The next generation of emergency management leaders is out there. They have the ideas, leadership and initiative needed to make a difference. Every year, FEMA recruits these individuals as part of its Youth Preparedness Council and helps to empower them to prepare their communities for disasters.
The council was created in 2012 to bring together youth leaders interested in supporting disaster preparedness and making a difference in their communities with national and local preparedness projects. Members voice their opinions, experiences, ideas, solutions and questions on youth disaster preparedness with the leadership of FEMA and national organizations working on youth preparedness. They also participate in the annual Youth Preparedness Council Summit.
Past participants have presented at national conferences, created youth preparedness outreach products and designed and executed community preparedness fairs. They have also developed events and products relevant to the current pandemic, such as hosting youth-focused webinars with health experts and writing a storybook for young children about COVID-19. Some council members have started their own local emergency preparedness initiatives and worked with emergency management professionals from federal, state and local agencies to encourage the public, particularly youth, to take life-saving preparedness actions. In the past, council members have had the opportunity to meet with the White House, the FEMA Administrator, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, the Centers for Disease and Prevention and other federal agencies to give their perspective and participation to other national-level projects.
Participants are expected to provide a youth perspective on emergency preparedness and promote national emergency preparedness in their communities. In addition to attending the Youth Preparedness Council Summit, council members will potentially participate in national, regional, state and local preparedness meetings and present their work. Members will meet with FEMA on a regular basis via conference call to provide ongoing input on strategies, initiatives and projects throughout the duration of their two-year term.
Any individual grades 8th through 11th who is engaged in individual and community preparedness may apply to serve on the Youth Preparedness Council. Individuals interested in applying to the council must submit a completed application and a letter of recommendation. Specific information about completing and submitting the application and attachments can be found on the FEMA website.
All applications and supporting materials must be received no later than 11:59 PT on March 7 to be eligible.All Preparedness Students
This year, hurricanes, wildfires and a pandemic brought devastation across the nation. These incidents remind us why it’s important to be ready for anything.
Taking steps to plan for the unexpected can mean you are more equipped to protect yourself and others if a disaster happens. Resolve to be ready with these ten tips.
Create an emergency plan. Know your evacuation routes and have place designated for your family to meet in case you get separated.
Make an emergency kit. These portable kits should include food, water, medications, prescriptions, cash, radios, flashlights and other necessities. It is also recommended that you have hand sanitizer and face masks included in your kit, to help prevent the spread of coronavirus. Keep an emergency kit in your car in case you are stranded.
- Keep your pantry stocked. Food is often in short supply during disaster events. It is important to have several days’ worth of food safely stored in your home to support yourself and your family. Don’t forget to include food for your pets!
Get to know your community. Learn about disaster planning in your community and what resources are available to you in case of emergency. Join a local Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) program to get trained on basic disaster response skills, such as fire safety, light search and rescue, team organization and disaster medical operations.
- Sign-up for emergency alerts for your area It’s important to know how to get information when a disaster happens. Local radio and television stations provide information on evacuation routes, temporary shelters and other emergency procedures.
- Check your insurance policy. Understand what your policy covers in case of major disasters. Contact your insurance company for detailed instructions on what you will need to make a claim for insurance. Learn more about flood insurance what is available to you under the National Flood Insurance Program.
- Take Inventory of what you own. Snap pictures of your property and make an inventory for insurance purposes. Having a clear record of what you own will make the insurance process easier.
- Protect your valuables. Store precious belongings, such as photographs or heirlooms, in damage proof containers so you don’t risk losing them permanently. Also keep copies of your critical documents safe and secure in case of emergency.
- Plan for your pet. Build a separate emergency kit for your pets. This can include creating a list of shelters that accept pets if you need to evacuate the area.
- Budget for a disaster. Financially prepare for the New Year. Find out how with the Emergency Financial First Aid Kit. Start to grow an emergency fund today so you can cover any unexpected changes in your day-to-day life.
Visit Ready.gov/resolution for more information on how you can resolve to be ready.Preparedness
By Zachary Usher, Mass Care, VAL and Community Services Branch Chief
The holiday season is usually a time to reflect on the past year and enjoy time with loved ones, but this year feels different. A global pandemic, supply shortages and a record-breaking hurricane season top the list of reasons why this year will be remembered as one that impacted and disrupted lives across the world.
For many, this year has brought personal challenges and hardships: grief of losing a loved one, anxiety from losing a job or disruptions due to property damage after a disaster. Whether you faced a hardship in 2020—or 20 months or 20 years ago—the holiday season can bring unpleasant reminders. Songs, gifts and holiday parties can trigger painful and sad memories of the past.
If you are isolating at home, away from loved ones or coworkers, feelings of seclusion, depression and anxiety can creep in. Other people cannot see it, but these feelings can be overwhelming. You might feel alone, but you are not – help is available.
Anyone in the United States and its territories can get help 24 hours a day throughout the year through the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) Disaster Distress Helpline:
- Call or text 1-800-985-5990 (press “2” for Spanish).
- If you are deaf or hard of hearing, you can use the text option.
- For TTY, use your preferred Relay service or dial 7-1-1 and then 1-800-985-5990.
This toll-free, multilingual, and confidential crisis support service provides trained counselors for those experiencing distress or other mental health concerns related to any natural or human-caused disasters and can refer callers to state and community resources for follow-up care and support. For additional information on the Disaster Distress Helpline, please visit the SAMHSA website.
In addition, FEMA’s Crisis Counseling Assistance and Training Program (CCP) helps individuals and communities recover from the effects of natural or human-made disasters through short-term intervention that provides emotional support, basic crisis counseling and connections to support systems. This program is anonymous and free of charge. Counselors are available to help people understand their feelings and learn how to handle stress. They do not make diagnoses or keep records.
