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Best Practices in Higher Ed Preparedness - in 140 Characters or Less

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woman looking at computer screen

Wondering how colleges and universities tackle emergency preparedness? It’s a job for the experts, many of whom joined with FEMA last week to discuss the topic.  But it wasn't an in-person meeting - we used Twitter to host a virtual "panel" of universities while taking questions from others.

Emergency management professionals from Boston College, DePaul University in Chicago, Florida State University, and Virginia Tech took to Twitter for an hour on September 18 to answer questions about their preparedness methods and the unique threats their schools face.

The most exciting portions of the chat were when schools and individuals from around the country chimed in on the topics and shared their experiences along with our panelists. In total, over 180 Twitter users joined in Wednesday's chat!

Thanks to an active conversation, the discussion covered a range of topics, from alert systems, to recent emergencies, to the challenges of preparing urban campuses, and more.  Here are some of my favorite exchanges from the chat (see the @FEMAlive account for a full recap):








If you're a higher education professional, emergency manager, college student, or parent, check out Ready.gov/campus for a full list of emergency preparedness resources.  A special thanks to all those who joined last week's chat!

Become a Hero this National Preparedness Month

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Staten Island, N.Y., Sep. 4, 2013 -- FEMA Administrator Craig Fugate joined the New York City Office of Emergency Management (OEM) for the kick-off of the 10th Annual National Preparedness Month, a month-long nationwide campaign to promote emergency preparedness and encourage volunteerism. Port Richmond Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) Chief John Tidona showed Administrator Fugate the team's Mobile Command Center.Staten Island, N.Y., Sep. 4, 2013 -- FEMA Administrator Craig Fugate joined the New York City Office of Emergency Management (OEM) for the kick-off of the 10th Annual National Preparedness Month, a month-long nationwide campaign to promote emergency preparedness and encourage volunteerism. Port Richmond Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) Chief John Tidona showed Administrator Fugate the team's Mobile Command Center.

Last week marked the start of National Preparedness Month.  All across the country, communities are hosting preparedness events encouraging everyone that “You can be the hero” when it comes to emergency preparedness.

Earlier this week, I had the pleasure of kicking off the month with partners in the New York City area. One thing we stressed at different events is how easy getting prepared can be.  For some things – like talking through a family communication plan – just takes time.  It’s not expensive at all, and the return on your investment of time will return great dividends if you’re confronted with a disaster.  During the events, the biggest takeaway for me was seeing how enthusiastic people have become in taking the steps to become prepared and how they are engaging all members of the family, young and old.

Staten Island, N.Y., Sep. 4, 2013 -- FEMA Administrator Craig Fugate stresses the need for families, businesses, and government agencies to have a plan for disasters, at the New York City Office of Emergency Response event for National Preparedness Month. Staten Island, N.Y., Sep. 4, 2013 -- FEMA Administrator Craig Fugate stresses the need for families, businesses, and government agencies to have a plan for disasters, at the New York City Office of Emergency Response event for National Preparedness Month.

My hope for this National Preparedness Month and for you all is that you’ll take a serious look at how prepared you and your family are. 

Do you know what to do during a disaster? Do your children?

Do you all know how you will get in contact with each other if your cell phone doesn’t work?

Or are you like these families, where you simply just haven’t talked about what to do in the event of an emergency?

If you’re anything like the families in these videos, then I strongly encourage you to take some time this weekend to sit down with your family and simply talk. Talk to each other to see you’re really prepared for an emergency, and if not then take action. Create a family communication plan. It’s simple, just visit the Make a Plan section on Ready.gov, download the family emergency plan, fill it out then send it to your family and friends.

There are other things you can do to get prepared, like building an emergency kit or by helping others in your community get prepared, but the most important part is taking the first step

If you’re looking for some extra inspiration, you can join the National Preparedness Community where you’ll be able to share some of the things you and your family have done to get prepared, find out about preparedness events taking place in your area and have access to great resources to help you get your loved ones prepared.

