As you may already know, the NATO summit concluded in Chicago, Ill., last Monday, May 22. With the delegations departing to their home countries after two days of important discussion, the interagency support for the summit also comes to a close.
Since learning about the event in November 2011, FEMA through our regional office in Chicago has worked hard with our federal partners to ensure that the state of Illinois and the city of Chicago were well supported before, during and after this high-level event.
FEMA works with the Secret Service, FBI and our other federal partners whenever an event is designated as a National Special Security Event, such as this NATO Summit. FEMA is the lead federal agency for consequence management in the event of a large-scale response to a natural or man-made disaster. This involves coordinating the federal response to and recovery from a major incident.
As co-chair of the Training and Exercise sub-committee, we've helped to facilitate the delivery of specialized training for emergency responders and decision makers and conducted exercises focusing on crisis and consequence management.
In anticipation of any potential federal support, FEMA activated and co-located staff with the Illinois Emergency Management Agency at a Forward Operating Base, in DuPage County, Illinois. FEMA Region V was supported by all Emergency Support Functions, a Defense Coordinating Element, FEMA’s Denver Mobile Emergency Response System, and two Incident Management Assistance Teams.
The College of DuPage, in Chicago’s western suburbs served as an excellent host for our joint operations with the state of Illinois. Their new Homeland Security Education Center, is the regular home to the Suburban Law Enforcement Academy, Criminal Justice and Fire Science/Emergency Medical Services training programs. The facility is complete with an Immersive Training Lab, which provides realistic environmental space for training on many emergency management missions. During the NATO summit, FEMA utilized the space as it was intended – a fully functional Emergency Operations Center.
Here’s a quick video highlighting our unique work at College of DuPage:
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As you may already know, the NATO summit concluded in Chicago, Ill., last Monday, May 22. With the delegations departing to their home countries after two days of important discussion, the interagency support for the summit also comes to a close.
Editor’s Note: Last year, hurricane Irene caused significant flooding in several states along the East Coast well after it made landfall. Since last week was Small Business Administration week and this week is National Hurricane Preparedness Week, we wanted to share this perspective from a small business owner in Vermont. Mr. Crowl experienced first-hand how natural disasters can impact business owners, and has some lessons to share…
The views expressed by Patrick Crowl do not necessarily represent the official views of the United States, the Department of Homeland Security, or the Federal Emergency Management Agency. FEMA does not endorse any non-government organizations, entities, or services.
You can plan for a disaster all you want, but when it hits, you have to put your emotions aside and deal with it like you’re an ER doc. Each decision takes on critical importance.
Few of us in the town of Woodstock would have predicted that Hurricane Irene, which came up the East Coast at the end of last August, would have devastated much of Vermont like it did. But my partners and I, at our popular year round fresh market, the Woodstock Farmers Market, did take some precautions when we knew it was heading our way – we had our employees stay late the night before to move food into freezers and we closed the store down the day the storm was expected.
The next day I saw our entire store decimated, covered with mud. I was lucky to have a dedicated staff who did not abandon ship. I had about five staffers who “came to work” and even regular patrons who came by to clean up. People were making lunch, shoveling and mucking. It was surreal and it was very humbling.
Woodstock, Vt., May 23, 2012 -- Damages sustained by Hurricane Irene to Woodstock's Farmers Market.
We were determined to reopen. We had vendors to pay and a mortgage on the property. The market is the main livelihood for most of the store’s employees. We’re a significant part of the community. We needed to rebuild and get ourselves going again.
But how? I was very familiar with the statistic that only 25 percent of small businesses are able to survive after a disaster. But somehow we managed to reopen in time for Thanksgiving. It wasn’t easy. Over the course of the last year, I have thought about how we did it and have broken down the various stages of business recovery.
Woodstock, Vt., May 23, 2012 -- Damages sustained to the Woodstock Farmers Market following Hurricane Irene.
