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Irene Update 37: August 31 Recap

Editor's Note: On September 1, Video of Administrator Fugate's visit to Vermont on August 30 was added.
 


The administration, coordinated through FEMA, is committed to bringing all of the resources of the federal family to bear to support the states and territories that have been affected by Hurricane Irene.

FEMA, through our regional offices in Boston, MA, Philadelphia, PA, New York City, NY, Atlanta, GA, and our Caribbean Area Office in Puerto Rico, have been in close contact and coordination with the states and territories that have been affected. Over the past several days, President Obama has declared major disaster declarations for the states of North Carolina, New York and the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico and emergency declarations for North Carolina, Maryland, District of Columbia, Virginia, Delaware, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, New York, Massachusetts, Connecticut, Rhode Island, New Hampshire and Vermont, making available federal resources to support response efforts.

Prior to Irene's making landfall on the East Coast Saturday, FEMA deployed teams and resources along the East Coast from South Carolina to Maine. In advance of Irene moving through the territories earlier last week, FEMA deployed teams to both Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands to coordinate directly with local officials on the ground.

At the direction of President Obama and DHS Secretary Napolitano, FEMA continues to work with our federal, state, territorial, tribal and local partners, as well as voluntary organizations, the private sector, and others to respond to the aftermath of Irene. The following timeline provides an overview of these and other federal activities, to date, to support these territories, states, families and communities.

Wednesday, August 31
 

  • Today, DHS Secretary Janet Napolitano and FEMA Administrator Craig Fugate meet with local officials, first responders, and volunteers in New York and New Jersey to survey ongoing recovery and response efforts on the ground following Hurricane Irene.   FEMA Deputy Administrator Rich Serino meets with disaster survivors and tours a shelter in New Jersey.
  • Today, President Obama declared North Carolina, New York, and New Jersey as disaster areas, making additional federal assistance available to individuals and businesses. Residents and businesses in declared areas, who have disaster-related losses not covered by insurance, are encouraged to register for assistance.  Residents and businesses may apply online at http://www.DisasterAssistance.gov or by calling 1-800-621-FEMA(3362). Disaster assistance applicants, who have a speech disability or hearing loss and use TTY, should call 1-800-462-7585 directly; for those who use 711 or Video Relay Service (VRS), call 1-800-621-3362.
  • Federal and state personnel continue to work together to conduct or schedule preliminary damage assessments in North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Maryland, Virginia, Rhode Island, Vermont, New Jersey, Connecticut, New Hampshire, Massachusetts, New York and Maine.  These assessments are designed to give the governor of each state a better picture of damages, and to determine if a request for further federal support is needed. FEMA and the administration are committed to working as quickly as possible with our state and local partners to review any additional requests governors make for major disaster declarations. 
  • Today, the Department of Energy's Deputy Assistant Secretary for Infrastructure, Security and Energy Restoration William Bryan, meets with Connecticut officials and electric utility companies to discuss energy restoration needs.
  • As of this morning, there were 1.7 million people along the eastern seaboard without power.  Department of Energy, as the federal lead for Emergency Support Function-12/Energy, reports that there are roughly 30,000 private sector workers in the mid-Atlantic and Northeast involved in the effort to restore power to affected areas, and additional power restoration crews are still being added.  For example, Connecticut Light and Power reports that 900 line and tree crews were working across the state with additional crews arriving daily.  Also, National Grid, a utility in New York, reports that over 3,000 personnel are dedicated to the power restoration effort.
  • Last night, there were more than 100 shelters open across 11 states and Puerto Rico. Shelter populations continue to decrease as individuals begin to return home upon an all clear from local officials.  Information about open Red Cross shelters is available at redcross.org and will continue to be updated. 
  • The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) continues to deploy multiple debris management, commodities distribution support, and emergency temporary power response teams from North Carolina and north into New England in support of FEMA and the impacted states. USACE has installed 8 generators at critical public facilities (such as water treatment plants, shelters and hospitals) in North Carolina, Rhode Island and New York.  USACE is also working with the U.S. Coast Guard to assess ports and channels and remove any obstructions in order to restore the navigation system on the east coast. USACE has purchased thousands of liters of bottle water for FEMA for distribution to disaster victims. Dam safety experts from USACE continue in the field to inspect dams impacted by the flooding and providing technical assistance support. 
  • More than 350 community relations specialists are in the field in affected states and additional mobilizations and deployments continue.  Community relations teams have begun to gather situational awareness about the storm impacts and help inform disaster survivors about available services and resources.
  • FEMA's Federal Insurance and Mitigation Administration is reaching out to insurance commissioners in Irene-affected states/districts/commonwealths to answer questions about federal flood insurance policies and claims. Conference calls have been held with representatives from New York, Vermont, Connecticut and New Hampshire with a second round of calls being made to state insurance staff in New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Maryland, District of Columbia, Delaware, Virginia, North Carolina and Puerto Rico this week.
  • FEMA conducts conference calls with congressional delegations from the mid-Atlantic and Northeast, Asian, Black and Hispanic Caucuses and FEMA Authorizers and Appropriators to provide updates on ongoing federal response and recovery to Irene.
  • The Internal Revenue Service offers information on special tax law provisions may help taxpayers and businesses recover financially from the impact of a disaster, especially when the federal government declares their location to be a major disaster area.
  • The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention offer safety tips on post-storm recovery, including how to safely clean up mold.