You can also access preparedness info on Facebook or Twitter. Follow us, we’d love to hear from you.

It’s true that we may not know when the next disaster may strike, but we can be smart and take action today!

"Social Media? We Can Play That Game Too."

Tweeting, tagging, poking, and pinning.  This may sound like a foreign language to some, but to the FSU Alert team at Florida State University, this is everyday language.  The presence, purpose, and promise of social media can no longer be ignored, and our team has been working hard to combine the worlds of social media and emergency preparedness to help keep our campus community updated and informed.

florida state alert flyer

For the tenth annual National Preparedness Month this September, Florida State University has created FSU Emergency Preparedness Week (#FSUPrep) during the week of Sept. 9 to highlight the many preparedness resources we have on campus, including social media.

To jumpstart the event, FSU Alert’s emergency notification and warning system, including the 30-plus delivery methods utilized to warn and inform the school, are showcased.  Sharing the spotlight is our state-of-the-art "EZ Button" rapid activation system, developed with Siemens. The rest of the week will cover severe weather, crime prevention and security, fire safety, and health and wellness -- all chosen to emphasize the importance of student health, safety, and well-being. 

Most of these areas feature separate promotion weeks throughout the school year, but, through partnering with different student organizations and departments on campus, FSU Alert has combined the much needed information into one organized week of education to remind new students and upperclassmen how Florida State University, via FSU Alert, is serving them day in and day out.

Social media not only plays a large role in the production of FSU's Emergency Preparedness Week but also in the daily operations of the FSU Alert team. It’s our view that social media is more than just a means of sending out alerts and hoping students, faculty and staff pay attention. We believe in the potential for it to provide a strong platform for education, outreach, and preparedness.

Having students as our primary audience is a unique challenge, but social media allows us to talk with students rather than talk at them. Q&A-style conversations help us successfully maintain communication with students online and on campus by providing a forum for questions about emergency preparedness. Through our FSU Alert accounts, we’re also able to address specific incidents on campus (for example, a fire alarm going off in a library) in an informal, peer-to-peer fashion, like this recent exchange:

We’ve worked hard to establish our credibility on campus as a trusted source of information. We’ve made great strides in combating social media’s greatest challenge - rumor control. Regardless of a rumor’s subject – class being cancelled due to weather, a faculty member receiving a threat, etc. – FSU Alert is the center point in crisis communications on campus.

Florida state alert signageOne example of a graphic we use on our social media channels to further educate the university community about FSU Alerts

We continue to collaborate with University Communications to determine the best timing and messaging possible during in an emergency setting, and to share accurate, timely information.

We’re proud to say that the time and energy that we’ve put into growing our presence on social media has paid off, evidenced by our  5,400 Facebook likes and over 7,000 Twitter followers. We’ve also branched out to include platforms like Tumblr, Instagram, Pinterest, LinkedIn, and Youtube to create a broad presence in the social media realm. 

Regardless of numbers and figures, possibly our greatest point of pride is the relationship we’ve built with our students. When reaching out to a generation that thrives online, the overwhelming possibilities social media platforms provide should not be overlooked.  By embracing social media and incorporating it into our communications outreach, FSU Alert is better positioned to establish a culture of safety and preparedness with our students.

Social media has become increasingly important to crisis communications both at Florida State University and elsewhere.  Social media isn’t the whole solution to creating a campus that is well prepared for emergencies. There’s no singular way to accomplish this goal.  Through our timeliness, reliability and wit, FSU Alert has garnered the attention and trust of our audience and we couldn’t be more pleased.  

