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This Building Season, Learning from the Past as We Improve the Future

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One year ago, on May 20, 2013, Moore, Oklahoma experienced a deadly tornado that devastated the area. Less than one year from the event new homes became safer.

On April 17, 2014, Moore, Oklahoma, became the first in the nation to establish building code requirements to make residential buildings able to withstand the forces of an EF2 tornado. Building Code Amendments stand out as a great example of managing risk and improving building safety.

The code amendment, including requirements for roof sheathing, hurricane straps and stud spacing, is designed so that the homes can withstand winds up to 135 miles per hour. The garage door, often a weak point in buildings, is also required to be rated for 135-mph winds.

Homes built to a similar level of construction in the Wild Flower subdivision in Oklahoma City experienced damage during the May 20, 2013, tornado, and stayed structurally intact through much higher wind than they were initially designed for. The new requirements are intended to reduce the number of damaged homes and reduce the severity of that damage in lower-level tornadoes.

On October 29, 2012, Hurricane Sandy blew across the Jersey shore and downgraded to a tropical cyclone. Though it weakened in strength, it still devastated many small boroughs like Sea Bright. Many of the quaint homes that made the township unique were reduced to rubble, causing Sea Bright to look like a landfill.

For homeowner Bernard Bertino and builder Ray Guzman, building above the code standards saved their adjoining townhomes from the massive flooding that wreaked havoc on their community.

After the storm passed, both Bertino and Guzman were happy to see their homes were high and dry after the river flooded their neighborhood. Although Sandy flooded their first floor garages with nearly four feet of water, the structures sustained no flood damage because they installed flood vents in the garage. The vents allowed floodwaters to flow easily through the structure by minimizing the pressure from the force of water during impact.

When Guzman and his architect, Paul Damiano, constructed the two townhomes in 2011, they were adamant about building flood-resistant properties and wanted to build exactly to local code.

The homes were elevated to the Base Flood Elevation (BFE) plus two feet of freeboard as required by the Flood Damage Prevention Ordinance within the local building regulation. The first floor has extra reinforcement around the cement block to add support during flooding as an added mitigation measure.

All the utilities in the homes are well above the BFE on the second and third floors. Since none of the utilities were located in the garage, the owners were able to have electricity restored to their homes when the Borough of Sea Bright allowed residents to return three weeks later.

The only damage either of the structures sustained by Sandy was the loss of one shingle. It was damaged by wind-borne debris.

We observe National Building Safety Month each spring as many of us and our communities begin construction projects that will improve our homes and neighborhoods.

It’s during this “building season” that we have an opportunity to implement building safety solutions that not only help to protect ourselves and our families, but also support the needs of our communities.

At FEMA, we know that building safety and hazard mitigation provide value to the American people by creating safer communities, enabling individuals and communities to recover more rapidly from disasters, and lessening the financial impact of disasters on States, Tribes, and local communities like yours.

While we may not be able to stop natural disasters from occurring, we can all take steps to reduce their impact by building stronger and safer.

Learn more about protecting homes, communities, and businesses.

Opening of the National Mobile Disaster Hospital Marks a Milestone in Mississippi’s Recovery

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 Louisville, Miss., May 11, 2014 -- Details of the equipment and mobile hospital facility that has been made available to the residents of Winston County. Residents in Jones, Leake, Montgomery, Simpson, Wilson and Warren counties whose property was damaged by the recent storms, tornadoes and flooding in Mississippi may now apply for federal assistance, and are encouraged to apply to FEMA by calling (800) 621-3362, (TTY) (800) 462-7585, or by applying online at www.DisasterAssistance.gov. Louisville, Miss., May 11, 2014 -- Details of the equipment and mobile hospital facility that has been made available to the residents of Winston County. Residents in Jones, Leake, Montgomery, Simpson, Wilson and Warren counties whose property was damaged by the recent storms, tornadoes and flooding in Mississippi may now apply for federal assistance, and are encouraged to apply to FEMA by calling (800) 621-3362, (TTY) (800) 462-7585, or by applying online at www.DisasterAssistance.gov.

On Monday, May 19, I had the great honor and pleasure to be among local, state and federal officials at the opening of the National Mobile Disaster Hospital in Louisville, Miss. It will be used to temporarily replace the Winston Medical Center which was heavily damaged during the April 28 tornado outbreak.

This is the first time the National Mobile Disaster Hospital will be used as a fully operational hospital.  

