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Sleepless in Philadelphia

Here at FEMA we’re committed to the “Whole Community” approach to emergency management which Administrator Fugate initiated when he arrived. For those of you that haven’t heard of the Whole Community concept, it basically says that FEMA can’t manage emergencies by ourselves; we need to make sure that we’re including the private sector, community organizations, faith-based organizations, state local, and tribal government, the general public, non-profits, schools, our partners in other federal agencies, and almost any other group you can think of. One specific part of the Whole Community idea that we’re really working on is integrating the needs of people with access and functional needs in an inclusive setting and to accomplish this, we’re working collaboratively with our community partners who can bring resources, skills, and expertise to the table.  To support this effort Administrator Fugate created the Office of Disability Integration & Coordination and positions like mine, as the Regional Disability Integration Specialist here in the Region III office in Philadelphia.

A large part of my job is making sure that the access and functional needs of people with disabilities are addressed in an inclusive manner, as well as making connections between emergency managers and disability leaders.  So I want to tell you a little bit about an exciting project we are participating in with our community partners.

Philadelphia, Pa., June 28, 2013 -- LesleyAnne Ezelle, Regional Disability Integration Specialist, FEMA Region III visits the Philadelphia Chapter of the American Red Cross office where they held a Shelter Sleepover Exercise. Philadelphia, Pa., June 28, 2013 -- LesleyAnne Ezelle, Regional Disability Integration Specialist, FEMA Region III visits the Philadelphia Chapter of the American Red Cross office where they held a Shelter Sleepover Exercise.

On June 28th, 2013 I went to the Philadelphia Chapter of the American Red Cross office where they held a Shelter Sleepover Exercise. The point of the exercise was to test their ability to provide services and support to people with access and functional needs in a general shelter. There were volunteers from the local community, many of whom are active with the Functional Needs Subcommittee of the Southeastern Pennsylvania Regional Task Force.

They asked me to give an overview of effective communication, so I gave a demonstration on the equipment that we now have in our Disaster Recovery Centers (DRC). This equipment can also be used in other settings so that people with access and functional needs can get the same information as everyone else and get it in their preferred method of communication.  FEMA now has 175 accessible communication kits that are used to provide effective communication access in every DRC.

While this technology gives us many new options to communicate more effectively, it was pointed out by one of the shelter ‘clients’ that sometimes a skilled person who can interpret and provide information is needed too. We realize that having trained and knowledgeable shelter staff and access to on-site interpreters, scribes, and personal care attendants is just as important to providing effective and accessible services.  FEMA can offer these services to the state, during a Presidentially-declared disaster, if requested.  By having exercises like this one, both the shelter clients and the shelter volunteers get the opportunity to learn what works, what doesn’t, what may be available and we’re able to find solutions, together, to make the shelter experience truly inclusive and accessible.

One of the things that I found very impressive about this exercise is that it was a good example of the saying “nothing about us, without us” that we use a lot in the advocacy movement when we talk about planning services for people with disabilities. Shelter Sleep Over and other activities in Region III are an example of embracing that philosophy and we are looking forward to many more collaborative learning experiences.

What We’re Watching: 7/12/13

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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.

Chantal Weakens But Heavy Rain Still Possible

Although Tropical Storm Chantal broke up and the system was downgraded into a tropical wave, it served as a great reminder of the severe weather like heavy rain that can be accompanied by these storms.  Over the weekend, remnants of the storm are likely to bring heavy rain for those in Florida and along the Southeastern coast of the United States. We urge residents in these states to monitor weather conditions as they can quickly change.

Here are some safety tips to keep in mind:

  • Driving through a flooded area can be extremely hazardous. Almost half of all flash flood deaths happen in vehicles. When in your car, look out for flooding in low lying areas, at bridges, and at highway dips. As little as six inches of water may cause you to lose control of your vehicle.  Remember – turn around, don’t drown.
  • Do not walk through moving water. Six inches of moving water can make you fall. If you have to walk in water, walk where the water is not moving.

 Flood safety terms:

  • Flood Watch: Flooding is possible. Tune in to NOAA Weather Radio, commercial radio, or television for information.
  • Flood Warning: Flooding is occurring or will occur soon; if local officials give notice to evacuate, do so immediately.
  • Flash Flood Watch: Rapid rises on streams and rivers are possible. Be prepared to move to higher ground; listen to NOAA Weather Radio, commercial radio, or television for information.
  • Flash Flood Warning: Rapid rises on streams and rivers are occurring; seek higher ground on foot immediately.

