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What We’re Watching: 9/27/13

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Images of Colorado Flooding & Recovery

As we continue to support the ongoing recovery efforts in Colorado, we wanted to share a few photos of highlighting the work being done to assist survivors. To date, more than 19,000 Coloradans have applied for FEMA assistance, with more than $29 million in approved assistance for impacted individuals and families.   If you’re looking for ways to help those affected by the flooding, visit HelpColoradoNow.org for a list of trusted organizations  and volunteering resources.

Evans, Colo., September 25, 2013 -- Disaster response group Christian Aid Ministries help muck out homes in Evans. Many community and voluntary organizations are assisting residents with recovery efforts. Evans, Colo., September 25, 2013 -- Disaster response group Christian Aid Ministries help muck out homes in Evans. Many community and voluntary organizations are assisting residents with recovery efforts.

Evans, Colo., September 25, 2013 -- Disaster response groups Hands.org and AmeriCorps join forces to help muck out homes in Evans.Evans, Colo., September 25, 2013 -- Disaster response groups Hands.org and AmeriCorps join forces to help muck out homes in Evans.

Evans, Colorado Septemeber 25, 2013 -- Jewish Disaster response organization Nechama and Muslims for Humanity join forces to help muck out homes in Evans.Evans, Colorado September 25, 2013 -- Jewish Disaster response organization Nechama and Muslims for Humanity join forces to help muck out homes in Evans.

Colorado Springs, CO September 24, 2013 -- A Small Business Administration (SBA) representative talks to a resident about the services that may be available to her at a Disaster Recovery Center (DRC) in Colorado Springs, CO. FEMA is working with local, state and other federal agencies to provide assistance to residents, businesses and communities affected by the recent floods. Colorado Springs, Colo., September 24, 2013 -- A Small Business Administration (SBA) representative talks to a resident about the services that may be available to her at a Disaster Recovery Center (DRC) in Colorado Springs, CO. FEMA is working with local, state and other federal agencies to provide assistance to residents, businesses and communities affected by the recent floods.

Colorado Springs, CO September 24, 2013 -- A FEMA Individual Assistance specialist talks to a resident about the services that may be available to him at a Disaster Recovery Center (DRC) in Colorado Springs, CO. FEMA is working with local, state and other federal agencies to provide assistance to residents, businesses and communities affected by the recent floods. Colorado Springs, Colo., September 24, 2013 -- A FEMA Individual Assistance specialist talks to a resident about the services that may be available to him at a Disaster Recovery Center (DRC) in Colorado Springs, CO. FEMA is working with local, state and other federal agencies to provide assistance to residents, businesses and communities affected by the recent floods.

Colorado Springs, CO September 24, 2013 -- A FEMA Mitigation specialist talks to a resident about the services that may be available to her at a Disaster Recovery Center (DRC) in Colorado Springs, CO. FEMA is working with local, state and other federal agencies to provide assistance to residents, businesses and communities affected by the recent floods.Colorado Springs, Colo., September 24, 2013 -- A FEMA Mitigation specialist talks to a resident about the services that may be available to her at a Disaster Recovery Center (DRC) in Colorado Springs, CO. FEMA is working with local, state and other federal agencies to provide assistance to residents, businesses and communities affected by the recent floods.

For continued updates on FEMA’s role, visit the disaster webpage or follow the FEMAregion8 account on Twitter.

National Preparedness Month Wrap-Up

Staton Island, N.Y., Sep. 4, 2013 -- FEMA Administrator Craig Fugate met with the Port Richmond, NY Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) while visiting Staten Island for National Preparedness Month.Staten Island, N.Y., Sep. 4, 2013 -- FEMA Administrator Craig Fugate met with the Port Richmond, NY Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) while visiting Staten Island for National Preparedness Month.

As the month comes to an end, we want to take a moment to thank everyone who took steps to get prepared for disasters and joined the national preparedness community. All across the country, families, businesses, communities and organizations held preparedness events educating others about emergency preparedness.

Although National Preparedness Month is just about over, we hope you’ll continue to encourage others to make a family plan and to host preparedness community outreach events, fairs, workshops, webinars and trainings.

Have a great weekend!

