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Expertise on loan: A Virgin Islands success story

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As several blog posts have pointed out, strengthening the emergency management team is vital to how well communities prepare for, respond to, and recover from, disasters.  After two and a half years as the Virgin Islands Territorial Emergency Management Agency (VITEMA) Director, I would like to welcome back Mark Walters to our regional office in New York, NY.

Mark's career with FEMA can be directly attributed to his personal experience with Hurricane Hugo in 1989.  Born and raised in the U.S. Virgin Islands (USVI), he was working in St. Thomas when his employer's entire fleet of seaplanes were lost due to Hurricane Hugo's devastation.  Out of work, Mark became a FEMA local hire, and he's never looked back. 

In 2008, when he was asked by USVI Governor John de Jongh Jr. to consider coming back and taking over VITEMA, Mark seized the opportunity.  Through an Interagency Personnel Agreement, FEMA Region II loaned Mark to the USVI in June 2008.  During his tenure, Mark has tackled extensive personnel and fund management issues, reorganized VITEMA, and overhauled the territory's 911 system.  He was also instrumental in acquiring 42 generators for the territory's critical facilities. 

Mark's hard work and leadership has strengthened the emergency management team.  Read more about Mark’s story in the Virgin Island Daily News.

- Lynn

FEMA and U.S. Virgin Island representatives meet in Puerto Rico.
February 9, 2010 -- FEMA and U.S. Virgin Island representatives meet in Puerto Rico. Pictured from left to right: Alejandro DeLaCampa (Director, Caribbean Area Division, Region II), Mark Walters (former Director, VITEMA), USVI Governor John de Jongh, Jr, Lynn Canton (FEMA Region II Administrator), and Michael Moriarty (FEMA Region II Deputy Administrator).

From Japan: Sharing international lessons learned to strengthen pre-disaster recovery planning


Beth Zimmerman and counterparts from Indonesia, Philippines and Vietnam share information on pre-recovery disaster planning.

Kobe, Japan, January 12, 2011 -- Beth Zimmerman (second from left), Deputy Associate Administrator, Response and Recovery, and counterparts from Indonesia, Philippines and Vietnam share information on pre-recovery disaster planning. The International Recovery Platform 2011 Forum hosted 26 countries, 150 participants and 10 international organizations to share best practices and lessons learned on pre- and post- disaster planning. 

Today representatives from Japan, the Republic of Haiti, the Union of Myanmar, the Philippines and the Asian Development Bank will share their recent experiences on the importance of pre-disaster planning for better post disaster recovery and rehabilitation at the International Recovery Forum 2011 being held this week in Kobe, Japan. 

I will be speaking about FEMA's ongoing efforts regarding the coordination and development of the Disaster Recovery Framework. The Forum’s host, the International Recovery Platform (IRP), works to determine the gaps in the recovery process and develops solutions to address those gaps. Today I will hear from many international experts about the benefits and options of pre-disaster recovery planning; key lessons from recent recovery operations and the application of those lessons for the next disaster; other nations' plans for recovery and an update from Yves Robert Jean, Director General in the Republic of Haiti's Ministry of Planning and External Cooperation.

This meeting emphasizes the fact that there is a wealth of experience and expertise that governments and organizations can share to improve how we prepare for, respond to, and recover from disasters. The IRP is working to document, compile and share deliverables from the forum on its website: Recoveryplatform.org. Check it out.

- Beth

Tracking the Northeast Blizzard

As the severe winter storm moves through the Northeast, the National Weather Service (NWS) forecasts the major winter storm will continue to bring heavy snow to portions of the area through Wednesday night. 

At FEMA, we’re continuing to keep a close eye on the storm, as we have been all week, and staying in close touch with all the states that have been impacted up and down the East Coast and in the Southeast. At the request of the states of Connecticut, Rhode Island, Georgia and the commonwealth of Massachusetts, we have deployed regional “liaison” offices to those states’ emergency operations centers, where they are supporting our state and local partners with their operations, coordination, and other efforts.

To date, there has not been a request for federal disaster assistance. If you’re curious about FEMA’s role in snow storms and other kinds of severe winter weather, check out our recent blog post.

With snow currently on the ground in 49 of our 50 states – and in many regions that don’t typically get significant snowfall – we continue to urge everyone to take simple steps to protect your families and homes during winter weather.

And if you live in an area affected by the storm, continue to follow the National Weather Service forecast for your area and listen to the direction of local officials. Stay warm and stay safe.

