Stormy, wet weekend for many
Forecasts from the National Weather Service are calling for rain and thunderstorms across much of the Midwest for the next few days. Large portions of Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Kentucky, and Tennessee are under flood watches or warnings due to rapidly melting snow and rainfall, so make sure you’re aware of local conditions. We’re closely monitoring the severe weather through our regional offices in Chicago and Atlanta, and working closely with our state partners, as well as the National Weather Service.
The Northeast is also expected to experience rainy, stormy conditions through the weekend, so make sure you're taking steps to get prepared. To view your local forecast and outlook on severe weather, visit www.weather.gov.
Wildfires around the U.S.
Parts of Florida have been fighting a round of wildfires this week. Our Regional office in Atlanta is in close coordination with State, local and first response agencies as they respond to the wildfires. We stand ready to support them if assistance is requested.
Planning for real, not easy
We came across this article with some great emergency preparedness tips for persons with disabilities and their service animals. As Federal, State, and local agencies, businesses and individuals plan for emergencies, it is imperative we plan for every member of the community, not just some. For more on emergency planning for people with disabilities, visit Ready.gov.
Red Cross Month
March also marks Red Cross Month, as proclaimed by President Obama. As a valuable part of the emergency management team, we’d like to recognize this special month. Even if you aren’t an active Red Cross supporter, donor, or volunteer, we encourage you to look for opportunities to volunteer in your community, especially with a member of the National Voluntary Agencies Active in Disasters (NVOAD). This collection of organizations, which includes the American Red Cross, shares knowledge and resources throughout the disaster cycle - preparation, response and recovery - to help disaster survivors and their communities.
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Stormy, wet weekend for many
Many times, the most useful and memorable advice comes from people sharing their experiences and that holds especially true when it comes to advice on how to prepare before disaster strikes.
Check out this video from a couple in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, and how they are taking steps to protect their home from flooding:
If you live in an area that has a risk of flooding the tips in the video above are great places to start getting prepared. Here are some other ways you can prepare your family, home, or business for flooding:
- Visit Ready.gov – for details on getting an emergency kit, making your family emergency plan, and being informed about the dangers of floods
- Purchase flood insurance – flood insurance policies typically take 30 days to become effective, so make sure to purchase flood insurance as a way to prepare before potential flooding
- Share what you’re doing with a neighbor – each of us can play a role in helping our communities become more resilient by sharing our own preparedness tips with each other
How are you preparing for this flood season? Share your tips below.
Voluntary agencies are a vital part of a community’s ability to prepare for, respond to and recovery from disasters. Before a disaster, voluntary agencies help communities and families get prepared by providing disaster training, raising awareness regarding vital health and safety issues. After a disaster strikes, voluntary and faith-based organizations respond alongside state and local emergency responders, helping to address immediate needs of survivors.
At FEMA, we engage the vitally important voluntary agency sector through Voluntary Agency Liaisons (VALs). VALs act as a bridge between the community and the government.
To better understand the roles of a VAL, here is a quick Q&A on the work that they do before, during and after a disaster.
What is the role of a VAL before a disaster?
Like most jobs in emergency management, one of the most important roles for a VAL is as a preparedness advocate. VALs support state and local Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster (VOADs), assisting with planning, preparation, training and exercises.
VALs work closely with these organizations to deliver updates on FEMA programs and initiatives, challenge them to be prepared for disasters and encourage non-profits to be a part of VOAD. A strong VOAD will promote disaster networking, training, program development, and exercises to help build the necessary disaster resiliency in communities, and speed a community’s recovery.
Once a disaster strikes, what role does a VAL play in the response?
When disaster strikes, VALs become a critical avenue to make sure voluntary agencies and the federal government are sharing information and working together as a team to help disaster survivors.
VALs also give guidance to voluntary agencies on federal assistance programs including eligibility requirements, program deadlines, and emphasize the importance of avoiding duplication of benefits to survivors. They provide guidance to newer voluntary agencies interested in getting involved in relief operations, and they assist States with the management of volunteers not associated with a specific voluntary agency, and the use of unsolicited donated goods.
How do VALs work with voluntary agencies to assist in the Long Term Recovery?
After the immediate, short term needs of the community have been met, the emphasis of the emergency management team shifts to addressing the long term recovery needs of the community. Survivors may need extensive help to recover and for some, the assistance that FEMA is able to provide under law, is simply not enough. Through Long Term Recovery Groups (LTRGs), local communities take control in the recovery process and empower volunteers to make a difference in the lives of disaster survivors. Check out this video for more on LTRGs:
VALs work with the LTRGs to identify possible LTRG participants based on previous disasters, help with disaster training, and assist in identifying any unmet needs. VALs also provide resources for LTRG formation and function, as well as information on mitigation measures and connections to mitigation specialists to help the community rebuild using mitigation best practices. These help the community build or repair homes and structures in a way that will reduce vulnerabilities, help prevent future losses and make the community more resilient and sustainable.