FEMA and SAMHSA award and administer CCP to support those who are seeking help. All 50 states, the District of Columbia and three territories received a Major Disaster Declaration for the Crisis Counseling Program as a result of the Coronavirus pandemic (COVID-19).
Four territories and 46 states have chosen to apply for the program and have received awards. It provides no-cost services to help individuals and communities recover from the psychological effects of COVID-19 through community-based outreach and educational services that build resilience. To find out which programs are available in your community, contact your state or territory public health or human service office.
With limited gatherings and social distancing constructs, it is important to pay attention to how you’re feeling this holiday season. Don’t be afraid or ashamed to reach out for support. If you notice a family member or loved one having a difficult time, encourage them to get help.
All Health and Social Services Pandemic
By Laura Algeo, National Cooperating Technical Partners Program Coordinator
A major risk faced by communities across the country every year is flooding. I have been working on reducing risks due to flooding for over 20 years and know coming up with solutions is complicated. Each community’s unique qualities, like the landscape, buildings, population, and weather, define the kind of risk they face. There are so many people and groups that have pieces to that puzzle. When we build partnerships, we get a better picture of not just the risk but also how we can work together to reduce it.
I coordinate the Cooperating Technical Partners program, which is made up of tribal nations, communities, territories, universities, non-profits, and regional and state agencies, all of whom make the difference in reducing risk. They work with, and in, communities to identify, reduce, and plan for risks. I get to see how our network of more than 300 members is one of our greatest strengths.
Partners are in every FEMA region and represent all sizes of community. They work on identifying flood hazards and risk, communicating that risk, helping communities to find unique ways to reduce their risk, and more. Over the last two decades, there have been many successes through these partnerships. I’d like to share with you some standout partnerships that have been recognized by their peers and received the Cooperating Technical Partners Recognition Award.
The following partners all provide excellence in communicating with their communities and helping them better understand their risks and act on that knowledge:
- The Iowa Department of Natural Resources developed a web viewer and a process to collect community feedback. The goal is to share flood data with communities early and often. This results in more open and free flowing conversation with everyone in the community. The public gets a more direct line back to the state that is working to identify their risks. This helps ensure the best possible data and study of risk is done.
- The Georgia Department of Natural Resources created an online shop to access educational tools, plain language materials, and property-specific flood risk snapshots. This tool goes a long way to ensure that the public understands the risk that their community has and what they can do to make their properties safer.
- The Kentucky Division of Water uses a type of virtual reality to help people see and understand flood risk in local places in a new way. It is an amazing way to put yourself into the area of the flood risk and see what the impacts of that risk are on the area around you in an in-depth way.
The following partnerships have increased access to modeling and data that can help communities ensure development that takes place is done in a safe and forward-thinking way:
- The Harris County Flood Control District has been a partner for 20 years. In that time, their forward-thinking approach has provided professionals and residents within Harris County access to expertise, data, and educational opportunities to promote floodplain management, risk awareness, and resilience.
- The Indiana Department of Natural Resources developed a place for elected officials, floodplain administrators, and residents to access state-specific floodplain data. If you are looking to live in Indiana, this site has a lot of tools to help you better understand your risk.
- The San Antonio River Authority is part of a watershed master planning and floodplain management program. It is developing models to update flood hazard data, improve flood warning systems, and highlight areas for improvements.
This partner has improved the mapping process in its state:
- The Illinois State Water Survey created a program to streamline the state processes with the federal ones to ensure that there is maximum coordination with communities. They have developed accurate, easily accessible data for every county in Illinois, while maximizing local involvement.
Despite our best efforts to avoid damage from flooding, at times we still face disaster. This partner responded in an exceptional way to record-breaking floods in 2019.
- Nebraska Department of Natural Resources supported floodplain administrators throughout the post-disaster period. They captured lessons-learned before, during and after the flood event to create a post-disaster handbook. The handbook will be available in early 2021.
These examples show how partnerships work in creative and original ways. I have been involved with the program since it started in 1999 and the advancements made by all the partners have helped so many communities become more aware and plan safer for coming risks. I am excited to see all our partnerships continue to grow and build understanding of risk and help communities come up with inventive ways to stay resilient.
All External Stakeholders Community Partnerships
On Jan. 7, a 6.4 magnitude earthquake rattled Puerto Rico and launched FEMA into action. This would set the tone for emergency management in 2020. What followed was a worldwide pandemic, widespread wildfires and a historic hurricane season. Through it all, FEMA has continued to prepare the nation for future disasters and help it recover from those it has already faced.
The funds, people and assistance that fueled response efforts in 2020 are extensive. The numbers in the graphics below represent just some of the results of these efforts.Graphic
In one way or another, the pandemic has affected us all. Businesses, states, individuals, all had to find new ways to do their usual, day-to-day activities. They rose to meet these new challenges in creative and unique ways. Many stories of how communities came together to implement innovative solutions to these challenges are shared on FEMA’s COVID-19 best practice page, which compiles best practices and lessons learned throughout the pandemic response.
FEMA has also had to adjust and innovate to meet these new challenges. For the first time, all 50 states, the District of Columbia and 5 territories were approved for major disaster declarations, something that FEMA had not seen before. New flexible and quick action was needed that reached deep into our response plans for every possible disaster. We collaborated with state, local, tribal and territorial partners on the emergency response challenges faced during operations in a pandemic environment. We also worked together to provide critical supplies and support to the American people.Graphic Disaster Recovery Reform Act
The challenges faced this year remind us why it’s so important for the nation to be ready for any catastrophic event. This is why the Disaster Recovery Reform Act (DRRA) of 2018 was first signed into law. This year, FEMA continued to implement the act and work to reduce the complexity of the agency.
