FEDERAL EMERGENCY MANAGEMENT AGENCY
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FEMA Disasters RSS FeedNevada Severe Winter Storms, Flooding, and Mudslides (DR-4307)Posted: March 28, 2017, 1:45 amWyoming Severe Winter Storm and Straight-line Winds (DR-4306)Posted: March 22, 2017, 12:47 amCalifornia Severe Winter Storms, Flooding, and Mudslides (DR-4305)Posted: March 16, 2017, 12:48 pmOklahoma NW Oklahoma Wildfire Outbreak Complex (FM-5177)Posted: March 7, 2017, 5:54 amKansas Comanche County Fire (FM-5176)Posted: March 7, 2017, 12:20 amKansas Rooks County Fire (FM-5175)Posted: March 7, 2017, 12:10 amKansas Ford County Fire Complex (FM-5173)Posted: March 7, 2017, 12:10 amKansas Ness County Fire (FM-5174)Posted: March 7, 2017, 12:10 amKansas Clark County Fire (FM-5171)Posted: March 7, 2017, 12:10 amKansas Ellsworth-Lincoln-Russell Fire Complex (FM-5172)Posted: March 7, 2017, 12:10 amKansas Highland Hills Fire (FM-5170)Posted: March 6, 2017, 12:45 amKansas Severe Winter Storm (DR-4304)Posted: February 24, 2017, 2:50 pmOklahoma 141st Fire (FM-5169)Posted: February 24, 2017, 2:06 amNevada Severe Winter Storms, Flooding, and Mudslides (DR-4303)Posted: February 18, 2017, 1:30 amHoopa Valley Tribe Severe Winter Storm (DR-4302)Posted: February 15, 2017, 12:30 amCalifornia Potential Failure of the Emergency Spillway at Lake Oroville Dam (EM-3381)Posted: February 15, 2017, 12:20 amCalifornia Severe Winter Storms, Flooding, and Mudslides (DR-4301)Posted: February 14, 2017, 11:15 pmOklahoma OKC Fire Complex (FM-5168)Posted: February 13, 2017, 1:10 amLouisiana Severe Storms, Tornadoes, and Straight-line Winds (DR-4300)Posted: February 11, 2017, 7:30 pmOklahoma Severe Winter Storm (DR-4299)Posted: February 10, 2017, 7:09 pm
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What happens when an umbrella or a raincoat just isn’t enough?
Last week I wrote about umbrellas and raincoats and the importance of being prepared for anything from rain events to disasters. While being prepared is important, it’s not going to keep either one from happening. Umbrellas and go-bags aren’t intended to be an impervious shield. They’re designed to help you through the situation.
When a disaster happens, that kick-starts the response phase of the disaster cycle. And the first things that come to mind for many after hearing the phrase “disaster response” are the flashy, rough-cut videos of swift water rescues, cars submerged in floodwaters or driving through ferocious wildfires.
Much of what happens during the response phase is based around life safety—keeping the citizens of affected communities out of harm’s way, or rescuing them if they do find themselves in harm’s way.
Local first responders are sometimes augmented by the support of urban search and rescue teams from outside of the area, but only when they are requested; it’s all about supporting the locals and states we serve.
There are 28 elite urban search and rescue teams from all over the country that we support by providing them with special training and the funding to support local first responders.
Response is, however, far more than the news coverage and viral social media posts of rescues and retreats from flames.
Here at FEMA, our response to a disaster can include things like our disaster emergency communications vehicles that help provide connectivity in areas facing overload or failure during or after a disaster. And our logistics team prepositions, stores, ships, and maintains caches of crucial supplies (think: blankets, cots, water) that can be deployed anywhere. Our incident management assistance teams serve as right hand men and women to their state, local, and tribal counterparts when they’re deployed.
Some disasters might require of all of these teams. Some disasters might only need a few of them—depending on the magnitude of the event.
There’s no “one-size-fits-all” approach to disaster response. It’s not like a baseball cap. It’s a lot more like a tailor-made suit. Considerations are made based on a variety of factors, to include the hazard itself, and potential cascading effects (including threats to communities and infrastructure).
