Information on the Japan earthquake and tsunami for U.S. citizens
Over the past few weeks, this blog featured several posts about the tragic Japan earthquake and tsunami, specifically referencing the U.S. government’s role in supporting the ongoing response and recovery, being led by the U.S. Agency for International Development. We wanted to draw your attention to a new page on USA.gov with information on air quality, food safety, Americans in Japan, disaster preparedness, and donations.
Also knowing that a lot of our blog readers live and work around Washington, DC we thought it was worth mentioning that the Cherry Blossom Festival in Washington, DC also starts today.
In response to the recent earthquake and tsunami disasters, the Festival activities will kick off with a fundraising event, Stand With Japan. People are asked to meet at the Washington Monument to walk around the Tidal Basin in the spirit of hope and rebuilding. For more information on how to help those affected by the earthquake and tsunami in Japan, visit Interaction.org.
Severe weather outlook
Keeping with the pattern of active weather this past week, snow is expected to hit parts of the East coast this weekend. Looking ahead to next week, National Weather Service forecasts are calling for heavy precipitation in the Southeast, along with colder temperatures and localized river flooding for the Upper Midwest.
Be sure to visit Ready.gov for information on getting prepared for the hazardous weather that Spring can bring, and stay up to date on your local forecast at weather.gov.
National Emergency Management Association (NEMA) conference wraps up
This past week, hundreds of emergency management professionals, State and local officials, private sector representatives, and concerned citizens participated in the NEMA conference held in Washington D.C. Bringing together so many members of the emergency management team is an important step in strengthening relationships that can help communities and individuals prepare for, respond to, and recover from disasters. For more information on the 2011 NEMA Mid-Year conference, visit their website.
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Editor’s Note: Mr. Hildreth is the Mayor of Pacific, Wash., a town in Western Washington between Seattle and Tacoma.
I recently completed the Hazard Assessment and Response Management (HARM) course, at FEMA’s Center for Domestic Preparedness (CDP), in Anniston, Alabama, which trains students to conduct a multi-disciplined response to a Chemical, Biological, Radiological, Nuclear, or Explosive incident. As a mayor charged with making key decisions that impact my local response teams during a major incident, advanced, hands-on training makes me an informed member of the emergency management team in my community.
The HARM course is one of a handful I’ve taken at the CDP. Some people may wonder why an elected official would attend training at FEMA’s CDP. I return to the CDP because of the unique training and because there is no other place civilian responders can go to validate their skills in an actual toxic chemical environment.
Specifically, the training helped me understand the challenges a first responder might face, the steps needed to ensure public and responder safety, and the working conditions within which first responders must operate.
But how does my experience at CDP training relate to you?
As Americans, we cannot afford to be caught off guard when a disaster occurs. No matter what your role is in your community, getting prepared for emergencies can ease the initial burden on our first responders immediately following a disaster, allowing them to focus on those that have been most affected.
It is often difficult to take time out of our busy schedules to attend training, or take the simple steps needed to get prepared. In my own experience, it is easy to push disaster preparedness to the back burner and deal with the everyday issues that come with being a local elected official.
However, I encourage you to look into emergency preparedness training opportunities offered in your local community. If you are an emergency responder, visit the CDP Web site to find out more about the specialized, all-hazards training offered.
Both my community and I are better prepared after taking courses like those offered at the CDP. That’s why officials with roles in emergency response and thousands of concerned citizens from around the country participate in training each year. Our communities and businesses are worth it. But more importantly, our citizens are worth it.
- Richard Hildreth
We’ve talked a lot about the flooding in the Midwest that’s forecasted, or is already happening, for the Midwest this spring. Previous blog posts have discussed how individuals can get prepared and what we’re doing to assist the other members of the emergency management team.
However, we wanted to specifically highlight some of the actions being taken by those team members --- State and local governments, voluntary and faith-based organizations, local businesses, and committed citizens --- in the Midwest flood fight.
The stories below are only a small sample of the many preparations being taken by individuals and communities across the Midwest:
- Brookings, South Dakota: Governor flood preparation meetings
The Brookings Register (South Dakota)
- Fargo-Moorhead (North Dakota and Minnesota): Fargo-Moorhead brace for potential flooding
- Davenport, Iowa: Flood fight a team effort
Quad City Times (Iowa)
- Clara City, Minnesota: Residents pitch in with sandbagging efforts
West Central Tribune (Minnesota)
- Savanna, Illinois: Businesses prepare for flood
If you haven’t taken steps to get prepared for a flood, visit Ready.gov today.
As we've mentioned before on the blog, social media is becoming increasingly important to disaster survivors and emergency managers.