Millions were provided in retroactive financial assistance and to mitigation grants. FEMA also launched the Building Resilient Infrastructure and Communities grant, which provides $500 million to help state, local, tribal and territorial partners mitigate for future disasters.Graphic
This year has tested and solidified the resilience of Americans and the ability of FEMA to hold up the nation. As we close out the year, FEMA remains as prepared as always to carry out our mission of supporting people before, during and after disasters.All Disaster Recovery Reform Act of 2018 Response Pandemic Hurricane Personnel Wildfire
As temperatures drop, it’s important to begin preparing for colder months and the threats they present. Winter storms can bring extreme cold, freezing rain, snow, ice and high winds. These conditions can create a higher risk of car accidents, hypothermia, frostbite, carbon monoxide poisoning and even heart attacks from overexertion.
Winter storms can last a few hours or several days. They can knock out heat, power and communication services. Older adults, young children and sick individuals are typically at greater risk during this time.
Taking preparedness actions, such as winterizing your car and keeping an emergency supply kit in it, can make a big difference in protecting you and your family. Other actions you can take to effectively prepare for winter conditions include:
- Preparing your home to keep out the cold with insulation. Learn how to keep pipes from freezing. Install and test smoke alarms and carbon monoxide detectors with battery backups.
- Know your winter weather terms and paying attention to weather reports and warnings of freezing weather and winter storms. Sign up for your community’s warning system.
- Gather supplies in case you need to stay home for several days without power. Keep in mind each person’s specific needs, including medication. Remember the needs of your pets.
- Create an emergency supply kit for your car. Include jumper cables, sand, a flashlight, warm clothes, blankets, bottled water and non-perishable snacks. Keep a full tank of gas and, if possible, have a professional check your battery, anti-freeze and cooling system.
Knowing the signs and basic treatments for frostbite and hypothermia is also important. Frostbite can cause loss of feeling and color around the face, finger and toes, as well as numbness and firm or waxy skin. If you think you are experiencing frostbite, go to a warm room, soak in warm water and use body heat to warm yourself.
Similarly, if you are experiencing an unusually low body temperature (less than 95 degrees) accompanied by confusion, fumbling hands or slurred speech, you may be experiencing hypothermia. If you are, go to a warm room, stay dry and wrap yourself in blankets.
During a winter storm, you can also stay safe by doing the following:
- Stay off the roads if possible.
- Avoid carbon monoxide poisoning. Only use generators and grills outdoors and away from windows. Never heat your home with a gas stovetop or oven.
- Check on your neighbors, while staying safe from COVID-19, by texting, emailing or calling them.
Visit Ready.gov/winter-weather for more information on how to stay safe in winter weather.All Freezing Severe Storm(s)
This year, an unusually active hurricane season brought strong and destructive storms, a pandemic swept the globe and a record number of wildfires burned in the West. This has left many disaster survivors in vulnerable situations and has led to an increase in scammers looking to take advantage of people during stressful times.
Scams can take many different forms, including phone calls, texts, mail or email, websites, or in person.
Here’s how a scam might look:
You receive an email from someone claiming to be a FEMA employee. They ask for your cash app information and social security number. They claim they will send you money after you send them this information.
In this scenario, it is likely the message is a scam sent from a fake account. It is important to remember that FEMA will never ask you for money or fees to provide disaster assistance. FEMA websites will be identified as official U.S. Government sites and will never accept credit card information for payments or donations.
Here are five ways to recognize and prevent scams.
- Don’t trust anyone who offers financial help and then asks for money or personal information. Federal and local disaster workers do not solicit or accept money.
- Resist the pressure to act immediately. Scammers pressure you to provide information immediately, they want you to act before you have time to think.
- Know how scammers will ask you to pay. They often insist that you pay by sending money through a money transfer company or by putting money on a gift card and then giving them the number on the back.
- Stop and talk to someone you trust. Before you do anything else, tell someone - a friend, a family member, a neighbor - what happened. Talking about it could help you realize it’s a scam.
- Research and be aware of common scams by visiting the Federal Trade Commission website.
FEMA also works to identify these scams and protect survivors from them. When we suspect fraudulent behavior, we work with federal partners to act against those bad actors. We monitor the use of agency logos and trademarks and the Department of Homeland Security seal and have successfully removed unauthorized products and fraudulent websites seeking online donations.
We also use best practices such as data mining, pattern recognition, awareness training and other techniques to proactively mitigate and stop fraud – often before funds are sent. FEMA coordinates and shares information with federal and state partners to improve fraud prevention efforts across the nation.
You can help prevent scams and disaster fraud by reporting them. If something about a situation makes you feel uncomfortable or you suspect fraud, report it to local law enforcement, the FEMA Disaster Fraud Hotline or the Department of Justice Fraud Hotline.All Disaster Financial Management
Michael M. Grimm, Assistant Administrator for Risk Management, Federal Insurance and Mitigation Administration, Resilience, shares how the National Risk Index tool can help build more resilient communities.
The National Risk Index is an online mapping tool that analyzes risk factors from 18 natural hazards. This free tool can help anyone identify, assess and mitigate the risks pinpointed in their community.
Natural hazards are environmental phenomena that impact societies and the human environment. This includes avalanches, droughts, earthquakes and more. Planning for these types of hazards can help save lives, prevent property damage, minimize financial impacts, and reduce disaster suffering.
The index contains data from multiple federal partners and includes input from more than 55 partners across the public and private sectors. Data was collected from the best available resources between 2014 and 2019 and will be updated in 2021. The use of data from a variety of partners makes the index a great alternative for communities that do not have access to mapping services.