For more flood safety tips, visit www.Ready.gov/floods or http://m.fema.gov/floods (on your mobile phone).

Mark Your Calendars                 

Join Deputy Administrator Serino next Thursday, July 18 at 2:00 p.m. EDT (11:00 a.m. PST) for the next FEMA Think Tank conference call.  This month’s call will provide an opportunity to discuss innovations that those in emergency management should know about, including existing, new, and forward thinking innovations that improve a product or service in unexpected ways. 

The goal is to take innovations that are not necessarily associated with emergency management and relate them to emergency management in order to improve the way we do response, recovery, preparedness, and mitigation. Here’s the call-in information:

  • Time: 2:00 - 3:30 p.m. Eastern Time (11:00 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Pacific Time)
  • Call in Number: 888-323-9869
  • Passcode: Think Tank
  • Captioning: FedRCC.us

So mark your calendars and join us next week!

In Case You Missed It

Earlier this week, Shayne Adamski, Senior Manager of Digital Engagement for the agency testified in front of a subcommittee of the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Homeland Security along with our partners from the American Red Cross, Oklahoma Department of Emergency Management, and Jersey City Office of Emergency Management and Homeland Security. The discussion of the hearing focused on how social media and new technology are transforming preparedness, response and recovery efforts and the way we operate here at FEMA.  In case you missed it, you can watch the hearing here.

I came across this article on Emergency Management Magazine about how the Cleveland Indians put their emergency plans into play during a recent exercise.  The article serves as a good reminder of the importance of being prepared no matter where you are or where you live – even professional sports teams need to practice their emergency plans!  Read more about the exercise and visit www.Ready.gov/business for information on getting your business better prepared for emergencies.

Video of the Week

A great example of the continued recovery work after Hurricane Sandy, the Statue of Liberty reopened on July 4, 2013, after being closed for eight months following damages from Hurricane Sandy.

Have a safe weekend!

Innovating Smarter, Nimbler Government at FEMA

This week, President Barack Obama laid out the Administration’s New Management Agenda.  As part of a new approach to deliver a smarter, more innovative, and more accountable government, President Obama put forth a plan to more effectively use technology and innovation to better serve and meet the needs of the public.  During a press conference, President Obama highlighted some of the innovative and survivor centric solutions that FEMA is implementing:

Today, our Chief Technology Officer, Todd Park, and our Chief Information Officer, Steve VanRoekel, are working with their teams to innovate and apply the best technology to help solve some of our biggest challenges -- from creating jobs to reducing health care costs to keeping our nation secure. 

….

First, we found ways to deliver the services that citizens expect in smarter, faster, and better ways.  So, for example, until recently, when a natural disaster struck, teams from FEMA had to rely exclusively on in-person inspections to figure out which families needed help.  Now they analyze satellite and aerial imagery and get housing assistance to areas that need it most, more quickly.  After Hurricane Sandy, most folks were able to sign up for assistance using FEMA’s mobile and web apps -- updating and checking the status of their applications.  And FEMA agents went door-to-door in some areas with iPads, helping residents who had lost power and Internet access sign up for disaster relief without leaving their homes.  So making sure that we’re delivering services better, faster, more efficiently. 

Here at FEMA, we understand the value of innovation and recognize that through innovation we can develop new and creative solutions and deliver these solutions to those that need them the most—survivors.  During the initial response to Hurricane Sandy, the FEMA Innovation Team deployed to identify solutions to some of the challenges faced in New York.  As the President highlighted, one innovative solution was providing our FEMA Corps teams with the equipment necessary to go door-to-door to register survivors who may have lost power.  This solution was so warmly received that we have made it common practice.

After the tornadoes struck Oklahoma, FEMA deployed the newly formed Disaster Survivor Assistance Teams to go door-to-door to register survivors at their homes.

The role of technology has certainly changed the way we operate and serve survivors during their time of need.  Our Geospatial Team used geospatial mapping and imagery to provide information to first responders and emergency managers about damaged areas moments after the deadly tornadoes touched down in Oklahoma.  We also launched our FEMALab in response to the tornadoes in the National Response Coordination Center, which allowed some of our innovation team members to work virtually.

