about flood preparedness in their water bills for the month of March.  The city is partnering with Arlington Independent School District high school science teachers to gear lessons toward flood and water related topics during the week, with activities culminating in a flood preparedness competition.  Five simple and short lessons created by the city, focusing on hydrology, soils, floodplains, forces in flowing water and preparedness were distributed to teachers to use in their classrooms during Flood Safety Awareness Week. 

The city will use social media (Facebook, Twitter, RSS Feeds, & blogs) to reach residents through more technological conduits rather than the more traditional methods of outreach.  For example, throughout Flood Safety Awareness Week, daily flood tips will appear on the city’s Facebook and Twitter feeds, with links to more information on flood safety and awareness.  The city is also highlighting flood safety and preparedness on its RSS (Rich Site Summary) Feed – its constantly updated news blog.  Articles covering different flood related topics will appear throughout the week. 

Most significantly, with the help of a group of commissioned graphic artists, 133 ART Inc., the City of Arlington created, The Rescue League Academy:  Sink or Swim, a flood safety novella (comic book or graphic novel).  This is an effort to create something that would appeal to a younger audience (middle school through generation Xers) that may ignore traditional outreach materials, and was inspired by the Preparedness 101: Zombie Pandemic graphic novel created by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.  The city’s 40-page flood safety graphic novel reveals how the simple actions of residents, regardless of age, can help protect lives and property during a flood.  Readers follow Bianca, Shawn, Sonny, Sam, and their families as they experience a major Texas flash flood.  Bianca, the aspiring superhero undergoing her final test, helps a group of citizens during a flood.  As she helps them make smart decisions and saves them from dangerous situations created by their ill-informed actions, citizens learn about what they should do before, during, and after a flood. 

flood safety comic book

CAPTION: With the help of a group of commissioned graphic artists, the City of Arlington created "The Rescue League Academy:  Sink or Swim", a flood safety comic book designed to share flood safety with a younger audience that may ignore traditional outreach materials.

Included in the graphic novel is a Flood Safety Checklist so that readers can get their family, home, workplace, or school ready before disaster strikes.  The project is available online at www.arlingtontx.gov/stormwater and in print form to increase accessibility.  Print copies are available for free at several City of Arlington locations and will be distributed to individuals, schools, and businesses throughout the year as well as at local events.  In all, the graphic novel is a unique, creative, and effective public education tool to communicate the importance of flood safety and preparedness to all, including the historically underserved younger audience. 

Simply, our goal in the City of Arlington is to create an informed citizenry with the tools to take action in the face of potential hazards. We want people, if or when confronted with flood waters, to know what to do and how to prepare.

How I am helping my Russian-speaking community in New York

Three months ago, if someone had told me I’d spend my first job out of college being interviewed by a Russian news channel in Manhattan, I’d probably think they were confusing me with somebody else.  But now, as a local hire supporting Hurricane Sandy recovery in New York, I’m fully engaged with media and spreading information about disaster assistance.

russian media outreach

CAPTION: Samantha Shokin being interviewed by Russian Television International at the Sheepshead Bay disaster recovery center.

When Sandy struck Brighton Beach, New York’s Russian enclave where I live with my family, it felt like fate was against us.  Fortunately, just a few weeks after the disaster, I found a job through FEMA that turned out to be Sandy’s silver lining for me.

My role as a Russian-speaking media relations specialist enables me to couple my passion for media and communications with my strong ties to the Russian community.  I was born in New York City and raised by immigrant parents who maintained a strong Russian presence in the home.  My family instilled in me a love for the language and culture, which was reflected in my coursework in college.  At New York University, along with journalism and creative writing, I took a number of Russian literature courses to study the great writers and to learn more about my heritage.

Using my knowledge of local Russian media, with guidance from experienced mentors in FEMA External Affairs, I was able to organize meetings with editors and producers at Davidzon Radio, Russian Television International, and Reporter, a Russian-language daily.  We talked about registration, housing assistance, the importance of returning the SBA disaster loan application form, and other disaster assistance-related topics.