The index’ unique data sets can be instrumental in the development of robust FEMA-approved hazard mitigation plans. These plans are part of the requirement for applying for FEMA’s mitigation grants, which help communities implement sustainable action that reduces or eliminates long-term risk to people and property from future disasters.
The National Risk Index also can be used to:
- Update emergency operations plans.
- Enhance hazard mitigation plans.
- Effectively prioritize and allocate resources.
- Identify the need for more refined risk assessments.
- Encourage community-level risk communication and engagement.
- Educate homeowners and renters.
- Support adoption of enhanced codes and standards.
- Inform long-term community recovery.
Data from the index is available for download. Visit FEMA’s National Risk Index webpage to learn more about the data and the natural hazards that can affect your community.
All Building Resilient Infrastructure and Communities (BRIC)
By Paul Taylor, FEMA Region 7 Administrator and Capt. Dana Hall, Region 7 Administrator for the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services/ Assistant Secretary of Preparedness and Response.
Remember back in the spring when we heralded our health care workers who so bravely faced this new enemy known as COVID-19? As a nation, we recognized their sacrifices. We cheered them. We fed them. We made them masks. We held up signs with messages of support.
For eight months, those workers have continued to help us. They have put their lives on the line to care for and comfort us. To heal us. And to save us.
Now, more than ever, they need our help. The COVID-19 cases here in the Midwest and throughout the country are rising. Our hospitals are approaching dangerous levels where the number of patients is close to exceeding the ability to care for them. Recently, more than 1 million new cases of COVID were diagnosed across the country in less than one week.
The solution is not as simple as creating more beds or extra space. It boils down to having the staff needed to care for all patients, whether or not they have COVID-19.
The same can be said for our first-responders, teachers, grocery workers, restaurant workers, government workers and business owners. They are all doing their best every day to help us, teach us, feed us and provide us with supplies and services.
Now it’s our turn. We have to double our efforts to help all of them, and ourselves, by not getting sick or spreading the disease. The solutions are not hard. And we won’t have to do them forever.
- By taking five simple steps, you can save a life this holiday season, including your own. Wear a mask.
- Wash your hands frequently for at least 20 seconds. You have no idea who touched a surface before you, and whether they are sick.
- Practice physical distancing indoors and out. Stay at least 6 feet apart.
- Limit gathering sizes to the smallest number possible. It’s tempting to gather the whole family for these important holidays. This year, consider doing it another way. Use technology to connect. Or send a thoughtful card or letter instead for Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa and other December holidays.
- Take precautions every day. Treat everyone – including yourself – as a possible carrier. Many cases of COVID have been diagnosed in people who didn’t show symptoms. You may think your family members or close friends are safe because you know them, and you think they are being careful. But often, you don’t know who THEY have been around and how safe those other people are.
It’s up to each of us to do the right thing. COVID is real. And so are the risks to ourselves, our families, our health care workers, our first responders and others.
Following these steps can make a big difference. Listen to the medical professionals and local officials who are providing important guidance. Help your neighbors or friends who need it. And take care of yourself. Your life is worth it!
For more information on how to protect you and your family from COVID-19, visit Ready.gov/pandemic.Region VII Coronavirus Pandemic
Director of FEMA’s Office of Disability Integration and Coordination Linda Mastandrea shares some common myths and facts about disabilities and how we talk about them.
In 1992, the United Nations established the International Day of People with Disabilities as a day to join together to support people with disabilities in our communities. Every Dec. 3, we have an opportunity to focus on the importance of creating a future where people with disabilities experience equal opportunity. This means a future where they can go about their daily lives with adequate accessibility in their communities, have the ability to join the workforce or reach their goals without barriers.
According to the World Health Organization/World Bank World Report on Disability, 15% of the world’s population, or more than one billion people, are living with some form of disability. People are often unsure how to interact with someone living with a disability because they do not have accurate or sufficient information. This annual day of observance is a chance to adopt big and small ways that can improve the lives of people with disabilities.
This year’s theme, Not all Disabilities are Visible, raises awareness of disabilities that are not immediately apparent.
Here are some common myths and facts about disabilities and how we talk about them.
Myth: You can physically ascertain that someone is living with disability.
Fact: There are many examples of invisible disabilities that can affect someone physically, cognitively, emotionally and psychologically. This includes diagnosed mental illness, chronic pain or fatigue, sight or hearing impairments, diabetes, traumatic brain injuries, neurological disorders, learning differences and cognitive dysfunctions, among others.
Myth: You should never talk about disability.
Fact: While the Americans with Disabilities Act protects people with disabilities against discrimination, encouraging a culture of open communication can remove stigma, discourage stereotyping and reduce misinformation about disability.
Myth: The terms “individuals with disability” and “individuals with access and functional needs” mean the same thing.
Fact: These terms are not synonymous and should not be used interchangeably. The population of people with access and functional needs includes individuals with a disability, but the definition of access and functional needs also includes other categories such as older adults and individuals with limited English proficiency, limited access to transportation, and/or limited access to financial resources to prepare for, respond to, and recover from the emergency.
FEMA is committed to helping people with disabilities before, during and after disasters in ways that maximize the inclusion of, and accessibility for, people with disabilities. For more information, visit our Office of Disability Integration and Coordination page.All People with Disabilities
USFA Fire Administrator Chief Keith Bryant shares how to prevent home fires and keep your family safe this holiday season.
Traditionally, the winter holidays are a time for families and friends to get together. While some gatherings may look different this year due to COVID-19, many traditions remain. It’s fun to decorate for the winter holidays and cook special meals, but holiday decorations and cooking can increase your risk for a home fire. As you deck the halls this season or fix a festive meal, be fire smart.