We continue to look for ways to improve- to find creative solutions to the many challenges we face in emergency management. You can help us to innovate too! Join us for the next FEMA Think Tank on Thursday, July 18th for our latest edition, “Innovation Every Emergency Manager Should Know About” which will cover innovators from around the country.  We hope you join us and tell us what you are doing to innovate!

What We’re Watching: 7/3/13

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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.

Photos of the Week

To kick things off, here are a few of my favorite photos from the week. For more photos, visit the FEMA Photo Library.

Department of Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano Town Hall MeetingAnchorage, Alaska, July 1, 2013 -- Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Secretary Janet Napolitano discusses the past, present and future direction of the Agency during a town hall meeting with DHS staff. The Department of Homeland Security has a vital mission: to secure the nation from the many threats we face, which requires the dedication of more than 240,000 employees in jobs that range from aviation and border security to emergency response, from cyber-security analyst to chemical facility inspector.

St. Roch Park Ribbon CuttingNew Orleans, La., July 1, 2013 -- FEMA joins state and local officials along with members of the community to cut the ribbon at a newly rebuilt St. Roch Park and Playground. The facilities were devastated by Hurricane Katrina's winds and floodwaters. FEMA provided nearly $700,000 to the city of New Orleans for repairs of the park, pool and neutral ground lighting.

Disaster Recovery Center in AlaskaGalena, Alaska, June 30, 2013 -- FEMA specialists provide recovery information to disaster survivors on the available programs at this Disaster Recovery Center. President Obama issued a major disaster declaration for the State of Alaska triggering the release of Federal funds to help people and communities recover from flooding that occurred from May 17 to June 11, 2013.

Celebrating the Fourth Safely

With the celebration of our country’s Independence tomorrow, I wanted to take some time to remind folks that while this holiday is indeed a joyous occasion often marked with grilling, picnics, and of course fireworks -- it’s important that we all take precautions to stay safe.  However you plan to celebrate tomorrow, here are a few safety tips to keep in mind:

Fireworks – Leave them to the Pros

Every year there are many injuries and deaths caused by amateur firework use. That’s why we encourage you to leave the fireworks to the professionals.

Grilling Safety

Check out this video from the U.S. Fire Administration on grilling safety:



And here are a few grilling safety precautions reminders, to help keep everyone around the grill safe:

  • Propane and charcoal grills must only be used outdoors. Using them indoors or in any enclosed spaces (such as tents), poses a fire hazard and a risk of exposing occupants to deadly carbon monoxide poisoning.
  • Young children are at high risk of being burned by hot food and liquids. Keep children away from cooking areas by enforcing a "kid-free zone" of 3 feet around the grill.
  • Place the grill a safe distance from lawn games, play areas, and foot traffic. Grills should be positioned at least 10 feet away from siding, deck railing, and out from under eaves and overhanging branches.
  • Never leave a grill unattended.
  • Keep matches, lighters, charcoal, and starter fluid out of the reach of children in a locked drawer or cabinet.

Following these tips can help ensure your Fourth of July is safe and enjoyable!

What We’re Watching: 6/27/13

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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.

Severe Weather Outlook
severe weather outlook mapSevere weather outlook, courtesy of the National Weather Service.

Over the next couple of days and into the weekend, our partners over at the National Weather Service expect above normal temperatures to continue across the Great Basin, Rockies, Southwest and California.  While those areas will be seeing a bit of a heat wave, flooding is possible in other places around the country.  Portions of Illinois, Wisconsin, Iowa, Minnesota, and North Dakota are expected to see high water levels, so make sure to follow your local conditions if you are near bodies of water. 

As always, weather conditions can drastically change in a short amount of time.  Remember to monitor weather conditions in your area on your mobile phone or computer.

Photo of the Week

Here are a few of my favorite photos from the past week. For more photos, head over to our Photo Library.

beach re-openingSeaside Heights, N.J., June 21, 2013 -- Children play in the sand at the Seaside Heights mega-beach bash, where families enjoy free access to the beach and other activities for the first day of summer. The beach party celebrates the completion of the new Seaside Heights boardwalk, partially funded by FEMA after Hurricane Sandy.

press conferenceStaten Island, N.Y., June 21, 2013 -- Staten Island Borough President James Molinaro, FEMA NY Federal Coordinating Officer Willie Nunn, Staten Island University Hospital President Anthony Ferreri, and Director of Intergovernmental Relations for NY Senator Charles Schumer's office Nicholas Martin, on a tour of Staten Island University Hospital, discussed ways to improve the infrastructure in the wake of Hurricane Sandy.