Leading up to this milestone, local, state and federal partners have faced extraordinarily complex and challenging issues and through the collaborative teamwork of all stakeholders, we have moved forward to work through problems and arrive at solutions that benefit all residents of Winston County.

Mississippi Governor Phil Bryant and FEMA Administrator Craig Fugate led the opening ceremony, along with Louisville Mayor Will Hill, Mississippi Emergency Management Agency Chief of Staff Bill Brown and Mississippi State Department of Health State Health Officer Dr. Mary Currier.  

Speaking to the news media and the public about the importance of local healthcare and the federal government’s role in whole community recovery, Governor Bryant crystalized the local impact saying “this is a sign post on the road to recovery that says, ‘Hospital is open.’  It means so much because we would have lost every doctor and every nurse.”

Winston County now has a fully operational temporary hospital, complete with a 5-bed emergency department, 10-bed acute care module, along with typical services found in a hospital environment including an X-ray unit, inpatient pharmacy, and a clinical lab.

Administrator Fugate said “Recovering from disasters takes a team effort. Today’s event is an important step in reviving local services in Louisville. Together, we continue the hard work of supporting the community to get back on its feet.”

As I listened to each speaker, I was overwhelmed by the heartfelt words and expressions of thanks to the big team effort expressed to local, state, federal, private sector and volunteer partners who worked together overcoming many obstacles to get the hospital transported, inventoried, assembled and opened within three weeks of the April 28 tornadoes.

 Louisville, Miss., May 6, 2014 -- Volunteers from the North Carolina Baptist Men are working to set up the Department of Homeland Security/FEMA mobile hospital in Louisville, Miss., after the local hospital was damaged by the tornado on April 28th. Bill Koplitz/FEMA Louisville, Miss., May 6, 2014 -- Volunteers from the North Carolina Baptist Men are working to set up the Department of Homeland Security/FEMA mobile hospital in Louisville, Miss., after the local hospital was damaged by the tornado on April 28th. Bill Koplitz/FEMA

Mayor Will Hill said it best, “For the idea to have a temporary hospital three weeks ago, to be a reality in less than three weeks, I really didn’t even think it was possible. But it’s just great to get our employees back to work.”

I am proud of the collective effort put forth by everyone assisting in getting this temporary hospital assembled and operational. It is great to see cooperation among all our recovery partners who worked together to overcome many challenges. I’d like to extend my sincere thanks to the state of Mississippi and residents in Winston County for allowing me to share in your celebration of the newly opened temporary Winston Medical Center. I assure you that your federal partners will support you throughout the recovery process.

Photo Recap: Disaster Recovery Underway Across the U.S.

We’ve had an active winter and spring as we head into the summer months. We have photographers deployed to several states capturing the impacts of severe weather, along with response and recovery efforts underway for events ranging from the SR 530 mudslide in Washington to severe storms and tornadoes that swept through several states in the South.

Since I working closely with our field photographers, I see some incredible images come across my desk. I wanted to share some of these photos that show some of the great work being done on the ground. We remain committed to helping disaster survivors in their time of need recover from these devastating events and encourage everyone to visit the state’s disaster page for updates on ongoing recovery efforts: Washington, Mississippi, Alabama, Florida, and Arkansas.

To see more photos from these states or other photos, visit the FEMA Media Library.

 Ensley, FL, May 21, 2014 -- FEMA Disability Integration Coordinator, Mike Houston uses sign language to communicate with disaster survivor, Paul Barnes Jr.. FEMA deaf interpreter, Ronda Reinkel and FEMA Corps registrar, Marie Orechoff assist Mr. Barnes in applying for Federal disaster assistance after torrential rain from a pair of thunderstorm triggered major flash flooding in his Pensacola neighborhood. Andrea Booher/FEMA Ensley, FL, May 21, 2014 -- FEMA Disability Integration Coordinator, Mike Houston uses sign language to communicate with disaster survivor, Paul Barnes Jr.. FEMA deaf interpreter, Ronda Reinkel and FEMA Corps registrar, Marie Orechoff assist Mr. Barnes in applying for Federal disaster assistance after torrential rain from a pair of thunderstorm triggered major flash flooding in his Pensacola neighborhood. Andrea Booher/FEMA