Be careful with your holiday decorations. Make sure they don’t block windows and doors. Additionally, following a few simple tips can help make your holidays fire-safe.
- Water your live Christmas tree every day. A dry tree is a fire hazard. Trees too close to a heat source cause one in every four winter fires.
- Make sure you are using the right lights. Some lights are only for indoor or outdoor use, but not both. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions carefully.
- Replace any string of lights with worn or broken cords or loose bulb connections.
- Keep lit candles away from decorations and things that can burn. More than 1/3 of home decoration fires are started by candles. Consider using flameless candles, they look very similar and are safer.
- Blow out lit candles and turn off all light strings and decorations when leaving the room or going to bed.
Due to social distancing precautions, many of us may be attempting to cook a holiday meal for the first time this year. Cooking is the main cause of home fires and injuries no matter the season. From frying a turkey to making pies, be sure to follow these tips to prevent cooking fires.
- Stand by your pan – if you leave your kitchen, turn the burner off.
- Watch what you’re cooking. If you see any smoke, or grease starts to boil, turn the burner off.
- Turn pot handles toward the back of the stove to prevent them being bumped or pulled over.
- Keep a pan lid or baking sheet near by to put out pan fires.
Home fire fatalities increase during the winter. To make sure communities know about the increased risk, USFA partners with the National Fire Protection Association to Put a Freeze on Winter Fires. The initiative focuses on hazards that may increase a family’s risk of having a house fire. Follow #winterfiresafety on your social channels.All Fire
Norma Su’a Owens remembers constantly preparing for hurricanes as a child. After Hurricane Iwa in 1982, resources were especially limited. Her early experiences living on the islands of Hawaii made it clear how important it is for people to have what they need before, during and after disasters. Today, as a Customer Relationship Manager for FEMA’s Office of the Chief Information Officer, Norma supports agency employees with their information technology needs.
Prior to working at FEMA, Norma spent 20 years in the U.S. Army. When she retired from military service, her commitment to public service remained. A friend encouraged Norma to go to a job fair for veterans and that’s where she found FEMA.
Norma finds many similarities between her two careers: being prepared to act at a moment’s notice, taking an oath during the induction process and upholding a promise to put people first.
Her military experience in transportation and aviation has helped expand FEMA’s air operations from a team of four people to 20 employees. Norma also supports air operations for FEMA’s National Response Coordination Center during disasters. In this role, she stands up operations to help establish critical infrastructure and delivery of essential equipment and supplies to support disaster response and recovery.
After Hurricane Maria in 2017, Norma was deployed to Puerto Rico. Her experience growing up in Hawaii gave her firsthand knowledge of the struggles that come with living on an island. She knew that air travel was the only way to get to the island. Coordinating an operation that included a large military aircraft, a helicopter and a state and military police escort, Norma ensured supplies were able to reach the people of Puerto Rico.
“You see people’s compassion when the deliveries happen,” said Norma. “People hadn’t had electricity in two months. They were just so excited to eat an MRE (meal ready-to-eat).”
From her life experiences, Norma understands the importance of supporting people before, during and after disasters. "We're not serving our office,” she said. “We're serving the public.”
The We Are FEMA campaign highlights employees like Norma, who are committed to serving our country before, during and after disasters. It takes a deeper look at the employees who work to make our nation safer, stronger and more prepared. The campaign allows others to learn more about the mission-driven work and the who, what and why behind the FEMA mission. The faces of FEMA are diverse, but they share the same goal: to help people before, during and after disaster.
To join our team, visit FEMA.gov to see the latest job openings.All We Are FEMA
Kathy Smith, AICP, Planning and Safety Branch Chief shares her views on the importance of the 20th anniversary of the Disaster Mitigation Act of 2000.
October 30 was the 20th anniversary of the Disaster Mitigation Act of 2000. With this law, Congress officially recognized that one of the best ways to protect communities from disaster is having a plan to make them safer and stronger. For states, tribes, territories and local governments, these plans became required to receive FEMA funding for mitigation projects like buying properties, raising buildings or improving drainage. As we mark this anniversary, we also celebrate other milestones in the movement to build safer, more resilient communities.
One of these is the National Mitigation Investment Strategy. In 2012, Hurricane Sandy revealed the need for more coordination on how and where federal, state, tribal and local governments spend money and resources to build more disaster-resilient communities. In response, a working group of leaders across the federal government developed the National Mitigation Investment Strategy.
With an end goal of making the nation more resilient, the Investment Strategy builds on the legacy of the Disaster Mitigation Act. It lays out a collaborative, integrated approach that brings all partners – federal, state, local, tribal and territorial - to the same table. It lines up and unites the efforts of the various groups that are working to make the nation’s communities safer. Mitigation becomes more effective and coordinated when federal, state, tribal, and local governments and private and nonprofit groups work together.
The Disaster Mitigation Act helped state, territorial, tribal, and local governments proactively plan to reduce the damage from natural disasters. The Investment Strategy works to make sure the investments applied to those plans are having as much impact as possible to make communities stronger. The Investment Strategy has three goals:
- Show how mitigation investments reduce risk;
- Coordinate mitigation investments to reduce risk; and
- Make mitigation investment standard practice.
Like the Disaster Mitigation Act, the Investment Strategy aims to lessen the impact of future disasters. Both seek to prevent injury and loss of life, reduce suffering, decrease damage, and protect communities. The activities they encourage are similar:
- Strengthening infrastructure
- Collecting and sharing data (for example, flood maps)
- Dedicating funding
- Identifying areas of risks
- Sharing knowledge and advice
With the implementation of this vital hazard mitigation act over the last 20 years, efforts like the National Mitigation Investment Strategy prove that its legacy is alive and evolving. Mitigation planning and its resulting actions, expanded to a coordinated national effort, will lead to a more resilient future.