In Case You Missed It

We’ve seen an active wildfire season across the country.  I came across this great blog post from our friends at the U.S. Department of Agriculture about how homeowners can take steps to reduce the chances of a fire damaging your property.  The bottom line: individuals can make their home safer if they live in an area that’s susceptible to wildfires.  It’s a powerful message.  Here’s an excerpt:

“People who live in a wildland-urban interface often forget or disregard the wildland fire cycles and dangers” said Tom Harbour, Fire and Aviation Management director. “We need homeowners to understand that they can make a difference by making their homes defensible from wildfire.”

Matt Cyrus knows the personal and professional benefits of taking precautionary measures to protect a home before a fire. Ironically, Cyrus, a captain with the Cloverdale (Oregon) Fire Protection District, was the first responder on the scene of a fire on his property. But he felt he had less to worry about because he had prepared for many years to defend his property against fire. The fire burned as expected but did not harm his home.

So how did he do it?

Look closely at a firewise property such as Cyrus’ and you will see a common theme: defensible space stretching at least 100 feet from a structure and in some cases a couple of hundred feet. These firewise yards are surrounded by grass, rock or evergreen ground cover, and in some instances even dirt. This “empty space” creates an area of land where the high intensity heat has nothing to burn, compared to a home surrounded by trees, bushes, sheds and other combustible items.

Read the full post on the USDA website, and check out Ready.gov for a full list of wildfire safety tips.

Video of the Week

New York's beaches reopen for the 2013 summer season seven months after Hurricane Sandy.

Have a great and safe weekend!

StormReady: More than a name, a life-saving plan

What would you do if you found out there was a tornado headed right toward you, right now? On average, you get at least 13 minutes to respond.

The clock starts now:

Ask yourself, would you know it was coming?

How would you hear about the warning?

Where would you go to safely seek shelter?

What if you were asleep?

Are you ready?

That’s just minutes to hear about the tornado warning, figure out what is going on, make a decision about what you will do, and take action that could save your life.

Now consider this:

What if you were at work?

School?

A busy mall or dark movie theater?

What would you do? Where would you meet your family, friends or co-workers after the tornado hit?

Recently, my office asked those same questions.  In the FEMA Region IV area, we’re responsible for 350 employees who work in multiple buildings throughout the Atlanta area and what we call “in the field” – other joint field offices. 

We reviewed our own severe weather plan. Then, we exercised that plan as part of a campus-wide no-notice tornado drill. 

And we didn’t stop there!

I am proud to share that we went one step further, earning the official StormReady designation from the National Weather Service.

But, being StormReady is more than just a name, and more than having a NOAA Weather Radio (although we do have those)!  As recent weather events have shown, it is important to make sure we get it right when the danger is real. 

In order to participate and earn the StormReady designation from the National Weather Service, several criteria have to be met. Our specific plan includes:

  • A hazardous weather plan to include ice storms, tornadoes, severe thunderstorms, and flash floods.
  • Operating a 24-hour watch center to monitor local weather conditions.
  • Having multiple ways to: receive severe weather watches & warnings and alert our FEMA team.
  • Promoting severe weather readiness through a variety of training and outreach programs for our employees and partner agencies.

2,000 – that’s  the number of communities that have also achieved the StormReady status. That means those communities took the necessary steps to ensure their residents will be better prepared with severe weather threatens their area. So as you can see, earning the StormReady designation isn’t just for federal or even emergency management agencies. 

Having your community, business, or organization earn the StormReady designation isn’t an extensive process – the first step is contacting your local National Weather Service office. They will let you know how to complete the application, set up an in-person visit, and even hold an optional recognition ceremony once you’ve been labeled StormReady!

Altoona, PA: Reducing flood risk & saving money for policyholders

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While I couldn’t be there in person to present the Community Rating System plaque to the City of Altoona Commissioners during their recent meeting, I did want to recognize that as of October 1, 2012 the City of Altoona joined an elite group of communities across the country who are going above and beyond the minimum requirements to make their communities safer from flood risk.

For a bit of background, the National Flood Insurance Program's (NFIP) Community Rating System is a voluntary incentive program that recognizes and encourages community floodplain management activities that exceed the minimum NFIP requirements. Communities that participate in Community Rating System have flood insurance premium rates discounted to reflect the reduced flood risk resulting from the community actions.  Throughout the United States, there are well over 20,000 communities voluntarily participating in FEMA's NFIP, with 2,469 of these communities located in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. 