 Pensacola, FL, May 15, 2014 -- Disaster Survivor Assistance Team (DSAT) member Marie Orechoff checks on the FEMA application status of Toni Talley in Brownsville, Florida. Andrea Booher/FEMA Pensacola, FL, May 15, 2014 -- Disaster Survivor Assistance Team (DSAT) member Marie Orechoff checks on the FEMA application status of Toni Talley in Brownsville, Florida. Andrea Booher/FEMA

 Crescent Lake, Fla., May 10, 2014 -- FEMA Corps members Stacy Kolcum and David Curry answer FEMA application questions of Crescent Lake residents, Bruce and Kimberly Wakefield. Kolcum and Curry are members of FEMA's Disaster Survivor Assistance Team (DSAT) who were deployed to Florida following major flash flooding along parts of the Florida Panhandle. Andrea Booher/FEMA Crescent Lake, Fla., May 10, 2014 -- FEMA Corps members Stacy Kolcum and David Curry answer FEMA application questions of Crescent Lake residents, Bruce and Kimberly Wakefield. Kolcum and Curry are members of FEMA's Disaster Survivor Assistance Team (DSAT) who were deployed to Florida following major flash flooding along parts of the Florida Panhandle. Andrea Booher/FEMA

 Kenyatta Jones, Amy James, Jara Mehca, Stephanie Morring, and Bo Price. Ed Edahl/FEMA Athens, Ala., May14, 2014 -- Local and not so local church members provided much appreciated labor and good cheer for survivors of the recent tornado. From left are: Kenyatta Jones, Amy James, Jara Mehca, Stephanie Morring, and Bo Price. Ed Edahl/FEMA

 Athenes, Ala., May 14, 2014 -- Storms, straight line winds and a tornado destroyed large patches of neighborhoods near Athens, Ala. Debris is a major expense for FEMA as well as the survivors. Ed Edahl/FEMA Athens, Ala., May 14, 2014 -- Storms, straight line winds and a tornado destroyed large patches of neighborhoods near Athens, Ala. Debris is a major expense for FEMA as well as the survivors. Ed Edahl/FEMA

 Athens, Ala., May 14, 2014 -- Contractors using chain saws, hand tools, and light mechanized machinery clear debris near Athens, Ala. FEMA is working to assist residents who have been impacted by the recent storms. Ed Edahl/FEMA Athens, Ala., May 14, 2014 -- Contractors using chain saws, hand tools, and light mechanized machinery clear debris near Athens, Ala. FEMA is working to assist residents who have been impacted by the recent storms. Ed Edahl/FEMA

 aerial photograph taken May 14 shows the progress made by the US Army Corps of Engineer's efforts to drain the water from the site. Top: aerial photograph taken the day after the SR 530 slide, March 23, which shows the debris and water that accumulated as a result of the slide. Bottom: aerial photograph taken May 14 shows the progress made by the US Army Corps of Engineer's efforts to drain the water from the site.

 Oso, Wash., May 19, 2014 -- Almost two months after the SR 530 slide, the view from the base of the collapsed hillside shows a portion of the area affected. The slide area measures 315 acres. Oso, Wash., May 19, 2014 -- Almost two months after the SR 530 slide, the view from the base of the collapsed hillside shows a portion of the area affected. The slide area measures 315 acres.

 Oso, Wash., May 19, 2014 -- An excavator removes debris from SR 530 after it was obstructed by a slide March 22. Efforts are underway to reopen the highway to the public. Oso, Wash., May 19, 2014 -- An excavator removes debris from SR 530 after it was obstructed by a slide March 22. Efforts are underway to reopen the highway to the public. - Location: , WA

 Oso, Wash., May 19, 2014 -- Workers clear State Route 530 of debris from a slide that took place March 22. Efforts are being made to reopen the highway. Oso, Wash., May 19, 2014 -- Workers clear State Route 530 of debris from a slide that took place March 22. Efforts are being made to reopen the highway.

 Mayflower, AR, May 17, 2014 – A Team Rubicon volunteer removes debris from a home and property on Plantation Drive after the home was destroyed by a tornado on April 27. FEMA supports Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster (VOAD) as they help survivors recover from natural disasters. Photo by Christopher Mardorf / FEMA. Mayflower, AR, May 17, 2014 – A Team Rubicon volunteer removes debris from a home and property on Plantation Drive after the home was destroyed by a tornado on April 27. FEMA supports Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster (VOAD) as they help survivors recover from natural disasters. Photo by Christopher Mardorf / FEMA.

