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College Football Championship + Campus Safety = Social Media Success

 Aurburn, Ala., January 3, 2014 -- Auburn University Mascot, Aubie, holds a sign with the Auburn vs. Florida State campus preparedness social media competition during an Auburn Basketball. Aurburn, Ala., January 3, 2014 -- Auburn University Mascot, Aubie, holds a sign with the Auburn vs. Florida State campus preparedness social media competition during an Auburn Basketball.

When Florida State University (FSU) and Auburn University (AU) met on January 6th for the BCS National Championship Game, it wasn’t just the football teams that went to battle.  For several weeks, the emergency management offices at both universities had been engaged in a fierce competition on another field – social media.

Created in the competitive spirit of the BCS Championship Game, the BCS Social Media in Emergency Management (#SMEM) Challenge between FSU and AU was launched on December 16, 2013.  The competition was designed to engage students, faculty and staff, as well as members of the local community, in the universities’ emergency management programs, with the underlying goal of promoting the culture of preparedness and safety on both campuses.  For three weeks, the programs competed in 11 different categories based on factors such as the overall increase in Twitter followers and Facebook likes, number of engagements on Twitter and Facebook, and submissions and votes in a photo contest, all tracked on a daily leader board.

 Tallahassee, Fla., December 10, 2013 -- Florida State University students and fans participate in the Florida State University v. Auburn Social Media in Emergency Management Challenge. Tallahassee, Fla., December 10, 2013 -- Florida State University students and fans participate in the Florida State University v. Auburn Social Media in Emergency Management Challenge.

Congratulations Intl Assoc of Emergency Managers Student Chapter at FSU for their winning #KeepFSUSafe fan sign photo pic.twitter.com/W4Hy4aDlBj

— FSU ALERT (@FSUAlert) January 7, 2014

“The concept of a SMEM competition actually began back in October between myself and Scott Burnotes, the Emergency Management Director at the University of Miami,” said Dave Bujak, the Emergency Management Coordinator at FSU.  “We just didn’t have enough time to put it together for our November annual rivalry matchup.  When Auburn popped into the BCS National Championship with us, I contacted Susan McCallister (AU’s Associate Director for Public Safety Information and Education), and we spent a week finalizing the details.”

Social media has become an important tool for both government and private sector organizations to communicate with key stakeholders before, during and after emergencies. Through platforms like Facebook, Twitter and YouTube, information about emergencies, and how to prepare for them, can be quickly and effectively communicated to a large audience.   The use of social media also helps create a dialogue between emergency managers and those directly affected by a crisis or disaster, providing greater insight into various aspects of preparing for and responding to emergency situations.

Follow @FSUAlert to help FSU beat out Auburn at the #SMEM challenge! Help #KeepFSUSafe and keep the #BCS spirit high!

— Florida State SGA (@FSUSGA) January 6, 2014

BEFORE 11AM CT!! Submit a photo to help us #BeatFSU. Take your pic with a #KeepAUSafe sign, tweet it with #KeepAUSafe. Simple as that.

— AU Emergency Mgmt (@AUEmergencyMgmt) January 6, 2014

When the SMEM competition began, AU’s emergency management office had just started its social media outreach program.  Through the challenge, the university’s Public Safety and Emergency Management Facebook page experienced a 2,004 percent growth in ‘likes’ in only three weeks, helping the school establish a social media audience that rivals several institutions with long-standing SMEM programs.

“This has been a great way for us to launch our new non-emergency social media sites,” said AU’s Susan McCallister.  “I highly recommend this type of friendly competition to others – it’s a great way to get your campus engaged.”

The challenge also highlighted the universities’ partnerships with local, city, and state emergency management organizations, and emphasized the important role the local community plays in their emergency preparedness efforts.  According to Bujak, “the campaign has given us the opportunity to thank and recognize our community partners who work with us to keep the FSU community safe.”

Although FSU emerged victorious by a very slim margin when the final results were tallied, both institutions agree that the program has gone a long way in promoting the importance of emergency preparedness, and hope that the challenge serves as an inspiration to other campuses. “Our #KeepFSUSafe or #KeepAUSafe social media posts were viewed over 2.7 million times by our respective audiences,” notes Bujak.  “If nothing else, that exposure alone has made all of this worthwhile.”

Other resources:

What We’re Watching: 1/3/14

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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.

