Today marks the start of National Hurricane Preparedness Week 2011. President Obama recently designated May 22-28, 2011, as National Hurricane Preparedness Week, and called upon all Americans, especially those in hurricane prone areas as well as inland areas, to learn more about how to protect themselves against hurricanes and to work together, as a whole community, to respond to and recover from them.
FEMA and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration are partnering once again to get the message out about the importance of preparedness for hurricanes and other possible disasters. We are aggressively preparing and wanted to share a recap of the things we’re doing to prepare for the upcoming hurricane season:
Maintaining Robust Readiness Assets
FEMA has multiple disaster response teams, emergency communications capabilities, current and future operational planning capabilities, and operations centers that play a key part in coordinating and providing support to state and local governments in need.
- FEMA has three National-level Incident Management Assistance Teams that can deploy within two hours and arrive on scene within 12 hours to support the state, territory, local and/or tribal emergency managers. Each of FEMA’s Regional offices also have at least one IMAT. Regions IV, VI and IX having two teams.
- Mobile Emergency Response Support provides mobile communications, logistics, and operations capabilities required for the on-scene management of all-hazard disaster response activities. FEMA can rapidly deploy any of its six MERS detachments to provide voice, video, and information services, operations, and logistics support to response operations, and joint federal and state response teams in resource-constrained environments.
- 28 National US&R Task Forces, and three Incident Support Teams, comprise the National US&R Response System. The Task Forces can deploy within six hours of activation, are self-sufficient for 72 hours, and are sponsored by state emergency management and/or local fire and rescue departments through cooperative agreements with FEMA. Teams are staffed, trained and equipped to assist state and local governments with the organization, skills, tools and equipment required to respond to structural collapse incidents and other search and rescue response operations.
- The Hurricane Liaison Team supports hurricane response operations through the rapid exchange of critical information among the National Hurricane Center and emergency managers at all levels of government, and responds to emergency management questions and concerns.
- FEMA’s Disaster Emergency Communications Division has significantly enhanced state and local government’s communications capabilities, supporting the development of communications plans. DEC has provided support in the establishment of 36 state specific plans to improve the nation’s interoperability capabilities. An additional six state plans will be completed in FY2011.
- Enhancements to the National and Regional Response Coordination Systems, which provide overall federal support coordination for emergencies, information technology has improved FEMA’s capacity to support and provide needed resource and guidance to affected states and communities during incident response.
- FEMA established a Movement Coordination Center to plan, coordinate, schedule, and track transport of resources (supplies, equipment, teams and personnel) necessary for timely support to incident operations.
The variety of challenges posed by hurricanes, such as inland flooding, storm surge, high winds and tornadoes requires a whole community preparedness effort, built upon strong partnerships with federal, tribal, state, and local governments, non-profit and voluntary organizations, the private sector, and the public. Over the past year, FEMA has established and renewed partnerships to better serve states and their residents who may be affected by hurricanes or other hazards.
- The National Disability Rights Network provides technical expertise to ensure that the access and functional needs of people with disabilities are incorporated into all aspects of planning for, responding to and recovering from disasters.
- Operation HOPE provides greater access to free financial counseling and information for disaster survivors, including: debt counseling, case management services, workshops, seminars and manuals for those seeking help at disaster recovery centers.
- The National Council on Independent Living will have access to Disaster Recovery Centers, to provide disaster assistance services to disaster survivors with disabilities.
- The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children can deploy assets to assist in the search for children missing as a result of a declared emergency or disaster.
- The American Red Cross will jointly lead the planning and coordination of mass care services, which will strengthen and expand the resources available to help shelter, feed, provide emergency first aid and deliver supplies to survivors of a disaster.
- Internal Revenue Service can support FEMA during large events with surge staffing support by activiating call center agents at pre-identified IRS facilities.
- The Office of Human Services Emergency Preparedness and Response, within the Department of Health and Human Servicess Administration for Children and Families, supports state and local disaster case management services through the Disaster Case Management Program.
- FEMA coordinated with 29 federal departments and agencies to finalize and update 263 Pre-Scripted Mission Assignments to ensure a rapid and responsive delivery of federal resources and capabilities such as heavy-lift helicopters from the Department of Defense, generators from the US Army Corps of Engineers, Disaster Medical Assistance Teams from the Department of Health and Human Services, and Emergency Road Clearing Teams from the U.S. Forest Service.
