Blog

Main Content

Kentucky’s New CEOC Is a Positive Result of Federal and State Partnership

Author: 

inside large room in kentucky emergency operations centerThe new Kentucky Commonwealth Emergency Operations Center (CEOC) was unveiled on October 21, 2013 during a ribbon cutting ceremony attended by Gov. Steve Beshear, FEMA and state personnel. The $11.8 million dollar facility, built in part with FEMA grant funds, is outfitted with the latest technology and constructed to endure natural and man-made disasters (Photo Credit- KY National Guard).

On October 21, I had the pleasure of speaking at the ribbon cutting ceremony for the Kentucky Commonwealth Emergency Operations Center (CEOC).  The new CEOC, built with the help of a $10 million grant from FEMA’s Chemical Stockpile Emergency Preparedness Program, is a symbol of the great emergency management partnership we have with the Commonwealth of Kentucky.

At FEMA, we support our partners in disasters and during their preparedness effort on the days between. Grants to states, counties and first responders strengthen communities and prepare them for the challenges of a disaster. This new CEOC will ensure that Kentucky will have the tools they need to respond to any event. It’s rugged, has the latest technology and is a great match for the dedicated and experienced personnel who will staff the facility during a crisis.

The $11.8 million CEOC will act as the hub of operations for future emergencies. The building itself is designed to be durable, able to withstand winds up to 250 miles per hour.  In the event of an electrical grid failure, the entire CEOC can continue running on power from an 800 KW back-up generator.

large generatorThe $11.8 million CEOC will act as the hub of operations for future emergencies. The building itself is designed to be durable, able to withstand winds up to 250 miles per hour. In the event of an electrical grid failure, the entire CEOC can continue running on power from an 800 KW back-up generator. (Photo Credit- KY National Guard)

The two-story, 26,150 square-foot facility replaces the former CEOC built in the 1970s and has space for more than 220 emergency personnel during a disaster response. It is outfitted with state-of-the-art communications technology to ensure the effective coordination of responders during natural disasters and emergencies. At the ribbon cutting, the Governor spoke of stepping over staff working in hallways during the response to ice storms and tornados.  In the new CEOC, there will be space for all to work together to serve the Commonwealths citizens.

In addition to the grant for the construction of the CEOC, we are also funding the construction of Emergency Operations Centers for Clark, Fayette, Garrard, Jackson, Madison, Powell and Rockcastle counties in Kentucky. In total, FEMA will spend about $35 million in support of our partner, the great Commonwealth of Kentucky.

The ribbon cutting ceremony was a great day to see what we can accomplish by working together, but our job isn’t done. We’re always preparing for the next emergency to see what we can do better. But with a strong partnership in place and a new home for Kentucky responders, we’re making great progress toward a safer, disaster-resilient commonwealth.

kentucky governor given tour of kentucky operations centerKentucky’s Adjutant General, Maj. Gen. Edward W. Tonini explains to Governor Steve Beshear, features of the new Commonwealth Emergency Operations Center in Frankfort, Ky., Oct. 21, 2013. The tour followed the official ribbon cutting of the $11.8 million facility which took less than two years to complete. (U.S. Army National Guard photo by Staff Sgt. Scott Raymond)

What We’re Watching: 11/8/13

Author: 

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.

Honoring our Veterans

Photo of American Flag.Photo of American Flag. Attribution: By U.S. Navy photo by Photographer's Mate 2nd Class Dennis Cantrell [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Here at FEMA we’re fortunate to have veterans from all five branches of our nation’s military working at headquarters, in our regional offices and on the ground during disasters. We appreciate all that they have done by serving in the armed forces and all that they continue to do with their public service here at FEMA.

This Veterans Day, join us in honoring our nation’s veterans, especially those who have given the ultimate sacrifice for our freedoms.

Learn more about the history of Veterans Day.

Pass or Fail – Disaster Preparedness 101

Here at FEMA, we talk a lot about ensuring your family and friends are prepared for an emergency.  Well, recently FEMA’s own Director of Individual and Community Preparedness, Gwen Camp helped a family who thought they may be prepared determine whether they were really prepared for an emergency or not.  And if you think your family can use a review on what it means to really be prepared then head over to Ready.gov to take a few simple steps to get prepared.