FSU Alert can be found on…

Facebook: www.facebook.com/FSUAlert

Twitter: www.twitter.com/FSUAlert

Pinterest: www.pinterest.com/FSUAlert

Tumblr: www.fsualert.tumblr.com

Instagram: www.instagram.com/FSUAlert

LinkedIn: www.linkedin.com/pub/fsu-alert/53/456/824

YouTube: www.youtube.com/user/MyFSUAlert

Florida state alert logo

Editor’s Note: The views expressed in this blog post do not necessarily represent the official views of FEMA, the Department of Homeland Security, or the United States Government. We are providing links to third party sites and organizations for your reference. FEMA does not endorse any non-government entities, ogranziations or services.

National Night Out Shows How Community Preparedness is a Team Effort

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After I left the office on August 6, 2013, I went to the annual “Crime Prevention and National Night Out” celebration sponsored by the Springfield Police Department, Delaware County, PA, the Target Corporation, along with local businesses. National Night Out's goal is to “heighten crime and drug prevention, gain support for local anti-crime efforts, strengthen neighborhood spirit, and let criminals know that Springfield residents are committed to keeps Springfield Township safe.”

National Night Out was successful in Delaware County because it represented the diversity of the community.  It also demonstrated that while communities are made up of many organizations, businesses, and individuals – we can all come together to support a common goal.  I’m both a Springfield resident and a volunteer firefighter with the Springfield Fire Department; and I represented FEMA Region III at the event by hosting a table. At my table I encouraged, educated, and talked to people about individual and family preparedness.

kids at national night out

It gave me a unique opportunity to educate my neighbors and fellow Springfield residents about being prepared as an individual and about why it’s important to make a plan, have a kit, and be informed. It was a lot of fun for me because I brought my family with me (see the photo above); plus I was able to meet with friends, Springfield residents, and fellow firemen; while promoting FEMA’s ”Whole Community” approach to emergency management. If you haven’t heard “Whole Community” before, it’s the idea that it takes everyone in the community (elected officials, residents, businesses, etc.) to prepare for, respond to, and recover from a disaster. 

national night out booth

Next to my table was the Delaware County Community Emergency Response Team (CERT). Ed Kline is the Delaware County Volunteer Management Coordinator and was there with his local Delaware County CERT members in support of Ready Pennsylvania.  Ed and his team were there handing out Pennsylvania Emergency Preparedness Guides, Family and Pet Emergency Planning Guides and Ready Pennsylvania bags that had suggested items for a basic disaster supply kit. It was also a great chance to network with some of the local vendors that supported the event.

As I mentioned before, the event was successful because so many partners in the community were there.  In addition to FEMA and the Delaware County CERT team, other groups were there, like:

Events like National Night Out demonstrate the diversity of every community - and that it takes everyone working together to make our neighborhoods and cities more resilient.  Looking back at the event now, I’m amazed at how well my town came together, shared ideas, and got involved.

Sharing preparedness in your community doesn’t mean you need to wait for a formal event like National Night Out.  There are lots of events happening across the country and community.fema.gov is a great place to see the list.  And with National Preparedness Month coming up in September, now’s a great time to get inspired and host an event of your own!

I encourage all of you to get involved in your community to help everyone become better prepared for a disaster.

Editor’s Note: We are providing the following links to third party sites and organizations for your reference. FEMA does not endorse any non-government entities, ogranziations or services.

Relating Preparedness to Kids at a Home Improvement Store

home depot workshopBensalem, Pa., Aug. 1, 2013 -- FEMA staff joins with Home Depot to educate people on the importance of preparedness during a Hurricane Preparedness Workshop.

Great weather has a way of getting people outside – and in this case, it helped share the message of being prepared for emergencies.  On Saturday, July 27, the warm temperatures brought out hundreds of residents to their local Home Depot store for new tools and supplies so they could work on home improvement projects. In Downingtown, PA, people that arrived at their local Home Depot, saw various private sector, local, and state representatives who came together to encourage preparedness in the community.

We were there from 10:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m., talking to customers and answering questions about preparedness.  It gave us the opportunity to teach them about being prepared as an individual and the importance of making a plan, having a kit, and being informed. While interacting with people and answering questions was great, what really amazed me though was how interested kids are in talking about being better prepared.