Winter Storm Update

People across the country are being impacted by severe winter weather. According to our friends at the National Weather Service, another winter storm is expected to affect the Central and Eastern U.S soon. The storm is currently developing over the Northern Rockies and Plains with blizzard conditions forecast for many areas in the Northern Plains. Extreme low temperatures and dangerous wind chill are expected for many parts of the Central and Eastern U.S., and there’s a chance of heavy snow from the mid-Mississippi Valley to the Great Lakes on Saturday and into northern New England on Sunday.

If severe winter weather is expected in your area, here are some safety tips to keep in mind:

  • Stay up to date with your latest forecast – visit weather.gov or mobile.weather.gov on your smartphone for the latest conditions in your area.
  • Listen to local officials – stay tuned to the news and listen to directions from local officials.
  • Limit travel during a storm – only venture out on the roads if it’s absolutely necessary. If you must travel, let someone know your destination, the route you plan to take and when you expect to arrive.
  • Have an emergency kit in your vehicle – if a winter storm develops suddenly, have supplies on hand in case you’re stranded in your vehicle.
  • Take precautions for power outages – winter storms often cause power outages, so be sure your family and home take steps to sustain yourselves for at least 72 hours

For more winter safety tips, visit Ready.gov/winter or http://m.fema.gov on your mobile device.

New Year – New Resolution

We’re three days into 2014 and it’s not too late to make your New Year’s Resolution! Why not make a resolution to ensure you and your loved ones are better prepared for an emergency?

Having a family communication plan is the first step to ensuring you and your family are prepared for an emergency. It’s also a great way to talk to your kids about emergency preparedness and incorporating them in getting prepared.

So this year, make a family communication plan that answers – who to call, where to meet and what to pack.  That’s it, a basic family communication plan that answers those three questions. Simple enough, right?

Keeping our New Year’s Resolutions can be tough, but making these plans to ensure you and your family members are prepared is simple and can make all the difference in an emergency.

Happy New Year!

What We’re Watching: 12/20/13

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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.

A Potentially Stormy Holiday

According to our friends at the National Weather Service, a storm system is set to track across the nation this weekend, impacting states in a variety of ways and potentially disrupting holiday travel. Here’s the latest forecast from the NWS:

  • Heavy rain is forecast from the lower Mississippi River Valley to the Ohio Valley this weekend with a risk for flash flooding.
  • A wintry mix, including freezing rain and snow, is possible from the central Great Plains, through the Great Lakes and to northern New England this weekend.
  • The NWS Storm Prediction Center (SPC) has indicated a Moderate Risk of severe thunderstorms on Saturday, with possible tornadoes, for portions of the Lower Mississippi Valley.
  • Severe thunderstorms are possible from the Central Gulf Coast/Lower Mississippi Valley into the Ohio Valley Saturday.

As you travel to visit friends and loved ones for the holidays, we encourage you to exercise caution and monitor weather conditions as they change. Stay up-to-date on weather conditions in your area by visit weather.gov or mobile.weather.gov on your mobile device.  Also, visit Ready.gov for more winter weather safety tips and other great resources!

Be Prepared in 2014!

 who to call, where to meet and what to pack. User this image as your Facebook and Twitter cover photo graphics to get your community prepared in 2014. Resolve to be Ready campaign focuses on 'Family Connection' to reinforce the importance of parents including their children in preparedness conversations in advance of potential disasters.

With the New Year around the corner, it’s time to make our resolutions. Why not Resolve to be Ready for an emergency?

This year, we’re continuing our Resolve to be Ready campaign with an emphasis on 'Family Connections' – reinforcing the importance of getting kids involved in preparedness conversations in advance of an emergency. We’re making your emergency preparedness resolution easy to keep this year with three simple tips when making a plan: who to call, where to meet and what to pack.

Here’s what you can do:

  • Make a family communication plan that answers – who to call, where to meet and what to pack.
  • Join our Thunderclap on Facebook and Twitter and share a New Year's resolution of preparedness with your followers. How does Thunderclap work? Once you sign up, Thunderclap will sync your social media accounts to release an automatic Facebook post, Tweet or both on January, 1, 2014 at 12:30 PM reminding your friends and followers to make a family emergency plan.
  • Use #Prepared2014 in your social media messaging throughout 2014 to remind your friends and followers to be prepared for emergencies all year long.
  • Share preparedness messages from the Ready Facebook and Twitter feeds.

