Blog Articles By Category

Main Content

How Might You Use Social Media In An Emergency?

Social media is a hot topic in emergency management these days. Using social media can provide response agencies a way to disseminate vital information directly to the public, and it can also serve as a way for survivors to communicate with family/friends after a disaster.

So how might you use social media during an emergency? Check out this graphic from and let us know.

Other links

- Read the full story on

Administrator Fugate at "Earthquakes: Mean Business"


Getting prepared for an emergency requires working with all members of the emergency management team, across many disciplines and at all levels of government. Preparing for a potential earthquake in the New Madrid seismic zone is no different.

The New Madrid seismic zone runs through the heart of the United States, and this year marks the 200th anniversary of a catastrophic quake that struck the region. With 2011 being the bicentennial of the last major New Madrid earthquake, the emergency management team around the New Madrid seismic zone is making sure it is taking steps to be prepared for earthquakes.

Last week, the Central U. S. Earthquake Consortium hosted the “Earthquakes: Mean Business” symposium in St. Louis, MO.  Participants at the event included federal, state and local governments, representatives from the private sector, voluntary and faith-based organizations, and concerned citizens.

Check out this video from Administrator Fugate on the symposium, and get prepared for earthquakes today.  And don’t forget this April 28th, the Great Central U.S. Shake Out, is a great opportunity for the public to exercise what they would do in the event of an earthquake - if you haven’t, sign up today.

- Brad

Kids Fire Safety in Photos

As part of our campaign to raise awareness for kids fire safety, we wanted to highlight some photos to inspire you to have a conversation with kids you know about fire safety.

We're working with a host of our partners across the public health, children’s advocacy and emergency management fields, including the National Commission on Children and Disasters.  While the photos below aren’t directly from partners of this campaign, we’re hoping they give you some ideas on preparing your family for home fires. 

Visit to learn more, and follow the conversation on Twitter by searching #kidsfiresafety.

A FEMA staff member helps a child learn about disaster preparedness.

Denver, CO, June 12, 2009 – A FEMA staff member helps a child learn about disaster preparedness during a Fire Muster sponsored by West Metro Fire Rescue in Denver. The family event, now in its 15th year, features a range of safety and preparedness activities, including practice 911 calls, evacuation from an inflated Fire House, a variety of hands-on events and search-and-rescue demonstrations by the Colorado Urban Search and Rescue TF-1. (Photo courtesy of FEMA Photo Library)

A first grade student at Westwego Elementary School shows off his work as his class works through the FEMA for Kids activity books

Westwego, LA, March 29, 2007 - A first grade student at Westwego Elementary School shows off his work as his class works through the FEMA for Kids activity books provided by a Community Relations team during tornado recovery efforts.  The kids activity book highlighted the basics of building an emergency supply kit and developing your family’s emergency plan. (Photo courtesy of FEMA Photo Library)

News of the Day: Sharing Fire Safety Tips

Yesterday, we were excited to kick off our public awareness campaign on fire safety tips for families and kids, and we’re happy that word is already getting out about both the campaign and some of the ways parents are educating their children about the risk of home fires. As Glenn Gaines, Acting Administrator of U.S. Fire Administration, mentioned yesterday, we’re working with a host of partners to raise awareness of how families can keep their homes and loved ones safe from home fires.

This story from WCTV (Tallahassee, FL) highlights some of the steps Tallahassee residents are taking to make their homes and families better prepared.

As part of our campaign, we’re encouraging parents, educators, and kids to take steps to reduce the impact of a potential home fire by: 

  • Talking about their family’s fire escape plan
  • Knowing the basics of safe cooking
  • Teaching their children what to do if they smell smoke
  • Installing smoke/carbon monoxide alarms outside all sleeping areas
After you’ve read the story, visit our Kids Fire Safety page at, and leave a comment below and share how you and your family are prepared for home fires.
- Rachel

Highlighting a Community Emergency Response Team Success Story


This blog often highlights the “emergency management team”, the collective group of first responders, local/state/federal government agencies, volunteer and faith-based groups, and citizens that play a role in making the nation more resilient to the impacts of emergencies. I wanted to call attention to a group of particularly committed citizens on this team, members of Community Emergency Response Teams (CERT).