After we all came back to the office on Monday, a coworker, Corey Rigby, told me about someone she spoke with at the Bensalem, PA store and the story really stuck with me. Grace is an 8 year old girl who went to the FEMA table with her dad. Grace kept talking preparedness and answered Corey’s questions to see if she was ready for a disaster. As Corey asked her about what to do in a hurricane, she knew right away to find a flashlight and stay inside.  After giving her a Ready Kids coloring book, her dad pulled her away to continue their day.

An hour later, Grace reappeared, dragging her dad back to the booth as she told Corey with excitement, “I want to learn more, ask me another question!” As she stood ready to prove that she knew what to do, Corey asked her several questions about how she would take care of her pets, where they would go if they need to evacuate, and what she would take with her. She proudly said that she’d take her stuffed animals, her parents, and their dog, but she wasn’t sure what else she would need.  Corey explained that her family needed to make an emergency supply kit, which they can take with them when evacuating.  Grace then turned to her dad and said, “I want to make one when we get home!” Her dad agreed that an emergency kit is important and thanked Corey as they walked away.  Corey’s story, just one of many that the Region III team had, stood out to me because it showed how a child can improve preparedness for the whole family and make a difference.

fema booth at home depotBensalem, Pa., Aug. 1, 2013 -- FEMA staff joins with Home Depot to educate people on the importance of preparedness during a Hurricane Preparedness Workshop.

I was able to speak with children and their families and a number of other stakeholders; including representatives from SERVPRO, Allstate Insurance, Generac Power Systems, Chester County Emergency Services, the Pennsylvania National Guard, Downingtown Fire Department, Downingtown Police Department, and Phoenixville Dive Rescue Team. I talked to them about FEMA’s upcoming National Preparedness Month and where they can find the new 2013 toolkit for sharing preparedness in their community.

I want to commend Home Depot on their Hurricane Preparedness Workshop; it was an excellent event and extremely well organized. The fine people from Home Depot were wonderful hosts who did a great job of bringing the Whole Community together – and the great weather didn’t hurt either.

Celebrating the 23rd Anniversary of the Americans With Disabilities Act

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As we celebrate the 23rd anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) on July 26, 2013, I recall a quote by Justin Dart Jr., the man described as the Father of the ADA.  Dart said, “The vision of justice is an eternal long march to the promised land of the good life for all." 

Now for those that may not know, the ADA is a landmark civil rights law passed in 1990 with bipartisan congressional support and signed by President George H.W. Bush.  The ADA prohibits discrimination against people with disabilities in areas like employment, participation in State and local government programs, and in most private businesses (public accommodations).  Transportation and effective communication are also addressed in the law.  Many people also don’t realize that for the past 40 years, all Federal agencies and any program that receives even one dollar of federal funding have had similar non-discrimination and inclusion obligations under the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, specifically Section 504.  Together the Rehabilitation Act and the ADA provide far reaching civil rights protections for people with disabilities.

The intent of the ADA was to establish a level playing field, a point where we can be equal, active participants in “the system.”  After 23 years, people with disabilities know our ADA rights and more and more often, we are exercising them.  Thanks to the promises and protections of the ADA and the Rehabilitation Act, people with disabilities are no longer content to just sit on the sidelines or be included as an afterthought as other people decide what is best for us.  There is a saying used by people with disabilities, “Nothing about us, without us.”  We want to participate and be involved in making those decisions that affect us. 

The ADA has made incredible progress for the civil rights of people with disabilities but yes, we are still on that “eternal long march to the promised land.”  We continue to break down barriers - physical barriers, programmatic barriers, transportation barriers, communication barriers, employment barriers, technology barriers, and yes, sadly, there are still attitudinal barriers as well.  But things are changing.

