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Update 5: Community Relations Teams in Bastrop County, Texas

Posted by: Kevin L. Hannes, Federal Coordinating Officer

FEMA Community Relations Specialist Althea Fontenot shares registration information with people in Bastrop County, Texas.
Bastrop, TX, September 10, 2011 -- FEMA Community Relations Specialist Debbie Morales shares registration information with people in Bastrop County, Texas, which received a major disaster declaration for wildfires beginning on Aug. 30.

Just hours after Texas received a major disaster declaration for wildfires in Bastrop County, FEMA community relations teams were out in full force on the ground in the affected area, joining the other FEMA staff already on the ground helping the state assess damage. A 10-person community relations team spent Saturday at the Bastrop Civic Center handing out informational fliers, encouraging people to register right away for federal assistance. They also lent a sympathetic ear, listening to the stories of loss and sometimes, miracles in the midst of such devastation.

I encourage everyone in Bastrop County who was affected by the wildfires to apply for assistance: register online at www.disasterassistance.gov, via smart phone at m.fema.gov < m=""> or by calling 1-800-621-FEMA (3362) or (TTY) 1-800-462-7585.

As Administrator Fugate always says, FEMA is part of the team, and we continue to work with our state partners from the Texas Division of Emergency Management to help the individuals and families who have been impacted by this disaster.

The pace is often intense and the days are long, but we are here in Bastrop to help those who have survived this disaster, and we will be here as long as it takes to help individuals and families rebuild their homes, lives and communities. The community relations team will be visiting our parts of the county to share information, answer questions, and continue to support the survivors of the wildfires.

We’ll post continued updates on the blog and on the Texas wildfires disaster page.

FEMA Community Relations Specialist Althea Fontenot shares registration information with people in Bastrop County, Texas.
Bastrop, TX, September 10, 2011 -- FEMA Community Relations Specialist Althea Fontenot shares registration information with people in Bastrop County, Texas, which received a major disaster declaration for wildfires beginning on Aug. 30.

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Update 4: Federal Support for Texas Wildfires

Our thoughts and prayers continue to be with the families and communities being impacted by the wildfires in Texas. We continue to work closely with the Texas Department of Emergency Management, Texas Forest Service and the Small Business Administration throughout the duration of these fires, and we are supporting the firefighting efforts.

Last night, the President signed a major disaster declaration for Texas, making federal aid available to supplement state and local recovery efforts in the area affected by wildfires that began on August 30, 2011. The President’s action makes federal assistance available to affected individuals in Bastrop County, which can include grants for:

  • temporary housing and home repairs,
  • low-cost loans to cover uninsured or underinsured property losses, and
  • other programs to help individuals and business owners recover from the effects of the disaster.

Damage assessments are continuing in other affected areas, and additional counties may be designated for assistance after the assessments are fully completed.

Individuals and business owners who sustained losses in Bastrop county can apply for assistance by registering online at Disasterassistance.gov, on your smartphone at m.fema.gov or by calling 1-800-621-FEMA (3362) (TTY 1-800-462-7585).

Other Federal Support
In addition to the President’s major disaster declaration yesterday, FEMA has also approved 55 fire management assistance grants requested by Governor Perry during this fire season, providing support to first responders and fire fighters in immediate response efforts. (Check out our previous blog post for details on fire management assistance grants.)

To date, more than 1,900 U.S. Forest Service firefighters and support personnel are assigned to the Texas fires that have burned more than 100,000 acres. For more information on additional federal support from the U.S. forest service visit their website.

And to learn more about federal support before, during and after wildfires, visit the National Interagency Fire Center website.

Wildfires, Floods & Tropical Weather: Update on Our Role

Between wildfires in Texas, remnants of tropical storm Lee causing heavy rains and flooding in the northeast, and developing tropical storm systems in the Atlantic, here’s an overview of what we’re doing to continue supporting states – whether they are responding to current disasters or preparing for the next one.

