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Flood Insurance Provides Lifeline For Business Owners

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Getting prepared for spring flooding is one of the topics driving our attention this time of year.  In previous blog posts, we’ve highlighted two approaches to getting prepared - learning from past disasters and sharing your preparedness tips with your neighbor.

While many preparedness tips focus on individuals taking action, businesses also play a vital role in helping an affected community come back to full strength after a disaster. 

One way businesses (as well as residents) can protect their property from the financial damages of flooding is by purchasing flood insurance.  See this couple’s story to learn how flood insurance helped their business come back faster after a flood:



Protecting your business’s assets with flood insurance is one part of getting prepared - employees can use tips on Ready.gov to make their family emergency plan and build their emergency kit, so they can return to normalcy faster as well.

Has your business seen the benefit of flood insurance? Share your story below.

- Dan

Other links
- For more information on commercial and residential flood insurance, visit FloodSmart.gov
- For more information on getting your business prepared before a disaster strikes, visit Ready.gov/Business.

The Disaster Declaration Process, Spring Flood Edition

As you may have read on this blog and in the news, spring flood season is upon us.

At the end of last year, we did a post on FEMA’s role in winter weather, and thought we would share what the disaster declaration process looks like when it comes to flooding.

The bottom line is that – as with all disasters – FEMA is not the team, FEMA is only part of the team.

When natural disasters, such as flooding, occur, first responders are the first ones on the ground, providing the emergency assistance that protects the public’s health and safety, while meeting immediate human needs. These first responders include local emergency and public works personnel, volunteers, humanitarian organizations, and numerous private interest groups in each community.

In many, if not most, flood events, that part of the team, along with state and local emergency management officials, has the resources that are needed to respond and recover from the event.

What if they need federal help?

In cases where a flood event overwhelms the resources of state, territory, tribal, local government, and voluntary agencies, a governor may request an emergency declaration or a major disaster declaration.  Both declaration types authorize the president to provide supplemental federal disaster assistance.  However, the event related to the disaster declaration, as well as the type and amount of assistance may differ.

 

  • Emergency Declarations: An emergency declaration can be declared for any occasion or instance when the president determines federal assistance is needed. Emergency declarations supplement state and local efforts in providing emergency services, such as the protection of lives, property, public health, and safety, or to lessen or avert the threat of a catastrophe in any part of the United States. The total amount of assistance provided for a single emergency may not exceed $5 million. If this amount is exceeded, the president shall report to Congress.
  • The president can declare a major disaster declaration for any natural event, including any hurricane, tornado, storm, high water, wind-driven water, tidal wave, tsunami, earthquake, volcanic eruption, landslide, mudslide, snowstorm, or drought, or, regardless of cause, fire, flood, or explosion, that the president believes has caused damage of such severity that it is beyond the combined capabilities of state, territory, tribal, local government, and voluntary agencies to respond. A major disaster declaration provides a wide range of federal assistance programs for individuals and public infrastructure, including funds for both emergency and permanent work.

When does a governor make a request?

Sometimes – like the floods in Tennessee last year – the governor makes a request before or soon after the storm ends, and in other cases, a governor may wait until after the flood waters recede, in order to get a full assessment of the damage, before requesting a disaster declaration.

And what exactly do you mean by “assistance”?

A major disaster declaration request will also include a request for assistance under one or two broad categories of assistance, which we refer to as public assistance (PA) and individual assistance (IA). Public assistance is financial assistance for repairing public infrastructure, like roads, schools, fire stations, etc.

Individual assistance can be provided to eligible individuals and households who are uninsured, or under-insured, and suffered losses due to disaster damage. It’s important to remember that by law, the amount of individual assistance a person or household can receive is capped (just over $30,000 for this year), and may not cover losses to the extent that a flood insurance policy would, which is why we are often encouraging families to purchase insurance. This assistance is also intended to support only necessary and serious needs that resulted from the disaster. The best way to make sure you and your family are protected against the devastating impacts of flooding is to have flood insurance.

FEMA is also able to provide assistance by serving as a coordinator for the federal agencies that can help support response and recovery efforts. For example, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers uses its engineering and contracting capabilities to support FEMA and other federal, state and local government agencies in a wide variety of missions during natural and man-made disasters. Learn more here.

But isn’t this all complicated?