Join our Team

Here at FEMA, we’re always looking to expand our team and recruit highly motivated people interested in a rewarding career in emergency management. Here are a few open positions within our Digital Engagement Team:

We’d love for you to join our team! Check out our Careers page to learn more about FEMA and browse through other opportunities that are available throughout the agency.

Have a great and safe weekend!

Building a teenage readiness club in Monson, Mass.

Author: 

Monson, Mass., July 7, 2011 -- The debris that was left behind by the June 1 tornado that hit the town of Monson and western Massachusetts. Alberto Pillot/FEMAMonson, Mass., July 7, 2011 -- The debris that was left behind by the June 1 tornado that hit the town of Monson and western Massachusetts. Alberto Pillot/FEMA

My name is Rachel Little and I am a junior attending Monson High School.  I have lived in Monson, Massachusetts, my whole life, and couldn’t have grown up in a better place.  My town is full of strong- willed, determined people, always willing to lend a helping hand. 

When a tornado struck our town on June 1st, 2011, it brought our small community even closer together.  Everyone was reaching out to give support, from supplying food or water, to giving neighbors hope for a better tomorrow.  It was a very moving event to watch.  Even though I was not directly affected by the tornado, I had people very near and dear to me in the path of the tornado.  I wanted to help out in whatever way I could, because I saw how much the people of Monson were suffering.  I couldn’t stand by and watch -- I had to take action.   

Therefore, I joined the Monson volunteer efforts and eventually became a member of The Street Angels.  The Street Angels is a dedicated volunteer group that brought supplies to families in need after the tornado,  and helped families make connections with landscapers and builders. My fellow Street Angels helped me fill out an application to become part of FEMA’s Youth Preparedness Council, and I am now going into my second year of being a proud member.  To me, the Youth Preparedness Council is the beginning of people realizing that youth can make a difference in emergency preparedness and response -- not just myself and the wonderful people of this council, but the world’s youth.   My fellow members and I are just the beginning of that change.

My plan for 2013 is to collaborate with the Medical Reserve Corps (MRC), or Community Emergency Response Team (CERT), to start a teen readiness club in my town.  I know a lot of people my age wanted to get involved after the 2011 Monson tornado, but they didn’t know how.  If either a Jr. MRC or a Teen CERT had already been in play before the tornado, Monson would have seen a significantly higher amount of youth action.   Being a member of the Youth Preparedness Council, my mission is to increase the amount of prepared youth and families in my region. 

I’ve also been trying to share emergency preparedness at my school.  I’ve hit significant road blocks during previous attempts at getting a teen readiness club up and running for Monson High School.  After last year’s Youth Preparedness Council summit in Washington DC, I had my heart set on starting a Teen CERT. The idea of getting my friends and classmates interested in preparedness and prepared for disasters was exciting.  I asked around to see if I could get a trainer to help me get the team started.  I found a man in my neighboring community who seemed very willing to help me out, but unfortunately, that fell through.

I turned to my Local Emergency Preparedness Committee, which was formed after the tornado.  Although I made a presentation to them and they liked my ideas, we weren't able to get the plans off the ground.  I did meet a woman in the Local Emergency Preparedness Committee meetings who happened to be the head of the MRC in my town, and she introduced me to Jr. MRC.   We’re still hoping to get the Jr. MRC started, and it’s a current work in progress.  I anticipate that the challenges for this year will again be finding someone to teach the course or help me with the establishment of the club.  I have a backup plan, so that if things fall through, I will take the Teen CERT “train the trainer” course so I can teach a class myself. 

As a result of starting Teen CERT or Jr. MRC in Monson, I want to see this little community become prepared for future emergencies.  I hope never to see another disaster to the extent of the tornado ever again, but it’s better safe than sorry.  I will know I’ve met success when I have a fully functioning teen readiness club in Monson High School.  From there, I can only hope to expand my efforts to other communities and beyond. 

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, organizations or services.