 Mayflower, AR, May 17, 2014 – Team Rubicon volunteers remove debris from a home and property on Plantation Drive after the home was destroyed by a tornado on April 27. FEMA supports Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster (VOAD) as they help survivors recover from natural disasters. Photo by Christopher Mardorf / FEMA. Mayflower, AR, May 17, 2014 – Team Rubicon volunteers remove debris from a home and property on Plantation Drive after the home was destroyed by a tornado on April 27. FEMA supports Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster (VOAD) as they help survivors recover from natural disasters. Photo by Christopher Mardorf / FEMA.

 Vilonia, AR, May 19, 2014 –United Methodist Disaster Relief volunteers remove debris and install temporary mobile trailers after the Vilonia United Methodist Church was destroyed by a tornado on April 27. FEMA supports Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster (VOAD) as they help survivors recover from natural disasters. Photo by Christopher Mardorf / FEMA. Vilonia, AR, May 19, 2014 –United Methodist Disaster Relief volunteers remove debris and install temporary mobile trailers after the Vilonia United Methodist Church was destroyed by a tornado on April 27. FEMA supports Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster (VOAD) as they help survivors recover from natural disasters. Photo by Christopher Mardorf / FEMA.

 Pearl, Miss., May 17, 2014 -- The FEMA/Mississippi Emergency Management Agency (MEMA) Disaster Recovery Center table at the Pearl Day Festival. The table is staffed by FEMA's Doretha Fullard and Stacey Bluford and MEMA's Loretta Thorpe. Residents in Itawamba, Jones, Leake, Montgomery, Simpson, Warren, Lee, Lowdnes, Madison, Wayne, Rankin and Winston counties whose property was damaged by the recent storms, tornadoes and flooding in Mississippi may now apply for federal assistance, and are encouraged to apply, to FEMA by calling (800) 621-3362, (TTY) (800) 462-7585, or by applying online at www.DisasterAssistance.gov. FEMA/Bill Koplitz Pearl, Miss., May 17, 2014 -- The FEMA/Mississippi Emergency Management Agency (MEMA) Disaster Recovery Center table at the Pearl Day Festival. The table is staffed by FEMA's Doretha Fullard and Stacey Bluford and MEMA's Loretta Thorpe. Residents in Itawamba, Jones, Leake, Montgomery, Simpson, Warren, Lee, Lowdnes, Madison, Wayne, Rankin and Winston counties whose property was damaged by the recent storms, tornadoes and flooding in Mississippi may now apply for federal assistance, and are encouraged to apply, to FEMA by calling (800) 621-3362, (TTY) (800) 462-7585, or by applying online at www.DisasterAssistance.gov. FEMA/Bill Koplitz

 Columbus, Miss., May 15, 2014 -- Red Cross Volunteer from Jackson, Miss., Eons Catchings Sr. is standing at the back of his truck that he just drove to Columbus, Miss. with 185 30 pound boxes of food donated by the Mississippi Food Network in Jackson for the citizens of Columbus. The food willl be distributed by The Salvation Army. Residents in Itawamba, Jones, Leake, Montgomery, Simpson, Warren, Lee, Lowdnes, Madison, Wayne, Rankin and Winston counties whose property was damaged by the recent storms, tornadoes and flooding in Mississippi may now apply for federal assistance, and are encouraged to apply, to FEMA by calling (800) 621-3362, (TTY) (800) 462-7585, or by applying online at www.DisasterAssistance.gov. Bill Koplitz/FEMA Columbus, Miss., May 15, 2014 -- Red Cross Volunteer from Jackson, Miss., Eons Catchings Sr. is standing at the back of his truck that he just drove to Columbus, Miss. with 185 30 pound boxes of food donated by the Mississippi Food Network in Jackson for the citizens of Columbus. The food willl be distributed by The Salvation Army. Residents in Itawamba, Jones, Leake, Montgomery, Simpson, Warren, Lee, Lowdnes, Madison, Wayne, Rankin and Winston counties whose property was damaged by the recent storms, tornadoes and flooding in Mississippi may now apply for federal assistance, and are encouraged to apply, to FEMA by calling (800) 621-3362, (TTY) (800) 462-7585, or by applying online at www.DisasterAssistance.gov. Bill Koplitz/FEMA

What We're Watching: 5/9/14

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At the end of each week, we post a "What We’re Watching" blog as we look ahead to the weekend and recap events from the week. We encourage you to share it with your friends and family, and have a safe weekend.

