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Earth Day 2011: Green Building Practices and Sustainability

Posted by: Edward Connor, Acting Administrator, Federal Insurance and Mitigation Administration 

As we celebrate Earth Day, it gives us a chance to clearly link the complementary concepts of sustainability and resilience, a fancy way to say how well communities bounce back after a disaster.   Everyday FEMA works to enhance the resilience of our communities to natural hazards by helping them to identify risk and develop appropriate strategies to reduce those risks. This includes adopting and enforcing stronger building codes, coordinating planning and preparedness exercises, and partnering with stakeholders to build safer communities.

Preventing losses and damage to buildings not only creates a safer community, but also reduces the environmental impact of post-disaster recovery operations, especially related to debris management and rebuilding. For more on the relationship between green building practices and natural hazard resistance, check out our publication on Natural Hazards and Sustainability for Residential Buildings.

A few other “green” highlights 
The growing emphasis on creating sustainable communities, whether though innovative green building practices or reducing the materials and energy footprints creates opportunities to build safer and greener, both before and after disasters.

By building green and taking steps to protect your property at the same time, you not only help protect the environment but also protect your property against the forces of nature.  One way FEMA promotes sustainable building practices before a disaster is by partnering with the Department of Housing and Urban Development.  Efforts to build sustainably are recognized as one part of the Hazard Mitigation Assistance Grant Program application process, to promote strategic local approaches to sustainable development by combining hazard mitigation objectives with community development objectives.

Recovery from natural disasters presents a unique opportunity to consider alternatives to the damage-rebuild-damage cycle.  To learn more about rebuilding stronger, safer, and smarter after a disaster, check out our guide to Rebuilding for a More Sustainable Future.

On Earth Day and every day, I challenge you to consider taking small steps to make your home, business or community more sustainable while reducing its risk of damage due to disasters.  For some tips to get you started, visit

To learn more about the role of green building rating systems in promoting green building practices and sustainable building design, visit the United States Green Building Council, a non-profit green building policy, education and research organization at

- Ed

Recognizing Contributions to Emergency Management: Improving HAZUS


The National Hurricane Conference, going on this week, provides a great opportunity for members of the emergency management team to strengthen their partnerships.  It also provides an opportunity to recognize individuals in front of a group of their peers.

Earlier this week, several individuals were recognized for their contributions to emergency management and hurricane preparedness.  One award recipient was Miguel Pavon, Administrator of the Texas/Mexico Borderlands Information Center, who received an Outstanding Achievement in Mitigation Award for his contributions to HAZUS, a FEMA software program widely used by emergency managers to better understand the potential impacts of natural disasters by estimating potential losses from earthquakes, floods, and hurricanes.

Pavon’s contribution expands the potential of HAZUS by developing an innovative, user-friendly spreadsheet (PDF) for use with the risk assessment software.  Through geographic information systems technology, HAZUS estimates physical, economic, and social impacts of disasters, graphically illustrating characteristics of identified high-risk locations.

In addition to the unveiling of the awards, FEMA announced the upcoming release of Hazus 2.0  at the National Hurricane Conference, which will offer a new storm surge model to aid emergency managers in analyzing the effects of hurricane storm surge and predicting the physical and economic impacts of hurricane on coastal regions.

Last month, FEMA’s HAZUS Program Manager Eric Berman was among the recipients of Federal Computer Week magazine’s 22nd Annual "Federal 100 Awards" in Washington, DC, for his outstanding leadership and work on the FEMA HAZUS Program.

We congratulate both Miguel Pavon and Eric Berman on their contributions to the development of HAZUS, and encourage the emergency management community to check out the new HAZUS 2.0 features.

Other links
Learn more about how Miguel Pavon developed his innovative Hazus spreadsheet (PDF).

Learn more about the HAZUS program.


One Week Until the Great Shakeout: 2.6 Million Strong and Counting


One week from today, at 10:15 am central, millions of Americans across the central U.S. will stop what they’re doing, whether at school, in the office, or at home, to take part in the first-ever public earthquake drill in the New Madrid Seismic Zone region. And that’s not the only "first" – this Great Central U.S. Shakeout is also the first earthquake drill ever to be conducted in multiple U.S. states simultaneously.