This is the formal process, but in reality, every day, through our 10 regional offices we are working hand in hand with our state counterparts to plan for whatever the next emergency may be.

But as with most things, Administrator Fugate puts it best. Below is a video of when Administrator Fugate explained the process to the White House press corps, following the floods that devastated Tennessee a little less than a year ago.

What We're Watching: 3/4/11

Stormy, wet weekend for many
Forecasts from the National Weather Service are calling for rain and thunderstorms across much of the Midwest for the next few days.  Large portions of Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Kentucky, and Tennessee are under flood watches or warnings due to rapidly melting snow and rainfall, so make sure you’re aware of local conditions.  We’re closely monitoring the severe weather through our regional offices in Chicago and Atlanta, and working closely with our state partners, as well as the National Weather Service.

The Northeast is also expected to experience rainy, stormy conditions through the weekend, so make sure you're taking steps to get prepared.  To view your local forecast and outlook on severe weather, visit www.weather.gov.

Wildfires around the U.S.
Parts of Florida have been fighting a round of wildfires this week.   Our Regional office in Atlanta is in close coordination with State, local and first response agencies as they respond to the wildfires.  We stand ready to support them if assistance is requested.

Planning for real, not easy
We came across this article with some great emergency preparedness tips for persons with disabilities and their service animals.  As Federal, State, and local agencies, businesses and individuals plan for emergencies, it is imperative we plan for every member of the community, not just some. For more on emergency planning for people with disabilities, visit Ready.gov.

Red Cross Month
March also marks Red Cross Month, as proclaimed by President Obama.  As a valuable part of the emergency management team, we’d like to recognize this special month.  Even if you aren’t an active Red Cross supporter, donor, or volunteer, we encourage you to look for opportunities to volunteer in your community, especially with a member of the National Voluntary Agencies Active in Disasters (NVOAD).  This collection of organizations, which includes the American Red Cross, shares knowledge and resources throughout the disaster cycle - preparation, response and recovery - to help disaster survivors and their communities.

Video: Couple shares their flooding preparedness tips

Many times, the most useful and memorable advice comes from people sharing their experiences and that holds especially true when it comes to advice on how to prepare before disaster strikes.

Check out this video from a couple in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, and how they are taking steps to protect their home from flooding:



If you live in an area that has a risk of flooding the tips in the video above are great places to start getting prepared.  Here are some other ways you can prepare your family, home, or business for flooding:

  • Visit Ready.gov – for details on getting an emergency kit, making your family emergency plan, and being informed about the dangers of floods
  • Purchase flood insurance – flood insurance policies typically take 30 days to become effective, so make sure to purchase flood insurance as a way to prepare before potential flooding
  • Share what you’re doing with a neighbor – each of us can play a role in helping our communities become more resilient by sharing our own preparedness tips with each other

How are you preparing for this flood season? Share your tips below.

Engaging Voluntary Agencies Before, During, and After a Disaster

Voluntary agencies are a vital part of a community’s ability to prepare for, respond to and  recovery from disasters.   Before a disaster, voluntary agencies help communities and families get prepared by providing disaster training, raising awareness regarding vital health and safety issues. After a disaster strikes, voluntary and faith-based organizations respond alongside state and local emergency responders, helping to address immediate needs of survivors. 

At FEMA, we engage the vitally important voluntary agency sector through Voluntary Agency Liaisons (VALs).  VALs act as a bridge between the community and the government. 

To better understand the roles of a VAL, here is a quick Q&A on the work that they do before, during and after a disaster.

What is the role of a VAL before a disaster?
Like most jobs in emergency management, one of the most important roles for a VAL is as a preparedness advocate.  VALs support state and local Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster (VOADs), assisting with planning, preparation, training and exercises.

VALs work closely with these organizations to deliver updates on FEMA programs and initiatives, challenge them to be prepared for disasters and encourage non-profits to be a part of VOAD.  A strong VOAD will  promote disaster networking, training, program development, and exercises to help build the necessary disaster resiliency in communities, and speed a community’s recovery.

Once a disaster strikes, what role does a VAL play in the response?
When disaster strikes, VALs become a critical avenue to make sure voluntary agencies and the federal government are sharing information and working together as a team to help disaster survivors.

VALs also give guidance to voluntary agencies on federal assistance programs including eligibility requirements, program deadlines, and emphasize the importance of avoiding duplication of benefits to survivors.  They provide guidance to newer voluntary agencies interested in getting involved in relief operations, and they assist States with the management of volunteers not associated with a specific voluntary agency, and the use of unsolicited donated goods.

