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The First Day of Winter - Well, the First Official Day Anyway

Posted by: Brad Carroll, Press Secretary

For a lot of folks across the country, winter has already come in like a lion.  There’s been snow in the mid-Atlantic, Mid-West and Nevada is currently getting dumped on with feet of snow in some areas.  The Metrodome collapsed and California and Hawaii are currently experiencing some serious severe weather.

But, as your local meteorologist will probably point out on your evening newscast today, December 21st, is actually the first official day of winter.  Which means, if you haven’t already, now is a great time to get ready for winter.

Winter storms can bring high winds, heavy snow, and rain, causing power outages and hazardous travel.

That’s why we urge families to maintain an emergency supply kit at home and in the car.  An emergency kit should include food and water, a battery-powered or hand-crank radio and extra flashlights and batteries.  And if you haven’t yet, make sure to update your kit for winter by including:
  • Rock salt to melt ice on walkways;
  • Sand to improve traction;
  • Snow shovels and other snow removal equipment;
  • And adequate clothing and blankets to help keep you warm.
And this year as you gather with family and friends and talk about making resolutions for the New Year, why not resolve to be ready?

You can start small.  Why not find your local emergency management office and see if they offer alerts or other ways to stay informed? Why not sit down with your family and develop a family communications plan?

These small steps can make a big difference for you and your family.

Be safe this holiday season and be prepared.

Monitoring Severe Weather in the West

Posted by: Public Affairs

Through our regional offices in Oakland and Seattle, we are continuing to monitor the severe weather across Hawaii, California, and into the northwest that is forecasted to affect the area through mid-week, at least.  We remain in close contact and coordination with California Emergency Management Agency, Nevada Division of Emergency Management, Hawaii State Civil Defense and other possibly affected states. 

During severe weather, it’s important to follow the instructions of state and local officials, and listen to local radio or TV stations for updated disaster response and evacuation information. We urge all individuals in the affected areas to listen to NOAA Weather Radio and their local news for updates and directions provided by their local emergency management officials.

Flash flooding can take only a few minutes to a few hours to develop, and it’s important to be informed and ready.  And remember, when you come across a flooded roadway, Turn Around, Don’t Drown.

On the web:

National Weather Service

CA Emergency Management Agency

HI State Civil Defense

NV Dept of Public Safety

UT Dept of Public Safety

Ready Flood Preparedness

On twitter:

@CalEMA - California Emergency Management Agency

@LAFDtalk - Los Angeles Fire Dept

@HNL_Info - City and County of Honolulu Information Officer

@utdpspio - Utah Dept of Public Safety


And for those interested in emergency management social media (#SMEM), a crowd sourced event map for the severe storms in California.

"Please Pardon the Interruption..."

Posted by: Public Affairs

After a fire swept downtown Baltimore, MD, earlier this month, 2,000 workers were displaced as businesses in the area were impacted. While this event made the news, it got us thinking about the countless common issues that can shut you down for precious hours, days or even longer: power outages, computer viruses and cyber attacks, burst pipes,  and the flu - just to name a few.

The fact is that we live in a world of constant disruption – both the unplanned and intentional kind.  For businesses and employees, business interruptions mean loss of income, services and potentially customers.

How you bounce back depends largely on how you prepare.  At FEMA, we typically see the more widespread disasters requiring federal assistance. But any business operation can experience an interruption. Not even the federal government is immune.  Just look at the historic snowstorm that shut down Washington, DC, for several days last winter.

The good news is that no matter the scale of an emergency, there are basic precautions everyone can take.  Visit (or Ready Business) for practical, low- or no-cost steps that will help safeguard cash flow, reputation, and peace of mind.  Also, consider telework policies to ensure continuity of business, no matter where the work is being done.

Share how your business, organization, and family is preparing for a new year of potential disruptions. As members of the team, it’s up all of us to ensure we’re prepared to bounce back stronger than ever.

What we're watching: 12/17/10

Posted by: Public Affairs

Going into the weekend, here’s what’s on our radar screen:

Potential severe weather
Our friends at the National Weather Service (NWS) are calling for one to three inches of rain for much of the California coast up into Oregon. In the mountainous areas of the region, heavy snow is expected. For the southeast portion of the U.S., forecasters are calling for weekend rain along the north Gulf Coast region. Winter weather is expected to continue for the east coast, and some portions of the region may see snow later this weekend.

Make sure you’re prepared for any severe weather that could come your way this weekend. For more detailed forecasts in your local area, visit the NWS website (or bookmark it on your mobile phone).