Earlier today, I joined several of our partners, Ernie Allen, the President and CEO of the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, and Dave Maxwell, the head of the Arkansas Department of Emergency Management, on a conference call with reporters to discuss the Shakeout. And just minutes before our call, we learned that 2.6 million Americans have now signed up to drop, take cover, and hold on.

This is exciting news and a great start. But, with 40 million people living in the New Madrid Seismic Zone, we know we can do better. Next Thursday, members from across the entire team will be spanning out to attend Shakeout drills in all 10 states. In fact, many of us here at FEMA’s headquarters, other federal agencies, and even cabinet-level officials, will be joining the many schools, colleges, state and local government agencies, hospitals, child care organizations and countless other groups at their drills.

Will you?

If you haven’t already, sign up to participate today at

And if you already have signed up, keep spreading the word. Get your colleagues, neighbors, friends and family involved.

And if you live in California and want to get a head start on signing up for your 2011 Great California Shakeout this October, you can sign up today at

As I said earlier today, we all know preparedness is a team effort. FEMA is just one part of this team – and the most important member is you. Whether it’s preparing for earthquakes or other disasters, learning how to protect ourselves in the immediate moments of an emergency can make all the difference when the real thing happens.

Student Opportunities at FEMA

Did you know that students make valuable contributions to FEMA every day?  In Washington D.C. or at any of our ten regional offices, students can contribute to the agency’s mission of supporting citizens and first responders as they prepare for, respond to, and recover from disasters.  Whether you are a college (or advanced degree) student yourself or know one that may be interested, I encourage you to learn more about student opportunities at FEMA:

Presidential Management Fellows Program

The Presidential Management Fellows program is a flagship leadership development program of the federal government and provides entry level full time employment for advanced degree candidates.  The program is designed for developing a cadre of potential government leaders who engage in impactful assignments during the first years of employment, including a series of projects to develop leadership capabilities.

Additional information about the program can be found on the program’s website.

Student Career Experience Program

The Student Career Experience Program gives students a "jump start" in their chosen career fields by providing valuable, paid work experience while they are still in school.   The program enriches each student’s education by providing relevant job experience while allowing the agency to continue developing the future workforce.

The arrangements for such jobs are developed under the Federal Student Educational Employment Program, and provides for work-study partnerships between the students and FEMA.  As a result of this program, many students have converted into a permanent position at the agency.

Additional information about this program can be found on the USA Jobs website.

Student Temporary Employment Program 

The program runs annually from June through September, providing college students with an opportunity to apply their skills and experience in an exciting work environment, while learning more about FEMA.  Students work to support the agency’s mission with assignments that can include conducting research on rules and regulations that guide the federal government, assisting with travel arrangements, and supporting the agency’s reporting efforts.

For June employment, applications are usually due by mid April.  However, the program also runs throughout the calendar year based on need, so interested applicants should monitor for the latest information on when opportunities arise and when applications are due.

Federal Work Study (FWS) Program

The FWS program provides part-time employment to current college students while assisting in financing the costs of postsecondary education. Students can receive FWS funds at approximately 3,400 participating postsecondary institutions. Students should contact their school guidance office, career planning and placement office, or e-mail for additional information.

More information about the FWS program can also be found at the Department of Education website.

Student Voluntary Employment Program

The Student Volunteer Employment Program is a government-wide program that allows students to work in the Department of Homeland Security as volunteers for valuable work experience directly related to their academic field of study. Though unpaid, students hired through the Student Volunteer Employment Program may receive educational credit for their internship.  Applications are accepted throughout the year, and interested students should e-mail for more information.

Additional information can also be found on the DHS website.

News of the Day: Quick-Thinking Store Manager Saves Lives in Tornado


I’ve blogged several times about the importance of the private sector in helping our communities prepare for, respond to, and recover from disasters. While these past blog posts have focused on the role of the private sector as a valuable member of the emergency management team, I wanted to highlight one especially heroic story that came out of the deadly tornadoes that just hit North Carolina and other states over the past few days.

During the series of deadly tornadoes and severe storms, a manager at a home improvement store in Sanford, North Carolina guided approximately 100 people (employees and customers) to safety just before a tornado bore down on the store.

Read about how the manager was able to act quickly and put the company’s safety plan into action (his heroic actions also merited a call from President Obama). (Stories courtesy of WCNC.)