In emergency management for example there is a renewed effort across the country to not just “plan for” people with disabilities and others with access and functional needs but instead to “plan with” the whole community.  FEMA, FEMA’s Office of Disability Integration and Coordination, and our Regional Disability Integration Specialists are working with State and local governments, Tribal governments, non-profit groups, and private businesses by providing guidance, resources, and encouragement to include people with disabilities in all aspects of emergency management from planning and exercises to response, recovery, and mitigation.  People with disabilities are getting involved in our communities.  We are now a part of many emergency planning committees, citizen emergency response teams (CERT) and other first responder organizations.

So on this anniversary, we can look back on 23 years of hard earned progress and look to the future with hope of what is yet to come as we “march to the promised land of the good life for all."  

Using Mitigation to Save Lives: Alabama Reaches A Milestone

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There is no question that April 27, 2011 changed the lives of Alabamians. On that one day, our state experienced more than 60 confirmed tornadoes causing widespread devastation. Soon after, we decided to do all we could to make our state safer in the future.

In the days, weeks and months following the tornadoes, Governor Bentley and I toured the state and heard the personal stories of disaster survivors.  Many of them told us how they only had moments to find safety while praying for their lives and the lives of their loved ones.

They were the lucky ones that day.  No matter how much they had lost, they were grateful to still be here, and live through one of the state’s most devastating disasters.  Unfortunately, more than 250 people lost their lives during that 24-hour span of tornadoes.

Once my staff and I grasped the sheer magnitude of what had just happened, we all knew we had to do something to prevent this from happening again.


Pratt City, Ala., May 11, 2011 -- Blue tarps dot the landscape of a section of Pratt City hit by the April 27th tornado. Tarps are used to try and protect contents from further damage in homes not completely destroyed. FEMA has provided thousands of tarps to Alabama residents since the storms. Pratt City, Ala., May 11, 2011 -- Blue tarps dot the landscape of a section of Pratt City hit by the April 27th tornado. Tarps are used to try and protect contents from further damage in homes not completely destroyed. FEMA has provided thousands of tarps to Alabama residents since the storms.

The weeks following the disaster, Governor Bentley made it his priority to utilize a FEMA program known as the Hazard Mitigation Grant Program.  This program is based on a percentage of the federal disaster cost from the tornadoes, with FEMA paying as much as 75 percent of the costs for families and communities to install safe rooms to prevent or minimize the effects of future disasters.

Having this program available to us was only one part of the equation; the next part was ensuring the public and community leaders understood how this program would benefit them.

In June 2011, a joint effort with FEMA, private and public sector partners, the Alabama Emergency Management Agency hosted the Safer Alabama Summit. This event discussed future mitigation projects that would help our communities rebuild safer and stronger.

Tuscaloosa, Ala., June 13, 2011 -- Federal Coordinating Officer Albie Lewis leads a panel discussion at the Safer Alabama Summit on mitigation. Mitigation helps reduce the loss of life and property in the event of a disaster. Tuscaloosa, Ala., June 13, 2011 -- Federal Coordinating Officer Albie Lewis leads a panel discussion at the Safer Alabama Summit on mitigation. Mitigation helps reduce the loss of life and property in the event of a disaster.

After that event, what I call the “real” work began and that included our mitigation staff working with FEMA’s staff and the sub-applicants to receive, process and review more than 4,500 applications for safe rooms. They also processed applications for generators, alert notification systems and the hardening of portions of Druid City Hospital in Tuscaloosa.

In just over two years, or 26 months to be exact, I’m proud to say Governor Bentley awarded and the mitigation staff obligated approximately $77 million to the great citizens of Alabama. This was unprecedented for our state and, possibly for any state in the U.S.

I attribute the success in which we distributed the grant so quickly to the leadership of Governor Bentley and the relationship we have built with our local and federal partners. The way my staff devoted countless hours to working with the necessary parties to get the applications completed showed their unwavering dedication to the people of Alabama, but it also echoed the sentiment of my entire staff—April 27, 2011 is a day we will never forget!