These meetings allowed us to reach out to the Russian-speaking community devastated by Sandy. Gregory Davidzon, owner and talk show host of Davidzon Radio, was especially receptive to our outreach efforts and invited me and my colleagues to speak on his program a number of times. 

As a media relations specialist, my job involves making contact with assigned media and spreading the word about disaster assistance. Working with Russian media is just one aspect of that job, and it’s an important one. It allows me to work with the community where I grew up, and help it get back on its feet.

What We're Watching: 3/15/13

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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.

Flood Safety Awareness Week

Next week, we’re teaming up with NOAA to bring you National Flood Safety Awareness Week. Floods are one of the most common hazards in the U.S., and while spring brings the promise of warm weather and longer days, it also brings a variety of threatening conditions like heavy rain, flash flooding, and rapid snowmelt (for those of us who received any) that can increase your flood risk.

So be sure to follow the blog and our social media channels March 17 -23 for flood safety information and tips along with the steps individuals, families, and businesses can take to protect their families and homes from flooding.  But you don’t need to wait until next week for the info – you can visit Ready.gov/floods today for the rundown on flood safety, as well as FloodSmart.gov for information on the benefits of flood insurance.

Internship Opportunities for NYC Graduate Students

I wanted to highlight an opportunity for graduate students seeking internship opportunities in the New York City area.

The John D. Solomon Fellowship for Public Service is the first student fellowship in New York City government devoted specifically to emergency management. The program provides graduate students in New York City-area universities a nine-month paid fellowship (approximately 20 hours per week) in an agency of New York City government, including NYC Office of Emergency Management. If you or someone you know are interested, be sure to apply online.

The application period closes on April 1, so be sure to apply today. For more information, visit the NYC Office of Emergency Management website.

Share your thoughts on these topics

In case you missed it, there’s still time to share your thoughts and ideas on our new topics on our collaboration site:

  • Creating Model Emergency Management Plans – We’re looking for your input on what schools, institutions of higher education, and houses of worship should consider when developing and implementing a comprehensive emergency management plan and how students and staff can best be trained to follow them. Whether you’ve played an active role in developing your community’s local emergency management plans or simply have ideas on how best to do this, your ideas will help others learn from your success.
  • Seeking input from Indian tribal governments – We’re seeking your thoughts on the procedures for Indian tribal governments to request emergency and major disaster declarations. As part of an amendment to the Stafford Act, federally recognized Indian tribal governments now have the option to make a request directly to the President for a Federal emergency or major disaster declaration, or to seek assistance, as they do presently, under a declaration for a State.  We’re looking for your feedback on how these requirements and factors may or may not be appropriate as applied to requests from Indian tribal governments during the pilot program.  Your thoughts will be influential in the development of the pilot program to process declaration requests from Indian tribal governments.

Visit our online collaboration site to share your thoughts and comments on these two topics or any of our other open topics.

Photo & Video of the week

Belmar and Lake Como St. Patrick's Day Parade

Despite the devastation caused by Hurricane Sandy, the New Jersey Towns of Belmar and Lake Como got together to hold their 40th St. Patrick’s Day Parade.

Far Rockaway, N.Y., March 11, 2013 -- The FEMA for Seniors program visited the Young Israel Wavecrest & Bayswater Senior Center. Community Relations Specialist Lloyd Weston gave a presentation on disaster preparedness and discussed the importance of preparing a document folder and disaster supply kit.
CAPTION: Far Rockaway, N.Y., March 11, 2013 -- The FEMA for Seniors program visited the Young Israel Wavecrest & Bayswater Senior Center. Community Relations Specialist Lloyd Weston gave a presentation on disaster preparedness and discussed the importance of preparing a document folder and disaster supply kit. K.C.Wilsey/FEMA

Happy St. Patrick’s Day… And may the luck of the Irish be with you!

Have a safe weekend!