Nationally, a relative handful (approximately 5%) of these communities choose to go above and beyond FEMA's minimum requirements for NFIP participation.  These communities make up the members of the Community Rating System; and their additional efforts and activities result in communities that are safer and better prepared for future flooding events. In joining the Community Rating System program, the City of Altoona joins an elite group of only 24 communities in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania (the top 1%) that have been recognized for surpassing the minimum requirements to make their communities safer.  I would like to recognize the achievements of the City of Altoona because, as of October 1 last year, they joined the community Rating System with a Class 8 rating.

Perhaps more tangible and more important to Altoona’s citizens, the Class 8 rating qualifies all flood insurance policies in Altoona for an automatic ten percent discount on their premiums.  Each NFIP policyholder in Altoona will save an average of $77.00 on their annual premium.  As of January 31, 2013, there were 218 flood insurance policies in Altoona protecting over $30 million in property for a total premium cost of $191,458. The ten percent reduction will save the flood policyholders in the City collectively approximately $16,697 annually. There is no need for policyholders to contact their insurance carriers as the ten percent discount is deducted automatically from their premiums.

Jane Beveridge, the Office Engineer/Floodplain Administrator for Altoona commented on the benefits the Community Rating System can bring a community:

While it was a two years process, most municipalities are already following/adopting procedures that can earn rating system points. It’s mostly a matter of gathering paperwork. The Community Rating System Specialist assigned to the City of Altoona was also very helpful. Our updated website has floodplain information/links that have earned us easy points toward the ranking system. Every community should take advantage of this, especially with the rising costs of insurance, our citizens are thankful.

The City of Altoona’s leadership, hard work and accomplishments are to be commended.  On behalf of FEMA and the National Flood Insurance Program, welcome to elite status and thank you!

What We’re Watching: 6/21/13

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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.

Photo & video of the week

To kick things off, here are a few of my favorite video and photo of the week, courtesy of our photo and multimedia libraries.

Video: Disaster Survivor Assistance Teams register Illinois flood survivors for FEMA assistance

Photos:

debris removalMoore, Okla., June 15, 2013 -- FEMA Debris Deputy Task Force Leader Tony Furr speaks with a US Corps of Engineers Debris Subject Matter Expert. FEMA Public Assistance funds are reimbursing a portion of debris removal cost from the May tornadoes. George Armstrong/FEMA

rebuilding posterLong Beach Island, N.J., June 15, 2013 – FEMA representatives distribute information on home rebuilding at the Long Beach Island Thank You Fest. The celebration was dedicated to the first responders for their work during and after Hurricane Sandy hit the coast last fall. Rosanna Arias/FEMA

administrator fugate speaking eventAtlanta, Ga., June 18, 2013 -- Administrator Craig Fugate speaks about the financial and economic aspects of disaster recovery. The event was hosted by Operation HOPE, an organization that works to share financial literacy with underserved populations around the U.S.

Newly minted FEMA Youth Preparedness Council members

In case you missed it from earlier in the week, the FEMA Youth Preparedness Council just added five new members for 2013.  The Youth Preparedness Council is brings together youth leaders from across the country who are working in their communities to move the needle on getting America’s youth better prepared for emergencies.  Through regular meetings, idea sharing, and networking, the council provides a great way for FEMA to bring in their energy and enthusiasm, while sharing the agency’s successful approaches to spreading emergency preparedness.

Join me in welcoming the newest members:

  • Sophie Friedfeld-Gebaide (New York)
  • Alex Pasculle (Pennsylvania)
  • Louyankkah Justilien (Florida)
  • Daniel Wernsman (Wisconsin)
  • Emily Rosenblum (Missouri)

All of the members of the Youth Preparedness Council are doing great work – from holding health and wellness fairs, organizing emergency safety drills, to participating in their local Community Emergency Response Team.  I encourage you to check out their bios and learn more about the program at Ready.gov/youth-preparedness-council.