Phase 1 – Days 1 and 2 – Clean-up
Don’t delay what you have to do, take advantage of the momentum of the community right afterwards because things slow down after the adrenaline of the incident wears off, and people have to return to their own lives. If you can, work 12 to 14 hour days. Eight hours won’t cut it. There will be time later to rest. Your reputation is at stake. Your money is at stake.
Set up a command post and gather the right people together. Break down who does what. Don’t be afraid to delegate. Keep lists of who is doing what, and reward community volunteers.
Phase 2 – Days 2 and 3 – Continue the Momentum on the Money Trail
Register with FEMA and the SBA immediately and leave no stone unturned when it comes to other sources of funding. It was a challenge, but I knew I had to stay focused and positive. I would spend full days on the phone navigating the various bureaucracies. We had no manual. We read and reread all the flood insurance literature to make sure we knew the steps to take. We huddled early on with a group of close advisors and came up with a financial game plan.
Phase 3 – Days 3 through 7 – Fine-Tune Your Plan
Take care of your co-workers and staff. Make sure they apply for unemployment and they have access to any needed counseling. Property can be rebuilt, income can be brought back, but foremost make sure people are taken care of. Without them, you won’t be able to come back.
Then do a budget outline of what it will cost to rebuild. Flood expenses can include the cost of the cleanup, construction, new equipment, cost of the insurance adjustor, outstanding payables and any other miscellaneous costs. On the income side, we had to tally our savings, flood insurance proceeds, state economic loan, customer loans and gifts.
My Smartphone was my lifeline. It buzzed and it rang, constantly. Whenever I got an idea, I texted, called or emailed.
We lost all our computer files and many records. Luckily our main computer back up was saved as were many of the computers because before the floodwaters got too high, we carried them to a top floor. But next time, we’re going to make sure we keep a backup data “in the cloud.”
Be prepared to change your game plan. Things are moving a hundred miles an hour and everything changes in a day. We met every day, twice a day for information updates.
We followed the following matrix and updated it every week.
- Physical plant issues: cleanup; equipment tear out; rebuilding.
- Financial issues: insurance, sources of funding
- Human Resources: staff communications; unemployment; grief counseling
- Marketing/PR: getting the word out; website communication; social media
It was from those meetings that we came up with the idea for our Irene Card program, which was essentially a prepaid shopping card. We offered a discount for cards over $1,000. This idea was a great way to generate money up front. We raised over $375,000 in a matter of weeks.
Phase 4 – After first week – Facing Reality
Your business is gone. Staff is gone. As many people return to their normal lives, you are alone. Keep going. Gather people for weekly meetings and check the matrix.
While we are now open, we still have a gap between what it actually cost to get ourselves back to where we were, versus the cost of the disaster. We were indeed underinsured for our contents, but our building flood insurance was a correct amount. I guess while you can’t plan for a flood, you can be better prepared.
Woodstock, Vt., May 24, 2012 -- Woodstock Farmers Market reopening following the temporarily closing due to needed renovations caused by Hurricane Irene.
Knowing what I know now, we have re-examined our flood policy and corrected. A relatively small price to pay for the peace of mind needed when you know Mother Nature could strike at any time.
As I wrote in yesterday’s blog about monitoring Beryl, FEMA remains in close coordination with our partners at the National Hurricane Center in tracking what is now Tropical Storm Beryl.
On a more personal note, I just happen to be in the Daytona Beach area this weekend visiting family, and I am very appreciative of the information that is coming from state and local officials as it pertains to Beryl’s expected landfall. When it comes to severe weather and the aftermath they leave behind, FEMA always advises individuals to closely monitor the advice of local officials. The latest forecast track for Beryl has prompted tropical storm warnings from the Volusia/Brevard county line in Florida to Edisto Beach, South Carolina.
Staff in our regional office in Atlanta, Ga., and in Washington, D.C., are monitoring Tropical Storm Beryl, and as I noted yesterday, we have deployed a liaison to the National Hurricane Center in Miami, Fla. to share information on current conditions with the regional office and affected states.