Texas Wildfires

  • We continue to closely monitor and work with states affected by recent wildfires. Last night, we approved an additional Fire Management Assistance Grant (FMAG) for the state of Texas, raising the total to nine for this series of wildfires. As we said in previous updates, the Administration has multiple Fire Management Assistance Grants for Texas in the last several days, and 54 so far in 2011, making federal funds available to reimburse eligible costs associated with efforts to combat the fires. Two FMAGs were approved yesterday to support the firefighting efforts of first responders and firefighters in California as well.
  • In Texas, we are actively working with state and local officials to conduct damage assessments and to identify areas where additional federal assistance may be warranted. FEMA and the state have been operating an open Joint Field Office in Austin since the major disaster declaration was announced this past July. Our Incident Management Assistance Team continues to work with state officials in Austin to further assist with coordination.

For more information on our role, visit yesterday’s wildfire update and to get prepared for wildfires, visit Ready.gov/wildfires.


Remnants of Tropical Storm Lee


FEMA Applicant Services Program Specialist, Mandy McNatt, right, works on a computer with Disaster Recovery Center lead, Doug Kohler, at a center set up to assist local residents impacted by Tropical Storm Irene.
Orange, CT, September 8, 2011 -- FEMA Applicant Services Program Specialist, Mandy McNatt, right, works on a computer with Disaster Recovery Center lead, Doug Kohler, at a center set up to assist local residents impacted by Tropical Storm Irene. Disaster Recovery Centers have been opened up in areas throughout the state to offer information about programs available to local residents.

As we continue working closely to support states’ recovery efforts from the effects of Irene, we are also supporting state, tribal and local response operations from the remnants of tropical storm Lee. Through our regional offices in Atlanta, Philadelphia, New York and Boston, we continue to be in constant contact and coordination with our federal, state and tribal emergency management partners to support states that are being affected by the ongoing flooding.
 

  • Last night, President Obama signed emergency declarations for the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania and the state of New York as a result of the remnants of Tropical Storm Lee, making federal assistance available to save lives and protect property and public health and safety. (We recently posted a blog with details on federal assistance before, during and after severe tropical weather.)
  • We currently have emergency response personnel on the ground in Alabama, Mississippi, Maryland, Virginia, Pennsylvania, New York and other Mid-Atlantic and Northeastern states, that were mobilized in response to Hurricane Irene and earlier disasters, who are actively supporting state and local response efforts.
  • We also have liaison officers in Mid-Atlantic state emergency operations centers and continues to be in constant coordination with the National Weather Service, other federal partners and state emergency management agency partners across the Mid-Atlantic states and the Northeast.

There are areas from the Mid-Atlantic, into upstate New York and southern New England where flooding, or flash flooding may occur or continue. As we continue to monitor the flooding in along the east coast we urge residents to follow the instructions of local officials. For more flood safety tips, see this past blog post.

Tropical Storm Maria

We continue to monitor Tropical Storm Maria’s path and activity in the east Atlantic. In coordination with local officials, we have pre-positioned resources including personnel, in several locations to help with emergency response coordination and other needs. We have deployed an Incident Management Assistance Team to the U.S. Virgin Islands to assist territory and local authorities in coordination efforts; and we already have a Joint Field Office open in Puerto Rico due to our ongoing recovery efforts from Hurricane Irene.

While it’s too soon to know if Maria will bring additional impacts to portions of the U.S. mainland, we are closely monitoring the storm through our regional office in Atlanta and in touch with all of the states up and down the East Coast.

Going into this weekend, we urge residents of Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands to take steps now in case Tropical Storm Maria has an effect in the islands. Tropical storms can bring high winds and heavy rains, so listen to local officials and follow their instructions, which could include sheltering in place.

For additional information, tools and resources to prepare for any type of disaster, visit Ready.gov (or in Spanish at Listo.gov).

Update 3: Supporting Ongoing Wildfire Fight

We continue to support federal, state, local and tribal efforts to combat the raging wildfires in Texas and California. Our thoughts and prayers are with the families and communities being impacted by these wildfires, and we sincerely thank the firefighters and first responders who have been heroically working around the clock to fight these fires.