See yesterday's blog post for a recap of earlier federal activities.
 

Avoiding loan scams after a natural disaster

Editor’s Note: This was originally posted on the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau’s website. If you suspect anyone – an inspector, disaster survivor, or someone posing as one of these – of fraudulent activities, call our toll-free Disaster Fraud Hotline at 866-720-5721, or your local law enforcement officials.

This year has seen quite a few notable natural disasters, including deadly tornados, wild fires, and floods. Most recently an unusually strong earthquake, hurricane and floods have stuck the eastern United States.

Of course, with any disaster comes the cleanup, which can be expensive. Unfortunately, many families do not have emergency funds and may need to borrow money in a hurry to make important repairs. This post-disaster stress can sometimes make us easier targets for deceptive lenders.

In particular, watch out for the “home improvement” loan scam. Here’s how the FTC has described this fraud:

A contractor calls or knocks on your door and offers to install a new roof or remodel your kitchen at a price that sounds reasonable. You tell him you’re interested, but can’t afford it. He tells you it’s no problem—he can arrange financing through a lender he knows.
You agree to the project, and the contractor begins work. At some point after the contractor begins, you are asked to sign a lot of papers. The papers may be blank or the lender may rush you to sign before you have time to read what you’ve been given. 
The contractor threatens to leave the work on your house unfinished if you don’t sign. You sign the papers. Only later, you realize that the papers you signed are a home equity loan. The interest rate, points and fees seem very high. To make matters worse, the work on your home isn’t done right or hasn’t been completed, and the contractor, who may have been paid by the lender, has little interest in completing the work to your satisfaction.

Fortunately, there are things to watch out for and things you can do to avoid these scams.

Warning signs:

  • The contractor demands full payment up front or in cash only.
  • The contractor has no physical address or refuses to show ID.
  • You have to disclose personal financial information (perhaps to “speed up payment”) to start the repair or lending process.
  • If you have to borrow to pay for the repairs, the contractor steers you toward a particular lender or tries to act as an intermediary between you and a lender.
  • You are asked to sign something without enough time to review it.

Avoiding the scam:
 

  • Carefully question strangers who show up and knock on your door, offering repairs.
  • Never give any personal financial information, such as an insurance number or Social Security Number.
  • Never sign any document without fully reading and understanding it. If you don’t understand something, ask for an explanation.
  • Do your own research before borrowing any money to pay for repairs.
  • Get a loan quote from someone who is not recommended by your contractor and compare their amounts, repayment schedules, and rates. If they differ significantly, ask both parties why.

The Department of Housing and Urban Development has information that can help you be smart about home improvement loans. Find out more about federal and community-based programs, as well as general consumer advice. Your own state’s attorney general may also be a good resource to learn more or file a complaint.