Local CERT programs are a great resource for community members to get trained in basic disaster response skills and preparedness. They play vital role in preparing communities before a disaster strikes, which sets them up to be very effective in case an emergency happens.

Check out this video of a CERT in Bridgewater, Massachusetts – they helped residents stay safe by setting up a shelter during a blizzard last month:

To become a CERT member, training is offered from a sponsoring agency like the local fire department, or law enforcement or emergency management agency in the area where you live or work. CERT members learn about the potential threats to their home, workplace and community, and how to take action to safely assist family members, neighbors, coworkers and others who may need help before professionals responders can arrive.

Once you become a CERT member, there are a number of ways to build resiliency in your community:

  • Local CERT teams across the nation also conduct training courses including response skills such as fire safety, light search and rescue, team organization and disaster medical operations.
  • CERT members can also participate in drills and exercises, as well as projects to help keep their communities safer and more disaster resilient

Contact your local emergency manager and ask about the opportunities available to you. Even if you don’t become a member of your local CERT Program, you can still take CERT training that will help you be better prepared for emergencies.

Are you a CERT member, or do you have a CERT success story? Leave a comment and share!

- Rachel

Keeping Our Kids Safe From Home Fires


Every winter, we see the number of fires in homes or apartment buildings rise, especially as families turn to alternative sources of heating during the winter months. This year is no exception – and a new report released today by the U.S. Fire Administration finds that the threat of serious injury or death from residential fires is especially high for young children under the age of five.

In fact, as USA Today reports this morning, according to this new study, 52 percent of all child fire deaths in 2007 involved children under the age of four, a slight increase from the most recent study previously conducted in 2004.

This is a figure that should be going down – not up. This latest report reveals a deeply troubling trend, and should serve as a wake up call for all of us. These deaths are preventable, and working together we can educate each other and save lives. You can read the full report here.

That’s why today, FEMA, USFA, the National Commission on Children and Disasters, and a host of our other partners across the public health, children’s advocacy and emergency management fields, are teaming up to raise awareness about these threats and how families can keep their homes and loved ones safe.

Our goal is to make sure that all members of the public have access to important information about simple steps we all can take to protect against the two leading causes of home fires during winter months: heating and cooking.

So – how can you get involved?

Join us – and our various partners in this – in helping us spread the word.

Visit our Kids Fire Safety page on

Check out our new widget -- and post it on your website:

And join our online conversation. We want to engage anyone with good or innovative tips about how you, your local fire station, or your community is helping protect families from home fires. Join us our discussion on Twitter by using #kidsfiresafety. As always, you can follow FEMA @FEMA or Administrator Fugate @craigatfema.

Or leave us a comment below. And as you stay warm in our remaining winter months, remember to stay safe!

Community Emergency Response Team Active in Bridgewater, Mass.

When Bridgewater, Mass, was struck by the mid January 2011 blizzard, virtually the entire town was without power or communications. The Bridgewater Community Emergency Response Team, or CERT, opened an emergency storm shelter available to the public.

Click here for information on how to start a CERT in your community.

What We're Watching: 2/11/2011

Severe weather departs

The winter storm that impacted the eastern two-thirds of the country moved out Thursday, bringing precipitation to an end and beginning a warming trend for this weekend.

As temperatures across the nation are expected to rise above freezing, there’s no better time than now to begin steps to protect your property from snowmelt flooding. Be prepared.

The National Advisory Council needs you!

This week we announced available opportunities to serve on the National Advisory Council.  Congress established the NAC in the Post Katrina Emergency Management Reform Act of 2006, to ensure effective and ongoing coordination of Federal preparedness, protection, response, recovery, and mitigation for both natural and man-made disasters. The NAC consists of 35 members appointed by the FEMA Administrator.  Applications and nominations will be accepted through Friday, March 4, 2011.