A cartoonist's take on Twitter & earthquake notification
For the social media users among us, check out this comic on Twitter users and earthquake notification. Whether it’s true or not, it shows the power of social media in notifying emergency managers of emergency situations.

Last minute holiday shopping
The holiday shopping season is in full gear, and if you’re like us, you still need to find gifts for the hard-to-please. One of the best gifts you can give is the gift of emergency preparedness. It gives people peace of mind, and can ultimately save their life. So if you’re looking for gift ideas, here are some ideas to get you started.

Planning for the "Big One" in southern California

Posted by: Nancy Ward, FEMA Regional Administrator Region IX

We received great and positive feedback on Tuesday’s kickoff of the Southern California Catastrophic Earthquake Response Plan (CATPLAN) from press and participants.  The plan specifies that federal and state agencies will work closely together in preparing for a potential large scale earthquake in Southern California.  Unfortunately, a major earthquake in Southern California is overdue and is a “when”, not an “if”, event.

And while the new CATPLAN is a step in the right direction, it’s vital that the entire community works together to plan for such an event.   Each year, FEMA participates in the “The Great California Shakeout”, a state-wide earthquake preparedness drill.  There were over 7.9 million participants in this year’s event, a great sign that California residents are taking earthquake preparedness seriously.

I'd be interested in hearing what you are doing to plan for a large-scale disaster. In California, the “Shakeout” is a great initiative to engage the entire community in preparedness.  Share what your state, city, town, or family is doing to show others you’re prepared.

- Nancy

Other Links
California Emergency Management Blog - post on the CATPLAN signing - information on preparing for earthquakes

Tis Another Season to be Ready

Posted by: Rachel Racusen, Director, Public Affairs

Whether its summer, fall, winter or spring, disasters are not limited to just one season -- and neither is our need to prepare for them. At FEMA, preparedness is always a top priority, and we are constantly encouraging the public to get ready for emergencies.

One of our favorite things about the holiday season are the traditions we create with our families,  neighbors and  communities. At FEMA, our holiday tradition is our annual "Resolve to be Ready" campaign during which we encourage Americans to give the gift of  preparedness - whether to a loved one or themselves.

If you're scrambling to find last minute gifts, basic essentials like flashlights, batteries and even NOAA weather radios make for great - and practical - stocking stuffers. And if you're still looking for a New Year's resolution, why not consider resolving to be ready in 2011? It's a resolution that is fairly easy to keep and could save your life, or the life of a loved one. Click here for preparedness gift ideas or simple steps you can take to resolve to be ready.

Throughout this holiday season, our FEMA leaders from across the country have been getting this message out in their communities. Last week, Ken Murphy, our Region 10 Administrator, made the case to readers of the Oregonian. And earlier this week, Nancy Ward, our Region 9 Administrator, highlighted how Californians are doing their part to get ready for earthquakes and other hazards in the LA Daily News.

No matter which part of the country you live in, tis another season to be ready. And for those of you that already have taken steps to be prepared, share the success stories from your family or business.

- Rachel


Expanding the Team

Posted by: Administrator Craig Fugate

Today, President Obama convened the White House Tribal Nations Summit, inviting the leaders of all 565 federally recognized tribes to Washington DC to meet with him and his Administration’s top officials. I was honored to hear the President speak this morning and then to participate in a conversation with tribal leaders from all over the country. 

FEMA is committed to working with American Indians and Alaska Natives and looks to their sovereign leadership for guidance on how we can best support them in building more resilient and better prepared communities.  In order to better support them before, during and after disaster strikes, FEMA is placing a tribal liaison in each of our Regional Offices.  This will allow us to more closely coordinate with tribes, and make sure they have the support they need while responding to and recovering from disasters.

Today’s conference shows how serious this Administration is about building stronger relationships with tribal nations.  Tribal leadership is an essential part of the emergency management team in planning for the whole of community.  We’re grateful to all of those who traveled to Washington today to represent their communities.

- Craig

A 7.0 earthquake in the Midwest? Planning for the "maximum-of-maximums"

Posted by: Tim Manning, Deputy Administrator, Protection and National Preparedness

It’s the stuff legends are made of.  On this day 199 years ago, the first in a series of catastrophic earthquakes rocked the Midwest along the New Madrid seismic zone.  Although the epicenter of the December 16th quake was in northeast Arkansas, the magnitude of the quake reportedly caused church bells to ring along the East coast.