These are not the only post-disaster scams you may encounter. For more information about avoiding other types of scams like repair scams and charitable giving scams, check out these resources:

  • The University of Illinois Extension on Home Repair Fraud



Irene Update 36: Seeing the Team in Action in Vermont

Author: 

Administrator Craig Fugate (right) goes over a map of Ludlow with Vermont Governor Peter Shumlin (center) and General Dick Harris, Brigadier General, Vermont National Guard.
Ludlow, VT, August 30, 2011 -- Administrator Craig Fugate (right) goes over a map of Ludlow with Vermont Governor Peter Shumlin (center) and General Dick Harris, Brigadier General, Vermont National Guard. They surveyed damages in the town following the inland flooding caused by Irene.

You may have heard media reports that the lead up to Irene was over-hyped and that we “dodged a bullet” – well I can tell you that while the impacts of Irene could have been much worse, there are many areas, especially in the Northeast that are still experiencing dangerous inland flooding and our state and local partners are still very much responding to this storm.

Yesterday, I visited Vermont and met with Governor Shumlin and his emergency management team, as well as Senator Sanders, Senator Leahy, Representative Welch and other local officials. Thanks to the New Hampshire National Guard, who is in Vermont helping with the flood response, we flew over some hard hit areas of the state to assess the damages, and ensure that the Governor had all the resources he needed to continue the response to the flooding that Irene has left in her wake.

We made a stop in the town of Ludlow, where the Assistant Fire Chief, who also serves as the towns Emergency Manager, showed us the damage the flash flooding had caused. While much of the water had receded, the damage has stayed behind. Getting around is still a bit of a struggle, six of the bridges around town where damaged or destroyed, but the Governor did let the town know that by yesterday evening, access to every town in Vermont would be restored (up until this point, some were only accessible by helicopter).

People often think of FEMA when it comes to disasters, but as I saw first hand in Vermont, the team was working together to respond at all levels – the federal family, state, tribal and local government, the faith-based and non-profit community, and especially the public, as neighbors across Vermont have reached out to help each other.

When we drove around Ludlow, not only did I see FEMA commodities (in this case water), being unloaded, but the towns emergency manager talked about the work that had been done to open transportation routes, and we went by a Salvation Army Emergency Response truck that was doing great work in town.

As I told the media, after we came back from Ludlow and I had time to sit down with the Governor and the Congressional delegation, we can’t work as separate entities, we all have to work together as one team – and we will be working together long after the national media leaves, to ensure that the Governors in impacted states, not just in Vermont, but up and down the East Coast, have the support they need as they continue to respond and begin to recover from Irene.

Today I will be traveling to upstate New York and New Jersey to meet with state and local officials. Check back to the blog for more updates and information.

Administrator Craig Fugate (second from right) meets with Peter Shumlin (second from left), Governor of Vermont, during a visit to meet with local officials and survey damages caused by Irene.
Burlington, VT, August 30, 2011 -- Administrator Craig Fugate (second from right) meets with Peter Shumlin (second from left), Governor of Vermont, during a visit to meet with local officials and survey damages caused by Irene.

Irene Update 35: On the Road to Recovery in Virginia

Department of Homeland Secretary Janet Napolitano (right) talks with Virginia Governor Robert McDonnell as they enter the Virginia Emergency Operations Center.
Richmond, VA, August 30, 2011 -- Department of Homeland Secretary Janet Napolitano (right) talks with Virginia Governor Robert McDonnell as they enter the Virginia Emergency Operations Center. Secretary Napolitano visited Virginia to meet with state and local officials and survey damages after Irene.

Yesterday, we teamed up with our partners in the Commonwealth of Virginia to welcome Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano, Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack, Governor Bob McDonnell, U.S. Congressman Bobby Scott and Richmond Mayor Dwight Jones to the Virginia State Emergency Operations Center.

Secretaries Napolitano and Vilsack traveled to the Commonwealth to meet with state and local officials and receive an update on the ongoing response and recovery efforts due to damages from Irene. Upon arriving at the Emergency Operations Center, the delegation received a briefing on the status of Virginia’s response to the storm along with the Commonwealth’s progress towards recovery.

Secretary Napolitano praised the team at the operations center, placing an emphasis on how their efforts over the last few days have saved lives. She emphasized how President Obama has asked that we continue to lean forward as a team…a team that includes our cities, states and the federal family.

On Thursday, we will continue to team up with our state and local partners to begin collecting preliminary damage assessments throughout Virginia. This assessment is part of a process that could lead to the Commonwealth asking the President for a major disaster declaration should the Governor determine that the damage caused by Irene is beyond the capabilities of state and local resources. (Here’s more details on the disaster declaration process.)