The hazard, the size and scope of damage, the weather forecast, and all other kinds of variables come into play when responding to a disaster—like we saw several times last year in the south. With Hurricane Matthew, we needed quite a few teams on the scene as the storm impacted areas across five different states.
Hazards and their impacts, and the communities themselves, are similar but also different, each having a separate set of nuances and needs—making it imperative to tailor a response to the situation.
And when all is said and done and the storm clears or the fire burns out, that’s when response ends and recovery begins…
Posted: March 24, 2017, 3:06 pm
- Read the first part of this series: Umbrellas and Raincoats
There’s an old song that talks about raindrops falling on heads. If you know what song I’m talking about, it’s probably stuck in your head now; it’s quite catchy. (If not, I think it’s definitely worth a quick internet search.)
And when raindrops fall on your head, umbrellas and raincoats can be rather helpful. However—they don’t actually keep the rain from falling. They just (hopefully) keep your hair from getting wet.
Rain can lead to more damage than just wet hair and it isn’t the only hazard.
There are earthquakes, fires, floods, tornadoes, snowstorms—the list continues on and on.
The hazards may differ, but one thing that binds them all together? The need to be prepared for them. Regardless of whether an event comes with a warning or not, preparedness is crucial.
This week, we’ve seen it with a nor’easter bringing the potential for high amounts of snow, rain, and wintry mix along the eastern seaboard. Earlier this year, we saw the need to prepare for severe weather and tornadoes out in the Midwest and Ohio Valley and we’ve continued to see it with wildfires sweeping across Kansas and Oklahoma. Last year, communities were hit by Hurricane Matthew, flooding in Louisiana, and wildfires in Canada.
We want people to be prepared. We want them to be ready and self-sufficient; able to face whatever comes their way. By preparing for a disaster, people may have more control over what can often make them feel powerless; circumstances that are often out of their control. After a large disaster, it can take time for local responders to get to each person who needs help and anything that someone is able to do prior, to anticipate an event, can help.
When we provide guidance on preparing for disasters, there are standard supplies that we recommend—the non-perishable food items and bottles of water, the cash and digital copies of important documents. Those can carry over for any emergency. They’re staples.
But there are also more nuanced things for different people, like for pets and small children we recommend having their respective foods and toys to keep them occupied and reduce potential disaster-related stress.
Older Americans and those with access and functional needs might need backup medical supplies—anything that might fall under the category of basic necessities for survival.
Some hazards have specific tips and tricks to know. For winter weather, we recommend stashing extra blankets, hats, and gloves in your emergency kit—in case it’s extra cold and the heat or power fail. For hurricanes and wildfires, you should know evacuation routes in case you need to make a quick getaway.
And for some hazards, ones that come with very little notice, there are a lot of things to consider. And particularly when it comes to tornadoes, which are especially nuanced. There are particular instructions for when you’re inside versus outside and even what to do based on where you are in either of those scenarios.
If you’re inside, the safest place to be is sheltered in a basement or storm cellar. If those aren’t options, or if there’s an added threat of flooding, you could head to an interior room with no windows on the lowest level, like a bathroom. Get under a table and cover your head and neck with your arms and stay away from doors, windows, or walls that could be damaged by high winds or airborne debris.
If you are caught outside during a tornado, you should seek shelter indoors immediately. Don’t try and outrun the tornado with your car; go to an area noticeably lower than the roadway and cover your head with your arms to keep safe from potential flying debris. (Flying debris is often the biggest cause of injuries during a tornado.) And while you might think that getting under an overpass or bridge might be safe, it’s actually not. They can serve as wind tunnels and may even increase the speed of a tornado’s winds, making them even more dangerous.1
All of this makes it particularly more important to be prepared for them ahead of time.
And regardless of the emergency, you should always heed the advice and recommendations of local officials.
And preparedness isn’t just about preparing individuals and households—communities work to prepare too.
Preparing communities is essentially taking individual preparedness and putting it on a much larger scale. It’s making sure there are safe locations for citizens to shelter in place or evacuate to, such as local churches or schools, and ensuring the emergency alert systems are functional and working properly, by testing them periodically.
