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Indiana "Shakes Out"

Today, the state of Indiana, through the Indiana Department of Homeland Security (IDHS), participated in the Great Central U.S. ShakeOut, a multi-state earthquake drill to teach participants the basics of earthquake safety and preparedness.

More than half a million participants throughout the state signed up for this drill. I commend the work that IDHS has done, together with the Central United States Earthquake Consortium, to recruit the participation of individuals, families, schools, and businesses for this important drill, and I applaud Indiana for including the whole community in this effort.

Recent events throughout the world, including the earthquake in Japan, the fifth largest in recorded history, as well as the devastating earthquakes in New Zealand and Haiti, serve as powerful examples of how destructive these unpredictable disasters can be. They’re also reminders that none of us – no matter where we live – are immune from disasters whether natural or manmade.

Although the state of Indiana is holding its ShakeOut drill today, Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Illinois, Kentucky, Mississippi, Missouri, Oklahoma, South Carolina and Tennessee, will hold their ShakeOut on April 28 at 10:15 a.m. More than one and half million registrants in these 10 states will exercise three simple steps:

  • DROP to the ground,
  • Take COVER by getting under a sturdy desk or table, and
  • HOLD ON to it until the shaking stops.

While we don't know when the next earthquake will strike, taking steps now to enhance our readiness will help the country become more resilient before disaster strikes. Knowing what to do before, during and after an earthquake can mean the difference between life and death.

Register for the ShakeOut at www.shakeout.org/centralus and visit www.Ready.gov for important earthquake preparedness tips so that you can protect yourself and your loved ones in the event of an earthquake.

Less than 2 Weeks to Go to Central U.S. Shakeout – What Will You Do?

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For months, FEMA has been working closely with 11 of our state partners and many other members of the team to get the word out about the Great Central U.S. Shakeout – the first-ever multi-state public earthquake drill taking place next Thursday, April 28 at 10:15 am central time.

And as of today, we’re less than two weeks away – which means it’s time for all of us, across the entire team, to get involved and do our part to get the word out. Why?

The recent – and tragic - earthquakes we’ve seen from Japan, the fifth largest earthquake in recorded history, to the earthquakes that struck New Zealand, Chile, Haiti and our own U.S. territory of American Samoa, that destructive disasters can hit us anytime, anywhere, and often without any warning.

And none of us – no matter where we live – are immune. In fact, earthquake activity has been felt in all fifty states. Like it or not, we simply don’t have the luxury of thinking “this couldn’t happen here.”

While we can’t prevent earthquakes or other disasters, we can take important steps to prepare for them. One way you can prepare is to join more than two million people who are participating in The Great Central U.S. ShakeOut, the largest earthquake preparedness event in central U.S. history. Eleven states are participating in the ShakeOut, including Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Kentucky, Illinois, Indiana, Mississippi, Missouri, Oklahoma, South Carolina and Tennessee; and so far, over 2.2 million people have signed up.

It’s a great start, but with 40 million people living in the central U.S. region, we know we can do even better.

Drills like the Shakeout are among the easiest and most cost-effective ways individuals and communities can learn how to protect themselves if an earthquake strikes. It’s easy to sign up; it’s free; and anyone can participate from anywhere – whether you are at school, at the office, at home, on the soccer field, or even visiting the doctor. All you have to do is sign-up here http://www.shakeout.org/centralus/ to get simple instructions on how to participate.

So we’re challenging all of you, our partners on the team, to join us in The Great American ShakeOut. Get involved; and be prepared!

If you’re a Member of Congress in one of the 11 central U.S. states participating in the ShakeOut, help us get the word out to your constituents. Make plans to participate in an event or do a drill with your congressional office. Post ShakeOut information, including widgets, on your website.

If you’re a school, college or university, plan a "shakeout" drill on your campus. Already, over 1,526 schools and 62 colleges and universities are participating.

If you own, manage or work at a business, get your staff and coworkers involved. Already, over 200 businesses and 290 non-profits have signed up, and that doesn’t include the many state and local government agencies that are planning to do drills.

At FEMA – we’ll be doing our part, in partnership with our regional offices in the central U.S., to participate in drills on April 28. We’ll be sharing more about our plans on the FEMA blog, so stay tuned.