As Secretary Napolitano said, FEMA is in Virginia to support the Commonwealth and will remain as long as it takes to assess the damage and assist Virginia in their recovery efforts from Irene.

Federal Assistance Before, During & After A Hurricane

Since Irene first threatened the U.S. Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico last week, we’ve been posting updates on this blog about our efforts to support our state, local, territorial and tribal partners. Even before Irene made landfall in Puerto Rico, the federal family was taking proactive steps to ensure assets and personnel were readily available to support the potentially affected areas, as needed.
 

The bottom line is that meeting the needs of disaster survivors and affected communities after a disaster requires a team effort, and determining the extent of support is done through close coordination with our partners at all levels of government. The emergency management team has begun to assess the damages caused by Irene. These assessments are designed to give the Governor of each State a better picture of damages, and to determine if a request for further federal support is needed.
 
As the emergency management team begins to assess the damages caused by Irene, we wanted to go into detail about some of the more formalized process that a state follows, in order to request federal assistance for our state and local governments when:
 
  • Emergency Declaration – Prior to formalized damage assessments being done, the President can sign an emergency declaration, as he did for Puerto Rico, North Carolina, Virginia, Maryland, Delaware, New Jersey, New York, Massachusetts, Connecticut, Rhode Island, Pennsylvania, the District of Columbia, New Hampshire, and Vermont, in response to Irene. This makes additional federal assistance available to state and local communities to support life saving efforts, such as providing shelter to those who had to evacuate their homes. An emergency declaration does not provide federal funding directly to individuals.
  • Damage Assessments – As we’ve said in previous blog posts about the disaster declaration process, when the resources from the affected states, local or tribal governments cannot meet the needs of disaster survivors or the affected communities, federal resources are brought in to assist. To determine the level of support needed, we work closely with our partners at every level of government to complete joint damage assessments after a disaster.

    These damage assessments are done by combining multiple sources of information, such as aerial surveys, door-to-door evaluations in the affected areas and initial damage reports from state, local and tribal partners. These damage assessments help the Governor determine whether additional federal assistance is needed. Based on the needs, the Governor then makes a formal request to the President, if requesting a major disaster declaration.

    An important point to remember is the impact and resources of one state may not be the same as another state, even if the disaster conditions appear similar in nature. Each state’s request for an emergency or major disaster declaration is reviewed on its own merit, using the same considerations that are established by federal regulation with the data that was provided by the state. 
  • Major Disaster Declaration – If it is determined that the affected state, territory or tribal government’s resources are overwhelmed by the disaster (based off the information from joint damage assessments), a major disaster declaration opens the door for additional federal assistance. The major disaster declaration will designate the programs that are authorized by the President. In Puerto Rico, President Obama has already made this additional support available following Irene’s impact on the island. A major disaster declaration could involve the following assistance programs:
    • Public Assistance - provides assistance to state, tribal and local governments, and certain types of private nonprofit organizations for debris removal, emergency protective measures, and the repair, replacement, or restoration of disaster-damaged, publicly owned facilities. It also encourages protection of damaged public facilities from future events by providing assistance for hazard mitigation measures during the recovery process.
    • Individual Assistance – provides assistance to individuals and business owners affected by the disaster. Individual assistance provides funds directly from FEMA, or through Small Business Administration low-interest loans, to fulfill unmet needs such as housing for disaster survivors, disaster unemployment assistance, legal services, crisis counseling, and other disaster-related needs from survivors or small business owners. Often times, individual assistance covers a portion of the uninsured losses of homeowners and business owners.

In addition to these formalized avenues for federal assistance, we proactively deployed Incident Management Assessment Teams, liaison officers, and commodities as Irene threatened the states and territories. We will continue to provide updates on this blog as we continue to support all members of the emergency management team as they work to meet the needs of disaster survivors and the affected communities.
 

 

Irene Update 34: August 30 Recap

The administration, coordinated through FEMA, is committed to bringing all of the resources of the federal family to bear to support the states and territories that have been affected by Hurricane Irene.

