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Oklahoma Tornado Response & How to Help

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Yesterday evening a large tornado touched down near Moore, Oklahoma, leaving massive destruction in its path. Our thoughts and prayers remain with the families and communities affected by the tornadoes.

presidential briefingWashington, D.C., May 21, 2013 -- President Barack Obama delivers remarks on the ongoing response to the devastating tornadoes and severe weather that impacted Oklahoma, in the State Dining Room of the White House, May 21, 2013. Vice President Joe Biden, Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano, and FEMA Deputy Administrator Richard Serino accompany the President. (Official White House Photo by Chuck Kennedy)

At the direction of the President, Administrator Fugate is in Oklahoma to ensure all Federal resources are supporting our state, local, and tribal partners in life saving and safety operations, including ongoing search and rescue.  Yesterday, President Obama declared a major disaster for the State of Oklahoma, making federal funding available to support affected individuals and families in the counties of Cleveland, Lincoln, McClain, Oklahoma, and Pottawatomie. 

Federal assistance has been made available to support immediate response and recovery efforts, including:

  • Preliminary damage assessment teams, comprised of representatives from the state, FEMA and the Small Business Administration, are on the ground and will begin assessments today, and more counties and additional forms of assistance may be designated after the assessments are fully completed.
  • Three national Urban Search and Rescue Teams (Texas Task Force 1, Nebraska Task Force 1 and Tennessee Task Force 1) and an Incident Support Team have been deployed to support the immediate response efforts.
  • One national and two regional Incident Management Assistance Teams are deployed to the state emergency operations center in Oklahoma City to coordinate with state and local officials in support of recovery operations.
  • Two Mobile Emergency Response Support Teams are in Oklahoma to provide self-sustaining telecommunications, logistics, and operations support elements, to assist in the immediate response needs and additional teams are being deployed.
  • Three Disaster Survivor Assistance Teams are scheduled to arrive later today into communities to perform the Assess, Inform, and Report (AIR) Missions, a tool to help federal, state, local, tribal and territorial partners gather detailed information on the affected areas during the critical first hours, days and weeks after a disaster strikes. DSATs will address immediate and emerging needs of disaster survivors including: on-site registration, applicant status checks, on-the-spot needs assessments, and access to partners offering survivor services.
  • FEMA activated the National Response Coordination Center in Washington, D.C., a multi-agency coordination center that provides overall coordination of the federal response to natural disasters and emergencies, to support state requests for assistance, and FEMA’s Region VI Response Coordination Centers (RRCC) located in Denton, Texas remains activated.

In addition to sharing the role of FEMA and our federal partners, I also wanted to share tips for those in the Oklahoma City area or looking to help survivors:

  • If you’re in the affected area: We encourage residents in declared counties to register for FEMA assistance online or on your smartphone at www.DisasterAssistance.gov or by calling 1-800-621-FEMA (3362).  Disaster applicants with a speech disability or hearing loss but use a TTY device, should instead call 1-800-462-7585 directly.

    Follow the instructions from local officials and take the recommended protective measures to safeguard life and property while response efforts continue. Roads are very likely to be damaged or blocked by debris, and traffic jams slow emergency managers and first responders as they attempt to reach hard-hit areas.
  • If you’re trying to get in touch with friends/family in the impacted area: Use the American Red Cross Safe & Well website (or mobile site), text messaging, and social media accounts to check-in with friends & family.  After a disaster, phone lines may be congested, so using other communication methods can be more successful.
  • If you’re not in the affected area, but are looking to help: For those looking for ways to help tornado survivors, remember: go through trusted organizations and only send goods that have been requested by local authorities.  If you’re considering donating money, cash donations are often the best way to help. The National Voluntary Organizations Active in Disasters has a list of organizations that you can feel confident in making a donation to. You can also follow NVOAD on Facebook and on Twitter @NationalVOAD.

    For more information on helping survivors after a disaster, visit fema.gov/howtohelp and www.ok.gov/okstrong.

As President Obama said this morning, we will continue to bring all available resources to bear as we support those impacted by the deadly tornado. For ongoing updates on FEMA’s response efforts, follow @FEMA and @FEMAregion6 on Twitter or visit the Oklahoma tornado disaster page.