Sleepless in Philadelphia

Here at FEMA we’re committed to the “Whole Community” approach to emergency management which Administrator Fugate initiated when he arrived. For those of you that haven’t heard of the Whole Community concept, it basically says that FEMA can’t manage emergencies by ourselves; we need to make sure that we’re including the private sector, community organizations, faith-based organizations, state local, and tribal government, the general public, non-profits, schools, our partners in other federal agencies, and almost any other group you can think of. One specific part of the Whole Community idea that we’re really working on is integrating the needs of people with access and functional needs in an inclusive setting and to accomplish this, we’re working collaboratively with our community partners who can bring resources, skills, and expertise to the table.  To support this effort Administrator Fugate created the Office of Disability Integration & Coordination and positions like mine, as the Regional Disability Integration Specialist here in the Region III office in Philadelphia.

A large part of my job is making sure that the access and functional needs of people with disabilities are addressed in an inclusive manner, as well as making connections between emergency managers and disability leaders.  So I want to tell you a little bit about an exciting project we are participating in with our community partners.

Philadelphia, Pa., June 28, 2013 -- LesleyAnne Ezelle, Regional Disability Integration Specialist, FEMA Region III visits the Philadelphia Chapter of the American Red Cross office where they held a Shelter Sleepover Exercise. Philadelphia, Pa., June 28, 2013 -- LesleyAnne Ezelle, Regional Disability Integration Specialist, FEMA Region III visits the Philadelphia Chapter of the American Red Cross office where they held a Shelter Sleepover Exercise.

On June 28th, 2013 I went to the Philadelphia Chapter of the American Red Cross office where they held a Shelter Sleepover Exercise. The point of the exercise was to test their ability to provide services and support to people with access and functional needs in a general shelter. There were volunteers from the local community, many of whom are active with the Functional Needs Subcommittee of the Southeastern Pennsylvania Regional Task Force.

They asked me to give an overview of effective communication, so I gave a demonstration on the equipment that we now have in our Disaster Recovery Centers (DRC). This equipment can also be used in other settings so that people with access and functional needs can get the same information as everyone else and get it in their preferred method of communication.  FEMA now has 175 accessible communication kits that are used to provide effective communication access in every DRC.

While this technology gives us many new options to communicate more effectively, it was pointed out by one of the shelter ‘clients’ that sometimes a skilled person who can interpret and provide information is needed too. We realize that having trained and knowledgeable shelter staff and access to on-site interpreters, scribes, and personal care attendants is just as important to providing effective and accessible services.  FEMA can offer these services to the state, during a Presidentially-declared disaster, if requested.  By having exercises like this one, both the shelter clients and the shelter volunteers get the opportunity to learn what works, what doesn’t, what may be available and we’re able to find solutions, together, to make the shelter experience truly inclusive and accessible.

One of the things that I found very impressive about this exercise is that it was a good example of the saying “nothing about us, without us” that we use a lot in the advocacy movement when we talk about planning services for people with disabilities. Shelter Sleep Over and other activities in Region III are an example of embracing that philosophy and we are looking forward to many more collaborative learning experiences.

StormReady: More than a name, a life-saving plan

What would you do if you found out there was a tornado headed right toward you, right now? On average, you get at least 13 minutes to respond.

The clock starts now:

Ask yourself, would you know it was coming?

How would you hear about the warning?

Where would you go to safely seek shelter?

What if you were asleep?

Are you ready?

That’s just minutes to hear about the tornado warning, figure out what is going on, make a decision about what you will do, and take action that could save your life.

Now consider this:

What if you were at work?

School?

A busy mall or dark movie theater?

What would you do? Where would you meet your family, friends or co-workers after the tornado hit?

Recently, my office asked those same questions.  In the FEMA Region IV area, we’re responsible for 350 employees who work in multiple buildings throughout the Atlanta area and what we call “in the field” – other joint field offices. 