From around the web

There were lots of great stories from the week, but here are three of my favorites:

  • Administrator Fugate visited with The Weather Channel earlier in the week and talked about lessons from Hurricane Sandy, as well as the 2013 hurricane season.  You can check out the full Q & A session on weather.com.
  • This next one is a must-read for those in the emergency management field.  FEMA’s Mike Byrne, our lead in New York after Hurricane Sandy, provided his perspective in Emergency Management Magazine.  Mike has tons of disaster experience so he talked about how events the size of Hurricane Sandy are different from other types of disasters.  The three main differentiators he talks about in the article: scale, velocity, and ambiguity.
  • All right, this one is also a must-read for those in emergency management.  The Mid-American Regional Council posted a great story this week about inclusive emergency planning.  For those that don’t know, the Mid-American Regional Council brings together city and county governments in the Kansas City metro area to advance social, economic, and environmental progress.  Justin Sorg, their Emergency Services Planner, wrote about how incorporating a community’s needs into emergency plans doesn’t take rocket science – it just takes bringing the right people together to solve problems. 

With that, have a safe weekend!

Simulating working relationships during a disaster - the students' perspective

How well a community responds to a disaster or emergency depends, in large part, on how connected the community is.  The first step to meeting the needs of those impacted by a disaster is knowing what the needs are and what resources are available locally to meet those needs.  This disaster-related interconnectedness of a community can happen two ways: during a crisis where everyone is forced to work together towards a common goal, or by aggressively making the connections before a disaster through training and workshops. 

One of the courses taught at FEMA’s Emergency Management Institute, the Integrated Emergency Management Course, focuses on building the relationships and connections necessary to effectively respond to crises.  The course is a four-day, exercise-based training activity that puts local officials through simulated crisis scenarios so they develop the right procedures, practices, and plans to protect life and property.

Last week, we conducted the course for a group of 65 emergency responders, emergency managers, elected officials, and other local leaders from Volusia County, Florida.  The county is no stranger to disasters. Since 2004, Volusia County has been affected by four hurricanes, a tropical storm, two major tornadoes and several heavy rain storms that produced severe regional flooding.  Fortunately, this community has made disaster preparedness a priority.

Rather than trying to explain each portion of the course, we’ll let the feedback from students tell the story.  Here’s what a few participants said about the focus on making connections with other community leaders:

Ponce Inlet Police Chief Frank Fabrizio:

Bringing together many different organizations and disciplines from throughout Volusia County gave me a greater understanding of their needs and concerns and the resources they can provide for law enforcement. I found this training to be very beneficial and I believe it helped prepare Volusia County to better serve its citizens during an emergency.

Bob Mandarino, Fire Chief for the city of Ormond Beach:

The course and exercises had most participants playing their real-life roles and exposed them to areas of planning and communication where there could be room for improvement. The opportunity to network with fellow community participants and understand their perspective on how events should be managed will lead to the enhancement of processes for our community.

It was great to see a diverse group from our community learning and working together while preparing and handling the exercises.

DeLand Commissioner Leigh Matusik:

In addition to participating in training and planning exercises, this course helped all participants work together in a simulated emergency which makes us more prepared when we are put in a real world disaster situation.

training classHere's a shot of the students before the simulated Emergency Operations Center and Joint Information scenario.

On day two of the course, we discuss the role of the local emergency operations center, how to communicate effectively during an emergency, and work with Public Information Officers on media relations simulations.  Here’s what Adam Barringer, Mayor New Smyrna Beach, Florida said about his experience:

This is my first visit to the Emergency Management Institute, participating in the Integrated Emergency Management Course.  The information presented is timely as our county has encountered natural disasters and “terrorists” actions threatening our nation’s safety.  The on-camera training, which I believe will become the most applicable to my role as mayor, was very valuable to me, as well as learning about the Volusia/Flagler Public Information Network; the Incident Command System organizational chart and levels of responsibility. 

My role as mayor will allow me to share this information with our city council, while my role as Chairman of Volusia Council of Governments will allow me to share this information with all mayors in Volusia County and the executive director of the Volusia League of Cities. 

interview trainingOne of the Public Information Officers in a mock interview during the Integrated Emergency Management Course. 

The Integrated Emergency Management Course also provides information on the role of a Joint Information Center and how it can provide the media and the public with the most up-to-date, trusted information after a disaster.  Here are a few insights into the media and communications aspect of the training:

George Recktenwald, Director of Public Protection Volusia County Fla.

I learned working with the media to give out information can definitely help in an emergency. Social media is also important, since it can help build a network for the media and citizens to use during an event. The most valuable aspect of the training was the emphasis on making sure all of our websites and social media sites are relevant.