Learn more about how to participate here: http://www.shakeout.org/centralus.

And if you’re already participating, let us know what you’re planning. Leave a comment below or tweet me @craigatfema.

Aftermath of Severe Southern Storms – Supporting our State and Local Partners

Our thoughts and prayers are with the families and communities struck by the deadly series of tornadoes and severe storms that swept through many of our southern and Midwestern states late last week and over the weekend. FEMA, through our regional offices in Denton, Texas and Atlanta has been closely monitoring the storms and their aftermath, and has been in constant contact with the impacted states. Yesterday, President Obama spoke with Governor Bentley of Alabama and Governor Perdue of North Carolina to let them know that the entire federal government, through FEMA, stands ready to support in their recovery efforts as needed.

Over the weekend we deployed a FEMA representative to the North Carolina emergency operations center to help the state with coordination and other needs. And at the requests of the governors of the respective states, FEMA has deployed teams to North Carolina, Alabama and Mississippi to conduct joint preliminary damage assessments with other state and local personnel. These assessments identify the damages in impacted counties and to help the governor determine if additional federal support will be requested. As of this morning, we now have 12 teams on the ground in North Carolina, one team in Alabama and three teams in Mississippi.

And at the request of the governor of Oklahoma, we also had a team on the ground in the state over the weekend to partner with state and local personnel to assess the damage. Those assessments have been completed and the state will now review the findings to determine whether or not to seek federal assistance.

Already in North Carolina, we have seen the team that we so often talking about coming together to help the community recovery, whether it’s volunteers or neighbor helping neighbor. As the New York Times reported this morning:

Around the parts of the Southern states that were hardest hit, volunteers began organizing food drives and fund-raisers. Many people were connecting through Facebook and Twitter, and others were simply showing up to see how they might help.

In Sanford, the Salvation Army thrift store opened its doors at 3 p.m. and two hours later had already accepted about 400 bags of clothes and household goods, said Derek Oley, 29, the manager. They will start supplying food to people Monday.

“This community is just so awesome right now,” Mr. Oley said. “People are just coming out from everywhere to help out.”

And remember – as these storms proved once again – severe weather can strike anytime, anywhere. If you haven’t already, now is the time to get prepared for tornadoes and other disasters on Ready.gov.

FEMA on the Hill: Tsunami Preparedness

On our blog we are always talking about the team effort that is involved when it comes to emergency management. This team effort was on display this past Thursday as multiple federal agencies, including FEMA Regional Administrators Nancy Ward and Ken Murphy, as well as our state partners in Alaska testified before the House Subcommittee on National Security, Homeland Defense and Foreign Operations regarding Tsunami preparedness for the United States.

Washington, DC, April 14, 2011 -- (From left to right) Mary Glackin, Deputy Under Secretary for Oceans and Atmosphere for NOAA, FEMA Region IX Administrator Nancy Ward, FEMA Region X Administrator Ken Murphy and John Madden, Director of the Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Management for the State of Alaska
Washington, DC, April 14, 2011 -- (From left to right) Mary Glackin, Deputy Under Secretary for Oceans and Atmosphere for NOAA, FEMA Region IX Administrator Nancy Ward, FEMA Region X Administrator Ken Murphy and John Madden, Director of the Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Management for the State of Alaska


As Regional Administrators Ward and Murphy pointed out in their written statement:

Tsunami preparedness is an important part of FEMA's catastrophic planning and preparedness efforts. However, we cannot do it alone. It is important to note that FEMA is not the nation's emergency management team - FEMA is just part of the team.

We work closely with the whole community, which includes our governmental partners at the federal, state, local, tribal and territorial levels; we leverage the resources of non-governmental entities, including private sector, faith-based, and non-profit organizations. Finally and most importantly, we work to instill a commitment to preparedness among individuals, families, and communities, who serve as our nation's 'first' first responders and the key to our success.

The tragic events in Japan serve as a solemn reminder to us of the gravity of our preparedness message. As we keep both the victims and survivors in our thoughts and prayers, please be assured we will continue to do all we can to ensure that we are as prepared as possible.

