We have written a lot on this blog about what individuals can do to prepare for a disaster, and how we are working with the entire emergency management team to get the word out about the importance of preparedness, but we wanted to take a second and shed more light on the steps we and our state partners take to move needed emergency supplies to reach disaster survivors.
It's our job to be ready at all times to support our state and local counterparts when disaster strikes, and the way we get supplies to affected individuals and communities follows this same goal. At all times, FEMA has commodities (water, food, blankets, cots and generators), at our distribution centers that are strategically located throughout the United States and territories.
When a disaster is imminent or after the state’s governor has requested a disaster declaration, the state may make a request, through their FEMA regional office, for federal assistance if it believes its supplies may become exhausted. If the state’s request is approved, emergency supplies begin making their way to our state partners and disaster survivors.
These commodities are placed in pre-determined staging areas where the state then takes ownership and full possession of the requested emergency supplies. State and local governments then decide how and where to distribute these supplies to survivors.
To give an example of supplies in motion, we've featured a video of how we’ve been moving commodities and supplies to those affected by the southeast tornadoes and storms:
They often use three methods to get critical supplies to survivors:
- Mobile delivery is a method that utilizes vehicles to drive into an affected area and provide commodities. This type of distribution is common in rural areas and where roads are damaged.
- Direct deliveries is coordinating with a specific location, such as a shelter, feeding site, or hospital for the delivery of specific items and quantities and are usually larger in size and more specific in commodity type than what is delivered through mobile delivery.
- Points of Distribution are centralized points where supplies are delivered and the public travels to the site to pick up life sustaining commodities following a disaster or emergency. The decision to activate, operate, and demobilize a POD is at the discretion of the local government.
So what emergency supplies are we talking about?
These commodities usually include shelf stable food and bottled water, blankets, cots, generators, tarps, plastic sheeting, infant and toddler kits, durable medical equipment, and a kit of basic medical supplies. Additional state requirements for supplies may be provided by our partners to supplement the original request.
Montgomery, AL, April 30, 2011 -- U.S. Air Force and FEMA load water for distribution.
Mobile Communication Operations Vehicles (see photo below) are another shippable commodity. These vehicles can perform a dual mission: to set up a command and control center or to serve as a disaster recovery center for survivors to get information and register for federal assistance.
Montgomery, AL, April 30, 2011 -- Mobile Communcations Office Vehicles deploying to hard hit areas to start the disaster assistance registration process for surviors in need.
In other cases, if the threat of disaster is imminent, in the form of flooding, hurricanes or other phenomenon, we will send some of our commodities forward from our distribution centers to an Incident Support Base closer to the impacted areas in anticipation of requests from our state partners. (As we did in anticipation of flooding in the Upper Midwest this spring.)
And as we often say, FEMA is not the team; FEMA is part of the team, a team that includes the entire federal family, state, local and tribal officials, the faith-based and non-profit communities, the private sector and most importantly the public. As the details above demonstrate, the effectiveness of getting supplies to disaster survivors depends on all members of the team working closely together.