Late last week, what’s been called “historic” and “1,000 year-level” flooding began in the Southeast United States—with South Carolina getting hit with the brunt of it. As the situation has changed, we've changed right along with it.
In the photo below, you can see members of one of our incident management teams collaborating inside the South Carolina Emergency Operations Center in West Columbia, SC. We embed these teams in states’ emergency operation centers during response efforts in order to make coordination with the state and our other partners quicker and easier.
We've also deployed two of our Urban Search and Rescue teams who are highly-trained and prepared to perform swift water rescues. The two teams that have deployed are the teams based out of Virginia. Virginia Task Force 1, out of Fairfax County in Northern Virginia, shared this photo of just some of the equipment they’re bringing with them to help.
VA-TF1 preparing to depart for South Carolina with Swift Water boats and personnel. pic.twitter.com/n3lyrjcKBc— Fairfax Fire/Rescue (@ffxfirerescue) October 5, 2015
While we’ve got those operations on the ground, we’re also working out of our coordination center in Atlanta, Georgia. This center creates the link between the state and FEMA and its federal partners on a regionally-focused level. Atlanta is our headquarters for the region that encompasses much of the Southeast.
.@FEMA continues to work w/ fed partners @ our Regional Response Coordination Center in Atlanta to help coordinate any requests for help.— Rafael Lemaitre (@FEMAspox) October 4, 2015
I’ve covered people and places. The last piece would be the things. We’ve got supplies pre-positioned in case they’re needed or requested in other areas. These supplies—among other things—include bottles of water, meals and blankets. These supplies are located at Fort Bragg in North Carolina and once they’re requested, they’re given to states, locals, and tribal officials to distribute where they’re needed most.
Our operations aren’t just at the state and regional levels; we’re also coordinating at the national level. Our watch center at our Washington, DC headquarters has increased its staff to make sure the situation is being monitored as closely as possible.
If a state’s governor feels there has been enough damage to warrant federal assistance, they can request a major disaster declaration from the President. These declarations allow the state to request assistance for public infrastructure as well as individuals and households. The decision to grant the request is based on damage assessments.
When the rains began to get bad, South Carolina was granted an emergency declaration for 46 counties and one tribe. These declarations allow us to identify and provide equipment the state may need to complete its response efforts and help us do a lot of the things I mentioned before—move staff into the state and pre-position supplies.
As we continue to watch the floods, we encourage you to listen to state and local officials and check in on friends, family, and loved ones in the affected area.