- FEMA has established a Private Sector Representative position to engage in information sharing and resolve private sector issues impeding the private sector from reopening during major disasters.
- FEMA tested a National Business Emergency Operations Center which was highly successful in incorporating private sector expertise and capabilities into national response efforts.
- FEMA hired Stakeholder Relations Specialists in each of the 10 regions to communicate, coordinate and collaborate with the private sector during disasters.
FEMA strives to achieve a Nation prepared through a comprehensive planning cycle that includes our federal, state and local partners, the private sector and citizens. While much work has been done in training, exercising and planning, several key training and planning initiatives have been undertaken going in to the 2011 hurricane season.
- FEMA offered its Hurricane Preparedness Course (L324) at the National Hurricane Center in Miami, Florida. One was targeted for the northeast states, one for the southeast states, and one for the gulf coast states.
- FEMA offered courses at the National Hurricane Conference in Atlanta, GA that included Debris Management; Planning for the Whole Community- Integrating and Coordinating the Access and Functional Needs of Children and Adults with Disabilities; Mitigation Planning Workshop for Local Government; Hurricane Readiness Course for Coastal Communities; and Hurricane Readiness for Inland Communities.
- FEMA’s Emergency Management Institute offers online and classroom courses. For more information, visit http://training.fema.gov/.
- FEMA is co-sponsoring an Interagency Logistics Course, in collaboration with the United States Army Logistics University. The course provides a strategic and operational overview of interagency disaster logistics. The first official course was held last year and three additional courses will have been completed for this year by May 2011.
- In September 2010, FEMA held its first ever National "Getting Real" Conference. The three day forum, hosted by FEMA in Baltimore, brought together leaders from the emergency management and disability communities to discuss strategies to integrate the entire community into planning for emergencies.
- FEMA developed a Disaster Case Management Program manual and application guidance to assist states in how to implement disaster case management. The application guidance will soon be released.
- FEMA completed Guidance on Planning for Integration of Functional Needs Support Services in General Population Shelters. This guidance was developed by representatives from federal, state and local agencies, voluntary organizations and the private sector to assist agencies and organizations engaged in sheltering, to enable individuals with access and functional needs to maintain their independence in general population shelters.
- Hurricane preparedness information and a hurricane preparedness webinar “Preparing Your Community for Hurricane Season” is available to Citizen Corps groups. For more information, visit www.citizencorps.gov.
As advancements in technology continue to become more accessible across populations and governments, it has become increasingly more important for FEMA and our partners to have plans and platforms in place for the timely delivery and access of information. FEMA has undertaken several initiatives and enhancements to make information more accessible.
- Last year, FEMA announced a new feature to the m.fema.gov mobile platform to make it easier for disaster survivors to apply for assistance. The platform was further enhanced, this year, to include information on locations of open disaster recovery centers, and we’re working to provide open emergency shelters as well.
- National Disaster Recovery Program Database allows tribal, state and local governments, and emergency managers to view housing and recovery programs.
- The recently developed National Mass Evacuation Tracking Systems can help states track the movement of transportation-assisted evacuees, along with their household pets, luggage and durable medical equipment.
- FEMA completed enhancements to the National Emergency Family Registry and Locator System that will enable federal, state or local law enforcement officials assigned to missing person cases to access records entered into the system.
- FEMA’s new web-based action tracking tool will allow users access to information to adequately manage requests and to identify the status of requests for commodities and other resources.
- FEMA added Geospatial Information Systems mapping capabilities to the National Shelter System and expanded data fields to assist emergency managers at all levels to plan evacuation routes, identify shelters that are outside hazard areas and close to needed services.
- This year, FEMA upgraded its Hazards U.S.- Multi-Hazard risk assessment computer software program. The software program can help state and local emergency managers anticipate potential infrastructure and building damage, amounts of debris and the potential injuries that could occur from hurricanes and other natural disasters.
You can also visit http://www.hurricanes.gov/ and check out this YouTube video from the National Weather Service for information about the upcoming hurricane season.