What We’re Watching: 5/17/13

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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 forecast

For those of you in the Plains and the Midwest, the National Weather Service is forecasting potentially severe weather over the weekend and possibly into next week.  The storm system may bring large, damaging hail and strong winds, with tornadoes possible on Sunday and Monday.  Here’s a piece of the forecast from the National Weather Service: “It is important to note that due to the slow moving nature of this system, the areas affected through Monday may include locations that already had severe weather occur earlier in the period.

If severe weather is possible in your area, remember to:

  • Closely follow your local forecast through the National Weather Service website, mobile site, or through local TV & radio reports
  • Listen to the direction of local officials.  If they advise people to find shelter because of an upcoming storm, do so immediately
  • Double check your family’s emergency kit to make sure you have supplies to sustain you and your family for at least 72 hours
  • Make sure your family knows what to do in case severe weather strikes – talk about where to take shelter at home, or how you can stay safe if you’re traveling

For more tips on staying safe before, during, and after severe weather, check out Ready.gov or FEMA’s mobile site.

Assistance to those affected by Illinois flooding & storms

Last week, President Obama declared a major disaster for 11 counties in Illinois, making federal assistance available to individuals and families impacted by the recent flooding and severe storms.  We’ve been working hard to encourage impacted residents to apply for assistance.

FEMA Disaster Survivor Assistance Teams are in neighborhoods damaged by the storms and floods, going door-to-door letting people know how to apply for assistance and answering any questions about the application process.  We’ve also opened several disaster recovery centers in impacted areas. These centers provide a place for people to talk face-to-face with staff from FEMA and our emergency response partners about the assistance that is available.

For the latest information on FEMA’s role in Illinois, check out the disaster-specific webpage. And if you’re on Twitter, check out our Region 5 Twitter account – it’s been posting great updates like:

After a #disaster, be on guard against #fraud. @fema doesn’t charge for info or registration. Register at disasterassistance.gov. #IL

— femaregion5 (@femaregion5) May 16, 2013

Friday 5/17 from 10am-2pm @fema will be at the Des Plaines Library, 1501 Ellinwood St, to help people register for aid. #IL @readyillinois

— femaregion5 (@femaregion5) May 17, 2013

.@fema Disaster Recovery Center open in #Grundy @ Morris Fire Dept. 2301 Ashton Rd Morris, #IL 9am-7pm, 7 days a wk. twitter.com/femaregion5/st…

— femaregion5 (@femaregion5) May 16, 2013

A challenge for “hackers”

I’m talking about hackers who hack for good!  I am very excited that FEMA is one of the 19 government partners for the National Civic Day of Hacking, coming up June 1-2. The event will bring together citizens, software developers, entrepreneurs and government agencies across the nation to solve challenges relevant to America’s neighborhoods, cities, and the country.  To give you a scale of the event, there are 87 locations across the U.S. that will participate and work on over 37 data sets and resources.  FEMA’s U.S. Fire Administration submitted its own challenge for the event – use our wealth of fire incident data and build an online visualization tool that brings the data to life

Check out the National Civic Day of Hacking website for more info and spread the word about our challenge!

Photos of the week

To round out the week, here's one of my favorite recent photos from the FEMA photo library:


Bay Head, N.J., May 14, 2013 --A construction crew rebuilds one of several concrete walkways for beach access in Bay Head as part of the rebuilding and recovery process following Hurricane Sandy. Bay Head, N.J., May 14, 2013 --A construction crew rebuilds one of several concrete walkways for beach access in Bay Head as part of the rebuilding and recovery process following Hurricane Sandy.

Bay Head, N.J., May 14, 2013 -- A construction crew rebuilds one of several concrete walkways for beach access in Bay Head as part of the rebuilding and recovery process following Hurricane Sandy.

Have a safe weekend!

Turn Building Safety into Action During Building Safety Month

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In my experience, people tend to think that making their home or business more resistant to disasters is a very complex process that requires many professionals.  However, in the majority of cases, a little do-it-yourself effort can go a long way.  Making your home safer can be as simple as clearing flammable materials around your home if you live in an area prone to wildfires – or as complex as using specialized techniques when rebuilding your home after a disaster.