It isn’t just the public and the communities that prepare—we prepare too!
Remember that time we did a full-scale earthquake exercise and live-blogged it? Not only was that a really cool exercise, it’s exercises like that, and the others we do periodically throughout each year, that help us make sure that we have the capacity to respond to any event that comes our way.
We all know that rain, emergencies, and other disasters are inevitable. And when they happen, we want you to be ready for them—with go-kits, umbrellas, and raincoats within arm’s reach.
- Read the next post in this series: Suits and Storms
- Ready.gov’s tips for go-kits
- Ready.gov’s tornado preparedness tips
Posted: March 17, 2017, 10:17 pm
- Ohio Committee for Severe Weather Awareness Webpage on Tornado Safety: http://www.weathersafety.ohio.gov/TornadoSafety.aspx
I’ve written before about how I grew up in upstate New York and how much I dislike snow and the more I think about this storm and the potential it has to bring some not-so-nice weather here as well as in my hometown, the more I keep thinking about the term “nor’easter.” It’s one of those words that if you say it several times in a row it starts sounding more like a garbled bunch of syllables than an actual word.
But according to my dictionary of choice, Merriam-Webster, it is still in fact a word, and its first known use was in 17531. Another interesting fact: the dictionary definition also uses it as a “northeaster”1 which sounds even odder—mainly because having grown up in the Northeast, I’d never actually heard anyone actually use the full term.
A nor’easter, according to the National Weather Service, is much more than a “storm with northeastern winds.”2 These storms are very specific in nature and are to be taken seriously.
What differs them from other winter storms is their origin—the waters of the Atlantic between Georgia and New Jersey, making it possible for these storms to be strong and impactful throughout areas of New York and New England. With northeastern winds and affecting areas in the Northeast, the name is quite fitting. And according to the National Weather Service, these “storms may occur at any time of year but are most frequent and most violent between September and April.”2 With this being the week of St. Patrick’s Day—near the tail-end of the potential for an intense nor’easter—it’s very possible this storm could be a strong one, as we’re seeing in several different forecasts.
All that having been said, we’re really hoping that you take some time to get prepared.
Make sure your emergency kit is stocked and ready to go with non-perishable food items, bottled water, and fresh batteries for flashlights. This time of year, you should probably also add some extra blankets, hats, warm socks, gloves or mittens, and maybe even a scarf or two, just in case the heat or power goes out.
It might be a cold night for some. Use your portable space heaters safely—make sure you have three feet of space around it. And remember that while baking cookies is a fun activity when it’s cold, don’t use the oven to heat your home—it’s not safe.
If you’re in an area that is expecting heavy snow, be careful shoveling. Check on your neighbors regularly. And perhaps the most important tip: make sure you’re heeding the instructions from local authorities, because they will have the most up-to-date information.
As we all work to batten down the hatches to prepare for this storm, we hope that you are staying safe and warm. For some parts of the country, this winter might not have been as cold as past years, but this storm could pack one last punch.
Posted: March 14, 2017, 12:40 am
- Merriam-Webster Definition (northeaster): https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/northeaster
- National Weather Service webpage on “What is a Nor’easter?”: http://www.nws.noaa.gov/om/winter/noreaster.shtml
While much of California has been faced with historic drought, the last few weeks have been full of heavy rains and severe storms—a 180 degree turnaround.
This week, we’ve been focused on the spillways of the Oroville Dam—about 75 miles north of Sacramento—along with much of the rest of the country.
Spillways regulate the flow of water into or out of dams and when they are damaged by erosion, impacted by debris, or hindered in any way, there can be serious consequences—including potentially dangerous flooding.
The Oroville Dam’s primary spillway was damaged by unexpected erosion as a result of heavy rains and an emergency spillway has also been impacted. Two separate spillway concerns have created a unique situation.
To support the community, we have been in close contact with the state of California and its Department of Water Resources. Right now, we have liaison officers deployed to California’s state emergency operations center as well as the Department of Water Resources operations center.