What we’re watching: 3/8/13

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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 safety from all angles

Our blog and social media sites have been brimming with severe weather safety tips, stories, and reminders this week as part of National Severe Weather Preparedness Week.  Guest bloggers took over our blog all week long, offering their perspectives on how people can be a force of nature in their community and share severe weather safety.  Here’s a look back at their posts:

Looking for your feedback on our collaboration community

Our collaboration community had a few new topics posted earlier today, so take a look and share your thoughts & ideas on:

  • Creating Model Emergency Management Plans – We’re asking for your input on what should be included in model emergency management plans for schools, institutions of higher education, and houses of worship, and how students and staff can best be trained to follow them.  The President directed the Department of Homeland Security, Education, and Health and Human Services to create model emergency plans for these groups as part of his plan to reduce gun violence.
  • Seeking input from Indian tribal governments - The Sandy Recovery Improvement Act of 2013, signed by the President Tuesday, Jan. 29, 2013, included an important amendment to the Stafford Act.  Federally recognized Indian tribal governments now have the option to make a request directly to the President for a Federal emergency or major disaster declaration, or to seek assistance, as they do presently, under a declaration for a State.  We’re asking Indian tribal governments for their thoughts and comments on how these requirements and factors may or may not be appropriate as applied to requests from Indian tribal governments during the pilot program. The input provided will inform the development of the pilot program to process declaration requests from Indian tribal governments.

In the spotlight: FEMA app and the role of social media

I also wanted to highlight two stories from this week that referenced FEMA’s smartphone app and social media use:

  • Information Week recently published a story listing out some of the smartphone apps available through federal agencies, and we’re proud the FEMA app is on the list!  Check out the quick write up, along with some of the other cool apps from other federal agencies like NASA, the U.S. State Department, the White House, and more.
  • The importance of social media in disaster response has rapidly grown over the past few years.  In a story posted earlier today, Emergency Management Magazine looks back at Hurricane Sandy and how social media played a part in reaching those impacted by the storm.  The article mentions the emphasis FEMA puts on providing timely, relevant information on its website and social media channels before, during, and after emergencies – one example mentioned is the Rumor Control initiative done through fema.gov, m.fema.gov (our mobile site), and our Facebook & Twitter accounts.

In Case You Missed It: Podcasts in iTunes

For those iTunes users out there, you can now download several of our regular updates.  FEMA Law Talk features FEMA’s Chief Counsel, covering legal topics related to emergency management, FEMA programs, and how legal issues impact disaster response and recovery.  And the FEMA Think Tank has also made a replay of their calls available on iTunes as well.  The FEMA Think Tank facilitates conversations about ideas, suggestions, and best practices to improving emergency management. These calls bring together leaders across all levels of government, businesses, non-profit and volunteer-led organizations, and members of local communities to discuss, so they’re always a great thing to listen in on, even if you download the replay of the call.

Photo & Video of the week

Coming to America…Jeremiah Ologhobo Joins FEMA

Jeremiah Ologhobo, a Nigerian by birth, traveled to America, and after waiting five years, he became a U.S. citizen on January 9, 2013. Jeremiah then joined FEMA on January 15 to work in Community Relations in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy. Jeremiah is currently working as a Neighborhood Taskforce Initiate crewmember. This is his story.

volunteers picking up debris

CAPTION: Oak Grove, Miss., March 2, 2013 -- Volunteers from Samaritan's Purse drag debris curb-side in the hard-hit Summertrace neighborhood. Volunteers are making a major difference by bringing debris to where the County can gather and remove it.

Have a safe weekend!

Tailoring the Message for a Nonprofit's Audience

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In the past two years, the Greater Philadelphia region has seen its share of major severe weather disasters.  From severe storms to two hurricanes, the sight of wind-damaged homes, floating cars, and people spending time in neighborhood shelters has become a sadly familiar sight.

We also know that while we can’t always control when and how Mother Nature will strike our area, we know we can take active steps to prepare for disasters.  At the Deaf-Hearing Communication Centre (DHCC), we also recognize that we have a role in making sure we’re keeping the community we serve informed as well.

As the region’s oldest and largest non-profit serving the communication access needs of deaf and hard of hearing, we know first-hand the effects of severe weather, especially for people with disabilities and others with access and functional needs.