Last night, the President called Texas Governor Rick Perry to express his concern for citizens of Texas impacted by the unprecedented fires. During the call the President extended his condolences for the lives that have been lost as a result of these events, and made clear that the federal government, through DHS/FEMA and the U.S. Forest Service, will continue to make federal assistance available, as needed, to state and local officials as they fight the fires. The President also assured the Governor that requests for additional assistance, including as recovery begins, would be quickly assessed.

Wildfire damage to a home in Bastrop County, Texas. FEMA is providing assistance to state firefighting efforts through Fire Management Assistance Grants.
Bastrop County, TX, September 7, 2011 -- Wildfire damage to a home in Bastrop County, Texas. FEMA is providing assistance to state firefighting efforts through Fire Management Assistance Grants.

As we said in yesterday’s update, at the request of the Governor, the Administration has granted eight Fire Management Assistance Grants in the last several days, making federal funds available to reimburse eligible costs associated with efforts to combat the fires. (Read yesterday’s post for more on our efforts to support the state of Texas during this year’s busy wildfire season.) According to the U.S. Forest Service, there are currently, more than 2,000 U.S. Forest Service federal firefighters and support personnel assigned to the Texas fires.

We’re also actively working with state and local officials to conduct damage assessments and to identify areas where additional federal assistance may be warranted. At the request of the Governor, FEMA, state and local officials have already completed damage assessments in fire affected areas including Bastrop and Williamson counties; and are continuing with assessments beginning today in Colorado, Leon and Travis counties. These assessments are designed to give the governor of the state a better picture of disaster damages, and to determine if a request for further federal support is needed.

And for those who may be affected by the wildfires in Texas or California, here are some tips to remember:



  • Listen to and follow the guidance of state and local officials. If authorities order an evacuation, leave immediately, follow evacuation routes announced by local officials.
  • Create an area of “defensible space” around your home. Clear items that will burn from around the house, including wood piles, lawn furniture, barbecue grills, tarp coverings, etc.
  • If you’re caught in the open during a wildfire, The best temporary shelter is in a sparse fuel area. Clear fuel away from the area while the fire is approaching and then lie face down in the depression and cover yourself. Stay down until after the fire passes.
  • Let your family and friends know you’re OK, especially if you’re told to evacuate. In case phone lines are congested, try sending a text message, e-mail, or updating your social networking sites. The American Red Cross Safe and Well site offers another way for disaster survivors to update their status and for family and friends to search for loved ones.

For more information on getting prepared for wildfires, visit www.Ready.gov/wildfires.

Update 2: FEMA Support to Texas Wildfires

(Entrada de blog en español / Spanish blog post)

Yesterday, our Region VI Administrator, Tony Russell blogged about the support we are providing the state of Texas, as they work to combat devastating wildfires. At the time of yesterday’s blog post, we had authorized Fire Management Assistance Grants (FMAGs) for seven fires, meaning FEMA funding will be available to pay 75 percent of state and local government eligible firefighting costs.

Since then, we have authorized an additional FMAG for the Bear Creek Fire, bringing the total to 8 for this series of fires and 53 for this year.

With FMAGs in the news again, we thought we’d point you to a post we did at the end of April that explains FEMA’s role when it comes to financial assistance to support any state’s firefighting efforts.

As we wrote then...

What is an FMAG, and how does it support the efforts of first responders and firefighters?

Basically, FMAG’s provide financial assistance so firefighters and first responders can focus all their efforts on reducing the negative impacts of the fire. An FMAG authorization makes FEMA funding available to pay 75 percent of the state's eligible firefighting costs, under an approved grant structure.

Items eligible for FMAGs can include expenses for:
  • field camps;
  • equipment use, repair and replacement;
  • mobilization and demobilization activities; and
  • tools, materials and supplies.