One of our incident management assistance teams has also been deployed to the state emergency operations center, where they will provide expertise and assistance as requested. These teams contain subject matter experts and extra sets of hands for state leadership in a variety of fields, including planning and logistics. They’re invaluable in the first stages of any incident—including a unique and rapidly changing one like this.
As part of the initial response, local officials issued mandatory evacuation orders. And as shelters opened across areas of northern California, requests came in for cots, blankets, and other emergency supplies. Along with our partners, the Red Cross, we maintain caches of emergency supplies across the country and have worked to provide them as requested.
As the situation has evolved, mandatory evacuations were lifted and changed to evacuation warnings—where people who live in areas that may be impacted by potential flooding should be on alert and ready to evacuate at any time.
Oroville itself is a very unique place, one that is steeped in rich Gold Rush history like much of northern California. As this situation continues to change, we will continue to change with and adapt to it—working to help the state and its impacted citizens.Posted: February 16, 2017, 7:38 pm
I’m sure I’m not the only one who’s ever rushed out of the house without my keys or wallet. I’m also sure that I won’t be the last one.
When I’m trying to leave the house for the day, I’m constantly running through a checklist of all the things I need to bring—and sometimes there are very important things that accidentally get left behind. (My keys and my wallet are two very common ones.)
But, with the job I have, sometimes I think about what I would have to do if I weren’t packing my backpack just for an 8-hour workday. What if I were packing my bag for an indefinite trip? What else would I have to remember? What else could I possibly forget?
I know a lot of things I frequently forget—my keys, my medications, my wallet, my important documents—are things that I would really need in case of an emergency that kept me from being able to come back to my apartment for a long period of time. I’d have to have them.
Evacuations can happen without warning. They can happen at any time due to any number of events. From wildfires to floods. From earthquakes to something man-made. It’s scary, but it can happen—and it does. We’ve seen mandatory evacuation orders issued and reduced in Californian communities just this week, in an effort to protect people potentially impacted by flooding from damaged Oroville Dam spillways.
Here are some things to know in case of any potential evacuation.
Keep at least half a tank of gas in your car at all times. During a severe weather event, gas stations could be experiencing outages or high traffic. It could take a long time to get to or find a gas station that is operational and when time is of the essence, every second counts. Having gas already in your car makes it easier to be able to leave.
Have a go-bag packed ahead of time. One of the things I’ve found to make my weekday mornings easier is having my backpack packed before I head to bed. The same principle can apply for evacuation supplies. Having a go-bag already packed with extra clothes suited for whatever weather conditions you could face (like with gloves and scarves for winter or with sunglasses for summer) makes it so there becomes one less thing to worry about.
Know your routes. If you’re evacuating in the event of something like a tsunami or hurricane, there may be designated routes for how to evacuate. Knowing these in advance will cut down the time it takes for you to navigate and leave.
Establish a communication plan. Leaving home in a hurry may lead to some confusion. It is helpful to designate one person—a family member, a friend, a coworker—out of town, who everyone knows to reach out to in case of an emergency. This person can help track who has or has not evacuated, and where they have gone in case of an emergency. Incorporating social media and texting into this plan can make it even easier.
I know that thinking about these things now isn’t exactly fun or easy. But being prepared for any of these circumstances can make a big difference—especially when you only have about fifteen minutes to grab your stuff and go.
Related Content:Posted: February 16, 2017, 5:44 pm
Being a newlywed comes with a lot of responsibilities, one of which being to make Valentine’s Day a perfect experience. A fancy dinner at a favorite restaurant, a movie outing, flowers and chocolates ordered expressly for the occasion, and strategically placed decorations. It must be perfect. Scripted straight from a greeting card.
And just as I hoped, it was shaping up to be exactly that.
The flowers and their accompanying chocolates were scheduled to be delivered that day. Movie tickets were ready to go. Dinner reservations had been made at our favorite restaurant weeks in advance. Everything was coming together. I’d finally marked off everything on my Post-it Note checklist.
I couldn’t wait for the big day and I was just as giddy as I was on the day we got married.