The latest from the National Weather Service shows that the storm has maximum sustained winds near 60 miles per hour, with higher gusts. There is little change in strength expected before tropical storm Beryl makes landfall, and tropical storm conditions are expected to reach the coast within the warning area from northeastern Florida to southern South Carolina late this afternoon, and continue throughout tonight.
As can be the case with these systems, dangerous surf conditions, including rip currents, are expected along the coast from northeastern Florida to North Carolina for the remainder of the Memorial Day Weekend. All of us here at FEMA encourage individuals to monitor local radio and television news outlets or listen to NOAA Weather Radio for the latest developments.
On another note, ironically, the hurricane season isn’t supposed to start until June 1, yet we already have our second named storm. As part of leading up to the start of hurricane season FEMA has joined with the National Weather Service to promote hurricane preparedness week – starting today.
On this first day of Hurricane Preparedness Week, FEMA encourages all individuals in hurricane-prone areas to know your risk and make a pledge to prepare at ready.gov/hurricanes. You can complete your emergency preparedness plan, update your emergency kit and Be a Force of Nature and share your preparedness efforts with family and friends.
You can save a life by sharing your readiness tips with others and encouraging them to do the same. Make a YouTube video on how you prepared, share information on Facebook, comment about the importance of preparing on a blog, or post a tweet using #imaforce. And if you’re on other social media sites, post messages there too.
You can also add our preparedness widget on your website to share the information with your website visitors.
We’ll continue to post updates on Beryl as needed, but you should continue to visit hurricanes.gov/ for the latest updates. And this week we’ll have guest bloggers as part of Hurricane Preparedness Week, so stay tuned.
Each year the Atlantic tropical season begins on June 1. Generally speaking, any given year during the Memorial Day weekend, employees at FEMA are “thinking” about the upcoming hurricane season…not actually “monitoring” a tropical system. However, this year we haven’t even reached June 1, and we’re already monitoring the second storm of the year. Late yesterday, the tropics developed Sub-Tropical Storm Beryl.
Because of the development of Beryl and the expected track, the National Weather Service has issued tropical storm watches and warning for areas of the southeast. The advisories are for Tropical Storm Warnings for the Volusia/Brevard County line in Florida to Edisto Beach, South Carolina; and Tropical Storm Watches for north of Edisto Beach to South Santee River, South Carolina.
With the impact focused on the southeastern U.S., FEMA, through our regional office in Atlanta, Ga., is closely monitoring Beryl. With tropical storm conditions expected to reach the warned area from northeastern Florida to South Carolina sometime Sunday, we have deployed a liaison to the National Hurricane Center in Miami, Fla., to support our Hurricane Liaison Team.
As tropical waves or tropical storms can bring heavy rains and high winds, we are urging coastal residents to monitor weather conditions by listening to your local radio and television news outlets or by listening to NOAA Weather Radio. You can check your local forecast at weather.gov/ & hurricanes.gov/ and on your phone at mobile.weather.gov & hurricanes.gov/mobile.
It’s vitally important that you take steps to prepare your property and family and you should take steps now to get prepared for potential severe weather. Visit Ready.gov/hurricanes (Listo.gov para español) to learn how to prepare your home and family for a hurricane or tropical storm, including building an emergency supply kit and creating a family emergency plan.
Everyone should also familiarize themselves with the terms that are used to identify a severe weather hazard and discuss with your family what to do if a tropical storm watch or warning is issued in your area. Terms used to describe severe tropical weather include the following:
- A Tropical storm watch means that tropical storm conditions are possible, in this case within 24 hours.
- A Tropical storm warning means that tropical storm conditions are expected within 36 hours.
- A Hurricane watch means that hurricane conditions are possible within 48 hours.
- A Hurricane warning means that hurricane conditions are expected within 36 hours.
We’ll continue to monitor the storm and provide updates as it warrants, and if you are in the potential areas, please listen to local officials. We’ll also provide updates on Twitter and Facebook, so you can follow us there too.
On this Memorial Day, as we do every year, we remember and honor the men and women who made the ultimate sacrifice in service to our country. Administrator Fugate’s Memorial Day video message below offers thanks and gratitude to those serving in our armed forces as we reflect on this cherished day.