We reviewed our own severe weather plan. Then, we exercised that plan as part of a campus-wide no-notice tornado drill. 

And we didn’t stop there!

I am proud to share that we went one step further, earning the official StormReady designation from the National Weather Service.

But, being StormReady is more than just a name, and more than having a NOAA Weather Radio (although we do have those)!  As recent weather events have shown, it is important to make sure we get it right when the danger is real. 

In order to participate and earn the StormReady designation from the National Weather Service, several criteria have to be met. Our specific plan includes:

  • A hazardous weather plan to include ice storms, tornadoes, severe thunderstorms, and flash floods.
  • Operating a 24-hour watch center to monitor local weather conditions.
  • Having multiple ways to: receive severe weather watches & warnings and alert our FEMA team.
  • Promoting severe weather readiness through a variety of training and outreach programs for our employees and partner agencies.

2,000 – that’s  the number of communities that have also achieved the StormReady status. That means those communities took the necessary steps to ensure their residents will be better prepared with severe weather threatens their area. So as you can see, earning the StormReady designation isn’t just for federal or even emergency management agencies. 

Having your community, business, or organization earn the StormReady designation isn’t an extensive process – the first step is contacting your local National Weather Service office. They will let you know how to complete the application, set up an in-person visit, and even hold an optional recognition ceremony once you’ve been labeled StormReady!

Altoona, PA: Reducing flood risk & saving money for policyholders

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While I couldn’t be there in person to present the Community Rating System plaque to the City of Altoona Commissioners during their recent meeting, I did want to recognize that as of October 1, 2012 the City of Altoona joined an elite group of communities across the country who are going above and beyond the minimum requirements to make their communities safer from flood risk.

For a bit of background, the National Flood Insurance Program's (NFIP) Community Rating System is a voluntary incentive program that recognizes and encourages community floodplain management activities that exceed the minimum NFIP requirements. Communities that participate in Community Rating System have flood insurance premium rates discounted to reflect the reduced flood risk resulting from the community actions.  Throughout the United States, there are well over 20,000 communities voluntarily participating in FEMA's NFIP, with 2,469 of these communities located in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. 

Nationally, a relative handful (approximately 5%) of these communities choose to go above and beyond FEMA's minimum requirements for NFIP participation.  These communities make up the members of the Community Rating System; and their additional efforts and activities result in communities that are safer and better prepared for future flooding events. In joining the Community Rating System program, the City of Altoona joins an elite group of only 24 communities in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania (the top 1%) that have been recognized for surpassing the minimum requirements to make their communities safer.  I would like to recognize the achievements of the City of Altoona because, as of October 1 last year, they joined the community Rating System with a Class 8 rating.

Perhaps more tangible and more important to Altoona’s citizens, the Class 8 rating qualifies all flood insurance policies in Altoona for an automatic ten percent discount on their premiums.  Each NFIP policyholder in Altoona will save an average of $77.00 on their annual premium.  As of January 31, 2013, there were 218 flood insurance policies in Altoona protecting over $30 million in property for a total premium cost of $191,458. The ten percent reduction will save the flood policyholders in the City collectively approximately $16,697 annually. There is no need for policyholders to contact their insurance carriers as the ten percent discount is deducted automatically from their premiums.

Jane Beveridge, the Office Engineer/Floodplain Administrator for Altoona commented on the benefits the Community Rating System can bring a community:

While it was a two years process, most municipalities are already following/adopting procedures that can earn rating system points. It’s mostly a matter of gathering paperwork. The Community Rating System Specialist assigned to the City of Altoona was also very helpful. Our updated website has floodplain information/links that have earned us easy points toward the ranking system. Every community should take advantage of this, especially with the rising costs of insurance, our citizens are thankful.

The City of Altoona’s leadership, hard work and accomplishments are to be commended.  On behalf of FEMA and the National Flood Insurance Program, welcome to elite status and thank you!

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