Visit ready.gov/prepared2014 for more information on how you can Resolve to be Ready in 2014!

Photos of the Week

Here are a few of our favorite photos that came into our Photo Library this week.

Forest Hills, N.Y., December 17, 2013 -- United States Marine Sgt. Nail, from the 6th Communications Battalion, is greeted by Federal Coordinating Officer Willie Nunn. The Marines came to FEMA's Joint Field Office in Queens to pick up toys donated by FEMA workers for the "Toys for Tots" charity. K.C.Wilsey/FEMAForest Hills, N.Y., December 17, 2013 -- United States Marine Sgt. Nail, from the 6th Communications Battalion, is greeted by Federal Coordinating Officer Willie Nunn. The Marines came to FEMA's Joint Field Office in Queens to pick up toys donated by FEMA workers for the "Toys for Tots" charity. K.C.Wilsey/FEMA


East Peoria, Ill., December 17, 2013 -- FEMA Public Information Officer Art Alejandre, does an interview in Spanish with Univision at a local Disaster Recovery Center to encourage local residents impacted by the November tornadoes to apply for FEMA assistance. Local residents who suffered damages or losses are encouraged to apply to FEMA for disaster assistance by calling (800) 621-3362, (TTY) (800) 462-7585, or by applying online at www.DisasterAssistance.gov. Jocelyn Augustino/FEMAEast Peoria, Ill., December 17, 2013 -- FEMA Public Information Officer Art Alejandre, does an interview in Spanish with Univision at a local Disaster Recovery Center to encourage local residents impacted by the November tornadoes to apply for FEMA assistance. Local residents who suffered damages or losses are encouraged to apply to FEMA for disaster assistance by calling (800) 621-3362, (TTY) (800) 462-7585, or by applying online at www.DisasterAssistance.gov. Jocelyn Augustino/FEMA

Santa Clara, N.M., December 16, 2013 -- Deputy Tribal Coordinating Officer Michael Chavarria is charged with a project on restoration of the Santa Clara Pueblo’s ancient tribal lands, which were damaged after recent fires. Adam DuBrowa/ FEMASanta Clara, N.M., December 16, 2013 -- Deputy Tribal Coordinating Officer Michael Chavarria is charged with a project on restoration of the Santa Clara Pueblo’s ancient tribal lands, which were damaged after recent fires. Adam DuBrowa/ FEMA

New Topics on Our Online Collaboration Tool

We’ve recently launched a few new topics on our online collaboration tool and as always, we want to hear your thoughts and ideas. Head on over and share your ideas, comment on others ideas, and vote for your favorite.

That’s it for today’s What We’re Watching. On behalf of everyone at FEMA, we wish you and your family a wonderful and safe holiday!

History is a great teacher

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meeting with tornado survivor Washington, Ill., December 5, 2013 -- Rev. David Myers, left, Senior Advisor to the FEMA Administrator/Director Center of Faith-based & Neighborhood Partnerships, speaks to First Baptist Church Pastor Joshua Monda who is helping some of his parishioners with cleanup in areas impacted by the recent tornadoes. Myers met with Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster groups to discuss responses to the disaster and discuss coordination and collaboration between partners. Jocelyn Augustino/FEMA

History is a great teacher. 

Associate Pastor Ben Davidson of Bethany Community Church learned a valuable lesson during Hurricane Katrina in 2005 that benefitted him and his congregation the morning of Nov. 17, 2013, when a powerful tornado tore through Washington IL. 

His quick thinking reminds me when disasters occur; having a plan can save lives and help pivot a community toward a strong recovery. I have learned this lesson many times through the faith leaders I’ve engaged as director of the DHS Center for Faith-based & Neighborhood Partnerships.

On Sunday morning Pastor Davidson was preparing to begin his adult Sunday school class, when he received an emergency phone call.  A tornado had touched down and their church was in its path.

Immediately he and the staff worked to move the congregation --particularly the children -- to their designated shelter in the church location and they began to pray together as the storm passed through their community. 

The entire congregation comforted one another through what Pastor Davidson recalls as "the longest 45 minutes of my life." Once all congregants were accounted for and that families could leave the sheltered location Pastor Davidson immediately went home to confirm the safety of his children who were at home sick that morning.  