Best Practices in Higher Ed Preparedness - in 140 Characters or Less

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woman looking at computer screen

Wondering how colleges and universities tackle emergency preparedness? It’s a job for the experts, many of whom joined with FEMA last week to discuss the topic.  But it wasn't an in-person meeting - we used Twitter to host a virtual "panel" of universities while taking questions from others.

Emergency management professionals from Boston College, DePaul University in Chicago, Florida State University, and Virginia Tech took to Twitter for an hour on September 18 to answer questions about their preparedness methods and the unique threats their schools face.

The most exciting portions of the chat were when schools and individuals from around the country chimed in on the topics and shared their experiences along with our panelists. In total, over 180 Twitter users joined in Wednesday's chat!

Thanks to an active conversation, the discussion covered a range of topics, from alert systems, to recent emergencies, to the challenges of preparing urban campuses, and more.  Here are some of my favorite exchanges from the chat (see the @FEMAlive account for a full recap):








If you're a higher education professional, emergency manager, college student, or parent, check out Ready.gov/campus for a full list of emergency preparedness resources.  A special thanks to all those who joined last week's chat!

What we’re Watching: 9/20/13

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truck with search and rescue teamsBoulder, Colo., Sep. 16, 2013 -- FEMA's Urban Search and Rescue teams head out to conduct a search in Left Hand Canyon. Photo by Michael Rieger/FEMA

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.

Colorado flood response

We continue supporting the ongoing response in Colorado to the flooding and mudslides that have affected thousands across the state.  As dangerous conditions are still present in many areas, we’re encouraging people to remain vigilant and follow safety advice given by their local officials. 

To date, over 12,000 individuals in Adams, Boulder, Clear Creek, El Paso, Jefferson, Larimer, and Weld counties have applied for FEMA assistance, resulting in over $8.5 million in approved aid for affected individuals and households.   Nearly 800 FEMA staff are on the ground supporting the response efforts – including professional search and rescue units, teams going door-to-door encouraging residents to apply for FEMA assistance, inspectors assessing home damage, and staff at our Disaster Recovery Centers.
search and rescue meetingBoulder, Colo., Sep. 16, 2013 -- Morning briefing for Urban Search and Research teams at Boulder Airport. Teams are deployed to assist in the Colorado flood response. Photo by Michael Rieger/FEMA

FEMA is only part of the team that’s supporting the flood response – there are many volunteer groups, non-profit organizations, state and local agencies, private sector entities, and members of the community who are pitching in.  If you’re looking to help, the best source for donating or volunteering is HelpColoradoNow.org, which is operated by the Colorado Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Management.

A few days ago I wrote a quick recap of the response efforts, so check out that blog post for some more statistics.  And if you’re looking for ongoing updates on FEMA’s role, visit the disaster webpage or follow the @femaregion8 account on Twitter.

In case you missed it: Recognizing excellence

All around the country, many individuals and groups are working hard to “move the needle” and better prepare themselves and their neighbors for emergencies.  Yesterday, we recognized some of the most creative and successful approaches by announcing the winners of the 2013 FEMA Individual and Community Preparedness Awards.

If you’re looking for some inspiration in building emergency preparedness in your home, neighborhood, school, workplace, or city – the award winners can help.  For example, the award for Outstanding Achievement in Youth Preparedness went to the Texas School Safety Center at Texas State University.  They delivered a statewide youth summer camp that included key skills like emergency response training, leadership development, and community-specific action planning.   

So check out Ready.gov for a full list of the winners – get inspired today!

Mark your calendar

The next FEMA Think Tank call

When: Wednesday, Sept. 25, 1 p.m. EDT

What:  The FEMA Think Tank is an open forum to discuss relevant topics in emergency management and disaster response.  The next Think Tank session will focus on how to cultivate innovation in the “white spaces” of emergency management. 

The white space can be defined as the space between the boxes in an organization chart—mostly unoccupied territory where rules are vague, authority is fuzzy, budgets are nonexistent, and strategy is unclear. This is often where innovative activities that help reinvent and renew an organization most often take place.

How: As soon as it’s available, the call-in information will be posted to fema.gov/thinktank. All are welcome to join the discussion and ask questions!


Twitter chat on inclusive emergency preparedness

When: Tuesday, Sept. 24, 1 p.m. EDT

What: Our @femaregion7 Twitter account will host a live chat on Twitter to discuss simple ways to make disaster preparedness applicable for everyone.   In addition to taking your questions, they’ll bust some common myths of inclusive disaster preparedness. 