Loretta Moisio, Ormond Beach, Florida:

The training was beneficial as I have never been involved in a JIC and didn’t know how it would work. The information will be very valuable when I need to work in a similar situation because anything can happen anywhere at any time.  During training I learned that every detail in a news conference should be carefully planned as it can help to maintain calm during stressful situations and get the right information to the audience to assure their safety.

One thing we particularly like about the Integrated Emergency Management Course is that it is community-specific.  It’s tailored to the needs of the local community; so the Volusia County course was designed to provide a joint education and training package focused on the interaction of the Emergency Operations Center and the Joint Information Center.

The students’ reactions demonstrate why this kind of exercise-based, hands-on training is so important for emergency responders at all levels.  The more we can plan and practice, the better our communities and neighborhoods will be able to respond to emergencies when they happen. 

Last week’s course was particularly beneficial for everyone and we’d like to give a special “thank you” to the instructors and class participants.  If you’re an emergency manager or first responder and want to learn more about exercise-based training and Integrated Emergency Management Courses, visit www.training.fema.gov/EMIWeb/IEMC/ .  To learn more about other training courses that FEMA offers training.fema.gov.  We hope to see you in a future class!

What We're Watching: 6/14/13

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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.

Severe weather threat continues

Millions around the country dealt with a series of severe storms this week – and forecasts from the National Weather Service are calling for a potential for storms over the Great Plains, stretching from North Dakota to Kansas today.  As this week’s storms remind us, keeping up with your local forecast and having a plan are two key steps to stay safe.  What are the best ways to do that?  Well, you can follow the weather in your area through local TV/radio, but you can also do so on your phone through the National Weather Service mobile site at mobile.weather.gov.  And if you don’t have a NOAA Weather Radio, it’s definitely worth the investment.  It can alert you of severe weather conditions in your area 24/7, while providing specific actions for staying safe.  You can pick them up at most big box stores, and hardware stores are a good place to look, too.

As for making a plan for severe weather, Ready.gov has you covered.  You can visit the site on your computer or mobile device for a full list tips on staying safe before, during, or after severe weather.

Come 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 different departments of the agency:

Visit our Careers page to learn more about FEMA and browse through other opportunities that are available.

Upcoming Events

Here are a few events happening next week:

  • Small Business Week – It’s important for everyone to be prepared for an emergency, even businesses. As part of Small Business Week, we’re encouraging all business owners and employees to take the time to make sure your business is prepared for an emergency and employees/coworkers know what to do in the event of an emergency. Visit the Small Business Administration’s website and Ready.gov for tips and resources on preparing your business for an emergency.
  • Operation Hope – If you’re in the Atlanta, Georgia area, on Tuesday June 18 at 12:30 p.m. EDT Administrator Craig Fugate will be participating on the Operation Hope Forum titled Financial and Economic Disaster Recovery: People, Preparedness and the Price.  To learn more about the event or to register, visit the Operation Hope Website, follow @OpHOPE_ATL and follow the conversation using #HOPEforum.

Video of the Week

FEMA's Private Sector forged a relationship with the Girl Scouts of the Jersey Shore, the state of New Jersey Department of Homeland Security and Preparedness and the Lakewood BlueClaws minor league baseball team to raise donations of preparedness items and increased awareness of the importance of preparedness.

Photos of the Week

And finally, here are a few of my favorite photos that came into our Photo Library this week:


Oklahoma Governor Mary Fallin, stops at the memorial set up at Plaza Towers Elementary School to pay her respects during a tour with federal, state and local officials.Moore, Okla., June 12, 2013 -- Governor Mary Fallin, stops at the memorial set up at Plaza Towers Elementary School to pay her respects during a tour with federal, state and local officials. Residents are encouraged to register with FEMA if they sustained damage during this storm. Jocelyn Augustino/FEMA


FEMA Corps members Lorna Parish, center, and Eloy Arguello, right, register a local resident at a Vietnamese Survivor Event held at the Saigon Taipei Market.Moore, Okla., June 8, 2013 -- FEMA Corps members Lorna Parish, center, and Eloy Arguello, right, register a local resident at a Vietnamese Survivor Event held at the Saigon Taipei Market Residents impacted by the May 20th tornado are still encouraged to register with FEMA. Jocelyn Augustino/FEMA

Have a safe weekend!

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