- Rachel

Emergency Management Institute Training: 30 years strong and counting…

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Training is a key component in emergency preparedness, whether it's on a national or individual level.  Today marks an important milestone in preparedness training at FEMA: the Emergency Management Institute (EMI), the agency’s largest training facility, is celebrating its 30th year in operation.  EMI has established a legacy of developing and delivering the necessary all-hazards training that strengthens our nation’s capability to meet emergency management challenges. 

To get a sense of EMI's scope, consider that over the past 30 years, nearly 15 million independent study courses have been completed online, including almost 2 million during fiscal year 2010 alone. And since 1981, nearly 73,000 on-campus and offsite classroom-based trainings have been conducted.

Individuals play a key role in the overall team effort of helping our nation prepare for, protect, mitigate, respond to and recovering from disasters.  EMI offers a number of online training opportunities to individuals and members of the public who wish to learn more about preparedness and emergency management. And if you’re an emergency management professional or an expert in the field, EMI and FEMA's Center for Domestic Preparedness (CDP) host a number of advanced courses.

Thirty years ago, in its first year of operation, EMI offered 40 courses.  The need for training and importance of preparedness has grown over the years, so much so that EMI offered 270 courses in 2010.  And while EMI has hosted FEMA training courses for the last 30 years in Emmitsburg, Maryland, its legacy spans back much farther - beginning with courses at the National Civil Defense Training Center in 1951.

I hope you will take this opportunity to participate in one of the courses this year. Whether you are a private citizen or a seasoned emergency manager, we are sure to offer a course that will keep you engaged as a member of the emergency management team. 

- Tim

Other links
FEMA's Center for Domestic Preparedness offers 55 advanced training courses for emergency response providers, emergency managers, and other government officials. The center is the nation’s only Congressionally-charted federal training facility that features training for civilian responders in a toxic environment using chemical agents. For more information on the CDP's specialized programs and courses, please visit their web site at: http://cdp.dhs.gov.

Administrator Fugate on one year anniversary of Haiti earthquake

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A year ago today, a devastating earthquake struck Haiti, destroying infrastructure, homes, businesses, schools, and claiming tens of thousands of lives.  The entire emergency management team responded  (including a number of federal agencies, led by our partners at the U.S. Agency for International Development, other countries, as well as international organizations, volunteer groups, the private sector, and over $1 billion in donations), helping thousands of Haitians meet their immediate needs following the earthquake.  The recovery is ongoing and not yet complete.

Today, as our thoughts and prayers are with those affected by the earthquake, we're urging Americans to be prepared for emergencies.  While we won’t be able to prevent natural disasters from happening, we can mitigate their affects by having an emergency kit, making an emergency plan, and being informed of the risks in your area

This video from Administrator Fugate says it best:



What lessons has the Haitian earthquake taught you or your community?

Severe weather moves its way up the east coast

As winter weather moves out of the Southeast, those along the east coast should take precautions for potentially severe weather.  As the storm system moves through, we’re continuing to stay in close touch with all of the affected states through our regional offices. 


Many businesses, government offices, schools and roads have been closed in many of the affected states.  Flights coming in and out of Atlanta have continued to be canceled and there have been a number of weather-related traffic accidents, including reports of several deaths.  Our thoughts and prayers go out to the family members of those who have died as a result of the winter weather. 

The dangerous effects of snow and ice storms demonstrate the importance of being prepared.  If you live in an affected area:

  • follow the direction of local officials
  • keep travel to a minimum during severe winter weather (if you need to travel, be sure to have an emergency kit in your vehicle)
  • follow local news and weather reports on conditions in your area (visit the National Weather Service for official severe weather updates)

Stay safe.

- Rachel

Other links
- Find your state emergency management agency online for localized information
- National Weather Service Storm Prediction Center

Training and building relationships in Texas

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I started my year by addressing participants at a tabletop exercise last week at Texas Christian University in Fort Worth, Texas.  The exercise brought together federal agencies, the Texas Department of Public Safety and the Texas Division of Emergency Management to focus on two main areas:

  • Managing the capabilities of the Emergency Operations Center management
  • The transition from crisis management to consequence management

This exercise helped us refine our procedures and allowed all the players to strengthen our working relationships before an emergency. We were also able to take a look at “best practices” revealed during the exercise and to network with our federal and state partners. Pre-disaster exercises like this are ongoing events across the FEMA Regions.