How: Follow along using #ALLReadyChat – and you can “watch” the conversation even if you don’t have a Twitter account.  For those who would like to submit a question or topic for discussion during the chat, you can tweet it to @femaregion7 or e-mail it to FEMA-New-Media@fema.dhs.gov.

With that, have a safe weekend!

Colorado Flooding Update: Sept. 18

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search and rescue teams review plansBoulder, Colo., Sep. 16, 2013 -- FEMA's Urban Search and Rescue teams plan door to door checks in Left Hand Canyon. Photo by Michael Rieger/FEMA

Although the clouds and rain may have passed, individuals and communities in central Colorado are still dealing with impacts from the recent flooding.  Our hearts and prayers go out to those affected by the flooding, especially as dangerous conditions continue in many areas.  It may take several days or longer for river levels to crest and begin to recede – which means those in impacted areas should remain vigilant to stay safe.

Here’s a recap of the priorities from today:

  • Search and Rescue operations continue, with five teams active in hard-to-reach areas.
  • As some residents return home, we’re encouraging them to do so safely by remembering things like:
    • Only returning home when local officials say it’s safe to do so
    • Avoiding floodwaters while driving or walking – they may be contaminated with chemicals, oil, or sewage.
    • Staying away from damaged areas unless your assistance has been specifically requested by police, fire, or local officials
  • For those who have evacuated or have not yet been able to return home, we’re encouraging them to connect with family and friends so they know you’re OK. This could mean updating your social networks, sending a text, making a quick phone call, or using the Red Cross Safe and Well site to check in.damaged homeJamestown, Colo., Sep. 15, 2013 -- The small mountain town of 300 has been cut off because of Boulder County flood. FEMA Urban Search & Rescue (US&R) teams deployed to the state to help in search and rescue operations. Steve Zumwalt/FEMA

We’re also encouraging affected individuals in Adams, Boulder, Larimer, and Weld counties to apply for FEMA assistance.  President Obama authorized federal aid for individuals and business owners in these counties for things like temporary housing and home repairs, low-cost loans to cover uninsured property losses, and other programs to help in the recovery.  You can apply for FEMA assistance by visiting disasterassistance.gov on your computer or phone, or by calling 800-621-3362.  (Disaster survivors who have a speech disability or hearing loss and use TTY, should call 1-800-462-7585 directly; for those who use 711 or Video Relay Service (VRS), call 1-800-621-3362.) 

In addition to what’s happening now, here are the response highlights from the past few days:

  • More than 8,200 Colorado disaster survivors have applied for federal assistance.  More than $1.8 million has been approved in Individual Assistance, and assistance will continue to increase as flood waters recede and areas become accessible. 
  • Nearly 400 FEMA personnel are on the ground in Colorado to support response efforts. This includes the following personnel and teams:
    • Three Disaster Survivor Assistance Teams going into impacted communities to assist disaster survivors with immediate needs and registering them for assistance.  
    • Two Incident Management Assistance Teams and a liaison officer on site at the Colorado emergency operations center to coordinate with state and local officials to identify needs and shortfalls impacting disaster response.
    • Five federal urban search and rescue teams – Colorado Task Force 1 activated by the state, Missouri Task Force 1, Utah Task Force 1, Nebraska Task Force 1 and Nevada Task Force 1 – to support search and rescue operations in hard hit areas. 

       tent being set upBoulder, Colo., Sep. 14, 2013 -- FEMA Urban Search and Rescue Incident Support Team White sets up a base of operations at the Boulder Municipal Airport. Several Urban Search and Rescue teams are supporting the local response to flooding across Colorado. Photo: Daniel Roberts/FEMA                         
  • Seven mobile communications office vehicles deployed to Colorado to support state and local response efforts.

    communications vehicleBoulder, Colo., Sep. 14, 2013 -- FEMA's Denver Mobile Emergency Response Support (MERS) provides emergency communications support to the Urban Search and Rescue Incident Support Team White at the Boulder Municipal Airport. Photo: Daniel Roberts/FEMA
  • More than 106 housing inspectors to complete inspections of damaged dwellings.
  • A FEMA Incident Response Vehicle is in Colorado providing communications support to the emergency operations center for the town of Lyons.
  • More than 130,000 liters of water, 110,000 meals and other supplies have been delivered to Incident Support Bases established by FEMA. These resources are being provided to the state as needed and requested.
  • At the President’s direction, Administrator Fugate visited Colorado Monday, September 16, to meet with federal, state and local officials about ongoing response and recovery efforts. 