How do VALs work with voluntary agencies to assist in the Long Term Recovery?
After the immediate, short term needs of the community have been met, the emphasis of the emergency management team shifts to addressing the long term recovery needs of the community.  Survivors may need extensive help to recover and for some, the assistance that FEMA is able to provide under law, is simply not enough. Through Long Term Recovery Groups (LTRGs), local communities take control in the recovery process and empower volunteers to make a difference in the lives of disaster survivors. Check out this video for more on LTRGs:



VALs work with the LTRGs to identify possible LTRG participants based on previous disasters, help with disaster training, and assist in identifying any unmet needs. VALs also provide resources for LTRG formation and function, as well as information on mitigation measures and connections to mitigation specialists to help the community rebuild using mitigation best practices. These help the community build or repair homes and structures in a way that will reduce vulnerabilities, help prevent future losses and make the community more resilient and sustainable.

- Deb

FEMA Regions Continue Supporting States for Spring Flooding

The National Weather Service has issued forecasts indicating communities in the Dakotas and Minnesota are at a significant risk for major flooding this spring, and Ohio and other states are already dealing with significant floods. Indeed, disaster season 2011 is upon us, and we are working together to coordinate closely with states in the impacted regions as they respond to or prepare for flooding, and stand ready to assist them any way we can.

Our regional offices in Chicago and in Denver continue to monitor forecasts, plan for extreme flooding, and anticipate the commodities and resources that might be requested by the states of North and South Dakota, and Minnesota. In fact, since last year, we have been working closely with our state partners to incorporate lessons learned from past flood seasons into our emergency planning for this year, and continue to communicate with them to discuss emergency planning, and encourage personal preparations such as purchasing insurance, pre-assembling emergency supplies and creating a personal plan of action.

In February, our offices met with our respective federal, state and local officials, emergency managers, and representatives from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the National Guard and NOAA. These meetings allowed us to hear directly from many of our response partners on coordinating efforts for this year’s flood season.

The shared borders of Minnesota, North Dakota and South Dakota hold a rich history, common to all residents. These areas also share some challenges, particularly flooding, and potentially this year more than ever. FEMA is committed to supporting all three states with emergency assistance should they suffer severe impacts to overland and river flooding.

One final note: before flood waters rise, it’s important that residents and business owners become involved and prepared. Check out this blog post from Deputy Administrator Tim Manning about how you can prepare for flooding.

- Andrew and Robin

Marking the Eight Year Anniversary of the Department of Homeland Security

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As many of you know, FEMA is a sub-agency of the Department of Homeland Security, and today is the eight-year anniversary of the department. We’re proud to work alongside all our DHS colleagues every day to do our part to protect our citizens and communities and strengthen our nation’s resiliency against all hazards. As Secretary Napolitano notes in a blog post today, “homeland security begins with hometown security” – nowhere is this more true than in the world of emergency management.

So as we mark DHS’s eighth birthday, we’d like to take an opportunity to thank all of our state and local partners, emergency managers, tribal governments, the private sector, the non-profit and voluntary organizations, first responders, and countless others who are critical members of our emergency management and homeland security team. Thank you for your hard work, service and contributions that help make our streets, neighborhoods and communities safer and healthier places to live.

Check out Secretary Napolitano’s blog post on the eighth anniversary here: http://blog.dhs.gov/2011/03/dhs-celebrates-8th-anniversary.html.

And learn more about eight years of the Department of Homeland Security here: http://www.dhs.gov/xabout/history/8th-anniversary-celebration.shtm

What We're Watching: 2/25/11

Posted by: Public Affairs

Severe weather outlook
Looking ahead to the weekend and the next few days, the National Weather Service is forecasting another round of severe weather for much of the U.S.  Much of the Pacific Northwest, along with parts of the Northeast, are expected to experience rain, freezing rain, or snow (depending on elevation).  For those in the California and Arizona, predictions call for colder temperatures than normal.  And a common occurrence for this time of the year, parts of the Midwest should be prepared for increased risk of flooding. 

Get your latest local forecast at www.weather.gov and make sure you’re taking steps to get prepared for any severe weather that could come your way.