Tomorrow, I will be attending an event on social media in emergency management with colleagues of mine, as part of the annual National Association of Emergency Managers Mid-Year Conference. The goal of the social media event is to bring together the team --- emergency managers from the Federal, State and local levels, technology volunteers, private sector, and others who are involved in the social media space --- to continue the dialogue about using social media and technology in emergency management and beyond.
Just like we saw after the Tennessee floods and just like we're seeing in Japan, the recovery process from any disaster can be long, and getting information out throughout the whole recovery process is just as important as during the response.
If you're completely new to social media, want to learn more, and/or want to start using social media in your emergency management capacity, I encourage you to follow the conversation on Twitter from tomorrow's event by following #smem11. After tomorrow, you can participate in the conversation by following #smem and share your thoughts, ideas and experiences.
And as always, on Twitter you can follow @fema and Administrator Fugate @CraigatFEMA (see this article in Computer World for more information on Administrator Fugate's view of social media and technology at FEMA).
I look forward to hearing from you, either on Twitter or by leaving a comment below.
- Fostering partnerships and engaging the entire community in the practice of emergency management;
- Establishing priorities to stabilize communities after a catastrophic event and contribute to a full recovery;
- Building a shared understanding of risk among our partners; and
- Enhancing the agency’s ability to learn and innovate.
If you are thinking about getting trained in basic disaster response skills and becoming part of your local Community Emergency Response Team (CERT), or if you are already a CERT member or trainer, I encourage you to check out our updated CERT Basic Training course materials.
For those that don’t know, CERTs are a committed group of local volunteers who have received training in emergency response and preparedness who can play a vital role in assisting the community after a disaster. The updated CERT course materials cover topics ranging from first aid to search and rescue. We made some updates to improve the clarity of the training content, along with making sure that all of the procedures are up-to-date. We worked with multiple stakeholders, including local CERT trainers and technical experts, to update the Basic Training materials.
In addition to checking out the updated materials online, I encourage you to attend a webinar on the new and updated material on Tuesday, March 29th, 2011. Ensuring that communities are prepared before disaster strikes is a top priority for our agency, and making sure communities have the most up-to-date training curriculum is one piece of promoting individual and community preparedness.
If you have taken a CERT course recently or are interested in getting trained, I welcome your feedback on putting CERT training into action. As you are coming up with ideas, check out my last blog post about a CERT success story.
- CERT is a FEMA program sponsored by local government to train and involve community members in disaster response and relief efforts. For more information on CERT and to access the updated training, go to www.CitizenCorps.gov/cert.
As rescue and recovery efforts continue in Japan, this tragedy should also serve as an important reminder that disaster can strike anytime and anywhere. This week happens to be National Tsunami Awareness Week, and our partners at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association are urging all Americans who live along U.S. coastlines to take the threat of tsunamis seriously.
There are a few simple tips to remember:
Warning signs of a tsunami
- A strong earthquake, or one that persists for 20 seconds or longer
- The ocean withdraws or rises rapidly
- A loud, roaring sound (like an airplane or a train) coming from the ocean
- Tsunami warnings broadcast over television and radio, by beach lifeguards, community sirens, text message alerts, National Weather Service tsunami warning center Web sites and on NOAA Weather Radio All Hazards
What you should do if you see these signs
- Keep calm
- Immediately move to your local tsunami shelter using defined tsunami evacuation routes
- If there are no evacuation routes defined, move to higher ground that is at least 100 feet in elevation, a mile inland, or to the highest floor of a sturdy building and STAY there
- If you are already in a safe location, STAY there
- Move on foot when possible - do not drive - this keeps the roads clear for emergency vehicles
- Stay tuned to NOAA Weather Radio or news broadcasts for changes in tsunami alerts
- Stay away from the coast and low-lying areas until local officials say it's safe to return
This week should also serve as a crucial reminder for all Americans, no matter if you live near the coast or not, to take the time to get prepared now, before disaster strikes. Anyone can visit Ready.gov to learn how.
For more information visit Ready.gov or http://www.tsunami.gov/.
The tragic earthquake and tsunami in Japan have resulted in extraordinary loss of life, injury, and property damage. Our thoughts and prayers continue to be with those affected by the disaster. When international disasters occur, they often raise questions about how we would deal with a similar event here at home.
Keeping nuclear facilities safe in the U.S. is a coordinated effort among the plant’s operator, federal, state, local and tribal government agencies. Following the Three Mile Island accident in 1979, Congress established emergency planning and preparedness as a condition for licensing and operations. With any commercial nuclear facility within the U.S., the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) has regulatory oversight for onsite activities within the plant. FEMA, in turn, has responsibility for working with state, tribal and local governments for offsite emergency planning and preparedness. Specific planning standards and evaluation criteria exist that must be satisfied in order for NRC to issue an operating license. This process is designed by law to ensure plans and preparedness “adequately protect the public health and safety by providing reasonable assurance that appropriate protective measures can be taken offsite in the event of a radiological emergency.”