    meeting with administrator fugateCentennial, Colo., Sep. 16, 2013 -- Administrator Fugate with Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper, Senator Mark Udall and Representative Cory Gardner discuss ongoing response operations at the Colorado State Emergency Operations Center. Photo: Cynthia Hunter/FEMA

Finally, for those looking to help individuals, families, and businesses impacted by the flooding, HelpColoradonow.org is the best place to go.  It’s a portal managed by the Colorado Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Management and has resources on volunteering, donating, and giving through trusted organizations.  

For continuing updates on FEMA’s role in Colorado, visit the disaster page on fema.gov or follow our @femaregion8 account on Twitter.

What We’re Watching: 9/13/13

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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.

Ongoing Colorado Flooding

Caption: from @boulderpolice. Briefing at Emergency Operations Center this morning.Caption: from @boulderpolice. Briefing at Emergency Operations Center this morning.

In addition to the tropical activity in the Atlantic, we’re also closely monitoring the ongoing floods in central Colorado.  Our thoughts and prayers are with the disaster survivors and families who have lost loved ones in Colorado due to the severe weather and ongoing flooding. Last night, President Barack Obama declared an emergency for three counties in Colorado, and ordered federal aid to supplement state and local response efforts. The declaration makes direct federal assistance support immediately available to save lives and to protect property and public health and safety in areas of Colorado, including Boulder, El Paso and Larimer counties.

According to the National Weather Service, flooding advisories remain in effect for several areas in Colorado, and severe weather remains in the forecast through the weekend in some areas.  It may take several days or longer for river levels to crest and begin to recede. 

We continue to support local efforts to keep residents and communities in the impacted areas safe.  We urge residents to continue to monitor weather conditions and to listen carefully to instructions from their local leaders and take recommended protective measures to safeguard life and property while response efforts continue.

Here are a few safety tips to help keep you safe during flooding:

  • If flooding is occurring or is expected, get to higher ground quickly.
  • Turn Around, Don't Drown. Avoid flooded areas.
  • Give first responders space to do their work by following local public safety instructions.

Those in areas with the potential to be affected by flooding should familiarize themselves with the terms that are used to identify a flood hazard and discuss what to do if a flood watch or warning is issued:          

  • Flood Watch: Flooding is possible. Tune in to NOAA Weather Radio, commercial radio, or television for information.
  • Flood Warning: Flooding is occurring or will occur soon; if local officials give notice to evacuate, do so immediately.
  • Flash Flood Watch: Flash flooding is possible. Be prepared to move to higher ground; monitor NOAA Weather Radio, commercial radio, or television for information.
  • Flash Flood Warning: A flash flood is occurring; seek higher ground on foot immediately.

If you would like to help those affected by the flooding, visit http://www.helpcoloradonow.org/.

Visit the FEMA Social Hub for trusted emergency management accounts and updates to follow.

We will continue to provide updates on the flooding in Colorado as necessary.

An Active Atlantic

National Hurricane Center Graphic of the Atlantic.National Hurricane Center Graphic of the Atlantic.

We’re in the traditional peak of hurricane season, and the Atlantic Ocean is doing its part to remind us.  As the National Hurricane Center’s map shows, there are lots of areas of activity that we’re keeping an eye on.  Now is the time to polish up your family’s plan for a hurricane – especially since there aren’t any significant threats to U.S. states or territories at this time.  I ask that you take one step this weekend: talk with your family about how you’d stay in touch during/after an emergency.  Ready.gov has a great list of things to talk through and think about as you review your plan!

Mark Your Calendar: Sept. 18 Higher Ed Twitter Chat

Next week, our @FEMAlive account will be moderating a Twitter chat to discuss “Unique approaches to emergency preparedness in higher education”.  I’m particularly excited since there are already a few schools lined up to participate, like DePaul University, Florida State University, and the University of Boston College!  But one good thing about Twitter is that live chats are open to anyone.  So if you’re an emergency management professional in higher education, or are interested in the topic, you’re welcome to join in next Wednesday, Sept. 18, at 1 p.m. Eastern by following #EDUPrepChat.