Immediately following the disaster, Bethany Community Church joined its fellow members of the Washington Ministerial Association, AmeriCorps and the Illinois Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster to help coordinate the community’s recovery efforts. 

meeting with pastor in washington illinoisWashington, Ill., December 5, 2013 -- Associate Pastor Ben Davidson, right, of Bethany Community Church shows Rev. David Myers, Senior Advisor to the FEMA Administrator/Director Center of Faith-based & Neighborhood Partnerships, supplies that have been donated to help local residents impacted by the recent tornadoes. Jocelyn Augustino/FEMA

Since the devastating event, more than 4,000 community volunteers have registered with Bethany Community Church to help their loved ones and neighbors during disasters.  Their effort and commitment will help to increase the community’s resilience and ensure they are better prepared for emergencies.

The story of Washington, IL, and Bethany Community Church is a reminder of the care and compassion that faith-based organizations can provide all survivors in times of disaster. Their story reinforces the power of a whole community, “survivor centric” approach and the important role and responsibility of faith leaders in preparing their communities before disasters strike.

I encourage you to know what to do before disaster strikes by joining the thousands of faith-based and community members on the National Preparedness Coalition faith-based community of practice and connecting with faith and community leaders across the country working on preparedness.

Being prepared contributes to our national security, our nation’s resilience, and our personal readiness.

meeting volunteers around illinois tornado damageWashington, Ill., December 5, 2013 -- Rev. David Myers, Senior Advisor to the FEMA Administrator/Director Center of Faith-based & Neighborhood Partnerships, center, speaks with NECHAMA Jewish Response to Disaster operations manager Dan Hoeft, left, and All Hands Volunteers director of US Disaster Response Sherry Buresh, second from left, as well as other volunteers in a neighborhood where the groups are helping with volunteer support for cleanup. Jocelyn Augustino/FEMA

What We’re Watching: 12/13/13

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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.

Practicing Fire Safety this Holiday Season

The holidays are here – a time to be with family and friends. Unfortunately, it’s also a time when we see an increased chance of home fires.

Following a few simple fire safety tips can help ensure that you and your loved ones have a fire-safe holiday season:

  • Holiday Lighting -
    • Inspect you holiday lights each year for frayed wires, bare spots and excessive kinking or wear before putting them up.
    • Connect strings of lights to an extension cord before plugging the cord directly into the outlet.
  • Candle Care -
    • Consider using battery-operated, flameless candles, which can look, smell and feel like real candles.
    • If you do use lit candles, make sure they are in stable holders, and place them where they cannot be knocked down easily.
    • Keep candles at least 12 inches away from anything that burns.
  • Christmas Tree -
    • If you use a fresh tree, make sure you water it regularly.  Check the water each day.  Then, make sure you don’t dry the tree out prematurely by placing it too close to a heat source like a vent or fireplace.
    • Make sure your tree is at least 3 feet away from heat sources like fireplaces, radiators, space heaters, candles or heat vents.
    • Get rid of your tree after Christmas or when it is dry.
    • Connect no more than three strands of mini light sets and no more than 50 bulbs for screw-in light sets.

Practice these few tips to ensure you have a festive, bright and safe holiday season!

Video in Focus

Volunteers from MTV University and United Way are working together to help communities in the recovery process following Hurricane Sandy. In this video, members from the partnering organizations remove damaged materials and debris for homeowners in need.

Illinois Tornado Recovery

Here are a few photos from the ongoing recovery efforts in Illinois. Individuals impacted by the November 17 tornado are encouraged to register with FEMA by calling (800)-621-3362 or (TTY) (800) 462-7585 or online at www.DisasterAssistance.gov.  Visit the Illinois disaster page for more information and updates.

repair to damaged homeDiamond, Ill., Dec. 10, 2013 -- Crews work to repair a wall damaged by the recent tornado that impacted the area on November 17, 2013. Residents impacted by the tornado are encouraged to call and register with FEMA by calling (800) 621-3362, (TTY) (800) 462-7585, or by registering online at www.DisasterAssistance.gov Jocelyn Augustino/FEMA

tornado debris and homesWashington, Ill., December 7, 2013 -- Debris from the Nov. 17, 2013 tornado remain in neighborhoods throughout the city. Residents impacted by the tornado are encouraged to register for disaster assistance with FEMA. Jocelyn Augustino/FEMA

video interviewBrookport, Ill., Dec. 12, 2013 -- FEMA Federal Coordinating Officer Donald Keldsen, right, speaks to media at a Disaster Recovery Center set up at the library. Residents impacted by the Nov. 17, 2013 tornado are encouraged to apply to FEMA for assistance by calling (800) 621-3362, (TTY) (800) 462-7585, or by applying online at www.DisasterAssistance.gov. Jocelyn Augustino/FEMA

Have a safe weekend!