FEMA, through our regional offices in Boston, MA, Philadelphia, PA, New York City, NY, Atlanta, GA, and our Caribbean Area Office in Puerto Rico, have been in close contact and coordination with the states and territories that have been affected. Over the past several days, President Obama has declared a major disaster declaration for the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico and emergency declarations for North Carolina, Maryland, District of Columbia, Virginia, Delaware, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, New York, Massachusetts, Connecticut, Rhode Island, New Hampshire and Vermont, making available federal resources to support response efforts.

Prior to Irene's making landfall on the East Coast Saturday, FEMA deployed teams and resources along the East Coast from South Carolina to Maine. In advance of Irene moving through the territories earlier last week, FEMA deployed teams to both Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands to coordinate directly with local officials on the ground.

At the direction of President Obama and DHS Secretary Napolitano, FEMA continues to work with our federal, state, territorial, tribal and local partners, as well as voluntary organizations, the private sector, and others to respond to the aftermath of Irene. The following timeline provides an overview of these and other federal activities, to date, to support these territories, states, families and communities.

Tuesday, August 30
 
  • DHS Secretary Janet Napolitano and Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack joined federal, state and local partners in North Carolina and Virginia to tour disaster areas, meet with disaster survivors and receive an update on ongoing response and recovery efforts.
  • FEMA Administrator Craig Fugate joined federal, state and local partners in Vermont to tour disaster areas, and received an update on ongoing response and recovery efforts.
  • FEMA Deputy Administrator Rich Serino to Connecticut to tour disaster areas, and will be in New Jersey later today. Tomorrow, Secretary Napolitano and Administrator Fugate will travel to New York and New Jersey to meet with the governors and their teams, as well as other state and local officials and view damages there.
  • In response to the state's request, FEMA is establishing a staging area at Camp Johnson (Colchester, Vt.) to support federal response operations. The staging area allows FEMA and federal partners to proactively stage commodities closer to areas affected by severe weather, allowing supplies to be quickly moved throughout affected states, should they be needed and requested.
  • Federal and state personnel are now working together to conduct or schedule preliminary damage assessments in North Carolina, Pennsylvania, the District of Columbia, Maryland, Virginia, Rhode Island, Vermont, New Jersey, Connecticut, New Hampshire, Massachusetts, New York and Maine. These assessments are designed to give the governor of each state a better picture of damages, and to determine if a request for further federal support is needed.
  • National Urban Search and Rescue (US&R) Massachusetts Task Force 1 (MA TF-1) continues to assist the state of Vermont with search and rescue; and Pennsylvania Task Force 1 (PA TF-1) and Ohio Task Force 1 (OH-TF1) assist the state of New York with search and rescue efforts in Schoharie, New York.
  • U.S. Customs and Border Patrol is working closely with the State of Vermont to facilitate power restoration teams from Canada to cross the border.
  • The U.S. Forest Service chain-saw personnel mobilize to Vermont to cut and remove debris from blocked roadways.
  • The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) is monitoring and inspecting dams operated by the Army Corps as well as non-federal dams that are being requested to be inspected by state partners and/or by FEMA.
  • USACE's New York District is carrying out missions to support recovery efforts in the New York City region following Irene, including the city, parts of northern New Jersey and Long Island. New York District's fleet of drift collection vessels is clearing storm debris from the waters in and around the New York and New Jersey Harbor that could potentially be hazards to navigation. Army Corps personnel from Philadelphia, New York and New England Districts also continue to monitor the historic flooding within the Northeast and are coordinating with local and state partners, providing sandbags and technical assistance as requested.
  • The private sector telecommunications restoration effort continues. Cell phone carriers are making significant advancements in North Carolina, and in mid-Atlantic states as power is restored, and assessment continue in the Northeast. Private sector cells-on-wheels and cells-on-light-trucks are deploying to fill critical cell phone coverage gaps.
  • Last night, there were more than 307 shelters open across 14 states and Puerto Rico. Shelter populations continue to decrease as individuals begin to return home upon an all clear from local officials. Information about open Red Cross shelters is available at redcross.org and will continue to be updated. 

See yesterday's blog post for a recap of earlier federal activities.

Irene Update 33: How To Help Those Affected by Irene

To help manage the generous outpouring of support for those individuals and communities affected by Irene, disaster recovery experts have established some simple ways to help, whether you’re looking to volunteer or send donations.