This month has been designated by the President as National Building Safety Month to highlight the importance of disaster-resistant building codes and standards that can help build stronger and safer communities across the nation.

One way FEMA helps promote disaster-resilient communities is through our support of national building code and standards organizations like the International Code Council along with state and local building officials. FEMA strongly supports our partners who promote the importance of disaster-resistant building codes and standards that can help communities reduce the impacts of natural disasters, protect the environment and save energy.

These codes translate into tangible, actionable things you can do as a homeowner or business owner that will make any building more resilient. Things like:

  • Elevating your home or business property.
  • Using more resilient construction materials.
  • Employing safe and sustainable design methods. 

FEMA continually works with building officials, design professionals, scientists, and engineers from Federal, State, territorial, local, non-profit, tribal, and private sector organizations to develop disaster-resistant guidance and tools. Communities and individuals consult FEMA’s technical guidance publications every day  to protect homes and businesses from earthquakes, fires, floods, tornados, winds, and other hazards.

For example, following Hurricane Isaac’s impact in August 2012, FEMA’s Hurricane Isaac Mitigation Assessment Team evaluated damage from the storm to the northern Gulf Coast of the United States, then developed recommendations for improvements in building design, construction, and code development and enforcement. The team also documented activities that made rebuilding easier, while increasing the safety of those structures.

And obviously, building safety continues to play a key part in the rebuilding effort after Hurricane Sandy.  Thousands of structures were damaged from the storm, some with foundational damage like this one:


damaged homeNorwalk, Conn., Nov. 10, 2012 -- This home's foundation was built with a break-away wall ocean-side several years ago after the home was storm damaged. In Hurricane Sandy, it collapsed - allowing the water to flow under the house, which was not damaged. FEMA mitigation specialists distribute information on up-to-date construction techniques to ensure a safer rebuilding of a home. Literature can also be requested through FEMA's website. Photo by Marilee Caliendo/FEMA

After disasters we make a substantial effort to make sure building back safer and stronger is top of mind.  We send “Mitigation Outreach Specialists” into impacted communities to speak directly with local homeowners and businesses looking to rebuild. Our primary location for these outreach specialists to visit is local home improvement stores.  That’s where people go to buy supplies or ask questions about repairing their home, so that’s where we focus our on-the-ground effort.  Here are a few of our outreach specialists in action after storms and flooding impacted Mississippi earlier this year:

fema help at home improvement storeHattiesburg, Miss., Feb. 27, 2013 -- Hazard Mitigation Specialists are at Lowe's to distribute information and answer questions for customers. FEMA has Hazard Mitigation specialists working in Mississippi with training in building safe rooms. Photo by Marilee Caliendo/FEMA

fema staff at home improvement storeHattiesburg, Miss., Feb. 23, 2013 -- Iris Fields, Hazard Mitigation Specialist, prepares a display illustrating construction elements of a safe room. FEMA has Hazard Mitigation specialists at Home Depot, distributing advice and information about making a safe room in your home. Photo by Marilee Caliendo/FEMA

In addition to the outreach in impacted communities, FEMA works very closely with state, local, and tribal officials to ensure they have the right tools to ensure a fully recovery.

This is just the “tip of the iceberg” about how FEMA supports building safety all year round.  To learn more about important steps you can take to help better prepare your home or business property  by building stronger, safer structures, visit fema.gov or go to the Building Safety Month Website for additional information and resources.

Saying “Thank You” During National Police Week

As a retired police chief and member of FEMA’s team, I want to kick off National Police Week by personally thanking the law enforcement community.  Like many officers serving now, I became a police officer to serve and protect the rights, freedoms and privileges embraced by this great nation.  As FEMA’s Senior Law Enforcement Advisor I have the honor of continuing that service to our nation and strive to cultivate liaisons between law enforcement agencies, organizations and the community.

National Police Week occurs each year and recognizes the service and sacrifice of law enforcement officers nationwide.  This week, we pay special recognition to those law enforcement officers who have lost their lives in the line of duty for the safety and protection of others.