FEMA is celebrating the anniversary and legacy of the Disaster Mitigation Act of 2000 throughout October and November. For more information about the law, visit fema.gov/disasters/authorities.
In addition, the 2020 Fiscal Year funding cycle for the Hazard Mitigation non-disaster grants is accepting applications until Jan. 29, 2021. As a FEMA-approved Hazard Mitigation Plan is required for funding, review the eligible projects for funding for a Flood Mitigation Assistance and the new pre-disaster mitigation program Building Resilient Infrastructure and Communities.
All Mitigation Mitigation Planning
FEMA’s Office of Equal Rights Director Jo Linda Johnson, shares more about the importance of FEMA's upcoming Civil Rights Stakeholder Summits.
While disasters can affect us all, they can also create unique challenges to the individuals they impact. FEMA has seen firsthand how disasters affect communities differently. When working to address these unique challenges, it is important to include people from all different backgrounds. This allows us to help everyone prepare before, during and after disasters. As part of these efforts, FEMA’s Office of Equal Rights is hosting three Civil Rights Stakeholder Summits throughout the months of November and December to foster collaborative dialogue and partnerships.
Motivated by FEMA’s core values of compassion, fairness, integrity and respect, the goal of each summit is to strengthen the foundation for an inclusive, whole-community based approach to emergency management.
FEMA’s goal is to strengthen the agency’s communication with members of underserved and historically marginalized communities, such as those with low income, differing ethnic groups and limited English proficiency.
The summits will give the public a chance to speak on their experiences, to share what has gone well and where challenges lie with access to FEMA programs and services. These perspectives and feedback from the public are critical to ensure more equitable response and recovery, helping FEMA effectively prepare and serve all communities before, during and after disasters.
Summit presentations and discussion will cover FEMA programs and services, with special emphasis on creating an inclusive, whole community-based approach and improving equity in emergency Management.
Presenters and panelists will respond to your questions during the summits, so email them to FEMA-CivilRightsOffice@fema.dhs.gov no later than the Friday prior to the event.
Register below in advance for all three summits and join the discussion.
- Multi-Cultural Summit: "Equity Throughout Disasters," Thursday, Nov. 12
- Disability Summit: "Accessibility Throughout Disasters," Thursday, Nov. 19
- Environmental Justice Summit: "Implementation Throughout Disasters," Thursday, Dec. 3
For more information about FEMA's Office of Equal Rights, visit the FEMA website.
Leviticus “L.A.” Lewis is a self-professed space geek. Growing up, L.A. was a science fair kid and boy scout who launched model rockets, joined the Civil Air Patrol and dreamed of one day being an astronaut or designing spaceships. “I never thought working at FEMA would give me the chance to work with the FBI and NASA.” he said.
L.A. is FEMA’s representative working with the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy and the NASA Planetary Defense Coordination Office. He coordinates implementation of select actions within the National Near-Earth Object (NEO) Strategy and Action Plan. This plan organizes and coordinates efforts to increase the nation’s preparedness for asteroids and comets whose orbits come close (within 30 million miles), to Earth. The office works to ensure the nation can more effectively respond in case this type of very low-probability, but very high-consequence disaster should occur.
As a member of the NEO Impact Threat Emergency Procedures – Interagency Working Group (NITEP-IWG) he is working to strengthening NEO impact emergency procedures and action protocols. L.A. is also a member of the International Academy of Astronautics, 2021 Planetary Defense Conference Organizing Committee. The Committee is working on conducting the next conference virtually next April and holding another FEMA/NASA led interagency tabletop exercise in late 2021.
Prior to joining FEMA, L.A. served 20 years in various command and staff positions in the US Navy as a Surface Warfare Officer. As a young adult, he was one of the first U.S. Navy officers assigned to the Department of Peace Keeping Operations at the United Nations Headquarters in New York City.
On September 11, 2001, L.A. had retired from his commission as a Navy Commander and was working as a civilian at the Pentagon. When the attacks happened, L.A. helped people get to safety. He said the event drove him back to service. He returned to service, first at the Transportation Security Administration and later at FEMA. He joined the agency in 2007 as Director of the National Response Coordination Center, and later served as both the acting Director and Deputy Director of the Response Operations Division. He was also the first FEMA Senior Agency Liaison to the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the FBI National Joint Terrorism Task Force.
L.A. said he is motivated by President John F. Kennedy’s words “Ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your county.”
“Being a public servant is who I am,” said L.A. At FEMA, L.A. is able to continue serving while also pursuing his passion for space. “Earth is a really cool place, and I get to do something on a large scale to protect it,” said L.A.
The We Are FEMA campaign highlights employees like L.A. and takes a deeper look at the work they do to make our nation safer, stronger and more prepared. The campaign allows others to learn more about the mission-driven work and the who, what and why behind the FEMA mission. The faces of FEMA are diverse, but they share the same goal: to help people before, during and after disasters.
To join our team, visit FEMA.gov to see the latest job openings.All We Are FEMA
In 2013, Colorado was facing the largest floods it had seen in over 30 years. That year, FEMA hired Mark Petitt to support the disaster declaration. Mark is now a Disaster Recovery Specialist, Public Assistance Tribal Specialist for FEMA Region 8.
Mark has supported many disasters since then. He said a highlight for him was building a rapport and partnership with the five tribes he worked with in 2019. That year, he was deployed to support FEMA response to a bomb cyclone and the rapid melting and flooding incident that followed. Mark stayed in South Dakota through the end of the year to complete preliminary damage assessments and run the Tribal Task Force.