I hope you can join us!

Videos to share

As National Preparedness Month continues, we wanted to share a few video reminding folks to prepare for an emergency. Here are a few videos we encourage you to share with your family and friends.

Have a great weekend!

Become a Hero this National Preparedness Month

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Staten Island, N.Y., Sep. 4, 2013 -- FEMA Administrator Craig Fugate joined the New York City Office of Emergency Management (OEM) for the kick-off of the 10th Annual National Preparedness Month, a month-long nationwide campaign to promote emergency preparedness and encourage volunteerism. Port Richmond Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) Chief John Tidona showed Administrator Fugate the team's Mobile Command Center.Staten Island, N.Y., Sep. 4, 2013 -- FEMA Administrator Craig Fugate joined the New York City Office of Emergency Management (OEM) for the kick-off of the 10th Annual National Preparedness Month, a month-long nationwide campaign to promote emergency preparedness and encourage volunteerism. Port Richmond Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) Chief John Tidona showed Administrator Fugate the team's Mobile Command Center.

Last week marked the start of National Preparedness Month.  All across the country, communities are hosting preparedness events encouraging everyone that “You can be the hero” when it comes to emergency preparedness.

Earlier this week, I had the pleasure of kicking off the month with partners in the New York City area. One thing we stressed at different events is how easy getting prepared can be.  For some things – like talking through a family communication plan – just takes time.  It’s not expensive at all, and the return on your investment of time will return great dividends if you’re confronted with a disaster.  During the events, the biggest takeaway for me was seeing how enthusiastic people have become in taking the steps to become prepared and how they are engaging all members of the family, young and old.

Staten Island, N.Y., Sep. 4, 2013 -- FEMA Administrator Craig Fugate stresses the need for families, businesses, and government agencies to have a plan for disasters, at the New York City Office of Emergency Response event for National Preparedness Month. Staten Island, N.Y., Sep. 4, 2013 -- FEMA Administrator Craig Fugate stresses the need for families, businesses, and government agencies to have a plan for disasters, at the New York City Office of Emergency Response event for National Preparedness Month.

My hope for this National Preparedness Month and for you all is that you’ll take a serious look at how prepared you and your family are. 

Do you know what to do during a disaster? Do your children?

Do you all know how you will get in contact with each other if your cell phone doesn’t work?

Or are you like these families, where you simply just haven’t talked about what to do in the event of an emergency?

If you’re anything like the families in these videos, then I strongly encourage you to take some time this weekend to sit down with your family and simply talk. Talk to each other to see you’re really prepared for an emergency, and if not then take action. Create a family communication plan. It’s simple, just visit the Make a Plan section on Ready.gov, download the family emergency plan, fill it out then send it to your family and friends.

There are other things you can do to get prepared, like building an emergency kit or by helping others in your community get prepared, but the most important part is taking the first step

If you’re looking for some extra inspiration, you can join the National Preparedness Community where you’ll be able to share some of the things you and your family have done to get prepared, find out about preparedness events taking place in your area and have access to great resources to help you get your loved ones prepared.

You can also access preparedness info on Facebook or Twitter. Follow us, we’d love to hear from you.

It’s true that we may not know when the next disaster may strike, but we can be smart and take action today!

"Social Media? We Can Play That Game Too."

Tweeting, tagging, poking, and pinning.  This may sound like a foreign language to some, but to the FSU Alert team at Florida State University, this is everyday language.  The presence, purpose, and promise of social media can no longer be ignored, and our team has been working hard to combine the worlds of social media and emergency preparedness to help keep our campus community updated and informed.

florida state alert flyer

For the tenth annual National Preparedness Month this September, Florida State University has created FSU Emergency Preparedness Week (#FSUPrep) during the week of Sept. 9 to highlight the many preparedness resources we have on campus, including social media.

To jumpstart the event, FSU Alert’s emergency notification and warning system, including the 30-plus delivery methods utilized to warn and inform the school, are showcased.  Sharing the spotlight is our state-of-the-art "EZ Button" rapid activation system, developed with Siemens. The rest of the week will cover severe weather, crime prevention and security, fire safety, and health and wellness -- all chosen to emphasize the importance of student health, safety, and well-being. 

Most of these areas feature separate promotion weeks throughout the school year, but, through partnering with different student organizations and departments on campus, FSU Alert has combined the much needed information into one organized week of education to remind new students and upperclassmen how Florida State University, via FSU Alert, is serving them day in and day out.