The National Weather Service has issued forecasts indicating communities in the Dakotas and Minnesota are at a significant risk for major flooding this spring, and Ohio and other states are already dealing with significant floods. Indeed, disaster season 2011 is upon us, and we are working together to coordinate closely with states in the impacted regions as they respond to or prepare for flooding, and stand ready to assist them any way we can.
Our regional offices in Chicago and in Denver continue to monitor forecasts, plan for extreme flooding, and anticipate the commodities and resources that might be requested by the states of North and South Dakota, and Minnesota. In fact, since last year, we have been working closely with our state partners to incorporate lessons learned from past flood seasons into our emergency planning for this year, and continue to communicate with them to discuss emergency planning, and encourage personal preparations such as purchasing insurance, pre-assembling emergency supplies and creating a personal plan of action.
In February, our offices met with our respective federal, state and local officials, emergency managers, and representatives from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the National Guard and NOAA. These meetings allowed us to hear directly from many of our response partners on coordinating efforts for this year’s flood season.
The shared borders of Minnesota, North Dakota and South Dakota hold a rich history, common to all residents. These areas also share some challenges, particularly flooding, and potentially this year more than ever. FEMA is committed to supporting all three states with emergency assistance should they suffer severe impacts to overland and river flooding.
One final note: before flood waters rise, it’s important that residents and business owners become involved and prepared. Check out this blog post from Deputy Administrator Tim Manning about how you can prepare for flooding.
- Andrew and Robin
As many of you know, FEMA is a sub-agency of the Department of Homeland Security, and today is the eight-year anniversary of the department. We’re proud to work alongside all our DHS colleagues every day to do our part to protect our citizens and communities and strengthen our nation’s resiliency against all hazards. As Secretary Napolitano notes in a blog post today, “homeland security begins with hometown security” – nowhere is this more true than in the world of emergency management.
So as we mark DHS’s eighth birthday, we’d like to take an opportunity to thank all of our state and local partners, emergency managers, tribal governments, the private sector, the non-profit and voluntary organizations, first responders, and countless others who are critical members of our emergency management and homeland security team. Thank you for your hard work, service and contributions that help make our streets, neighborhoods and communities safer and healthier places to live.
Check out Secretary Napolitano’s blog post on the eighth anniversary here: http://blog.dhs.gov/2011/03/dhs-celebrates-8th-anniversary.html.
And learn more about eight years of the Department of Homeland Security here: http://www.dhs.gov/xabout/history/8th-anniversary-celebration.shtm.
Posted by: Public Affairs
Severe weather outlook
Looking ahead to the weekend and the next few days, the National Weather Service is forecasting another round of severe weather for much of the U.S. Much of the Pacific Northwest, along with parts of the Northeast, are expected to experience rain, freezing rain, or snow (depending on elevation). For those in the California and Arizona, predictions call for colder temperatures than normal. And a common occurrence for this time of the year, parts of the Midwest should be prepared for increased risk of flooding.
Get your latest local forecast at www.weather.gov and make sure you’re taking steps to get prepared for any severe weather that could come your way.
Christchurch, New Zealand earthquake
We had several blog posts this week about the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) leading the U.S. effort to support the response and recovery to the earthquake in Christchurch, New Zealand. In case you missed any of them, here’s a quick recap:
- Photos from New Zealand
- News of the Day: Tim Manning in New Zealand
- U.S. Urban Search and Rescue Team Deploying to New Zealand
- Statement from Administrator Fugate on the earthquake
Children in disasters
Also related to the Christchurch earthquake, we wanted to share this op-ed from Mark Shriver, Chair of the National Commission on Children and Disasters, on the Huffington Post website. Mark points out (and we whole-heartedly agree) that emergency planning must consider the most vulnerable among us, including people with disabilities, the elderly, and children.
We’re proud to partner with Mark, who chairs the National Commission on Children and Disaster and our many other partners who share this goal. Learn more about our Children’s Working Group, which is working to ensure that the needs of children are considered and integrated into all disaster planning, preparedness, response and recovery efforts initiated at the Federal level.
With the end of winter in sight, warmer weather is right around the corner. While most of us are happy to say goodbye to our winter coats, shoveling snow, and wearing snow boots, spring also means in increased risk of flooding in many areas of the U.S. The rainy months of March and April, combined with melting snow packs, can cause water levels to rise in rivers and streams in many areas.
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) recently published an updated flood forecast for the North Central U.S., including parts of Illinois, Missouri, Iowa, Wisconsin, Minnesota, North and South Dakota, and Montana.
Our regional offices in Denver, Chicago, and Kansas City, MO, have already been working with the entire emergency management team (state, local and tribal agencies, volunteer and faith-based agencies, the private sector, and the public), to prepare for potential flooding. Check back for future posts on our ongoing preparations for spring flooding.
Even if you don’t live in the area included in the NOAA forecast, it’s wise to understand your flood risk and get prepared. Ready.gov is a great place to find information on getting prepared for flooding, breaking preparedness down into three simple steps: get a kit, make a plan, and be informed.
This winter has been an especially active one in the Northeast. While I am accustomed to significant snowfalls being from upstate New York, Region II has been busy responding to this year’s major winter storms with our federal, state, and local partners throughout the region. I would like to share one particularly valuable element of FEMA’s support of first responders, the Incident Management Assistance Team, or IMAT.