Watch the full hearing on YouTube and visit the Tsunami preparedness page on Ready.gov.

What We’re Watching: 4/15/11

Editor's Note: On May 16, 2011, we removed an image of the National Weather Service Hazards Assessment map.

Severe weather outlook
FEMA continues to closely monitor a severe weather pattern as the threat of tornadoes, large hail and damaging winds emerges over many parts of Alabama and Mississippi, and continued red flag warnings in Texas.  Severe storms could also affect parts of Eastern Missouri, central and southern Illinois, southwest Indiana, western Kentucky, Tennessee, Georgia and the Florida panhandle through Saturday.

Stay connected to NOAA’s Storm Prediction Center for severe weather warnings in your part of the country.

Red River Valley flood update
Meanwhile officials in Grand Forks, North Dakota, still expect widespread flooding across the Red River Valley but have downgraded their expectations for the high water mark. The 2011 flooding will be on par with the 2009 flood, and could even surpass it as the second-worst flood in 150 years.  And in case you missed, Robin Finegan, Region 8 Administrator, provided an update on her three-day visit to North Dakota to get an up close look at the flood fighting efforts going on in the Red River Valley

2011 National Hurricane Conference
FEMA Administrator Craig Fugate will be speaking at the 2011 National Hurricane Conference scheduled for next week in Atlanta GA. As the nation’s forum for education and professional training, the primary goal of the National Hurricane Conference is to improve hurricane preparedness, response, recovery and mitigation in order to save lives and property in the United States and the tropical islands of the Caribbean and Pacific. In addition, the conference serves as a national forum for federal, state and local officials to exchange ideas and recommend new policies to improve Emergency Management. More than 2,000 attendees from around the country are expected to attend.

Volunteers – The Lifeblood of Disaster Recovery

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Throughout this week, we have been honoring the service and commitment of our nation’s volunteers. As President Obama said earlier this week:

"America's story has been marked by the service of volunteers. Generations of selfless individuals from all walks of life have served each other and our Nation, each person dedicated to making tomorrow better than today…Volunteers are the lifeblood of our schools and shelters, hospitals and hotlines, and faith-based and community groups. From mentoring at-risk youth and caring for older Americans to supporting our veterans and military families and rebuilding after disasters, these everyday heroes make a real and lasting impact on the lives of millions of women and men across the globe."

At the Department of Homeland Security’s Center for Faith-based & Neighborhood Partnerships, we see the president’s words ring true every day. Our center, which focuses on building resilient communities among faith-based and community organizations, works hand-in-hand with voluntary groups every day. Volunteers are critical to our mission, and are often the unsung heroes that help bring communities back together and drive their recovery following a disaster.

For example, during the aftermath of the Nashville floods last spring, an interfaith group of volunteers -- Muslims, Jews, Methodists and Baptists – came together to clean flood-damaged apartments and distributed food and other supplies. Our DHS and FEMA teams worked alongside them, along with our partners at AmeriCorps’ National Civilian Community Corps teams, to remove doors, walls, cabinets, carpeting and insulation in homes devastated by the flooding.

It took the entire team, powered by the spirit and resiliency of these volunteers and the community, to get the region back on its feet. Tennessee is one of just countless stories we could share, but it’s a meaningful reminder of what is possible when Americans come together to help communities in their time of need. Volunteerism is a part of our nation’s great legacy, and we have seen it time and again, after every disaster.

As Administrator Fugate frequently points out, faith-based and other voluntary organizations are a critically important part of the team. They are effective and efficient. And they’re good for taxpayers – each year volunteers generate hundreds of millions of dollars worth of benefits by helping individuals and families during and after disasters.

For more information about how your organization can get involved in volunteer opportunities please visit http://www.citizencorps.gov/.

The Red River Flood Fight: Visiting the Team in Action

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Yesterday I concluded a three-day visit to North Dakota to get an up close look at the flood fighting efforts going on in the Red River Valley. This was my fourth trip to the state this year, and I continue to be impressed by the spirit and resilience of these communities.