As the graphic above shows, an major earthquake in the New Madrid zone (of magnitude 6.0 or more) would severely affect Arkansas, Tennessee, Missouri, Kentucky, Illinois, Indiana, and Ohio.  Several other states would be affected, ranging from Minnesota to Florida.

It’s hard to imagine a natural disaster on that scale today. For this reason, FEMA is leading a national-level exercise in May of 2011 (NLE 2011) simulating a major earthquake along the New Madrid fault.  We’re bringing all the relevant team members to the table to make the exercise as realistic as possible – federal/state/local governments, the private sector, non-profit and faith-based groups, the public, and even the international community.  FEMA leaders will provide more details on NLE 2011 as it approaches, so watch the blog for more details.

(For the emergency management types, check out an overview of Illinois’s planning for NLE 2011.)

If the 199th anniversary of New Madrid serves a purpose today, it’s that individuals and communities need to plan for what we call a “maximum of maximums” event -- a large-scale, catastrophic event.  It may be gloomy to think about, but it’s necessary to plan for the unexpected, so whether you live along the New Madrid fault line or in the Pacific Northwest, take a few minutes today to be informed about the possible disasters in your community.

We sincerely hope America never has to respond to a major earthquake in the New Madrid zone, but we need to be prepared.  Visit for earthquake preparedness tips and other ways you can get prepared.

We want to use this blog to share ideas and continue the conversation, so leave a comment about how your family / organization / company is preparing for a “maximum of maximums” event.

- Tim

Sharing strategies and building a team

Posted by: Deputy Administrator Rich Serino

Yesterday, I spoke at the Urban Area Security Initiative (UASI) Shared Strategies conference in Denver, CO.  Events like the UASI conference are a great way to get members of the team working together.  Whether you’re a business owner, member of your Community Emergency Response Team (CERT), local government official, or a parent looking out for your family, you can help the nation prepare for, respond to, and recover from disasters.

Here's a quick video I recorded at the conference:

So what is the UASI? It’s a program designed to improve emergency preparedness in major metropolitan areas.  Cities from San Francisco to Miami have benefited from the program, making their region more resilient.

The Denver conference was all about “Shared Strategies”, or looking at how members of the emergency management team can work together to accomplish common objectives.  Since coming to FEMA, Administrator Fugate and I have stressed the importance of everyone doing their part.  We are all part of our nation’s emergency management team, and it truly takes the whole community, working together, to make sure we are meeting the needs of everyone during an emergency.

It’s my sincere hope that you will take three easy steps to get prepared: get a kit, make a plan and be informed.  If you prepare today, you’ll help your communities and families be more resilient tomorrow.

Tell us how the emergency management team in your community is helping prepare for, respond to, and recover from disasters.  We're working hard to get our team members prepared, so tell us what you've been up to.

- Rich

Are you prepared for winter weather?

Posted by: Public Affairs

Much of the U.S. has been hit with winter weather in the past week, from several feet of snow in parts of Minnesota to freeze warnings in Florida, and more snow and freezing rain is forecasted across large areas of the country today.  When the weather outside gets frightful, staying safe (and warm) is of primary importance.  So in light of the recent extreme weather, here are some simple reminders to keep you safe this winter season:

Be informed
NOAA weather radios, local TV and radio stations are great places to find severe weather updates.  For more detailed forecasts of your area, visit or on your smart phone.  And if you’re still looking for a gift for that special someone, consider a NOAA weather radio.

Get an emergency kit in your car and workplace
Snow storms and “whiteouts” can happen very quickly, so plan ahead by having an emergency kit in your car and workplace.  At first thought it might sound over-the-top, but recently some drivers in Wisconsin were stranded on the highway for hours during a heavy snow storm.  Having a blanket, hand warmers, and non-perishable food items on hand are invaluable in the event of such an emergency. 

Make a plan for safe snow removal
If you’re in an area that experiences heavy snowfall, removing snow can be a tough task.  Here are a few reminders as you rid your driveway and sidewalk of the fluffy white stuff:

  • Whether you use a shovel or a plow attached to an all-terrain-vehicle, make sure you’re removing snow legally.  Check with your city officials before placing excess snow in roadways or sidewalks, to ensure you’re following their guidelines.
  • Moving snow can be hard work.  Take breaks and make sure to give your body a rest.  Overworking yourself in cold weather can put extra strain on your heart.

Other Links

Leave a comment and share how you’re preparing for or dealing with the colder weather.