In emergency management, there is a constant focus on improving preparedness so we can respond better during an emergency.  Tabletop exercises, like the one hosted last week, are a great way to form relationships with other members of the emergency management team as we work to identify and solve issues before a disaster strikes.

It was an honor to address the participants of the training and meet newly elected officials across all levels of government.  What training experiences have made an impression on you?  Table top exercises are only “a piece of the whole pie” of emergency management training.  Leave a comment and share some of your memorable preparedness training moments.

- Tony

Strengthening emergency management through public-private partnerships

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Our team has the great fortune to work with many private sector partners in the field of emergency management. It has been an enriching experience to listen to and learn from those partners as they have helped us to promote public-private partnerships and open new doors that will help all of us – at all levels of government and in the private sector – better serve disaster survivors and communities.  Most recently, we created a private sector seat in FEMA's National Response Coordination Center (NRCC), the monitoring and operations center we use to coordinate all of our emergency response efforts, with all of our partners, during a disaster.

This new position is a big deal for several reasons – it’s the first time we have had a member of the private sector embedded directly with our staff and it is another critical step that will help improve communication and coordination with the private sector before, during, and after emergencies. This position will be staffed with different representatives from the private sector, on a rotating basis. Katie Dempsey from Target Corporation is serving as our inaugural representative. Thank you Katie and Target for leading the way.

Katie has achieved much in her short time here. She has a "seat at the table" working with governmental officials to enhance information sharing and collaboration with the private sector.  She has worked with FEMA on numerous major initiatives to include the "National Level Exercise 2011".  In addition, Katie has received valuable emergency management training which will benefit her, her team members and Target.

We hope that Katie's experience as a private sector representative here at FEMA is the first of many to come in 2011. We already have candidates lined up for the next few rotations and are working to get more representatives in place for the rest of this calendar year. Like much of our work at FEMA, this new NRCC seat will continue to be successful if we work together as a team, leveraging the resources of our many private sector partners and bringing more to the table.  Let’s make it work and do amazing things!

If you or someone you know is interested in being a candidate, please click here. Our private sector team is available 24/7 and ready to work with you.

We understand not all private sector entities have the latitude to dedicate an employee for 90 days. For those who cannot, there are other ways to take action. Let’s all work together to be part of the emergency management team.

- Dan

If you are a member of the private sector, and want more information on how we can partner together, please visit www.FEMA.gov/privatesector.

Update on severe weather

Another severe winter storm is bringing significant snowfall and ice storms across the Southeast, and is expected to move into the Mid-Atlantic by tomorrow and up toward the Northeast by Wednesday.

So far there have been reports of heavy snow and ice causing downed trees and power lines, and many flights are continuing to get canceled.

Our regional offices in Denton, Texas; Atlanta, GA; Philadelphia, PA; New York City, NY and Boston, MA, remain in close contact with our state and local partners in all of the areas that could be impacted, and stand ready to assist if a request is made.

As the winter storm season continues in much of the country, we urge all individuals in the region to listen to NOAA Weather Radio and local news to monitor for severe weather updates and warnings and follow the direction provided by their local officials.

Follow your latest local forecast at weather.gov, and get prepared for winter weather at Ready.gov.  And please remember as you stay inside to avoid the storm, residential fires become more common in the winter.  Be smart and be safe.

- Rachel

Webinar on Collaborative Planning and Engaging the Whole Community

On behalf of FEMA, I’d like to invite emergency managers, community leaders and the public to participate in a live webinar on the topic of collaborative emergency planning. My colleague Doc Lumpkins and I would love to share newly revised guidance from FEMA's Comprehensive Preparedness Guide 101 and explain how this planning guidance can enhance your community’s ability to respond to and recover from disasters. We hope this webinar will provide the information you need to help build more inclusive, collaborative, and comprehensive plans that strengthen and prepare your community.  If you’d like to learn more about how emergency management agencies can build a collaborative preparedness team in their community, please join the webinar:

Date: January 11, 2011
Time: 2 p.m. Eastern Standard Time
Join: Signup for the webinar

The Community Preparedness Webinar Series is hosted by FEMA's Citizen Corps Program and offers up-to-date information on community preparedness topics and resources available to emergency managers, community organizations, and the general public.

The webinar will accept the first 500 participants that log in so we hope you’ll join us. If you’re unable to join, each webinar will be recorded and posted on CitizenCorps.gov for your viewing at any time.

We look forward to your participation!

- Paulette

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