As a nation we rely on law enforcement officers every day to provide for the safety and security of our communities and during times of crisis or disaster.  The law enforcement community is an important member of the first responder and emergency management team and FEMA is committed to supporting our law enforcement officers as they support their communities during emergencies and disasters.  When disasters strike, an officer’s primary function is to make sure the community is safe to operate in and then to stabilize the community by supporting emergency operations including emergency communications, search and rescue operational support, and other lifesaving missions. This first mission is critical - it enables the rest of the emergency management team to do their jobs. Whether it’s responding to a hurricane, flood, or other disaster… police are often first on the scene and secure the areas so further help can arrive.

Responding to disasters requires a team and at FEMA we strive to provide opportunities to support first responders through things like training and grant programs:

  • One resource and tool to help emergency responders and first responders like police officers is the Responder Knowledge Base website that serves as a trusted online source of information on products, standards, certifications, grants, and other equipment-related information.  Specifically, the Law Enforcement Focus Area provides emergency responders with specific information related to law enforcement in a centralized location for standards, certifications, grants, training & education, publications, and other resources related to law enforcement. 

So join me in saying “thank you” to those in law enforcement. Stop by your local police station this week and share your appreciation.  The trip doesn’t have to be longer than a few minutes, but it would certainly make their day to know those in the community appreciate their efforts. 

For more info on National Police Week, visit policeweek.org.

What We’re Watching: 5/10/13

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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.

Hurricane Season – Get Prepared

With the June 1 start of hurricane season just around the corner, and in preparation for National Hurricane Preparedness Week, we want to encourage you and your family members to begin to think about how you can prepare.

One way we’re encouraging folks to prepare is by signing up to receive hurricane safety tips directly to your mobile phone. By texting HURRICANE to 43362 (4FEMA), you can sign up to receive bi-weekly hurricane safety tips. These tips are friendly reminders of the steps you can take to prepare your family and home from a hurricane.

There are other safety tip lists you can sign up for too. Head over to www.fema.gov/text-messages or http://m.fema.gov/text-messages (on your mobile phone) for more subscription options as well as a list of commands you can use when texting 43362.

Awards Period Open for 2013 Individual & Community Preparedness Awards

The Individual & Community Preparedness awards recognize outstanding individuals, organizations, Citizen Corps Councils, and programs working to make our communities safer, stronger and better prepared for any disaster or emergency event.

Whether it's an individual or a faith-based, non-profit, private sector, community-based, or tribal organization, everyone makes a difference in our community. Acknowledge the work you or someone you know has done to build a more resilient nation and submit an application today.

The application deadline is June 5, 2013. Visit www.ready.gov/citizen-corps-awards for more information or to download an application.

Save the Date – FEMA Think Tank

Join Deputy Administrator Rich Serino for the next FEMA Think Tank conference call on May 28, 2013. This month’s call will be held in New York City, in partnership with UNICEF, and will focus on disaster survivor stories and international emergency worker experiences to encourage a more disaster-survivor-centric approach to emergency management at every level.

If you’ve been impacted by a disaster, or know someone who has, visit our online forum to contribute ideas and comments for discussion on the upcoming call.  Visit www.fema.gov/think-tank for more details about this month’s call or to learn more about the FEMA Think Tank.

Photos of the Week

And to wrap up the week, here are a few of our favorite photos:

West, Texas, May 5, 2013 -- Disaster survivors and first responders are served a special meal at a local church. FEMA workers also attended the event to answer questions about the types of disaster assistance available. Norman Lenburg/FEMA

West, Texas, May 5, 2013 -- First responders line up for a special meal at the First Baptist Church. Federal Emergency Management Agency workers also attended the event to answer questions about the types of disaster assistance available to survivors of the April 17 fertilizer plant explosion.West, Texas, May 5, 2013 -- First responders line up for a special meal at the First Baptist Church. Federal Emergency Management Agency workers also attended the event to answer questions about the types of disaster assistance available to survivors of the April 17 fertilizer plant explosion.

West, Texas, May 5, 2013 -- Disaster survivors and first responders are served a special meal at the First Baptist Church. Federal Emergency Management Agency workers also attended the event to answer questions about the types of disaster assistance available.West, Texas, May 5, 2013 -- Disaster survivors and first responders are served a special meal at the First Baptist Church. Federal Emergency Management Agency workers also attended the event to answer questions about the types of disaster assistance available.

Have a safe weekend!

What We’re Watching: 5/3/13

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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.