Along with our partners at the National Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster, here are reminders when helping those impacted by Irene:
 

  • Donate through a trusted organization – At the national level, many voluntary-, faith- and community-based organizations are active in disasters, and are trusted ways to donate to disaster survivors. In addition to the national members, each state has its own list of voluntary organizations active in disasters. If you’d like to donate or volunteer to assist those affected by Irene, these organizations are the best place to start.
  • Cash is the most efficient method of donating – Cash offers voluntary agencies the most flexibility in obtaining the most-needed resources and pumps money into the local economy to help businesses recover. Remember, unsolicited donated goods such as used clothing, miscellaneous household items, and mixed or perishable foodstuffs require helping agencies to redirect valuable resources away from providing services to sort, package, transport, warehouse, and distribute items that may not meet the needs of disaster survivors.
  • Be wary of scams and fraud - Unfortunately, disasters often bring out criminals who prey on the needs of disaster survivors, or the generosity of those looking to help, by offering fraudulent services. If you suspect anyone – an inspector, disaster survivor, or someone posing as one of these – of fraudulent activities, call our toll-free Disaster Fraud Hotline at 866-720-5721, or your local law enforcement officials.

For more information on helping survivors after a disaster, visit www.fema.gov/howtohelp.

Irene Update 32: Still Having Impact

Even though Tropical Storm Irene has dissipated, the inland flooding that it has left in its wake still poses a very real and immediate threat. There are many areas where inland flooding may yet occur or worsen, don’t put yourself at risk; follow the instructions of local officials. In some areas rivers have not crested yet. Today, Department of Homeland Security Secretary Napolitano and Agriculture Secretary Vilsack will visit North Carolina, while Administrator Fugate will go to Vermont to meet with state and local officials and survey damages of the ongoing effects from Irene.

Yesterday, President Obama declared a federal emergency in Vermont due to the flooding, allowing the federal government to provide additional assistance in supporting the state’s response efforts. The state has also requested a Urban Search and Rescue team to support ongoing life saving actions, and Massachusetts Task Force -1 is currently in Vermont. We are also closely monitoring potential flooding in Connecticut, New Jersey, New York, Massachusetts and Pennsylvania.

As we often say at FEMA, preparing for, responding to, and recovering from emergencies is a team effort – and we commend the efforts of emergency responders, voluntary and faith-based organizations who continue to work tirelessly to meet the immediate needs of those impacted by Irene.

If you’re in an area that is experiencing flooding, listen to direction given by local officials regarding evacuations and wait to return home safely until they give the “all clear”. For additional tips, see this previous blog post with tips on staying safe during and after a flood.

Power outages
Significant power outages are also being reported across the area affected by Irene, and the Department of Energy continues to support the federal family’s efforts to support critical infrastructure in response to Irene’s impacts. If you are experiencing power outages, contact your local utility company to report the outage.

The entire federal family continues to lean forward to support the states in their ongoing response efforts as they work to save lives, and we will continue to provide updates on our blog as our role continues.

Irene Update 31: August 29 Recap

The administration, coordinated through FEMA, is committed to bringing all of the resources of the federal family to bear to support the states and territories that have already been affected by Hurricane/Tropical Storm Irene and the states that are preparing for the storm. FEMA, through our regional offices in Boston, MA, Philadelphia, PA, New York City, NY, Atlanta, GA, and our Caribbean Area Office in Puerto Rico, have been in close contact and coordination with the states and territories that have been affected, and states that will be impacted.

Over the past several days, President Obama has declared a major disaster declaration for the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico and emergency declarations for North Carolina, Maryland, District of Columbia, Virginia, Delaware, New Jersey, New York, Massachusetts, Connecticut, Rhode Island, New Hampshire and Vermont, making available federal resources to support response efforts.

Prior to Irene's making landfall on the East Coast Saturday, FEMA deployed teams and resources along the East Coast from South Carolina to Maine. In advance of Irene moving through the territories earlier last week, FEMA deployed teams to both Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands to coordinate directly with local officials on the ground.

At the direction of President Obama and DHS Secretary Napolitano, FEMA continues to work with our federal, state, territorial, tribal and local partners, as well as voluntary organizations, the private sector, and others to respond to the aftermath of Irene. The following timeline provides an overview of these and other federal activities, to date, to support these territories, states, families and communities.