Implementing High School Emergency Preparedness While Staying True to Your Culture

Author: 

Yarmouth, Maine, Sep. 9, 2013 -- Assistant Principal Josh Ottow (center) talks about emergency preparedness with Yarmouth High School students on the opening day of school.Yarmouth, Maine, Sep. 9, 2013 -- Assistant Principal Josh Ottow (center) talks about emergency preparedness with Yarmouth High School students on the opening day of school.

My name is Josh Ottow, and I am the assistant principal at Yarmouth High School in Maine. Yarmouth is a suburban town of approximately 8,000 residents and 1,400 students, with 500 students at our high school. I serve on a team of administrators that helps plan for security and emergency preparedness in our district. Currently, we have an emergency management protocol that applies to all schools, and has additional specific information and plans for individual schools.  

We feel that Yarmouth High School is already a safe school, in that we foster a trusting and respectful school culture, where positive relationships between students and teachers are of the utmost importance. For example, we do not have locks on our lockers, bells between classes, or hall passes. It’s important to us to add measures that make our school more prepared for emergencies without losing that trusting culture.  

This can be a challenge because, in the eyes, of students, things like locked doors, buzz-in systems, cameras in the parking lot, and lockdown drills can feel like we are assuming the worst in them, as opposed to trusting them to do the right thing.  

At Yarmouth High School, the centerpiece of our emergency preparedness is having a strong Advisor/Advisee program. We believe in the innate strength and potential of a small group of students working together with an advising adult for four years. A student’s advisor is a person to rely on for advice, information, and genuine help and support in moments of distress.  Each teacher’s group of advisees comprises a unique combination of students, who might not otherwise have become friends. We see this as an opportunity for students to offer support and receive support from a group that will be a constant in students’ life for four years at Yarmouth High School. Because of our commitment to this program, we knew that it would be critical to our emergency preparedness implementation efforts.

Over the past year we spent considerable time in our Advisor/Advisee groups, talking about new emergency preparedness measures. The key is doing so in the context of keeping our school culture intact and making the school a safer place. One way we approach this is by employing discussion questions in our Advisor/Advisee groups to stimulate conversation, build understanding within our student body, and give students an opportunity to share their opinions and concerns. Example questions include:

  • What makes Yarmouth High School a secure place?
  • What makes the culture of Yarmouth High School unique?
  • Do you feel safe at Yarmouth High School?
  • Do you know what you would do in an emergency at school? Do you feel prepared?
  • What can we, as a school, do to ensure that we foster and maintain our positive, trusting, and respectful culture AND have a more secure school?

Teachers are advised to be sensitive to potential stress-level increase and emotional reactions surrounding these discussions, and are aware that student reactions may vary widely, and everyone’s opinion should be given its due. Our hope is that this conversation is honest and impactful for students as they wrestle with these tough issues.  We are also hoping that this conversation spills into “dinner time” talk with their parents at home. Parents are always invited to play a contributing role in these emergency preparedness plans via community-based forums, where they can express their opinions, make requests, and give suggestions.

Another method that we use to address emergency preparedness is collecting direct feedback from students. For example, we ask students (through their Advisor/Advisee groups) for feedback on our response plan and suggestions for future protocols each time we hold a lockdown drill. Advisors are given a detailed, play-by-play lockdown drill guide that they go over with their advisees after each drill. Sometimes, we get great suggestions from the students that we may not have thought about otherwise.

For example, during a recent lockdown drill we asked students to hand over their phones to their teacher. One student asked his Advisor why we did that, and he was told that one reason was to minimize light and noise coming from the classroom.  In response, he suggested that teachers should also close the lids of their laptops, because his teacher had his laptop open during the lockdown and it was emitting light. This was not something we had specified in the plan and may not have thought to add if this student hadn’t brought it up. Advisors have access to a shared online document where they can note these suggestions, and then we talk about the responses and potentially revising our plans at a school-wide faculty meeting.  

Our emergency preparedness efforts in the past several months, from new plans and new equipment to authentic and honest discussions amongst students and staff, have shown me that involving students and being open with them about how preparedness measures could impact school culture is the best way to ensure a safe and positive school.

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, organizations or services.

Back to Top