Social media not only plays a large role in the production of FSU's Emergency Preparedness Week but also in the daily operations of the FSU Alert team. It’s our view that social media is more than just a means of sending out alerts and hoping students, faculty and staff pay attention. We believe in the potential for it to provide a strong platform for education, outreach, and preparedness.

Having students as our primary audience is a unique challenge, but social media allows us to talk with students rather than talk at them. Q&A-style conversations help us successfully maintain communication with students online and on campus by providing a forum for questions about emergency preparedness. Through our FSU Alert accounts, we’re also able to address specific incidents on campus (for example, a fire alarm going off in a library) in an informal, peer-to-peer fashion, like this recent exchange:

We’ve worked hard to establish our credibility on campus as a trusted source of information. We’ve made great strides in combating social media’s greatest challenge - rumor control. Regardless of a rumor’s subject – class being cancelled due to weather, a faculty member receiving a threat, etc. – FSU Alert is the center point in crisis communications on campus.

Florida state alert signageOne example of a graphic we use on our social media channels to further educate the university community about FSU Alerts

We continue to collaborate with University Communications to determine the best timing and messaging possible during in an emergency setting, and to share accurate, timely information.

We’re proud to say that the time and energy that we’ve put into growing our presence on social media has paid off, evidenced by our  5,400 Facebook likes and over 7,000 Twitter followers. We’ve also branched out to include platforms like Tumblr, Instagram, Pinterest, LinkedIn, and Youtube to create a broad presence in the social media realm. 

Regardless of numbers and figures, possibly our greatest point of pride is the relationship we’ve built with our students. When reaching out to a generation that thrives online, the overwhelming possibilities social media platforms provide should not be overlooked.  By embracing social media and incorporating it into our communications outreach, FSU Alert is better positioned to establish a culture of safety and preparedness with our students.

Social media has become increasingly important to crisis communications both at Florida State University and elsewhere.  Social media isn’t the whole solution to creating a campus that is well prepared for emergencies. There’s no singular way to accomplish this goal.  Through our timeliness, reliability and wit, FSU Alert has garnered the attention and trust of our audience and we couldn’t be more pleased.  

FSU Alert can be found on…

Facebook: www.facebook.com/FSUAlert

Twitter: www.twitter.com/FSUAlert

Pinterest: www.pinterest.com/FSUAlert

Tumblr: www.fsualert.tumblr.com

Instagram: www.instagram.com/FSUAlert

LinkedIn: www.linkedin.com/pub/fsu-alert/53/456/824

YouTube: www.youtube.com/user/MyFSUAlert

Florida state alert logo

Editor’s Note: The views expressed in this blog post do not necessarily represent the official views of FEMA, the Department of Homeland Security, or the United States Government. We are providing links to third party sites and organizations for your reference. FEMA does not endorse any non-government entities, ogranziations or services.

What We’re Watching: 9/6/13

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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.

PrepareAthon! Launch

prepareathon information boothWashington, D.C., Sep. 5, 2013 -- A representative from The Great ShakeOut provides information on earthquake preparedness to a participant at America's PrepareAthon!. America's PrepareAthon! is a nationwide, community-based campaign for action to increase emergency preparedness and resilience.

In case you missed it, yesterday FEMA and several of our key partners launched America’s PrepareAthon!.  The PrepareAthon! is all about encouraging emergency preparedness through community engagement and simple actions. Things like practicing earthquake safety during the October 17 Great ShakeOut, or attending a preparedness fair in your area during National Preparedness Month – those are what the PreapreAthon! encourages people to participate in.


people ducking under a tableWashington, D.C., Sep. 5, 2013 -- During America's PrepareAthon!, The Great ShakeOut conducted an earthquake drill encouraging participants to Drop, Cover, and Hold On during an earthquake.

PrepareAthon! has some great momentum thanks to yesterday’s kickoff event at the National Academy of Sciences.  We had a live Twitter chat on the new @PrepareAthon handle busting a few of the “myths of preparedness” along with our partners. And senior leaders spoke about recent research from the National Academy of Sciences and FEMA about “moving the needle” of emergency preparedness across the country:

gentleman speaking at podiumWashington, D.C., Sep. 5, 2013 -- Ellis M. Stanley, Sr., Chair, Committee on Increasing National Resilience to Hazards and Disasters for the National Academy of Sciences encourages individual preparedness at the PrepareAthon!.


administrator fugate speaks at podiumWashington, D.C., Sep. 5, 2013 -- FEMA Administrator, Craig Fugate urges individuals to take simple preparedness steps during America's PrepareAthon.