IMATs are made up of dedicated and experienced senior-level emergency management professionals that are able to deploy upon a moment’s notice when requested by the state. IMATs are generally consist of 10 members, with expertise in operations, logistics, planning, and recovery. They are a rapidly deployable asset to anywhere in the region or the country, supporting our states and territories in their emergency response efforts.
IMATs provide a forward federal presence to facilitate the management of the national response to catastrophic incidents. The primary mission of an IMAT is three-fold:
- rapidly deploy to an incident or potentially threatened venue,
- identify ways federal assistance could be used to best support the response and recovery efforts, should it become available, and
- work with partners across jurisdictions to support the affected State or territory.
One of the most important aspects of the IMAT’s role is to support and take their direction from the state. As our mission states, FEMA’s role is to “support citizens and first responders”. After a disaster, state and local emergency responders, along with voluntary agencies and faith-based groups, are called on to meet the immediate needs of the affected community, and IMATs are FEMA’s team of experts that stand ready to support if they are called upon.
Just last week, I visited the Region II IMAT who spent the week at New Jersey’s Regional Intelligence Operations Center, training with the region II Defense Coordinating Element. This opportunity allowed the team to sit in the actual space that New Jersey would provide them during a real incident and the team was tasked with making that empty room into a fully operational office. Even though it was an exercise, it is impressive to see the team in action as they support our states and territories.
Within hours the IMAT and the Defense Coordinating Element were working together to support the state and had access to key communications channels and capabilities, such as video-teleconferencing. As part of the exercise, the participants also discussed operational planning to continue to improve procedures during an actual IMAT deployment.
As we continue to strengthen relationships with other members of the emergency management team, IMAT’s are a critical part of making sure all members are collaborating with one another, providing the most coordinated response effort possible.
As we've mentioned in previous blog posts, Tim Manning, Deputy Administrator for Protection and National Preparedness, was in Christchurch, New Zealand when the earthquake struck on February 22. Since the quake, Tim has been supporting U.S. officials as they assist in the ongoing earthquake response and recovery efforts.
At the request of the New Zealand government, the U.S. Agency for International Development deployed a Disaster Assistance Response Team, a team that includes the Los Angeles County Fire Department Urban Search and Rescue team, also known as California Task Force 2 (CA-TF2), to assist with the search and rescue efforts. For updates on the CA-TF2 team’s activities, find them on Facebook and Twitter.
Below are some photos of Tim - for the latest updates on the response and recovery, visit the New Zealand Ministry of Civil Defence & Emergency Management.
Christchurch, New Zealand, February 25, 2011 -- Tim Manning, left, Deputy Administrator for Protection and National Preparedness at the Federal Emergency Management Agency, inspecting earthquake damage in Christchurch. Manning was in Christchurch attending a U.S.-N.Z. Partnership Forum when the earthquake struck. Manning, a first responder, immediately went to work with a local relief agency going door-to-door checking for structural integrity. FEMA/U.S. Embassy-New Zealand/Janine Burns
Editor's Note: This post is from the U.S. Fire Administration's “Chief's Corner."
In celebration of African American History Month this February, I thought it would be most appropriate to look back and remember African Americans who have lead the way in making American fire service history:
- The oldest documents identifying government sanctioned African American firefighters were found in New Orleans, Louisiana. A devastating fire in July 1817 led the governing body to organize its people to avoid another conflagration. All draymen and their equipment as well as individual free men of color and slaves were recruited.
- The first woman firefighter was an African American. Molly Williams worked alongside the men of the Oceanus Volunteer Fire Company No. 1 of New York City in 1818.
- Patrick H. Raymond was appointed on January 5, 1871 as the first African American Fire Chief in the United States (Cambridge, MA).
- The International Association of Black Professional Fire Fighters was organized in Hartford, CT in 1970.
- Robert O. Lowery was the first African American Fire Commissioner of a major U.S. city. He was the Fire Department of New York's 21st Fire Commissioner, serving from January 1, 1966 until September 29, 1973.
- Toni McIntosh of the Pittsburgh (PA) Bureau of Fire was the first African-American woman to become a career firefighter in June of 1976.
- Cecelia O. Salters (now Cecelia Owens-Cox) was the first woman to be assigned to a New York City truck company in 1984.
- Black Women in the Fire Service was established as a subcommittee of the International Association of Black Professional Fire Fighters in 1988 to address rising issues related to African American firefighters. The organization became a stand-alone committee in 1996.
- The first African American United States Fire Administrator, Carrye B. Brown, was appointed in 1994.
- The first African American woman appointed as Fire Chief for a career fire department was Chief Rosemary Cloud with the East Point (GA) Fire Department in 2002.
- The second African American United States Fire Administrator, Kelvin J. Cochran, was appointed in 2009.
It is important for the American Fire Service to recognize the accomplishments of these pioneering individuals. I encourage you to visit the African American Fire Fighting Museum's website for more information on the struggles and accomplishments of African American firefighters, and the links below for multicultural and diversity strategies for the Fire Service.