Back in early April we blogged about a special visitor to FEMA. At the time, Flat Stanley was making the rounds in Washington, DC and dropped in at FEMA headquarters to spend a little time with me. Take a look at the latest meeting I had with Flat Stanley and what we have in mind for helping prepare everyone for hurricane season.
FEMA, through our Ready Campaign, is working in collaboration with Flatter World and the Flat Stanley Project to bring awareness to school aged children about the need to be prepared for emergencies and disasters and what they can do to help their families and loved ones to build more resilient households.
Children and their parents will soon be able to build their own FEMA Flat Stanley and share with their friends and classmates the steps they have taken to support preparedness throughout their homes, schools and communities.
Stay tuned for more information as Flat Stanley gets more and more involved. And in the mean time, kids can find fun preparedness games and activities like word searches, crossword puzzles, comic strips and more at Ready.gov/kids.
2012 National Hurricane Preparedness Week, Pledge to Prepare
As we head into Hurricane Preparedness Week (May 27 – June 2) FEMA is asking you to join thousands around the country who are pledging to be a “Force of Nature” and taking action to prepare for the potential negative impacts of hurricanes and tropical storms. Hurricane season begins June 1 and extends through Nov. 30, and as we saw last year with Hurricane Irene and Tropical Storm Lee, severe tropical weather can impact coastal and inland areas alike.
Hurricanes and tropical storms are known for the unforgettable visuals we see on the news every year –trees bending due to high winds and heavy rains rendering TV cameras useless as they look over an abandoned beach. But in addition to these obvious effects, hurricanes and tropical storms can often disrupt life for those in coastal and inland areas through evacuations, prolonged power outages, and flooding.
With these risks in mind, we ask that you join in pledging to be prepared for hurricane season by:
- Knowing your risk: The first step to Being a Force of Nature is to understand how hurricanes and tropical storms can affect where you live and work, and how the weather could impact you and your family. Check the weather forecast regularly and sign up for local alerts from emergency management officials and obtain a NOAA Weather Radio.
- Taking action: Actions can be small, simple, and quick. You can pledge to develop an emergency plan based on your local hurricane, severe storm, and flooding hazard, and practice how and where you will evacuate if instructed by your emergency management officials. Post your plan in your home where visitors can see it. Learn how to strengthen your home and business against hurricanes. Download FEMA’s mobile app so you can access important safety tips on what to do before, during and after a hurricane. Understand the National Hurricane Center warning and alerts.
- Being an example: Once you have taken action and pledged (or if you already have), share your story with your family and friends. Create a YouTube video, post your story on Facebook, comment on a blog, or send a tweet. Or you can even post the Be a Force of Nature widget on your social media profiles.
Today, I joined our partners at the National Hurricane Center to release the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s outlook for the upcoming Atlantic hurricane season (June 1- November 30). Even though the season “officially” starts next week, we have already seen the first named storm, Alberto, develop in the Atlantic. Alberto serves as an invaluable reminder: as much as we can try to predict, nature and disasters will inevitably throw the unexpected our way.
While we can’t stop a tropical storm, hurricane, earthquake or other natural disaster from happening, there are actions we can all take to lessen the impact these unexpected events can have on our families, homes and businesses. Whatever the risks are in your area (especially those where hurricanes/tropical storms can have an impact), I encourage you to visit Ready.gov to learn about the three simple steps to getting prepared before an emergency. But maybe you already know the risks in your area, have already assembled a family emergency supply kit or recently reviewed your family’s emergency plan – then you can play a part in taking preparedness to the next level. Join us by pledging to prepare for emergencies and telling three of your relatives, friends, coworkers, or social media followers to do so as well.
The upcoming three day weekend could be a great opportunity to practice and share emergency preparedness. Here are a few ideas:
- If you will be in an area potentially impacted by hurricanes or tropical storms, review and talk about NOAA’s 2012 outlook for the season. Make sure friends and family know if they live in an evacuation zone and what their evacuation route is, in case local officials should give the order.