Monday, August 29
 
  • President Obama signs an emergency declaration for the State of Vermont due to Hurricane Irene, making available federal support to save lives and to protect property and public health and safety for the entire state.
  • DHS Secretary Napolitano holds a teleconference with mayors of the East Coast cities to discuss the latest hurricane response and recovery operations. They also asked the mayors if they anticipated any areas that would require additional support.
  • Last night, there were more than 428 shelters open across 15 states and Puerto Rico. Shelter populations continue to decrease as individuals begin to return home upon an all clear from local officials. Information about open Red Cross shelters is available at redcross.org and will continue to be updated.
  • For those areas without power, FEMA and federal partners urge residents to be safe and take precautions while the power is out. Find out how to keep food safe during and after an emergency by visiting www.FoodSafety.gov. The Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) urges consumers to be especially careful during a loss of electrical power, as the risk of carbon monoxide poisoning and fire increases at that time. The CPSC and U.S. Fire Administration warn consumers NEVER to use portable generators indoors or in garages, basements or sheds. The exhaust from generators contains high levels of carbon monoxide that can quickly incapacitate and kill.
  • FEMA is actively working with our state partners to begin preliminary damage assessments (PDA) in some areas, and make preparations for assessments in others. These damage assessments help the governor determine whether additional federal assistance is needed.
  • Governors have activated more than 10,000 National Guard personnel in states to assist affected states with response efforts. In those states already being affected by the hurricane, National Guard forces are assisting state and local authorities as they begin performing cleanup, communication, and search and rescue missions.
  • U.S. Army Corps of Engineer's is providing two Coastal Engineers in North Carolina to assist in preliminary damage assessments with state and local officials.
  • The Department of Agriculture urges farmers and ranchers in storm-affected areas to notify their local farm bureau service centers in order to coordinate evaluation of storm affects on crop yields.
  • FEMA conducts Congressional conference calls with Congressional delegations from the mid-Atlantic and Northeast, Congressional Asian, Black and Hispanic Caucuses and FEMA Authorizers and Appropriators to provide updates on ongoing federal response and recovery to Irene.
  • More than 250 community relations specialists are staged on the ground in affected states and additional mobilizations and deployments continue. Community relations teams have begun to gather situational awareness about the storm impacts and help inform disaster survivors about available services and resources.

See yesterday's blog post for a recap of earlier federal activities.

Irene Update 30: Engaging the Private Sector

Author: 

Throughout the past week, I’ve been encouraged – yet again – by the increasing collaboration between the private sector and the emergency management community. As the government at all levels prepared for an impending hurricane aimed at the entire East Coast, the private sector has been preparing right alongside us to help minimize possible impacts and line up coordinated response and recovery efforts.

Starting back on Monday, August 22, retailers began providing the emergency management community with operational updates and important information regarding what preparations were being made for Hurricane Irene. These partners included the likes of Target, Wal-Mart, Home Depot, Lowes, Macy’s, Sears, Best Buy, Walgreens, Safeway, Wegmans, and Waffle House among others. At the same time we were distributing regular private sector news releases and updates to over 25,000 businesses in order to provide them with details which could help them organize their preparations. The teamwork began early and is still going strong!

When evacuations began in the outer banks of North Carolina, our partners sought more information to help inform their plans. Our private sector representative in the National Response Coordination Center (currently Bill Shealy of Verizon) started working 12-hour shifts with others in our National Response Coordination Center, to handle inquiries and share information as it was available.

In return, the private sector provided FEMA with an abundance of valuable situational awareness reports that included information such as where emergency supplies where being moved and which retail stores could be affected by the storm. This information was vital to helping federal, state, tribal and local officials prepare for the coming storm.

Private sector partners will also be playing an important role in the coming weeks, as we work with them on the best ways to support the state, local and tribal recovery efforts. Just a few examples that worked well after this spring’s tornados include in-hotel welcome channel video and digital outdoor advertising.

What it all comes down to is teamwork. Everyone has a role to play in disaster preparedness, response and recovery. We’re not out of the woods yet - in fact, in many areas experiencing inland flooding, we are still in response and life-saving mode. But with the continued support and collaboration of the entire team, we will work tirelessly to support disaster survivors and the affected communities.

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