As I settled into bed with every possible negative circumstance planned for, I thought I was in for a restful night of sleep. Apparently, it was not the case; my subconscious decided it would thrust me into a frightful dream…
We woke up on Valentine’s Day to find over a foot of snow blanketing the parking lot after a storm that even caught meteorologists by surprise. They’d only predicted flurries the night before.
As I frantically rolled over, I saw a voicemail from the flower shop telling me that they wouldn’t be making deliveries due to road conditions and would be closed to keep people off the roads.
That wasn’t even the worst part.
With road conditions as bad as they were, heading out anywhere was a bad idea. Plows had trouble clearing and maintaining designated emergency routes. Work was cancelled and while for some couples that would essentially be a dream come true, in that moment, it felt more like a nightmare. My meticulously-thought-out plan was falling apart and turning to dust before my very eyes.
I had to cancel dinner. I had to reschedule our movie which proved to be far more difficult than anticipated. And then, I was left with the question of what would be left to do?
This was supposed to be the most romantic day of the year. I hadn’t even thought to get a back-up gift so I was left with nothing. Not even a teddy bear holding an embroidered heart. I’d failed.
A frantic internet search led me to trying to find a fancy dinner recipe I could throw together. I might not be a professional chef, but I can cook a decent meal. I didn’t want my spouse to do anything; I wanted to make the day special.
I settled on one of our stand-by dishes to be safe. I was sure that if I tried to make something completely new that something else would go wrong.
As I placed the pan on the stove, my phone rang. I couldn’t find it and had to rush around looking for it, leaving dinner unattended for a moment. When I went back to check on it, smoke tinged the air. Somehow, in the minute and a half I’d stepped away, the pan’s contents had ignited.
Valentine’s Day was supposed to be full of the flames of love—not literal flames.
Fortunately, I found the fire extinguisher and was able to remember how to use it before the fire department had to be called. (Thank goodness.)
But I was still left with two equally undesirable options: start cooking all over again or settle for eating leftovers. Valentine’s Day is not the time for leftovers.
I was defeated. How could I manage to salvage the day now? I couldn’t.
I’d gone out and bought some fancy new candles for our bedside tables that had been marketed to help relieve stress—exactly what I needed.
Surrounded by the flickering and soothing cool scent of the candles, I drifted off into sleep, only to be awoken by another smoky smell. The container holding the candle was too hot and too close to a rather large book, causing the book to start smoldering. Half asleep, I picked up a glass of water and dumped it over the book and candle, successfully extinguishing the fire.
The splashing water in the dream jolted me awake. I hurriedly rolled over to check the date and time on my phone—finding it yet to be Valentine’s Day.
In order to keep myself (and many others) from potentially having a similar Valentine’s Day experience, here are a few things to do to prepare:
- Keep an emergency kit on hand. (Ready.gov tells you all the stuff that’s supposed to be in it. Pro Tip: these actually make great gifts if you’re looking for a practical gift that can be assembled last-minute.)
- Know two exits out of your home or apartment in case of a fire—whether caused by a failed dinner attempt or falling asleep with lit candles. (Did you know that one-third of all candle fires start in the bedroom? That’s why it’s important to remember to extinguish candles before heading off to sleep.)
- Know what you would need in case of a power outage or a winter storm. We always suggest things like shovels, salt or cat litter for walkways, extra food and supplies for pets, and batteries for flashlights.
We hope you have a safe, fun, and romantic Valentine’s Day, whether you decide to have a low-key day or make it as cheesy and clichéd as you can.Posted: February 13, 2017, 8:14 pmAuthor:
Across the United States, there are traditions that hold a timeless place in our culture: fireworks on the 4th of July; Thanksgiving Day turkey (and football); solemn remembrances for 9/11 and Pearl Harbor; and many others. These traditions speak both to what we value most and to the importance of safeguarding the values we share. The same holds true for the 58th Presidential Inauguration, the peaceful transfer of power from one President to another, and the Women’s March on Washington, a peaceful demonstration of 1st Amendment rights that has roots in marches throughout American history. These events garner attention for many reasons, but from a standpoint of protection, response, and recovery to or from a potential incident that would have disrupted the events of the day, FEMA stood ready as an agency to act.