Springtime severe weather

The variety of weather we’ve seen across the U.S. this week has been amazing. Every day there have been wildfires, floods, blizzards, droughts, and thunderstorms.  We continue to support our state, local and tribal emergency management partners as needed – and you can do your part by making sure you’re prepared for whatever weather spring throws at you.

  • Wildfires
    • If your home or business is in an area susceptible to wildfires, create a 30 to 100 foot “safety zone” around your home. Within the zone, remove leaves, brush, or any flammable vegetation.  And be sure to keep gasoline cans, oily rags, or other flammable materials away from the base of buildings
    • Have an evacuation plan. If local officials give the order for your neighborhood or area to evacuate – don’t stay.  If you have pets, make sure to bring them with you.   
    • Don’t drive to the fire – give emergency crews ample space to do their work and stay off access roads that are frequently used by firefighters or emergency vehicles.
    • Get more tips at www.Ready.gov/wildfires or on your phone at http://m.fema.gov/wildfires
  • Floods
    • Don’t drive or walk through flood waters, they could be contaminated with gasoline, oil, or raw sewage.
    • When water levels are high, stay from streams, drainage channels, canyons and other areas that could flood suddenly
    • Don’t try to drive through flooded roads. The depth of water is not always obvious.  Remember, turn around, don’t drown.
    • More flood safety tips online at www.Ready.gov/floods and on your phone at http://m.fema.gov/floods
  • Blizzards and snow
    • Be extra cautious while driving. Travel during the day and make sure to have some emergency supplies in your vehicle.  Things like extra blankets, road flares, a shovel, a battery-powered radio, and extra food and water will come in handy should you get stuck.
    • Stay up to date on your local conditions. Weather.gov is a great place to get your weather forecast each day, or tune in to local radio or TV for an update.
    • Two sites to bookmark for winter safety tips: www.Ready.gov/floods for your computer and http://m.fema.gov/winter-storms-extreme-cold for your phone

Sandy recovery continues to be a full team effort

sandy damaged home

CAPTION: Breezy Point, N.Y., March 22, 2013 -- Residents of this Queens neighborhood are rebuilding their homes damaged by Hurricane Sandy. This house is in the process of being elevated above the new flood level to prevent damage from future storm surges and flooding.

In case you missed it earlier this week, Mike Byrne, FEMA’s lead in New York after Hurricane Sandy, offered his thoughts on the progress made six months after the storm. His key message: the work is far from over, and a full recovery will continue to require a full team effort.  Here is some of what Mike had to say (you can find the full article here):

In the immediate aftermath of the storm, thousands were without power, the subways and tunnels were filled with water; many hospitals shut down, including Bellevue, Coney Island and NYU Langone hospitals; and thousands of homes were unlivable.

But this is New York. We bounce back. State, tribal and local governments have joined forces with a host of federal agencies, as well as businesses, volunteers and survivors, to get things up and running again. oday the signs of recovery can be seen across Long Island and the city, and more than $6.6 billion in federal assistance has been distributed to New York communities and survivors.

Are we done? No. This is just the beginning.

Now we turn to the next phase in recovery. Just as we brought together every sector of the federal government immediately after the storm, in the months that followed, we've brought together a roster of partners to help rebuild New York.

Video to share this weekend

As I mentioned earlier, spring has arrived and brought warmer weather to most of the country.  If you’re anything like me, I always look forward to firing up the grill as soon as I can stand to be outside.  Grills are great, but misusing outdoor cooking equipment is the cause of many home fires each year.  So check out this video from FEMA’s U.S. Fire Administration to make sure you’re a grill master that’s also an expert on preventing grill-related fires:

Have a safe, enjoyable weekend!

Learning from Hurricane Sandy Champions of Change

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How much of an impact can a small group of volunteers make after a disaster? 

Last Wednesday, I had the honor of addressing the Hurricane Sandy Champions of Change – a group of “ordinary” people who did (and are still doing) extraordinary things to help those who were impacted by Hurricane Sandy.  Many of them suffered damage to their homes and businesses as a result of the storm, but continued to fulfill the needs they saw in their communities.

champions of change at table

CAPTION: Washington, D.C., April 24, 2013 – The White House Champions of Change event which honored people and organizations directly involved in response and recovery efforts following Hurricane Sandy. These hidden heroes implemented innovative, collaborative solutions to meet the unique needs of communities and neighborhoods as they worked to rebuild after the devastating effects of this disaster.

