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Author: Jessica Stapf
When disasters like extreme flooding, wildfires, and building collapses happen, search and rescue teams are in the air, in the water, and on the ground within hours to respond. They are there working to find and rescue anyone trapped—be it by the elements or by debris.  Our 28 nationally trained and certified Urban Search and Rescue teams are made up of specialists in communications, hazardous materials, logistics, medical, planning, rescue, technical, and water operations.Each task force has up to 210 members on staff at any given time—this ensures that when they’re...
Posted On: January 4, 2016
Author: Jessica Stapf
The way I see it, the world is kind of like driving in Mario Kart. Some disasters we can see coming with the help of weather forecasts—like hurricanes. They are like Mario Kart bananas—they’re bad, but we have time to prepare for them. Other disasters, like earthquakes, we can’t predict. They are more like blue shells, which are designed to take out whoever is leading the race when they’re least expecting it.This year's hurricane season smashed records in both oceans; the Atlantic for being below-average, the Pacific for being above-average.1In the Pacific...
Posted On: December 18, 2015
Author: Jessica Stapf
All disasters are local. They begin and end locally. This statement echoed throughout a day full of collaboration and networking known as Partnership Day.At the end of October, representatives from many of the voluntary agencies and non-profit organizations we work with came together for the first event of this kind in Washington, DC. The event was designed to build, solidify, and highlight many of the connections that make disaster response and recovery successful.Beth Zimmerman kicked off the day with opening remarks. She is FEMA’s Associate Administrator for Response and Recovery and...
Posted On: November 23, 2015
Author: Jessica Stapf
During this year’s intense wildfire season, over 9.7 million acres of land have been charred by fires.1 To put this into perspective, the 2014 season burned 3.2 million acres—about one-third of this year’s total burn.1 These fires have caused millions of dollars of damage across the nation, and many of the biggest impacts have been felt in California.By reducing a major hurdle, the price tag, fire management assistance grants can allow fire managers to focus on stopping the fire quickly with all the resources they can get--which in the end may save much more: loss of lives...
Posted On: November 19, 2015
Author: Jessica Stapf
“We play all the songs from the '80s, '90s, and today!” Radio stations across the country have been using this line for years. If you’ve ever listened to any of them, you’ve probably noticed a little bit of change in popular music over the years.Like the music we listen to, El Niño and the technology that’s used to predict and study it have changed too. In case you missed it, El Niño is the warming of the Pacific Ocean’s waters that can cause irregular weather patterns. Our friends at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) have...
Posted On: November 17, 2015
Author: Jessica Stapf
Erica, Rita, Tina, and Sandra aren’t just four of the names in “Mambo No. 5.” In fact, they’re also four female names that either have been or will be used to name hurricanes or tropical cyclones. After seeing some of the uniquely-named storms this season, I decided to do a little research. Here are the six most interesting tidbits I found:Hurricanes used to be named based on their latitude and longitude. The process switched over to using names in order to make the process easier and more accurate.After much debate and some trial and error, the United States started...
Posted On: October 26, 2015
Author: Jessica Stapf
Athletes go through training camp, preseason games, and preparations for postseason or playoffs with well-crafted plans and plays they’ve practiced over and over again. Similarly, we create our own plans for disaster response, recovery, and preparedness that cover all aspects of our operations and include variables that may seem improbable or even impossible. To practice and test them, we participate in exercises—scenarios designed to recreate realistic potential events that include not only our own personnel, but our federal, state, local, tribal, and territorial partners as well...
Posted On: October 22, 2015
Author: Jessica Stapf
Rushing floodwaters caused roads and bridges to become unusable and isolated many communities in Colorado in 2013. In order to get resources and assistance to where they were needed, we put our Geographic Information Systems staff to the test. These systems, commonly referred to as GIS, are designed to map out and visualize the impact of disasters on land.In order to get a better understanding of how these systems work, I reached out to Casey Zuzak from Region 8’s Geographic Information Systems team. Casey was on the ground in Colorado and provided me with some real-life insight into...
Posted On: October 15, 2015
Author: Jessica Stapf
Late last week, what’s been called “historic” and “1,000 year-level” flooding began in the Southeast United States—with South Carolina getting hit with the brunt of it. As the situation has changed, we've changed right along with it.In the photo below, you can see members of one of our incident management teams collaborating inside the South Carolina Emergency Operations Center in West Columbia, SC. We embed these teams in states’ emergency operation centers during response efforts in order to make coordination with the state and our other...
Posted On: October 5, 2015
Author: Jessica Stapf
Early September in Charleston, West Virginia is balmy, humid, and nearly tropical. When it's 90 degrees and sunny, people head into work with daydreams of vacationing to the beach, diving into pools, or drinking iced tea at home on the porch. Back in reality, it's just a normal day at the office. You take out your computer, check your email, answer your phone, rinse, and repeat.Right now we have a field office in Charleston open to support several disaster declarations that were made to help repair infrastructure in West Virginia. We have staff there supporting the counties, cities,...
Posted On: September 27, 2015