FEMA Region VIII Administrator Robin Finegan in rain gear thanks North Dakota National Guard members wearing uniforms for all their hard work. She's shaking their hands
Fargo, ND, April 10, 2011 -- FEMA Region VIII Administrator Robin Finegan thanks North Dakota National Guard members for all their hard work. Photo: Micahel Rieger/FEMA

 

While meeting with state and local leaders and first responders, I saw firsthand the can-do spirit of the residents and local leaders that has been so critical as they fight these floods year after year. The entire community is involved and it is truly inspiring.

TV camera in foreground. FEMA Region VIII Administrator Robin Finegan and North Dakota Governor Jack Dalrymple stand at podium and talk with members of the Media about the flooding Cass County which is seeing historical flood levels.
Fargo, ND, April 11, 2011 -- FEMA Region VIII Administrator Robin Finegan and North Dakota Governor Jack Dalrymple talk with members of the Media about the flooding Cass County which is seeing historical flood levels. Photo: Micahel Rieger/FEMA
At FEMA, we also are proud to be part of that community flood fighting effort. An Incident Management Assistance Team (IMAT) from our region is currently deployed to North Dakota and a Mobile Emergency Response Support (MERS) vehicle is in Fargo-Moorhead to coordinate federal response assets. Numerous federal agencies are involved in functions ranging from search and rescue operations to law enforcement to interoperable communications. Based on state requests, FEMA directs federal agencies to provide the needed assistance.

This coordination hasn’t just happened over night. Since last spring, we have been working with states and tribal nations across our region to plan and prepare for this spring’s flooding, but as we often say at FEMA, we can only be as prepared as the public is prepared, and the people of North Dakota have once again stepped up in a truly dramatic fashion.

When I was up in North Dakota, I also was privileged to see the dramatic difference that mitigation efforts made in the City of Grand Forks. The community was devastated by the Red River floods of 1997, but through investment, community involvement, and planning, along with a combined federal, state and local partnership, the community rebuilt both a better and a safer community. It’s a shining example of what we can do when we bring all our resources together for a common goal.

The Red River flood fight will most likely continue for weeks, but this is a challenge that the people of the Red River Valley are ready to meet.

From the DHS Blog: Presidential Policy Directive 8 – National Preparedness

On March 30, 2011, President Obama signed Presidential Policy Directive (PPD) 8 on National Preparedness.

But what does that mean exactly? Well, as the Department of Homeland Security writes on their blog:

“this directive instructs the federal government to take action to strengthen our nation’s security and resilience against a variety of hazards, including terrorism, pandemics, and catastrophic natural disasters.”

To read the full post visit http://blog.dhs.gov/2011/04/presidential-policy-directive-8.html.

News of the Day: USA Today on Social Media and Disasters

As many of you know, here at FEMA, our social media channels are a key tool in our communications toolbox. And we don’t just think about them as another way to put out a press release – social media is changing the way we do business.

Under the leadership of Administrator Fugate, FEMA has launched a mobile website to make critical information more accessible for disaster survivors, and we use Twitter @fema and @craigatfema) and Facebook, along with many other forms of communication, to better support our state and local partners, communicate with the public, and gain situational awareness of what’s happening on the ground before, during and after disasters.

In other words, it’s another way we can go out and listen, so that we can better serve our customers – the American people – by using the tools that you are all using.

Today, USA Today further explored this in an article about how Twitter, Facebook and other tools were used during the Japan disaster. As the article highlights, one of the greatest benefits of social media is that it also empowers the public to be active members of our emergency management team:

“Japan's disaster has spotlighted the critical role that social media websites such as Twitter, Facebook, Google, YouTube and Skype increasingly are playing in responses to crises around the world. They may have been designed largely for online socializing and fun, but such sites and others have empowered people caught up in crises and others wanting to help to share vivid, unfiltered images, audio and text reports before governments or more traditional media can do so…

"We've got to stop looking at the public as a liability and start looking at them as a resource," Fugate says. What makes social media so different than other emergency response tools, he says, is that it "allows a two-way conversation in the impact zone, so that we can link people with information, resources and ideas."

If you haven’t already, be sure to check out the full story here.
And as always we want to know any creative ideas you have for how we can better use social media. Leave a comment below or Tweet us @fema.

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