 

Our Poem: Making Your Season Bright & Festive… Safely

 Washington, D.C., December 12, 2013 -- Flat Stanley and Stella Prepare for a holiday party. Washington, D.C., December 12, 2013 -- Flat Stanley and Stella Prepare for a holiday party.

This holiday season, Flat Stanley and I are here,

To share safety tips as the fun draws near!

We love holiday parties, we’re the first to agree,

That there’s nothing like time with friends and family,

So remember these facts on how to have a safe time,

And join us in sharing this holiday rhyme.

 

Remind your parents as they make food each night,

To keep what they’re cooking in their sight,

Because being safe in the kitchen is always polite,

And the last thing you want is for your food to ignite!

 Bowie, Md., December 11, 2013 -- Flat Stella reminds everyone to stay in the kitchen while cooking to help reduce fire. Bowie, Md., December 11, 2013 -- Flat Stella reminds everyone to stay in the kitchen while cooking to help reduce fire.

Only keep candles lit if someone is in the room,

Otherwise they could fall and cause a fire, it is safe to assume.

Better yet you can use electric lights instead!

They come in all colors, from blue to yellow to red!

Image of electric candle.Image of an electric candle.

If your family likes to have a Christmas tree,

Make sure you water it frequently,

Otherwise it could dry out easily,

And set fire accidentally!

 

Your family may like to use plug in heaters this season,

Just make sure not to overload power outlets, and for good reason:

It could blow out a circuit or cause fires, and we ain’t teasin!

 Bowie, Md., December 12, 2013 -- Flat Stanley reminds everyone to keep furnishings at least 3 ft. away from space heaters. Bowie, Md., December 12, 2013 -- Flat Stanley reminds everyone to keep furnishings at least 3 ft. away from space heaters.

But our most important tip for any holiday get-together,

Is to have fun! And be prepared for the weather!

What We're Watching: 12/6/13

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 Photo from National Weather Service.Image of Winter Storm Forecast.

As we head into the weekend, millions of residents across portions of the southern Great Plains and into the Lower Ohio Valley are being or will be affected by a winter storm. As we’ve already seen from its impact earlier this week, this winter storm system has potential to produce moderate to heavy snow, significant ice accumulations and heavy rainfall.  Not only does this storm present hazardous travel conditions, but there is potential for major and prolonged power outages in the greatest impact areas, due to ice loading on power lines and strong wind gusts.

At this time, there have been no requests for federal assistance; however we stand ready to support our state and local partners as needed. We will continue to closely follow the winter storm and will provide updates as necessary.

We encourage all residents in potentially affected areas to follow the direction of local officials and keep informed of local conditions by monitoring local radio or TV stations for updated weather and emergency information.

For those in affected areas remember, if local officials ask residents to stay off the roads, avoid travel unless it’s an emergency. If you must travel, make sure you have an emergency supply kit in the trunk, ensure your cell phone is charged, and inform a family member or friend of where you are going and the route you plan to take.

Here are some other tips to keep in mind:

  • Ensure you have some basic emergency supplies. Water, batteries, flashlights, non-perishable food are a few examples of things that should be in your emergency supply kit.
  • Check on your neighbors, especially those who are elderly or may live alone to make sure they’re OK.
  • If you lose power, use flashlights for emergency lighting. NEVER use candles due to an increased risk of fire.
  • Have a plan to stay warm should the power go out.  Have extra blankets on hand or have an alternative place to go (if it’s safe to travel).
  • Remember, if the power goes out, banks/ATMs may be offline for some time. Have cash on hand.
  • If using a portable generator during a power outage, it should always be operated outside, away from doors and windows to avoid dangerous carbon monoxide.

Visit Ready.gov/winter for more winter weather safety tips and information.

Stay safe (and warm)!

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

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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

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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.

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.

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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.

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