The exceptional work of these Champions of Change reminds us that every disaster, big and small, brings out champions in our communities.  It’s our job as government leaders to recognize this and support their success. This impressive group showed us what it takes to be a champion:

  1. Champions aren’t afraid to act – When people hear the term “first responder”, they often think of fire engines and search and rescue teams.  And that’s right.  But many times, the “first responders” after a disaster are neighbors and those within the community.  They’re the ones immediately knocking on doors, checking on friends and loved ones, and seeing if people’s basic needs are being met.  And neighbors are the ones who know the community best. What makes the Champions of Change a special group was that they were able to identify the unique needs of their own communities and respond to them.

    As the Champions shared their individual stories, a few of them said “Do what you’re good at.”  That’s a great perspective, and that’s exactly what they did –they took it upon themselves to help their neighbors— applying their skill set to solving real problems.  If they knew how to cook, they prepared meals. If they could gut and pump homes, they got to work. If they could set up wireless networks for internet access, they made it happen.  Having an impact during and after emergencies can be as simple as focusing on what you’re good at and taking action.
  2. Seeing the public as a resource, not a liability – Within government, there’s often been a tendency to rely on government alone to respond to emergencies.  This top-down approach, assumed people needed to be taken care of and have their needs met for them. 

    What the Champions of Change demonstrate is that this way of thinking is shortsighted – individuals and communities often rise up and solve problems on their own.   We have to look to all of us to solve problems and bring our best.  The best approach by government is to work with the public as a valuable partner— a resource that helps after a disaster, not a liability that needs to be taken care of.  Those impacted by disasters aren’t “victims”, they are “survivors”.  Those of us in government should be continually looking for ways to work alongside impacted individuals and communities so we can bring every possible resource to bear in helping their neighborhoods recover. 
  3. Solutions built around government are too small – Another reality that the Champions of Change brings to light is how big disasters can be.  If we only build solutions or systems that work within the capabilities of government, communities will suffer.  What happens to that system when the disaster is bigger than the government’s scale?  What happens to those impacted by the disaster when that system doesn’t do what it’s supposed to?  Government by itself does not have all the answers – the team responding to disasters must be much bigger than that.

    We can’t fall into the trap of government having the answers because disasters hit communities and families.  That’s why we need to build our response and recovery systems around the public first.  Members of the community need to be at the planning table alongside government, businesses, and non-profit organizations because they’re the ones that best know the needs of the community and they’re the ones who are often the first responders. That’s what the Champions of Change did – they identified people’s needs in the community and scaled their solutions to meet those needs.

champions of change at table

During the event, the Champions were also asked to give their advice to others on how to prepare for emergencies, and our FEMAlive Twitter account captured what a few of them shared:

Without the tireless efforts and countless hours of volunteers, we would not be as far along as we are after Hurricane Sandy.  There is still a lot of work to be done for every community to fully recover.  The purpose of Wednesday’s event at the White House wasn’t just to recognize the impact of the 17 Champions of Change – it was also to inspire others to act.  I hope you will follow the lead of what these Champions of Change are doing in their communities and take action to make your family, street, town, neighborhood, or city more resilient.

For more on the White House Champions of Change, visit www.whitehouse.gov/champions.

What We’re Watching: 4/26/13

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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.

Monitoring Flooding in Midwest

We continue to closely monitor the impacts of severe weather and current and possible flooding conditions in several Central U.S. and Midwest states. 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.  And remember, if local authorities order an evacuation, leave immediately; follow evacuation routes announced by officials, and stay away from coastal areas, river banks and streams.

Driving through a flooded area can be extremely dangerous. When you are 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.

Those in areas affected by the heavy rains and/or in areas anticipating high river crests, familiarize yourself with the terms that are used to identify a flood hazard and discuss with your family what to do if a flood watch or warning is issued.  Here are some terms to familiarize yourself with:

  • Flood Watch: Flooding is possible. Tune in to NOAA Weather Radio, commercial radio, or television for information 
  • Flash Flood Watch: Flash flooding is possible. Be prepared to move to higher ground; listen to NOAA Weather Radio, commercial radio, or television for information. 
  • Flood Warning: Flooding is occurring or will occur soon; if advised to evacuate, do so immediately. 
  • Flash Flood Warning: A flash flood is occurring; seek higher ground on foot immediately. 