Since its creation in 2007, the NAC’s accomplishments include:

  • Supplying key input on the development, implementation, and revision of the National Response Framework, the National Incident Management System, and the National Disaster Housing Strategy; 
  • Providing valuable feedback on the revised National Exercise Program, including recommendations on how to successfully implement the revised program;
  • Maintaining open lines of communication to help engage the private sector in emergency management;
  • Recommending the creation of a Regional Disability Coordinator position within each of the 10 FEMA regions; and
  • Reviewing and providing input on regulatory and policy Robert T. Stafford Disaster Relief and Emergency Assistance Act issues that might help ease administrative burdens on jurisdictions.

The Great Mapping Debate


I wanted to call attention to one of Administrator Fugate's recent posts on Twitter.

For those who might not know, the U.S. National Grid (USNG) is a standard that provides a nationally consistent language of location.  It breaks the United States into a series of grids, which can be used to reference an exact location on a map.

For many years, the USNG has been taught and used by the military, known as the Military Grid Reference System (MGRS), and used as the preferred way to reference location and navigate from point A to point B.  MGRS is taught and used on every operational level, from teaching entry level privates in basic training to helping senior staffs make strategic decisions.

The geo-locating system currently used by many emergency managers and first responders consists of latitude and longitude coordinates provided by global positioning systems (GPS) or given through a very tedious and time consuming manual method. 

While GPS devices are becoming more inexpensive and ubiquitous, the question remains, “What if GPS satellites or devices are rendered useless during an emergency?”

At FEMA, we're encouraging the adoption of the USNG for several reasons:

  • It's simple to implement and easy to use.
  • It provides interoperability, or a "common language", by making available a grid reference system that is seamless across jurisdictional boundaries. 
  • It provides scalability. Whether you have access to sophisticated geospatial software or are simply using a paper map, USNG can be used to pinpoint locations and make better operational decisions.
  • GPS devices complement USNG.  Most GPS receivers can translate GPS coordinates into the USNG grid.

As an example of USNG's use, FEMA's Urban Search and Rescue Response teams use it for positioning during search and rescue operations.  It is just one component of a geo-referencing matrix that is used for planning, coordination and information sharing purposes.  In fact, FEMA and other emergency support  agencies involved in supporting search and rescue (SAR) operations during a disaster, collaborated on the development of the United States National Search and Rescue Committee Catastrophic Incident Search and Rescue (CISAR) Addendum (PDF).  This Addendum establishes guidelines and standards for how position information will be communicated.

This is a critical issue for effective SAR coordination and responder safety.  During response operations, many search and rescue teams from various local, state, and federal agencies must coordinate their efforts.  By employing a standard system and adhering to the CISAR Addendum, which includes use of the USNG, teams are more equipped and prepared to communicate essential information in extreme circumstances.

As Administrator Fugate pointed out on Twitter, check out these two links to learn more.

  1. Federal Geographic Data Committee on USNG resources
  2. Fact sheet on USNG (PDF)

What are your thoughts on using the USNG standard versus GPS or latitude/longitude?  Feel free to leave your questions and feedback - we will try to address comments in future blog posts.

News of the Day: Girl Scouts Preparedness Patch

Teaching America's youth the value of preparing before an emergency is a priority at FEMA.  A recent story in Emergency Management Magazine highlighted an exciting partnership between the Department of Homeland Security (FEMA is a component agency of DHS) and the Girl Scouts of the USA

The Girl Scout Council of the Nation's Capital worked with FEMA's Citizen Corps program to develop the Emergency Preparedness Patch Program, enabling Girl Scouts to earn the patch as they learn the value of emergency preparedness in their local community.  And since the program can be customized to discuss your local community’s potential hazards, it is our hope that the patch program will be adopted across the more than 100 Girl Scout Councils across the country.

I encourage you check out the story and leave a comment on the blog, sharing your thoughts on how partnerships like this can help individuals and communities build resiliency across America.

- Paulette


Back to Top