Events like the Inauguration and Women’s March have many challenges in common – crowds in public, open settings, challenges for traffic management and public transportation, and tremendous attention from around the world. In this case, the Secretary of Homeland Security designated the 58th Inauguration a national special security event. This designation brings, among other things, support from the federal government (including the U.S. Secret Service as the lead agency for security planning), planning, training, and exercise capabilities, and logistical efforts to ensure that these events proceed smoothly and with minimal disruption.
Planning and executing national special security events can be a challenge for any region, but when you have a complex and unique environment like the National Capital Region, with many federal, state, and local agencies, multiple jurisdictions and other unique aspects, you can begin to understand the magnitude of effort that goes into planning and securing these events.
FEMA served as the lead federal agency for emergency management and worked closely with the U.S. Secret Service, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, U.S. Capitol Police, National Park Service, the District of Columbia Homeland Security Emergency Management Agency, Virginia Department of Emergency Management, and Maryland Emergency Management Agency along with other federal, state, local, and private sector organizations in support of the overall inauguration planning effort.
Fully securing and safeguarding a national special security event includes (but is not limited to) robust efforts in public affairs, airspace security, crisis management, interagency communication, transportation, fire and life safety, crowd management, and parade route security. FEMA is just one partner in this massive undertaking, and since early summer 2016 has been planning and coordinating closely with our partners in the NCR to account for and expeditiously address any unmet needs. Whether it was mass care shelters, wireless emergency alerts, communications equipment or other resources, FEMA and our partners planned months in advance to be ready to support if needed.
Once planning was completed, FEMA activated staff in multiple locations to support the event, including the Region III Regional Response Coordination Center, to help coordinate any additional resource requests, and three incident management assistance teams to Maryland, Virginia, and D.C. to co-locate with our state partners and support their efforts. The Disaster Emergency Communication Division provided mobile emergency response support voice and data resources at D.C.’s Homeland Security and Emergency Management Agency and at the Maryland and Virginia emergency operations centers. Working alongside event partners, the region’s homeland security and public safety personnel executed a seamless plan that created a safe and secure environment for dignitaries, event participants, and those who traveled in from around the country to witness the Inauguration of the 45th President and related events as well as those who participated in the Women’s March.
Helping to safeguarding our traditions is an important part of what FEMA does to support our federal, state, and local partners. On Friday and Saturday, January 20 and 21, FEMA worked with our many partners to safeguard two important traditions in our country while building the whole community experience for future events, national special security events, and incidents that may require FEMA’s response and recovery capabilities.Posted: January 31, 2017, 9:43 pm
I’ve never been shy about saying that I hate winter. I hate it with a fiery passion that could melt all the ice and snow in the Alaskan tundra. I hate everything about it. The cold, the wind, the salt, the ice. All of it.
I’ve never liked it. Not even when I was a kid. I grew up in upstate New York, on the eastern side of the state (read as: not Buffalo) so it snows, but not as much in other places. But a snowflake is a snowflake and they’re all terrible if you ask me.
When I think of snow, I don’t think of pretty, picturesque scenes. I always think of the leftovers. The murky, muddled, gravel-filled snowbanks that fill countless parking lots every year. Those giant piles that don’t melt until six months later. The remnants on the side of the road that I end up having to trudge through to get to the bus stop, making me even more miserable on my morning commute. Snow falling in between my glasses and my face making it so I can’t see.
When I first moved to DC, of course during the heat of summer, I was excited about the possibility of a more mild winter. I was excited about not having to face ice or feet of snow falling all at once.
And the first winter I was here, back in 2014, was relatively mild. It wasn’t the worst winter I ever experienced; it was better than the one my family saw, but I still found myself taking to the internet to complain.
That first winter, I slipped and fell on an escalator entering a metro station on my way to work.
That first winter, I had to buy a new winter coat because the one I’d brought just wasn’t quite warm enough.
That first winter? It was awful and I hated it. Loathed it even. (The phrase “unadulterated loathing” is probably a more accurate representation of my feelings toward winter as a whole.)
