WASHINGTON, D.C.–(ENEWSPF)–August 28, 2011. As Tropical Storm Irene moves up the East Coast, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) continues to coordinate closely with state, tribal and local officials to ensure they have the resources they need for immediate response efforts. FEMA urges all residents along the coast to continue to follow the directions of state and local officials, prepare for flash flooding and severe weather, and take precautions when returning to their homes or businesses.
As FEMA continues coordinating closely with all its federal, state, tribal and local partners, as well as private sector groups, faith-based and voluntary organizations, and other partners, Department of Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano and FEMA Administrator Craig Fugate continue to provide daily briefings to President Obama on these efforts. This morning the President convened a video teleconference call in the White House Situation Room to receive an update on the storm and its impacts. Vice President Biden, Chief of Staff Daley, DHS Secretary Napolitano, Treasury Secretary Geithner, Transportation Secretary LaHood, Energy Secretary Chu, FEMA Administrator Fugate, Homeland Security Advisor Brennan and other senior White House officials participated in the call.
Under the direction of President Obama and Secretary Janet Napolitano, the entire federal family is leaning forward to support our state, tribal and territorial partners along the East Coast. FEMA has been in constant contact, through its regional offices (in Atlanta, Boston, New York City and Philadelphia), with the governors and local officials of communities along the East Coast. The President has signed pre-disaster emergency declarations for the states of Connecticut, Delaware, Massachusetts, Maryland, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Rhode Island and Virginia, as well as the District of Columbia, making available federal support to save lives and to protect property and public health and safety. Yesterday, the President also declared a major disaster for Puerto Rico, which makes federal disaster assistance available to affected individuals to help cover damage to their properties or other personal losses caused by Irene.
Although the National Hurricane Center has indicated that Irene has weakened to a Tropical Storm, residents in the Northeast still need to prepare for severe weather and flooding, a point Administrator Fugate emphasized at a press conference Sunday with Secretary Napolitano.
“Regardless of its status as hurricane or tropical storm, Irene is still very large and dangerous, and those in its path need to be prepared for severe weather, including the risks of flash flooding,” said FEMA Administrator Craig Fugate. “As the storm begins to subside in some areas, it’s important to continue to follow the directions of state and local officials, avoid downed power lines and flooded roads, and of course wait for the all clear before returning home.”
Emergency shelters remain open in coordination with states, localities and the Red Cross along the East Coast up to New England. The Red Cross has shelter information available for residents who need to know where they can go. This information continues to be updated at www.redcross.org.
As evacuated areas begin to reopen, it is understandable that residents of those states will be anxious to return home following the storm, but it’s important to be patient and to wait for the all clear from local officials. There may be hazards such as downed power lines, road closures, roads or bridges that are impassable, and non-working traffic lights. Drivers should never attempt to traverse flooded streets, as it takes only two feet of rush water to carry away most vehicles, including pickups and SUVs.
It’s also important to remember that those living inland can still experience flash flooding and other severe weather, as well as power outages. The Consumer Product Safety Commission warns that portable generators should never be used indoors or in garages, basements or sheds. The exhaust from generators contains high levels of carbon monoxide that can quickly incapacitate and kill.
FEMA currently has proactively positioned a total of eighteen Incident Management Assistance Teams (IMATs) along the coast to coordinate with state, tribal and local officials to identify needs and shortfalls affecting potential disaster response and recovery. Six national urban search and rescue teams remain on alert in the event that search and rescue support is needed, and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has deployed a total of five Disaster Medical Assistance Teams to staging areas.
Federal and state teams are working together to begin assessments of damages in North Carolina, Virginia and Maryland, and will begin doing so soon in other states hit by the storm, as soon as affected areas are safe to access. FEMA community relations teams are fanning out to shelters in affected areas in North Carolina and are being mobilized to support other states affected by Irene to help inform disaster survivors about available services and resources.
The U.S. Department of Defense has positioned defense coordinating officers at FEMA’s national response coordination center in Washington, D.C., and in FEMA regional response coordination centers in Boston, New York City, Philadelphia, and Atlanta to support and coordinate any requests for defense assets and personnel. In advance of Hurricane Irene, the Department of Defense is also supporting Incident Support Bases at Fort Bragg, N.C., and Westover Army Reserve Base and Joint Base McGuire/Dix/Lakehurst, N.J., for FEMA to stage commodities.
More than 1,200 National Guard men and women across seven states were called up to help coordination with Hurricane Irene efforts, and there are more than 83,000 National Guard personnel available in the affected states that can be activated to assist with hurricane relief efforts if needed. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) has personnel in place at FEMA’s national response coordination center and in the FEMA regional response coordination centers. The USACE also has power response teams in place in North Carolina, New Jersey, Maryland, and Massachusetts, and is prepared to deploy debris and roofing response teams to assist state and local partners as they work to restore power to affected areas.
At all times, FEMA maintains commodities, including millions of liters of water, millions of meals and hundreds of thousands of blankets. These items are strategically located at distribution centers throughout the United States and its territories. In Atlanta, for instance, FEMA has more than two million liters of water, 1.3 million meals, 16,000 cots and 56,000 blankets.
As the storm clears, FEMA will begin conducting joint preliminary damage assessments with state partners in the affected states, and will continue to coordinate with states and the private sector to support power restoration efforts and debris removal.
FEMA encourages everyone, regardless of where they live, to take steps to ensure their families, homes and businesses are prepared for a possible emergency. As a reminder, the month of September is designated as National Preparedness Month (NPM). This serves as an opportunity to encourage Americans to be prepared for disasters or emergencies in their homes, businesses, and communities. Individuals and families can learn about events and activities, and groups can register to become a NPM Coalition Member by visiting http://community.fema.gov. NPM is sponsored by the Ready Campaign in partnership with Citizen Corps and The Ad Council.
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FEMA’s mission is to support our citizens and first responders to ensure that as a nation we work together to build, sustain, and improve our capability to prepare for, protect against, respond to, recover from, and mitigate all hazards.