FEMA’s Radiological Emergency Preparedness Program (REPP) provides state, tribal and local governments with processes to review and approve preparedness measures (e.g., plans, procedures, personnel, training, facilities, and equipment). It offers support and resources such as site assistance visits, planning guidance, and helping conduct exercises to ensure the health and safety of citizens living around commercial nuclear power plants, in the event of a radiological accident.
Here are some facts on the REPP:
Working with state, local and tribal officials
We work in close coordination to ensure plans and preparedness measures are in place to protect public health and safety. We ensure these plans can be used by emergency response personnel, and that they include sufficient resources and equipment. Planning and preparedness measures employ tools such as the National Incident Management System (NIMS), the National Response Framework (NRF), and Comprehensive Preparedness Guide 101: Developing and Maintaining State, Territorial, Tribal, and Local Government Emergency Plans.
As part of the REPP, we also evaluate the alert and notification system for nuclear power plants in case an accident should occur, including outdoor warning sirens and back-up systems.
We cooperate closely with the NRC and provide all findings from these evaluations to the NRC to use when making its licensing decisions.
Informing the public
As we do with all hazards, we are focused on making sure the public is aware of the various risks in their communities and providing preparedness and safety information about the potential impact of a radiological threat.
Families that live near or around nuclear power plants should become informed about steps they can take to protect themselves before an incident occurs by contacting their local Office of Emergency Management, referring to information in the local telephone directory and regular publications they receive by mail about emergency preparedness, or visiting Ready.gov.
Over a week ago, two Urban Search and Rescue (US&R) teams were deployed to Japan by the U.S. Agency for International Development, at the request of the Japanese government. The teams were sent to support search and rescue efforts after the tragic earthquake and tsunami that hit Japan on March 11.
Yesterday, Virginia Task Force 1 and Los Angeles Task Force 2 safely arrived home after their nine day mission. Here are some links to local news coverage about the teams' mission and return home:
- Virginia Task Force 1 home from Japan (WTTG, Washington DC)
- Members of LA Search and Rescue Team Return From Japan (KABC-TV, Los Angeles)
Join us in saying "thank you" to the US&R team members and their families. For more information on US&R teams and FEMA, check out these blog posts:
As Flood Safety Awareness Week continues, yesterday, the National Weather Service issued forecasts indicating communities in the Dakotas, Minnesota and other states in the Midwest are at a significant risk for major flooding this spring, and Montana, South Dakota, New Jersey and other states are already dealing with significant floods.
We have written a lot on this blog about what individuals can do to prepare, and how we are working with the entire team to get the word out, but we wanted to take a second and let you know about one of the steps we are taking here at FEMA to be ready – establishing an Incident Support Base in the upper Midwest.
What’s an Incident Support Base?
At all times, FEMA has commodities (like water, food, blankets, cots and generators), at our eight distribution centers that are strategically located throughout the United States. These centers contain millions of liters of water, millions of meals and hundreds of thousands of blankets, just to give you some sense of their size.
Often times, when we see the threat of disaster, in the form of flooding, hurricanes or other phenomenon, in anticipation of requests from our state partners, we will send some of our commodities forward from our distribution centers closer to the impacted areas and set up what we call an Incident Support Base (ISB).
Fayetteville, NC, September 3, 2010 -- FEMA generators are staged for rapid deployment to support emergency facilities and public buildings if needed. FEMA is one part of a team supporting North Carolina's preparations for and response to Hurricane Earl.
You may remember last summer, when Hurricane Earl threatened the east coast. We set up two ISBs, one in the Northeast, and one in the Southeast, in case they were needed to support the states’ response. Here is a video about one of the ISBs we stood up to prepare for Hurricane Earl:
And this week, in anticipation of potential flooding across the Upper Midwest, FEMA has a team on the ground in Minnesota, proactively establishing an Incident Support Base, to further enhance our ability to quickly move needed supplies throughout the Upper Midwest states affected by spring flooding, should they be needed and requested.
The Incident Support Base has already begun receiving supplies this past Monday that includes meals, water, cots, hygiene kits, infant and toddler kits and other items intended to support state requirements. Check out this video from local news.
If the Midwest states request supplies, items from the Incident Support Base will be sent forward to a Federal or State staging area, and ultimately transferred to the state for distribution to survivors. All points of distribution are identified and managed by the local/state emergency managers.
And as we often say, FEMA is not the team, FEMA is part of the team, a team that includes the entire federal family, state, local and tribal officials, the faith-based and non-profit communities, the private sector and most importantly the public. Individuals living in the affected areas need to take precautions and to continue to heed the information and warnings coming from their state and local officials.
If you haven’t already, visit www.ready.gov/floodawareness to learn more.