You can visit www.Ready.gov/floods for more information and safety tips on what to do before, during and after a flood.

In the News

FEMA Deputy Administrator Rich Serino was on the ground in his hometown of Boston, Massachusetts, last week during the bombing attacks at the Boston Marathon. Today, he shared his perspective on the community-wide effort to respond to last week's tragic bombings in an op-ed for the Boston Globe.

Here’s a little of what he had to say:

Growing up in Boston, you know that Patriot’s Day and the Boston Marathon come together to create a day like no other. We pause to celebrate our heritage, the city shines and our streets fill with millions of residents and visitors from around the block and around the world. For most of my life, I worked those same streets for Boston EMS, ending a 36-year career as chief of the department in 2009.

There were many nights I went home proud of the men and women of Boston EMS, but I was never more proud of them and the residents of my town, than I was last week.

While in one moment we saw terror and brutality, in the next we saw our community’s love and compassion. We saw our EMTs, paramedics, police officers, and firefighters spring into action and perform their jobs heroically.

Read the rest of Deputy Administrator’s Serino’s perspective.

In Case You Missed It

Inspiration was also on hand this week.  The White House held its Champions of Change ceremony honoring people and organizations directly involved in response and recovery efforts following Hurricane Sandy. These hidden heroes implemented innovative, collaborative solutions to meet the unique needs of communities and neighborhoods as they worked to rebuild after the devastating effects of this disaster.

Washington, D.C., April 24, 2013 -- White House Champions of Change event which honored people and organizations directly involved in response and recovery efforts following Hurricane Sandy. These hidden heroes implemented innovative, collaborative solutions to meet the unique needs of communities and neighborhoods as they worked to rebuild after the devastating effects of this disaster.

CAPTION: Washington, D.C., April 24, 2013 -- This White House Champions of Change event honored people and organizations involved in response and recovery efforts following Hurricane Sandy.
 

 Washington, D.C., April 24, 2013 -- This White House Champions of Change event honored people and organizations directly involved in response and recovery efforts following Hurricane Sandy. These hidden heroes implemented innovative, collaborative solutions to meet the unique needs of communities and neighborhoods as they worked to rebuild after the devastating effects of this disaster.

CAPTION: Washington, D.C., April 24, 2013 -- White House Champions of Change stand for a picture with FEMA Administrator Craig Fugate.
 

We also live-tweeted the event and I wanted to share two tweets that stuck out to me:

Congratulations to these men and women for their dedication and commitment to serve their fellow neighbors during their time of need.

Have a safe weekend!

What We’re Watching: 4/12/13

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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.

Monitoring Severe Weather

We continue to closely monitor the severe weather, including dangerous winds, tornadoes and severe winter weather that affected parts of the Central U.S., Midwest and Southeast, last night and Wednesday. We encourage those in affected areas to continue to monitor local radio or TV stations for updated emergency information, and to follow the instructions of state, tribal and local officials. 

If you haven’t already, now is the time to get prepared for severe weather.  Visit www.ready.gov to learn more about what to do before, during, and after severe weather.

Here are a few safety tips to keep in mind should severe weather occur in your area:

  • Familiarize yourself with the terms that are used to identify a tornado hazard.
    • A tornado watch means a tornado is possible in your area.
    • A tornado warning is when a tornado is actually occurring, take shelter immediately.
  • Ensure your family preparedness plan and contacts are up to date and exercise your plan.  Learn about the emergency plans that have been established in your area by your state, tribal or local government, and ensure your home and car are prepared for the severe weather.
  • If you haven’t already, now is the time to get prepared for tornadoes and other disasters. Determine in advance where you will take shelter in case of a tornado warning:
    • Storm cellars or basements provide the best protection. If underground shelter is not available, go into an interior room or hallway on the lowest floor possible.
    • In a high-rise building, go to a small interior room or hallway on the lowest floor possible. Stay away from windows, doors and outside walls. Go to the center of the room. Stay away from corners because they attract debris.
    • Vehicles, trailers and mobile homes are not good locations to ride out a tornado. Plan to go quickly to a building with a strong foundation, if possible.
    • If shelter is not available, lie flat in a ditch or other low-lying area. Do not get under an overpass or bridge. You are safer in a low, flat location.