In case you’re interested in the specifics, the program allows for the “mitigation, management, and control” of fires burning on publicly or privately owned forest or grasslands which threaten such destruction as would constitute a major disaster. FMAGs are provided through the President's Disaster Relief Fund and made available by FEMA to assist in fighting fires that threaten to cause a major disaster.

A note on FMAGs: These grants do not provide assistance to individual home or business owners and do not cover other infrastructure damage caused by the fire. A Governor must make a request for a major disaster declaration, including individual assistance, to receive federal disaster assistance for individual home or business owners.

Also, in addition to the support that Tony mentioned yesterday, at the request of the Governor – FEMA, state and local officials began damage assessments in Bastrop County, Texas. These assessments are designed to give the Governor a better picture of disaster damages, and to determine if a request for further federal support is needed. We will continue to work closely with the state and local emergency management officials as their efforts to contain these fires continue.

Visit Ready.gov/wildfires for tips that you can follow to prepare your home and your family.

And follow these state resources online for updated information:

Region VI Supports Texas Firefighting Efforts

Author: 

An historic drought and extremely windy conditions are continuing to take a devastating toll across Texas as wildfires rage in multiple counties.

Just over the long holiday weekend, we authorized Fire Management Assistance Grants for seven fires, meaning FEMA funding will be available to pay 75 percent of state and local government eligible firefighting costs.

We have also deployed Region VI staff from the Individual Assistance Branch, the External Affairs Division, as well as an Incident Management Assistance Team to support our state and local partners as everyone takes stock of the damage done by these fires and maps out a plan for recovery.

We at FEMA are committed to the people of Texas during this difficult time. Our ultimate goal is to help each individual who has been affected by this disaster rebuild their lives and property. We will continue to work with the Governor and his team to provide the necessary support.

This also serves as a stark reminder to us all that disasters can strike anywhere at any time. That’s why we must all collectively be ready; there’s no time like the present as September is National Preparedness Month. We, as emergency managers, should set the example for individuals and communities and do the basics – have a plan, get a kit and stay informed. That will enable us to take better care of the most important people of all – disaster survivors.

Applications Being Accepted for Assistance to Firefighters Grants

I am excited to announce the application period for the 2011 Assistance to Firefighters Grants (AFG) program is opens August 9 and lasts until Sept. 9, 2011.

This means that fire departments and nonaffiliated emergency medical services organizations across the U.S. can apply for federal grant dollars to enhance their ability to protect the health and safety of the public from fire and related hazards. There are a few exciting changes for 2011 I wanted to share:

  • The program guidance is shorter, more user friendly, and highlights the funding priorities. This makes it easier to understand the funding that’s available and should result in less time needed to fill out the application,
  • Questions on the grant applications will enhance the panelists’ ability to review each application’s merits, and
  • The “Get Ready Guide” for the Assistance to Fire Fighters Grant program has been provided to answer your questions and to help you prepare your grant application.

Under the AFG program, Congress appropriated $404,190,000 in funding that will be an important part of the Administration’s larger, coordinated effort to strengthen homeland security preparedness. AFG will remain focused on firefighter life and safety as well as the safety of the public the firefighters serve.

I strongly encourage your department to review this year’s program guidance and apply at www.fema.gov/firegrants. Local first responders are a vital part of the emergency management team and we look forward to strengthening their capabilities through this year’s AFG program.

What We’re Watching: 6/24/11


Ongoing Severe Weather

We continue to closely monitor and work with our state and local partners as flooding continues along the Souris River. As you’ve probably seen in the news, local officials have issued evacuation orders for some communities along the river, specifically in Burlington and Minot. As we’ve said on this blog before, we will continue to work with the emergency management team to meet the needs of disaster survivors and the affected communities. Forecasts from the National Weather Service are calling for more rain in the Great Plains and the Midwest, so be sure to follow the direction of local officials and take steps today to get prepared.

And as rivers swell in some parts of the U.S., other areas are fighting a prolonged drought and wildfires. We continue to closely coordinate with state and local officials as wildfires continue across the south in Arizona, Georgia, New Mexico, Texas and Georgia, to name a few.