In that time, five tribes had Public Assistance Program declarations under at least one of five presidential declarations. Most had never been a recipient of the program before. Mark supported the process to get each tribe’s administrative plans and financial pieces put together. As he guided tribes through the process, he would first learn which activities were done in response to the disaster and what emergency protective measures were already in place. He then worked to understand what each tribe would need to do to recover.
“The big pieces of the Public Assistance Program can be challenging,” Mark says. “It’s taking all the information and always trying to reach the ‘Yes, it works!’ goal. But you can’t always get there.” Sometimes Mark had to explain why a declaration wasn’t fit for Public Assistance. In those situations, exercising FEMA’s values of compassion, integrity, fairness and respect were key. Mark said he tries to treat every one of the applicants, every one of the tribes, the same. He would educate and explain the situation, and where possible, share other potential funding sources with the tribes.
Mark said being able to talk to tribal leadership and help them understand the process was a rewarding part of the process. He said part of being a FEMA employee can sometimes mean just listening to concerns.
“You're working with people that are under high stress, and they've been under high stress for a while,” Mark said. “Some of the conversations I've had with tribal emergency managers over the last year has been just having them dump whatever stress they've been carrying in their head.”
The We Are FEMA campaign highlights employees like Mark and takes a deeper look at the work they do to make our nation safer, stronger and more prepared. The campaign allows others to learn more about the mission-driven work and the who, what and why behind the FEMA mission. The faces of FEMA are diverse, but they share the same goal: to help people before, during and after disaster.
To join our team, visit FEMA.gov/careers to see the latest job openings.All We Are FEMA
Kathy Smith, AICP, Planning and Safety Branch Chief shares her views on the importance of the 20th anniversary of the Disaster Mitigation Act of 2000.
October 30 was the 20th anniversary of the Disaster Mitigation Act of 2000. With this law, Congress officially recognized that disaster protection starts with a mitigation plan. This law also authorized the Pre-Disaster Mitigation Grant Program. This grant program has been a major source of funding for community mitigation plans and projects. It supports them as they plan for and reduce risk before disasters hit.
Over the last 20 years, we have learned more about mitigation’s power to protect our communities from future disaster losses. The National Institute of Building Sciences reports that on average, for every federal dollar invested in mitigation, communities prevent $6 in disaster losses.
Our risk landscape has changed. Disasters are occurring more frequently and their impacts are causing communities millions of dollars in damages and lost lives every year. According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, from 2016-2019, the United States has faced 44 “billion-dollar disasters.” These increases in damages signal a need for mitigation investments to change. They need to focus on helping communities adapt to changing conditions and become more resilient.
In 2018, Congress passed the Disaster Recovery and Reform Act (DRRA). The DRRA, like the Disaster Mitigation Act, amended the Robert T. Stafford Disaster Relief and Emergency Assistance Act to support mitigation planning and projects. One piece of the DRRA is a new pre-disaster mitigation grant program, Building Resilient Infrastructure and Communities (BRIC). This grant program launched its first application cycle on Sept. 30.
FEMA’s priorities for the BRIC program are to incentivize:
- Public infrastructure projects.
- Projects that mitigate risk to one or more lifelines.
- Projects that incorporate nature-based solutions.
- Adoption and enforcement of modern building codes.
BRIC is funded through an authority to set aside up to 6% of the Disaster Relief Funds. This takes place after federal post-disaster grant funding estimates, which include contributions from four FEMA post-disaster elements: Individual Assistance, Public Assistance, Disaster Unemployment Assistance and Crisis Counselling.
The BRIC program can fund eligible planning activities like:
- Creating, updating, or enhancing a mitigation plan;
- Integrating information from the mitigation plan into comprehensive plans, capital improvement plans, and others; and
- Adopting, applying, and enforcing building codes.
FEMA is celebrating the anniversary and legacy of the Disaster Mitigation Act of 2000 throughout October and November. For more information, visit fema.gov/disasters/authorities.
In addition, the 2020 Fiscal Year funding cycle for the Hazard Mitigation non-disaster grants is accepting applications until Jan. 29, 2021. As a FEMA-approved Hazard Mitigation Plan is required for funding, review the eligible projects for funding for a Flood Mitigation Assistance and the new pre-disaster mitigation program Building Resilient Infrastructure and Communities.All Hazard Mitigation Flood Insurance
A Louisiana homeowner hugged Paul Huang, assistant administrator for FEMA’s Federal Insurance, after his team adjusted her flood insurance claim, helped muck out her house and provided her with a $70,000 check to begin her recovery.
Paul said moments like this, where you get to meet the people you have helped, is one of the things he loves most about working for FEMA. What stands out, Paul said, was watching her grandkids and community help her when she needed it most. “Being there to empathize and listen to her story, being able to do that year in, year out and coming home from the field to tell my family about who we’ve helped,” Paul said.
As Assistant Administrator for Federal Insurance and Mitigation Administration, Paul oversees flood insurance operations for the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP). The primary source of flood insurance in the United States, it provides $1.3 trillion in coverage to approximately five million policy holders. The program makes flood insurance available for homeowners, renters and businesses in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, 45 tribes and six territories.
The NFIP was created in 1968, after the private sector abandoned the flood insurance business. Flooding was, and remains, one of the biggest disaster recovery expenses. The NFIP was created to fill these gaps by mapping flood risk nationwide, developing floodplain management standards and providing flood insurance.
The work of Paul’s team allows communities, households and businesses to avoid or reduce flood risk and the financial burden to survivors. Paul says that he is simply a cheerleader for his team.
“Our people are our strength,” Paul said. “So, I do my best to empower them, invest in them and allow them the opportunity to take risks to innovate.”