- Before you head out for weekend travel, make sure your car or truck has emergency supplies, like blankets, water, an AM/FM radio, jumper cables, and a flash light with extra batteries. Then when you get to your destination, show it off to family and friends!
- If you’re traveling by airplane, keeping a small first aid kit, flashlight, medication and extra cell phone charger with you could prove useful if your flight is delayed. (Other passengers could add these items to their carry-on luggage the next time they fly if they see you using your kit.)
- During the day off, take a few minutes fill a “go-bag” with emergency supplies. Many of the items are probably already be around your home, then add any additional needed items to our family’s grocery list for the week.
- Take 10 minutes with your family and practice your fire escape plan. After you’re done, posting a photo or status update to your social media accounts is a great way to spread the word and remind others to do the same.
And if you’re looking for more ideas or others ways people and organizations around the country are getting prepared for hurricane season, then you’re in luck. Next week is National Hurricane Preparedness Week, so FEMA and our partners will be talking about hurricane and tropical storm preparedness all week long on our blog, Twitter feed, Facebook page, and other online channels. So make a point to post your own updates about preparing for severe tropical weather, or you can even repost one from our sites!
I hope either of these three - the NOAA hurricane season outlook, upcoming three day weekend, or National Hurricane Preparedness Week – can act as starters for making your family, home, or business more prepared for emergencies as we move into the “official” hurricane season.
Earlier today, I spoke at the Alameda County Emergency Medical Services Conference in California in recognition of National EMS Week. It was great event, and it underscored the important role that EMS professionals play in our communities.
In my speech today, I noted how the EMS field is a critical part of the larger emergency management team, operating at the intersection of public health and public safety. As someone who served in the EMS community for more than 35 years, I have watched how technology and new innovations have changed the profession. And while the tools that we use have changed over the years, one thing hasn't: the selfless commitment and dedication that EMS professionals bring to their jobs each and every day.
In a time of crisis, it is the EMS professionals who are the first on the scene. They are the first to offer care and comfort, and they are the first to offer that immediate assistance when we are most vulnerable and hurting. I am very proud and honored to not only be part of the EMS community, but also to salute my fellow EMS professionals for the great work they do to save lives, while sometimes putting their own lives at risk.
So please join me in thanking those in the EMS profession for their hard work and dedication. If you see someone who works in your local EMS, take a few seconds to thank them for the service they provide to your community. And take a minute to visit whitehouse.gov to learn more about President Obama’s proclamation of EMS week.
Editor’s note: Rich Serino, the Deputy Administrator of FEMA, previously served as the Chief of Boston EMS and Assistant Director of the Boston Public Health Commission.
Today’s Day of Unity, including the walk and other celebratory events, emphasizes the true human spirit and compassion within the people of the greater Joplin area. At the start of the walk, over 5,000 people from all sectors of the community, including faith-based and non-profit organizations, local, state and federal partners, gathered to recognize the work and significant recovery efforts accomplished by the communities of Joplin and Duquesne in just 365 days.
At 20th Street, for example, as we passed the former Commerce Bank, my heart swelled as I looked behind me to see thousands of people marching forward in support of everything Joplin has encountered and is preparing for in the months and years ahead.
At the site of the former Joplin High School, hundreds were present, embracing the plan and sharing a vision for a new and expanded institution of education. As ground was broken for the new High School and Franklin Technology Center, I couldn’t help but think back to last August 17 when the school district delivered on its promise to open schools on time, helping families to take another step on their journey toward normalcy.
As we continued our walk down the 3.7 mile path of the EF-5 tornado, I was reminded of the importance of involving the whole community - in the immediate aftermath of disasters and after the spotlight has dimmed. The thousands of people who walked together today represent the power of the human spirit, persevering together and supporting one another through the long and sometimes arduous months of recovery. FEMA, like many of the organizations represented here today, remains committed to being here for the long term, until the work is done.
And as they say here, "Go Joplin Eagles (KAW, KAW)!