We will continue to monitor weather conditions as these storm systems move across the East Coast and will provide updates as necessary.

National Tribal Consultation Call

Over the past several weeks, we’ve hosted regional tribal consultation calls with tribal leadership, their organizations and stakeholders to present information regarding changes to how the federal government provides disaster assistance to tribes and how we can better meet the unique needs of Indian Country after disasters. We’ve gathered valuable comments and insights from our tribal partners related to declarations procedures and this process is culminating in a National Tribal Consultation call next week to further discuss improvements to the disaster assistance process.

Join us on Thursday, April 18 at 3:00 p.m. EDT for a National Tribal Consultation conference call and provide your comments on:

Here’s the call-in information:

  • Date & Time: Thursday, April 18 at 3:00 p.m. EDT
  • Number: 888-708-5699
  • Passcode: 1601121

You can also provide your ideas and comments by visiting FEMA’s online collaboration community, or by sending us an e-mail at tribalconsultation@fema.dhs.gov.  

In case you missed it, Administrator Fugate recently blogged:

When you're tackling a new and challenging topic, starting from a solid foundation is crucial to success.  Right now, there is an opportunity to change how the federal government provides disaster assistance and we’re looking for tribal leaders to help set a solid foundation for those changes…

We hope that you can take part in this opportunity to shape disaster assistance programs and processes more effectively.

Youth Preparedness Council

It’s not too late to submit an application or nominate a young leader in your community for our Youth Preparedness Council.  FEMA’s Youth Preparedness Council provides an opportunity for young leaders to share ideas and solutions to strengthen the nation against all types of disasters.

Here’s a short video from U.S. Senator Jack Reed from Rhode Island encouraging teenagers to apply to serve on the council.

Remember, the deadline to submit an application or nomination is next Friday, April 19.  So head over to Ready.gov/youth-preparedness for more information or to download an application today!

Getting it right for Indian Country

Author: 

When you're tackling a new and challenging topic, starting from a solid foundation is crucial to success.  Right now, there is an opportunity to change how the federal government provides disaster assistance and we’re looking for tribal leaders to help set a solid foundation for those changes.

When President Obama signed into law the Sandy Recovery Improvement Act of 2013, he amended the Stafford Act to recognize the sovereignty of tribal governments, and this was a big step in the right direction to better meet the unique needs of Indian Country after disasters.   However, there's still work to be done to shape disaster assistance programs and processes most effectively.  That's where we are now -- we are consulting with tribal governments, tribal leaders, and tribal stakeholders to consider changes to a range of federal disaster assistance processes and topics:

  • Input on the major disaster declaration process, 
  • Criteria to declare a major disaster, 
  • Program delivery, and 
  • The unique aspects of Indian culture that might not be currently considered by the rules. 

I encourage our tribal partners to join us in developing rules through consultation.  You’re invited to join a series of upcoming tribal consultation calls, provide ideas to FEMA’s online collaboration community, or send an e-mail to tribalconsultation@fema.dhs.gov.  Now is a great time to make sure the unique needs of Indian Country are considered throughout the federal disaster assistance process.

Why are we looking for input from the community?  Up to this point, FEMA has established rules around the disaster declaration process, assistance programs, and other aspects of federal assistance to meet the needs of state governments and individuals in those states.  Now, with the recent amendment to the Stafford Act, we have an opportunity to change those rules with regards to the sovereignty of tribal nations. 

In a little more than two months since the Sandy Recovery Improvement Act became law, the President has already signed two disaster declarations directly for Indian Country. The new changes have already resulted in federal disaster assistance going directly to tribal communities.

But there’s still much to be done. That's why we're having these consultation calls, gathering feedback online, and asking for e-mails. Once the consultation concludes, FEMA will draft proposed rules. Learn more about how to join this discussion by visiting FEMA’s online collaboration community, or send us an e-mail at tribalconsultation@fema.dhs.gov.  

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