 "We'll be here for the long haul" - Yesterday, President Obama visited with communities in Arkansas impacted by last week's tornadoes. He talked with some of the families who lost loved ones as a result of the tornadoes, as well as some of the first responders, recovery workers, and members of the National Guard that are helping the community recover. "We'll be here for the long haul" - Yesterday, President Obama visited with communities in Arkansas impacted by last week's tornadoes. He talked with some of the families who lost loved ones as a result of the tornadoes, as well as some of the first responders, recovery workers, and members of the National Guard that are helping the community recover.

Federal Assistance Available for Residents Impacted by Last Week’s Severe Storms

Following severe weather across the South and Southeast that resulted in tornadoes and flooding, President Obama declared major disasters in Mississippi, Alabama, Arkansas, and Florida, making assistance available to residents in designated counties who were affected by the storms. This week, President Obama visited Arkansas to view ongoing recovery efforts and pledged the nation’s continued support as those affected by the storms begin to recover. Take a look at these few photos of ongoing recovery efforts. Impacted residents in declared states to register for disaster assistance online at www.disasterassistance.gov or by calling 1-800-621-3362 or for TTY, call 1-800-462-7585 directly.

To find out if the county you live in is eligible for assistance, or for updates on recovery efforts, visit your state’s disaster page:

Here are a few photos of ongoing recovery efforts. For more photos, visit the FEMA Media Library.

 Louisville, Miss., May 5, 2014 -- Dwayne McKinley is cutting up downed trees with a chain saw at the Louisville Memorial Park Cemetery. Residents of Itawamba, Lee, Lowndes, Madison, Rankin, Wayne and Winston counties are eligible to register for assistance with FEMA. Louisville, Miss., May 5, 2014 -- Dwayne McKinley is cutting up downed trees with a chain saw at the Louisville Memorial Park Cemetery. Residents of Itawamba, Lee, Lowndes, Madison, Rankin, Wayne and Winston counties are eligible to register for assistance with FEMA.

 Mayflower, Ark., May 4, 2014 -- Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Secretary Jeh Johnson comforts a disaster survivor in the residential neighborhood of Plantation Drive in Mayflower, Arkansas, which was struck by an EF-4 tornado on April 27. FEMA supports local, state and tribal governments and assists individual survivors in their efforts to recover from natural disasters. Photo by Christopher Mardorf/FEMA - Location: Mayflower, AR Mayflower, Ark., May 4, 2014 -- Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Secretary Jeh Johnson comforts a disaster survivor in the residential neighborhood of Plantation Drive in Mayflower, Arkansas, which was struck by an EF-4 tornado on April 27. FEMA supports local, state and tribal governments and assists individual survivors in their efforts to recover from natural disasters. Photo by Christopher Mardorf/FEMA - Location: Mayflower, AR

 Louisville, Miss., May 6, 2014 -- Volunteers from the North Carolina Baptist Men are working to set up the Department of Homeland Security/FEMA mobile hospital in Louisville, Miss., after the local hospital was damaged by the tornado on April 28th. Bill Koplitz/FEMA Louisville, Miss., May 6, 2014 -- Volunteers from the North Carolina Baptist Men are working to set up the Department of Homeland Security/FEMA mobile hospital in Louisville, Miss., after the local hospital was damaged by the tornado on April 28th. Bill Koplitz/FEMA

Weather Outlook
Map of the U.S Weather Outlook.Map of the U.S Weather Outlook.

According to our friends at the National Weather Service, this Mother’s Day weekend has a whole range of possible weather conditions, depending on where you might be. Temperatures will near 90F in some areas, while others could see severe weather, and even snow and heavy rains. Find your local forecast at weather.gov.

If severe weather is expected in your area, remember:

  • Monitor your battery-powered radio or television for emergency information. 
  • Do not touch downed power lines or objects in contact with downed lines. Report downed power lines and electrical hazards to the police and the utility company. 
  • Injury may result from the direct impact of a tornado or it may occur afterward when people walk among debris and enter damaged buildings. Wear sturdy shoes or boots, long sleeves and gloves when handling or walking on or near debris. 
  • After a tornado, be aware of possible structural, electrical or gas-leak hazards in your home. Contact your local city or county building inspectors for information on structural safety codes and standards. They may also offer suggestions on finding a qualified contractor to do work for you.

Visit Ready.gov/severe-weather  for more tips on what to do if severe weather is expected in your area. You can also visit http://m.fema.gov for safety tips on your mobile device.

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