Walking through a pair of frosted glass doors, you immediately come upon a sea of red and blue vests swarming about a collection of brightly lit computer monitors. A visual treat. A wall of televisions blast the latest weather updates and the "tick-tock" (or "schedule" for folks outside of the agency) for the next round of reporting. Our main role as a coordinating agency is shown best in this room—known as the National Response Coordination Center.
Here, where rows upon rows of rolling office chairs sit tucked neatly behind their desks on normal days, is where a lot of action happens. When disaster looms or strikes, a room that was once calm and quiet is pushed into overdrive—awakened and alive with the hustle and bustle of an active response.
This week, we've opened its doors and filled those desks to help us coordinate the response to not one, but two storms swirling in the oceans.
Hermine and Lester—a pair of troublesome siblings—are the two storms that have brought it to life—and it is truly alive. Coming down to this room shows you a completely different side of the agency: a fast-paced, high-octane version. It's rapid fire, rapid response.
Federal agencies have their seats, their vests clearly labeled with their roles. Program offices (internal jargon for different divisions of the agency) have theirs. Colors vary, but all are adorned with bright, reflective stripes. Everyone looks like some variation of a crossing guard, but that's part of the draw.
What's happening because of the activity in this room is the main attraction though. Assets being moved, teams being assembled and the coordination and cohesion of federal agencies is a true marvel. And one of the best ways to see and appreciate that is to walk through the frosted glass doors of our coordinating center and through the rows of desks.
We're in close proximity to all of the people and teams on the ground—including the staff from the Regional Incident Management Assistance Teams from our Oakland and Atlanta offices and the liaisons embedded with each potentially impacted state from Hawaii to Florida, Georgia, the Carolinas, and soon Virginia as well.
Disaster response is like a tango. When storms move one way, you must follow their lead and adapt. They always lead. Some dip. Some spin. But we adapt and have learned the steps. Each storm’s tango is different, but all have similar moves. These teams and our liaisons are there on the ground, and our staff fill the National Response Coordination Center to help us know what steps come next.
It's just one way we're able to keep in step with situations that are perpetually evolving.
As these storms are happening, if you (or your friends or family) are in the area that might be impacted, there's a couple different things you can do. Continue to follow your local emergency management agency or emergency officials for the latest updates. Make sure your go-bags (agency slang for "emergency kits") are stocked and ready to go just in case you need them. Download the FEMA App (and tell your friends to do so too) for weather alerts in your area as well as safety tips for what to do in case flooding strikes.
These storms aren't anything to take lightly. As we continue to monitor these storms, we encourage you to stay safe.