I learned a lot from that first winter though.
I learned that I’ll probably hate winter no matter where I live. I learned that outdoor metro stations are the worst places to be at night from November to March. They’re cold and often become slick and slippery. (I’ve had some near disastrous falls at several.)
And as the winter continues, I keep thinking about all the things I’ve learned since I moved down here.
You cannot have enough gloves or mittens or scarves or hats. I swear, every year I end up losing a pair of gloves or mittens either when I switch jackets to match the weather or during my commute to and from work. It’s exasperating because I never seem to be able to find them when I need them, so I end up perpetually replacing them. I keep extras everywhere now—in my jacket, my purse, and my backpack. (That way I’m able to have a pair on hand when I need them.)
You must walk like a penguin nearly all the time. Whether you take public transportation to work or you drive, at some point you’re going to encounter something that’s slippery. Parking lots and sidewalks ice over. Shoes get wet from snow. Floors are covered with other people’s slushy footprints. And it becomes dangerous.
Everything is wet and slick and slippery. The recommended course of action from many is to walk like a penguin—where you take short, slow steps to avoid any potential slippage. (Bonus tip is that I always keep fancy work shoes in the office and wear shoes with better traction as I commute. I don’t need to wreck fancy shoes and injure myself. That’s literally adding insult to injury.)
Bringing your phone charger with you is always a good idea. I can’t even begin to tell you how many times in any season my phone has managed to die. In the winter it seems to be worse because I’m always trying to figure out how long it’s going to be before I make it to my final destination while commuting—in other words—how long am I going to have to sit in the cold. It drains the battery and I absolutely don’t want to be stuck without a phone anywhere, even in the summertime.
Those are the tips that I would give to anybody anywhere, honestly. They’re pretty helpful and I’m hoping that this winter doesn’t teach me any other new tips. And of course, there are all of the other helpful tips from our friends at Ready for things you can and should do before, during, and after a snowstorm.
And, as storms threaten and impact the west coast and are expected to head further east into this weekend, we hope that these tips are helpful and those in the path of potential severe weather stay safe and warm.Posted: January 13, 2017, 2:46 pm
Scrolling casually through my Twitter feed during the last week of December and first week of January is always the same—filled with “year in review” pieces. Prolific publications, government agencies, popular bloggers, even my friends and family members. Everyone has one.
Somehow, we all end up waxing nostalgic about the year that was. Maybe it’s because during the holidays most offices are a little emptier, and we end up with a little more time to fill with some reflection. Maybe it’s the eggnog.
And here we are, one more year done and over with. I find myself, on a personal front, more than ready for a new year. But in terms of the professional, FEMA-minded side of me, there are a few things that I think we can look back on, be proud of, and even look at with a bit of nostalgia.
Here’s a look at just a few of them…
On the disaster front, it was one of the busiest years we’ve seen since 2012. We saw two separate flooding events in Louisiana and substantial flooding in West Virginia. Hurricane Matthew’s destructive path caused five southern states to receive disaster declarations. Wildfires swept across the entire country. And those are just some of the notables.
My colleague Kaylyn put together a great photo essay showing some of the great images from recent disasters, which really shows the impact these disasters have had on impacted communities and the resilience of the people living in them. These photos tell the true stories in ways that anyone can understand.
Along with disasters, we have some recurring preparedness campaigns that we conduct each year that pose their own challenges.
Think things like the National Day of Action, National Preparedness Month, and the Great ShakeOut. They’re designed to make sure that we’re all ready and able to handle whatever disasters come our way. We had a great year in working to better prepare the country, and each year it astounds me how quickly we start planning for the next one after we’ve finished.
Then there are the new challenges, the ones that seemingly come out of nowhere. This year, a new one brought to us from our Administrator, was to double the number of downloads of our really cool and useful app. The point of the challenge wasn’t about increasing the number of downloads of the app—it was designed to give a wider number of people access to potentially life-saving information – instantly, in the palms of their hands.