I hope you’ll join in the spirit of America’s PrepareAthon! and join in the upcoming Great ShakeOut earthquake drill on October 17, or by linking up with an event in your area during National Preparedness Month!

Ready Kids

And in keeping with the emergency preparedness theme, I wanted to remind you of a newly launched section of Ready.gov, specifically for getting kids prepared for emergencies.  It’s at Ready.gov/kids and has sections for parents, educators, and of course, kids.  As one example of what you’ll find on the site, here’s a kid-friendly template for making a family communication plan:

preparedness checklist

If you’re looking for continual updates from Ready, check out their Facebook and Twitter accounts!

With that, have a safe weekend!

Innovating to Improve Disaster Response and Recovery

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Editor's Note: This was originally posted on the White House blog, September 3, 2013. Todd Park is Assistant to the President and US Chief Technology Officer. Rich Serino is the Deputy Administrator of FEMA.

Last week, the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) jointly challenged a group of over 80 top innovators from around the country to come up with ways to improve disaster response and recovery efforts.  This diverse group of stakeholders, consisting of representatives from Zappos, Airbnb, Marriott International, the Parsons School of Design, AOL/Huffington Post’s Social Impact, The Weather Channel, Twitter, Topix.com, Twilio, New York City, Google and the Red Cross, to name a few, spent an entire day at the White House collaborating on ideas for tools, products, services, programs, and apps that can assist disaster survivors and communities.
 
This collaboration is a great example of this Administration’s commitment to convening private-sector talent and innovators to work with public servants in order to deliver better results for the American people. The event mobilized innovators from the private sector, nonprofits, artistic organizations, and Federal as well as local government agencies to develop solutions that support and integrate both public and private efforts for disaster relief.  It also comes as our Nation prepares for what is usually the peak of Hurricane Season.  In fact, the two-year anniversary of Hurricane Irene fell last week, and the one-year anniversary of Hurricane Sandy is approaching.
 
During the “Data Jam/Think Tank,” we discussed response and recovery challenges with the participants and other Federal leaders, including Patricia Hoffman, Assistant Secretary at the Department of Energy and Dr. Nicole Lurie, Assistant Secretary at the Department of Health and Human Services.  The participants then broke into subgroups to brainstorm innovative ideas for addressing those challenges, vote on the best ideas, and commit to implementing them.

Below are some of the ideas that were developed throughout the day. In the case of the first two ideas, participants wrote code and created actual working prototypes. 

  • A real-time communications platform that allows survivors dependent on electricity-powered medical devices to text or call in their needs—such as batteries, medication, or a power generator—and connect those needs with a collaborative transportation network to make real-time deliveries. 
  • A technical schema that tags all disaster-related information from social media and news sites – enabling municipalities and first responders to better understand all of the invaluable information generated during a disaster and help identify where they can help.
  • A Disaster Relief Innovation Vendor Engine (DRIVE) which aggregates pre-approved vendors for disaster-related needs, including transportation, power, housing, and medical supplies, to make it as easy as possible to find scarce local resources.
  • A crowdfunding platform for small businesses and others to receive access to capital to help rebuild after a disaster, including a rating system that encourages rebuilding efforts that improve the community.
  • Promoting preparedness through talk shows, working closely with celebrities, musicians, and children to raise awareness.
  • A “community power-go-round” that, like a merry-go-round, can be pushed to generate electricity and additional power for battery-charged devices including cell phones or a Wi-Fi network to provide community internet access.
  • Aggregating crowdsourced imagery taken and shared through social media sites to help identify where trees have fallen, electrical lines have been toppled, and streets have been obstructed.
  • A kid-run local radio station used to educate youth about preparedness for a disaster and activated to support relief efforts during a disaster that allows youth to share their experiences.

Before ending the brainstorm, participants committed to taking responsibility for turning these ideas into tangible actions. We will be excited to see how these materialize into impactful projects that will support disaster response and recovery efforts. Our sincere thanks to all of the participants!