This support has helped Paul’s team push to new heights. He notes that among many other successes in the last three years his team helped stop the decline of flood insurance policies over the last decade and increase the policy-base by over 100,000. Another success he notes is that 19 of 20 claimants reported “excellent” service in their claims handling.
Paul said the diversity of his team is a key to its success. “Having a diverse workforce generates more innovation and perspectives so that we can better deliver for our customers.” He believes FEMA is made up of caring people who are looking to support the mission, and that shows in the everyday work that his team does.
“Our FIMA team is like a family,” Paul said. “There is a focus on caring about the whole person - not just the work person. When you can build that kind of trust, the tough discussions or long days become much easier. The kindness we extend to our survivors is the same kindness we share with each other.”
Just as it is at work, at home his favorite hobby is cheering on his team. He loves shooting hoops as a family and said they recently added a new team member. “If my life wasn’t full enough, we just got a puppy two weeks ago. Her name is Juneau and she has won us all over.”
The We Are FEMA campaign highlights employees like Paul, who are committed to serving our country before, during and after disasters. It takes a deeper look at the employees who work to make our nation safer, stronger and more prepared. The campaign allows others to learn more about the mission-driven work and the who, what and why behind the FEMA mission. The faces of FEMA are diverse, but they share the same goal: to help people before, during and after disasters.
To join our team, visit the FEMA website to see the latest job openings.All We Are FEMA
As the Gulf Coast braces for the seventh named storm to strike the area this season, it is critical for those in the storm’s path to prepare for impact. This historic hurricane season is continuing to cause unprecedented damage in this area, leaving residents with little time to recover.
Hurricane Zeta’s path is projected to pass over areas recently hit by other hurricanes, increasing the threat of dangerous flooding. The rainfall from this storm system could worsen flooding from the previous storms and impacts could be felt from Louisiana to the Florida Panhandle.
Survivors of hurricanes Laura, Sally and Delta who have faced multiple hurricanes this year, may need support as they cope with the stress of these new and repeated challenges. Survivors can turn to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, which has a Disaster Distress Helpline. The helpline provides 24/7, 365 day-a-year crisis counseling and support to people experiencing emotional distress related to disasters.
While residents along the Gulf Coast may have already faced storms this season, it is important to remember that every storm is different. Even communities unaffected by previous storms should remain vigilant in preparing for the next one.
Residents in the storm’s path should remember the following when preparing for storm surge, rainfall and flooding:
- Do not walk, swim or drive through flood waters. Turn around, don’t drown.
- Just six inches of moving water can knock you down, and one foot of moving water can sweep your vehicle away.
- State and local officials will have the most up-to-date information on evacuation orders and shelter locations. Residents in Louisiana should call 2-1-1 for evacuation, sheltering and resources for immediate needs.
- FEMA’s National Flood Insurance Program will cover and reimburse policy holders up to $1,000 for certain actions taken to minimize damage to your home and belongings before a flood. Make sure to save your receipts for any of these expenses. For details on what is covered how to take action, view the fact sheet Understanding Flood Loss Avoidance.
As residents in the storm’s path make preparations, FEMA is moving teams and supplies into place. The agency assembled over 5 million meals, over 4 million liters of bottled water and 45 generators near the expected areas of Hurricane Zeta impacts. FEMA is also staging blankets, tarps, blue roof sheeting and cots to support affected states. These supplies are on the ground, ready to meet state needs.
As always, FEMA is working with federal, state, local and tribal partners to execute a state-managed response. For more information on how to prepare for hurricanes, visit Ready.gov/hurricanes.Region IV Region VI All Louisiana Flood Hurricane
In 2019, Lindsey Parker had not yet completed her first internship at FEMA when she decided she would try to return as an intern the following year.
“The best thing about working at FEMA both this summer and last has been the people,” Lindsey said.
During her first internship, Lindsey helped to convey the mission of FEMA’s Office of Response and Recovery programs across the agency. Her research and analysis skills helped her make valued contributions. She said the Office of Response and Recovery also helped her grow and develop her professional skills. “I feel very lucky to have gotten the opportunity to work with such incredibly dedicated and supportive people throughout my time here,” she said.
This year, Lindsey shadowed National Response Coordination Center Resource Support Section Chief Brian Applebee during COVID-19 response efforts. Continuing her support of the Office of Response and Recovery, Lindsey reported to headquarters in Washington, DC at least twice a week to help receive and sort incoming mail while many employees worked virtually. Her commitment to correspondence from the public, even amidst COVID-19, embodies the mission of FEMA.
Lindsey says that her advice when applying for a position at FEMA is to keep an open mind. “FEMA is full of people who have different areas of expertise and fields of study,” she said. “So no matter what you may have studied or what your experience is, you can find a place here; you just have to be willing to look for the right fit.”
Lindsey hopes to work for FEMA after she graduates next spring. Internships at FEMA can lead to careers through the FEMA Pathways Program. FEMA offers employment opportunities that include: Student & Recent Grad Programs , Presidential Management Fellows and Internships. Student & Recent Grad Programs offer invaluable, career-defining and preparation experiences, and range from paid summer internships to career development programs that may lead to a permanent job. Additionally, the FEMA Career Pathway Tool is a way for current and prospective FEMA employees to explore the many different careers that are available at FEMA.
These opportunities provide a variety of work experiences, training, networking and developmental opportunities that are designed to build technical and professional skills while developing a broad knowledge of the agency and its core functions.
The We Are FEMA campaign highlights the people who make up FEMA, like Lindsey, who are committed to serving our country before, during and after disasters. It takes a deeper look at the employees who work to make our nation safer, stronger and more prepared. The campaign allows others to learn more about the mission-driven work and the who, what and why behind the FEMA mission. The faces of FEMA are diverse, but they share the same goal: to help people before, during and after disaster.