Every day across the nation there are other essential contributions from the private sector and potential heroes like this manager, who work hard to keep their peers, stores and customers safe. And whether you’re a business owner or employee, check out for information on minimizing the impact of disasters and keeping employees (and potentially, your customers) safe in case an emergency occurs.

- Dan

Indiana "Shakes Out"

Today, the state of Indiana, through the Indiana Department of Homeland Security (IDHS), participated in the Great Central U.S. ShakeOut, a multi-state earthquake drill to teach participants the basics of earthquake safety and preparedness.

More than half a million participants throughout the state signed up for this drill. I commend the work that IDHS has done, together with the Central United States Earthquake Consortium, to recruit the participation of individuals, families, schools, and businesses for this important drill, and I applaud Indiana for including the whole community in this effort.

Recent events throughout the world, including the earthquake in Japan, the fifth largest in recorded history, as well as the devastating earthquakes in New Zealand and Haiti, serve as powerful examples of how destructive these unpredictable disasters can be. They’re also reminders that none of us – no matter where we live – are immune from disasters whether natural or manmade.

Although the state of Indiana is holding its ShakeOut drill today, Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Illinois, Kentucky, Mississippi, Missouri, Oklahoma, South Carolina and Tennessee, will hold their ShakeOut on April 28 at 10:15 a.m. More than one and half million registrants in these 10 states will exercise three simple steps:

  • DROP to the ground,
  • Take COVER by getting under a sturdy desk or table, and
  • HOLD ON to it until the shaking stops.

While we don't know when the next earthquake will strike, taking steps now to enhance our readiness will help the country become more resilient before disaster strikes. Knowing what to do before, during and after an earthquake can mean the difference between life and death.

Register for the ShakeOut at and visit for important earthquake preparedness tips so that you can protect yourself and your loved ones in the event of an earthquake.

Less than 2 Weeks to Go to Central U.S. Shakeout – What Will You Do?


For months, FEMA has been working closely with 11 of our state partners and many other members of the team to get the word out about the Great Central U.S. Shakeout – the first-ever multi-state public earthquake drill taking place next Thursday, April 28 at 10:15 am central time.

And as of today, we’re less than two weeks away – which means it’s time for all of us, across the entire team, to get involved and do our part to get the word out. Why?

The recent – and tragic - earthquakes we’ve seen from Japan, the fifth largest earthquake in recorded history, to the earthquakes that struck New Zealand, Chile, Haiti and our own U.S. territory of American Samoa, that destructive disasters can hit us anytime, anywhere, and often without any warning.

And none of us – no matter where we live – are immune. In fact, earthquake activity has been felt in all fifty states. Like it or not, we simply don’t have the luxury of thinking “this couldn’t happen here.”

While we can’t prevent earthquakes or other disasters, we can take important steps to prepare for them. One way you can prepare is to join more than two million people who are participating in The Great Central U.S. ShakeOut, the largest earthquake preparedness event in central U.S. history. Eleven states are participating in the ShakeOut, including Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Kentucky, Illinois, Indiana, Mississippi, Missouri, Oklahoma, South Carolina and Tennessee; and so far, over 2.2 million people have signed up.

It’s a great start, but with 40 million people living in the central U.S. region, we know we can do even better.

Drills like the Shakeout are among the easiest and most cost-effective ways individuals and communities can learn how to protect themselves if an earthquake strikes. It’s easy to sign up; it’s free; and anyone can participate from anywhere – whether you are at school, at the office, at home, on the soccer field, or even visiting the doctor. All you have to do is sign-up here to get simple instructions on how to participate.

So we’re challenging all of you, our partners on the team, to join us in The Great American ShakeOut. Get involved; and be prepared!

If you’re a Member of Congress in one of the 11 central U.S. states participating in the ShakeOut, help us get the word out to your constituents. Make plans to participate in an event or do a drill with your congressional office. Post ShakeOut information, including widgets, on your website.

If you’re a school, college or university, plan a "shakeout" drill on your campus. Already, over 1,526 schools and 62 colleges and universities are participating.

If you own, manage or work at a business, get your staff and coworkers involved. Already, over 200 businesses and 290 non-profits have signed up, and that doesn’t include the many state and local government agencies that are planning to do drills.