Christchurch, New Zealand earthquake
We had several blog posts this week about the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) leading the U.S. effort to support the response and recovery to the earthquake in Christchurch, New Zealand.  In case you missed any of them, here’s a quick recap:



Children in disasters
Also related to the Christchurch earthquake, we wanted to share this op-ed from Mark Shriver, Chair of the National Commission on Children and Disasters, on the Huffington Post website.  Mark points out (and we whole-heartedly agree) that emergency planning must consider the most vulnerable among us, including people with disabilities, the elderly, and children. 

We’re proud to partner with Mark, who chairs the National Commission on Children and Disaster and our many other partners who share this goal.  Learn more about our Children’s Working Group, which is working to ensure that the needs of children are considered and integrated into all disaster planning, preparedness, response and recovery efforts initiated at the Federal level.

Preparing for spring flooding

With the end of winter in sight, warmer weather is right around the corner. While most of us are happy to say goodbye to our winter coats, shoveling snow, and wearing snow boots, spring also means in increased risk of flooding in many areas of the U.S. The rainy months of March and April, combined with melting snow packs, can cause water levels to rise in rivers and streams in many areas.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) recently published an updated flood forecast for the North Central U.S., including parts of Illinois, Missouri, Iowa, Wisconsin, Minnesota, North and South Dakota, and Montana.

Our regional offices in Denver, Chicago, and Kansas City, MO, have already been working with the entire emergency management team (state, local and tribal agencies, volunteer and faith-based agencies, the private sector, and the public), to prepare for potential flooding. Check back for future posts on our ongoing preparations for spring flooding.

Even if you don’t live in the area included in the NOAA forecast, it’s wise to understand your flood risk and get prepared. Ready.gov is a great place to find information on getting prepared for flooding, breaking preparedness down into three simple steps: get a kit, make a plan, and be informed.

IMATs: Experts Supporting the Emergency Management Team

Author: 

This winter has been an especially active one in the Northeast. While I am accustomed to significant snowfalls being from upstate New York, Region II has been busy responding to this year’s major winter storms with our federal, state, and local partners throughout the region. I would like to share one particularly valuable element of FEMA’s support of first responders, the Incident Management Assistance Team, or IMAT.

IMATs are made up of dedicated and experienced senior-level emergency management professionals that are able to deploy upon a moment’s notice when requested by the state. IMATs are generally consist of 10 members, with expertise in operations, logistics, planning, and recovery. They are a rapidly deployable asset to anywhere in the region or the country, supporting our states and territories in their emergency response efforts.

IMATs provide a forward federal presence to facilitate the management of the national response to catastrophic incidents. The primary mission of an IMAT is three-fold:
 

  • rapidly deploy to an incident or potentially threatened venue,
  • identify ways federal assistance could be used to best support the response and recovery efforts, should it become available, and
  • work with partners across jurisdictions to support the affected State or territory.

One of the most important aspects of the IMAT’s role is to support and take their direction from the state. As our mission states, FEMA’s role is to “support citizens and first responders”. After a disaster, state and local emergency responders, along with voluntary agencies and faith-based groups, are called on to meet the immediate needs of the affected community, and IMATs are FEMA’s team of experts that stand ready to support if they are called upon.

Just last week, I visited the Region II IMAT who spent the week at New Jersey’s Regional Intelligence Operations Center, training with the region II Defense Coordinating Element. This opportunity allowed the team to sit in the actual space that New Jersey would provide them during a real incident and the team was tasked with making that empty room into a fully operational office. Even though it was an exercise, it is impressive to see the team in action as they support our states and territories.

Region II IMAT team leader, Tom Fargione (far left), discusses operational planning with other IMAT team members and Region II's Defense Coordinating Element during an exercise.

Trenton, NJ, February 10, 2011 -- Region II IMAT team leader, Tom Fargione (far left), discusses operational planning with other IMAT team members and Region II's Defense Coordinating Element during an exercise. Region II's IMAT and Defense Coordinating Element frequently train together to ensure seamless operations during actual deployments.

Within hours the IMAT and the Defense Coordinating Element were working together to support the state and had access to key communications channels and capabilities, such as video-teleconferencing. As part of the exercise, the participants also discussed operational planning to continue to improve procedures during an actual IMAT deployment.

As we continue to strengthen relationships with other members of the emergency management team, IMAT’s are a critical part of making sure all members are collaborating with one another, providing the most coordinated response effort possible.

- Lynn

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