After Hurricane Sandy struck last year, there were widespread power outages up and down the Eastern seaboard.  For most people, this made recovery particularly difficult.  For people who are deaf, hard of hearing, or deaf-blind, this was even more difficult because it also cuts off crucial methods of communication with family, friends, and more importantly, official sources of emergency information.

At DHCC, we’ve become a partner in FEMA’s “Be A Force of Nature” campaign and have taken the “Pledge to Prepare” at Ready.gov.    Beyond that, we’re also taking the Severe Weather Preparedness Week toolkit that we received after taking the pledge and are adapting it to meet the needs of our community.

video screenshot

CAPTION: Neil McDevitt, Executive Director for the Deaf-Hearing Communication Centre, uses social media and video as one communication vehicle to reach his organization's audience about disaster preparedness.

The materials in the toolkit make it really easy for us to deliver content and value to our community members.  We know that information provided in accessible formats is a crucial element for everyone to be prepared for the next disaster.   Other non-profit organizations can adapt these messages for their constituents.  Examples include translating messages into other languages, or making them culturally relevant to that population’s needs.

Preparing for and responding to disasters requires the involvement of the whole community and a very important part of that effort includes community-based and faith-based non-profit organizations.  At DHCC, we’re proud to be a part of the effort.

Responding to severe weather while developing tomorrow’s leaders

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Early last April, North Texas was hit by severe thunderstorms and tornadoes. One line of storm cells with tornadoes caused severe damage across at least four counties. In Lancaster, in southern Dallas County, more than 300 homes were damaged by the tornadoes.  Local resources were quickly overwhelmed. Community Emergency Response Teams (CERT) from the North Central Texas Region responded to the call for additional help.

Rowlett sent a team that consisted of both CERT volunteers and youth members of Rowlett Explorer Post One (Post One includes members of a youth program chartered through Boy Scouts of America’s Learning for Life Programs). The team went door to door, working with residents to identify debris that needed to be moved. After they identified the debris, the teams assisted in moving the debris to the street, which allowed City crews to promptly remove it.

volunteers pick up debris

CAPTION: Rowlett, Texas, April 5, 2011 -- Volunteers from the Rowlett Community Emergency Response Team and Explorer Post One remove tornado debris.  Explorer Post One is a youth program chartered through Boy Scouts of America’s Learning for Life Programs that receives disaster response training.

Rowlett CERT and Explorer Post One contributed approximately 345 service hours in support of the Rockwall County and City of Lancaster tornado responses.

The City of Lancaster expressed their appreciation stating,

The success of this CERT callout validates the importance of our CERT programs and regional partnerships. Please pass along this appreciation to your CERT members.

Responding to a community's need is nothing new for Rowlett’s Explorer Post One. The post is closely aligned with FEMA’s new direction to build upon the Teen CERT program. Members have been trained to help provide critical support by giving immediate assistance to survivors, providing damage assessment information and organizing other volunteers at a disaster site. However, unlike most Teen CERT programs, the Rowlett Explorer program training goes far beyond the school environment and basic training. Member training includes CERT, Amateur Radio, CPR/AED/First Aid, climbing, rappelling, ropes/knots, National Association of Search and Rescue training, National Incident Management System courses, Incident Command, and other skills. 

Over the past three years, the Post has contributed nearly 3,900 service hours in training, meetings and support.  But more important than the number of hours is the positive example of emergency preparedness the Post sets day in and day out.  The Explorer Post develops character, self-confidence and leadership that is central to the purpose of the program. In addition to supporting emergency responders during a disaster, the Explorer program builds strong working relationships between emergency responders and the communities they serve. These relationships are critical because effectively responding to emergencies and severe weather requires a team effort – made up of the individuals, families, community leaders, organizations and businesses in each local community.

The more we train our youth in these critical areas, the better prepared our community becomes with dealing with uncommon situations. We are not only training our youth in disaster preparedness, we are preparing tomorrow’s leaders. There is no better example of that than Rowlett Explorer Post One, and I encourage your community to look at how you can get youth involved in disaster preparedness.

Thanks for reading and letting me share how we are a force of nature in Rowlett!

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