At FEMA – we’ll be doing our part, in partnership with our regional offices in the central U.S., to participate in drills on April 28. We’ll be sharing more about our plans on the FEMA blog, so stay tuned.

Learn more about how to participate here:

And if you’re already participating, let us know what you’re planning. Leave a comment below or tweet me @craigatfema.

Aftermath of Severe Southern Storms – Supporting our State and Local Partners

Our thoughts and prayers are with the families and communities struck by the deadly series of tornadoes and severe storms that swept through many of our southern and Midwestern states late last week and over the weekend. FEMA, through our regional offices in Denton, Texas and Atlanta has been closely monitoring the storms and their aftermath, and has been in constant contact with the impacted states. Yesterday, President Obama spoke with Governor Bentley of Alabama and Governor Perdue of North Carolina to let them know that the entire federal government, through FEMA, stands ready to support in their recovery efforts as needed.

Over the weekend we deployed a FEMA representative to the North Carolina emergency operations center to help the state with coordination and other needs. And at the requests of the governors of the respective states, FEMA has deployed teams to North Carolina, Alabama and Mississippi to conduct joint preliminary damage assessments with other state and local personnel. These assessments identify the damages in impacted counties and to help the governor determine if additional federal support will be requested. As of this morning, we now have 12 teams on the ground in North Carolina, one team in Alabama and three teams in Mississippi.

And at the request of the governor of Oklahoma, we also had a team on the ground in the state over the weekend to partner with state and local personnel to assess the damage. Those assessments have been completed and the state will now review the findings to determine whether or not to seek federal assistance.

Already in North Carolina, we have seen the team that we so often talking about coming together to help the community recovery, whether it’s volunteers or neighbor helping neighbor. As the New York Times reported this morning:

Around the parts of the Southern states that were hardest hit, volunteers began organizing food drives and fund-raisers. Many people were connecting through Facebook and Twitter, and others were simply showing up to see how they might help.

In Sanford, the Salvation Army thrift store opened its doors at 3 p.m. and two hours later had already accepted about 400 bags of clothes and household goods, said Derek Oley, 29, the manager. They will start supplying food to people Monday.

“This community is just so awesome right now,” Mr. Oley said. “People are just coming out from everywhere to help out.”

And remember – as these storms proved once again – severe weather can strike anytime, anywhere. If you haven’t already, now is the time to get prepared for tornadoes and other disasters on

FEMA on the Hill: Tsunami Preparedness

On our blog we are always talking about the team effort that is involved when it comes to emergency management. This team effort was on display this past Thursday as multiple federal agencies, including FEMA Regional Administrators Nancy Ward and Ken Murphy, as well as our state partners in Alaska testified before the House Subcommittee on National Security, Homeland Defense and Foreign Operations regarding Tsunami preparedness for the United States.

Washington, DC, April 14, 2011 -- (From left to right) Mary Glackin, Deputy Under Secretary for Oceans and Atmosphere for NOAA, FEMA Region IX Administrator Nancy Ward, FEMA Region X Administrator Ken Murphy and John Madden, Director of the Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Management for the State of Alaska
Washington, DC, April 14, 2011 -- (From left to right) Mary Glackin, Deputy Under Secretary for Oceans and Atmosphere for NOAA, FEMA Region IX Administrator Nancy Ward, FEMA Region X Administrator Ken Murphy and John Madden, Director of the Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Management for the State of Alaska

As Regional Administrators Ward and Murphy pointed out in their written statement:

Tsunami preparedness is an important part of FEMA's catastrophic planning and preparedness efforts. However, we cannot do it alone. It is important to note that FEMA is not the nation's emergency management team - FEMA is just part of the team.

We work closely with the whole community, which includes our governmental partners at the federal, state, local, tribal and territorial levels; we leverage the resources of non-governmental entities, including private sector, faith-based, and non-profit organizations. Finally and most importantly, we work to instill a commitment to preparedness among individuals, families, and communities, who serve as our nation's 'first' first responders and the key to our success.

The tragic events in Japan serve as a solemn reminder to us of the gravity of our preparedness message. As we keep both the victims and survivors in our thoughts and prayers, please be assured we will continue to do all we can to ensure that we are as prepared as possible.

Watch the full hearing on YouTube and visit the Tsunami preparedness page on


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