For your latest weather forecast, visit www.weather.gov or mobile.weather.gov on your smartphone.

NFL Players Encourage Preparedness

Over the past several months, we've worked with many partners from the private sector to encourage disaster survivors to apply for assistance, including the NFL Players Association. In the video below, Vonnie Holliday, defensive linebacker for the Washington Redskins, talks about the importance of getting prepared before a disaster strikes. Check out the video below, and Be sure to take a few minutes to visit Ready.gov this weekend to make a kit, get a plan, and be informed.



Wildfires: Federal Assistance and Safety Tips

When natural disasters, such as wildfires strike, the first responders are local emergency and public works personnel, volunteers, humanitarian organizations, and numerous private interest groups who provide emergency assistance required to protect the public's health and safety and to meet the immediate needs of survivors.

In the case of the ongoing Texas wildfires, first responders and firefighters from more than 30 states continue to battle the blazes.  We sincerely commend their heroic efforts to protect public health and safety, fighting the fire to minimize damage to lives, property and critical infrastructure.

Through our regional office in Denton, Texas we are continuing to closely partner with the state of Texas providing financial support for ongoing efforts to fight and mitigate the volatile wildfire conditions.

During this fire season, the federal government continues to support the state of Texas with 22 Fire Management Assistance Grant (FMAG) declarations, including 16 FMAGs since the beginning of April.

So what is an FMAG, and how does it support the efforts of first responders and firefighters?

Basically, FMAG’s provide financial assistance so firefighters and first responders can focus all their efforts on reducing the negative impacts of the fire.  An FMAG authorization makes FEMA funding available to pay 75 percent of the state's eligible firefighting costs, under an approved grant structure.

Firefighting helicopter hovering over a lake.
Loveland, CO, September 13, 2010 -- Firefighting helicopter hovering over a lake. Heavy air tankers work on hot spots on the Reservoir Road Fire just west of the town of Loveland. FEMA authorized the use of federal funds to help with firefighting costs for the Reservoir Road Fire.

Items eligible for FMAGs can include expenses for field camps; equipment use, repair and replacement; mobilization and demobilization activities; and tools, materials and supplies.

In case you’re interested in the specifics, the program allows for the “mitigation, management, and control” of fires burning on publicly or privately owned forest or grasslands which threaten such destruction as would constitute a major disaster.  FMAGs are provided through the President's Disaster Relief Fund and made available by FEMA to assist in fighting fires that threaten to cause a major disaster.

A note on FMAGs: These grants do not provide assistance to individual home or business owners and do not cover other infrastructure damage caused by the fire.  A Governor must make a request for a major disaster declaration, including individual assistance, to receive federal disaster assistance for individual home or business owners.

If you’re in an area that may be impacted by wildfires, remember these safety tips:

  • Listen to and follow the guidance of state and local officials. If authorities order an evacuation, leave immediately, follow evacuation routes announced by local officials.
  • Create an area of “defensible space” around your home.  Clear items that will burn from around the house, including wood piles, lawn furniture, barbecue grills, tarp coverings, etc.
  • If you’re caught in the open during a wildfire, The best temporary shelter is in a sparse fuel area.  Clear fuel away from the area while the fire is approaching and then lie face down in the depression and cover yourself. Stay down until after the fire passes.

For more tips on staying safe before, during and after a wildfire, visit www.Ready.gov and our mobile site (m.fema.gov).

News of the Day: Kids Fire Safety

For the last few weeks, we’ve worked with our partners to raise awareness of children’s fire safety. We wanted to highlight this story on ClintonNews.com (Mississippi), showing how one community is helping to spread the word.

Have you shared fire safety tips with your children, or those that you come into contact with? Ready.gov/kidsfiresafety has some great tips on getting children prepared so they know what to do in case of a fire. And if you’re on Twitter, use the hashtag #kidsfiresafety to share how you’ve been getting children engaged.

Also, check out some of our recent blog posts on kids fire safety:

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