A lot of this year was focused on doing things we hadn’t done before. When we held a large-scale exercise to simulate a high-magnitude earthquake in the Pacific Northwest in June, we put together a live-blog of the entire event. (I might be slightly biased, but it’s probably one of my favorite things we’ve done on the blog this year and even possibly to date.) We hadn’t simulated an earthquake in that part of the country, at least as far back as my memory goes, and we’d never done a live-blog. Putting the two together just seemed to make sense.
We even welcomed a new search & rescue team this year, New Jersey Task Force 1. Their first deployment as a FEMA team came during Hurricane Matthew, and not long after they got word that they were officially part of our 28-team system.
They, along with our other teams, completed an astonishing number of searches across several disasters and once again demonstrated their determination and bravery. These teams are always there when we need them.
I’ve probably missed something or other in the big list of everything we, as FEMA, have accomplished this year. It’s been a long year with a lot of different accomplishments and instead of being more nostalgic, I know there’s a lot to look forward to in the future.
Have a safe and happy start to your 2017.Posted: January 9, 2017, 7:37 pmAuthor:
Most Americans with homes have homeowners’ insurance. We buy it to protect ourselves in the unlikely event that something big, bad and expensive happens to our house or property. We buy it every year for peace of mind, even though we hope not to experience a loss.
Similarly, FEMA is now using reinsurance to protect the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) against large and uncertain costs of extreme flooding events. Reinsurance is an important risk management tool used by insurance companies and public entities to protect themselves from large financial losses. In other words, reinsurance serves as insurance for insurance companies.
As of January 1, FEMA secured reinsurance to share a meaningful portion of the risk of large and unexpected flooding with private reinsurance markets. This placement of reinsurance transferred $1.042 billion in risk above a $4 billion deductible to 25 reinsurance companies. Securing reinsurance is a key step towards achieving the NFIP’s long-term vision of building a stronger financial framework.
To understand why this is an important step forward, we look back at the history of the NFIP.
In 1968, the federal government began offering flood insurance to homeowners who were unable to purchase affordable flood insurance from the private sector. Since then, the federal government has offered flood insurance premiums lower than the true risk in flood-prone areas would dictate.
While the NFIP appeared to be able to cover the cost of its flood losses from pooled premiums of the insured for many years, that is no longer the case. The NFIP’s exposure to major floods is on the rise, as evidenced by Hurricanes Katrina and Sandy. These events generated claims of approximately $24.6 billion, leaving the NFIP $23 billion in debt to the U.S. Treasury.
Although these floods felt like once-in-a-lifetime events, there is actually a 50 percent chance within a ten-year period the NFIP will once again experience Hurricane Sandy-sized losses.
After Hurricanes Katrina and Sandy, FEMA explored new tools to manage potentially major flood risk. In 2013, FEMA began setting aside a portion of premiums in a reserve fund to help cover losses from future major floods. In September 2016, FEMA made its first step towards reinsurance with a placement of $1 million in coverage. This month, FEMA expanded its 2016 placement and re-engaged the private sector in flood risk.
Flood insurance policyholders could also help reduce the risk and cost to all Americans when it comes to flood damage. I invite you to join nearly four million policyholders in almost 1,400 communities who have called on their local governments to take steps towards reducing the threat of flooding by enforcing stronger building standards, restoring green space, and taking other important mitigation measures. The NFIP Community Rating System discounts premiums for communities that take such steps.
Individual policyholders could further build their resilience to flooding by elevating and otherwise flood-proofing their homes. FEMA’s Increased Cost of Compliance coverage helps cover the costs of rebuilding flood-damaged homes and businesses in order to meet communities’ mitigation requirements.
Even with the resiliency efforts described above, there are still millions of Americans at significant risk of a flood damaging or destroying their homes. To protect against flooding and its consequences, all at-risk homeowners need to buy and maintain a flood insurance policy.
Just as we ask you to insure yourselves against the large and unexpected costs of an extreme flooding event, we have secured reinsurance to protect the NFIP against the same.
For more information on the NFIP Reinsurance Program, please see our frequently asked questions.Posted: January 3, 2017, 6:20 pm