People’s health at the centre of new global blueprint to reduce disaster risks

Ten years since adopting the Hyogo Framework for Action shortly after the Indian Ocean Tsunami, government representatives have gathered in Sendai to negotiate a new framework for global action to reduce the risks of disasters. For the first time, protecting people’s health is at the centre of such a framework.

People’s health at the centre of new global blueprint to reduce disaster risks

Ten years since adopting the Hyogo Framework for Action shortly after the Indian Ocean Tsunami, government representatives have gathered in Sendai to negotiate a new framework for global action to reduce the risks of disasters. For the first time, protecting people’s health is at the centre of such a framework.

“In the 10 years since Hyogo, governments have increasingly recognized that healthy people are resilient people, and that resilient people recover much more quickly from emergencies and disasters,” says Dr Bruce Aylward, Assistant Director-General for Emergencies at the World Health Organization (WHO). “Recent and ongoing disasters – from Typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines to the Ebola crisis in West Africa – highlight the centrality of human health to our collective goals in disaster risk reduction by all sectors.”

WHO and partners begin reaching people in need on many Philippine islands hit by typhoon

15 November 2013 — WHO is working with the Government of the Philippines and international partners to reach survivors of Typhoon Haiyan who need medical care. The full extent of the disaster is becoming increasingly clear, with dozens of separate sites needing assistance.

Breastfeeding is life-saving for babies in Philippines typhoon emergency

28 November 2013 — UNICEF and WHO today called on those involved in the response to the Philippines’ Typhoon Haiyan (Yolanda) disaster to promote and protect breastfeeding to avoid unnecessary illness and deaths of children.

History is a great teacher

Posted by: Rev. David L. Myers, Director, DHS Center for Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships

meeting with tornado survivor

History is a great teacher.

Associate Pastor Ben Davidson of Bethany Community Church learned a valuable lesson during Hurricane Katrina in 2005 that benefitted him and his congregation the morning of Nov. 17, 2013, when a powerful tornado tore through Washington IL.

His quick thinking reminds me when disasters occur; having a plan can save lives and help pivot a community toward a strong recovery. I have learned this lesson many times through the faith leaders I’ve engaged as director of the DHS Center for Faith-based & Neighborhood Partnerships.

On Sunday morning Pastor Davidson was preparing to begin his adult Sunday school class, when he received an emergency phone call.  A tornado had touched down and their church was in its path.
Immediately he and the staff worked to move the congregation –particularly the children — to their designated shelter in the church location and they began to pray together as the storm passed through their community.

The entire congregation comforted one another through what Pastor Davidson recalls as “the longest 45 minutes of my life.” Once all congregants were accounted for and that families could leave the sheltered location Pastor Davidson immediately went home to confirm the safety of his children who were at home sick that morning.

Immediately following the disaster, Bethany Community Church joined its fellow members of the Washington Ministerial Association, AmeriCorps and the Illinois Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster to help coordinate the community’s recovery efforts.

meeting with pastor in washington illinois

Since the devastating event, more than 4,000 community volunteers have registered with Bethany Community Church to help their loved ones and neighbors during disasters.  Their effort and commitment will help to increase the community’s resilience and ensure they are better prepared for emergencies.

The story of Washington, IL, and Bethany Community Church is a reminder of the care and compassion that faith-based organizations can provide all survivors in times of disaster. Their story reinforces the power of a whole community, “survivor centric” approach and the important role and responsibility of faith leaders in preparing their communities before disasters strike.

I encourage you to know what to do before disaster strikes by joining the thousands of faith-based and community members on the National Preparedness Coalition faith-based community of practice and connecting with faith and community leaders across the country working on preparedness.

Being prepared contributes to our national security, our nation’s resilience, and our personal readiness.

meeting volunteers around illinois tornado damage

Building a teenage readiness club in Monson, Mass.

Posted by: Rachel Little, FEMA Youth Preparedness Council Member, Region 1

Monson, Mass., July 7, 2011 -- The debris that was left behind by the June 1 tornado that hit the town of Monson and western Massachusetts. Alberto Pillot/FEMA

My name is Rachel Little and I am a junior attending Monson High School.  I have lived in Monson, Massachusetts, my whole life, and couldn’t have grown up in a better place.  My town is full of strong- willed, determined people, always willing to lend a helping hand.

When a tornado struck our town on June 1st, 2011, it brought our small community even closer together.  Everyone was reaching out to give support, from supplying food or water, to giving neighbors hope for a better tomorrow.  It was a very moving event to watch.  Even though I was not directly affected by the tornado, I had people very near and dear to me in the path of the tornado.  I wanted to help out in whatever way I could, because I saw how much the people of Monson were suffering.  I couldn’t stand by and watch — I had to take action. 

Therefore, I joined the Monson volunteer efforts and eventually became a member of The Street Angels.  The Street Angels is a dedicated volunteer group that brought supplies to families in need after the tornado,  and helped families make connections with landscapers and builders. My fellow Street Angels helped me fill out an application to become part of FEMA’s Youth Preparedness Council, and I am now going into my second year of being a proud member.  To me, the Youth Preparedness Council is the beginning of people realizing that youth can make a difference in emergency preparedness and response — not just myself and the wonderful people of this council, but the world’s youth.   My fellow members and I are just the beginning of that change.

My plan for 2013 is to collaborate with the Medical Reserve Corps (MRC), or Community Emergency Response Team (CERT), to start a teen readiness club in my town.  I know a lot of people my age wanted to get involved after the 2011 Monson tornado, but they didn’t know how.  If either a Jr. MRC or a Teen CERT had already been in play before the tornado, Monson would have seen a significantly higher amount of youth action.   Being a member of the Youth Preparedness Council, my mission is to increase the amount of prepared youth and families in my region.

I’ve also been trying to share emergency preparedness at my school.  I’ve hit significant road blocks during previous attempts at getting a teen readiness club up and running for Monson High School.  After last year’s Youth Preparedness Council summit in Washington DC, I had my heart set on starting a Teen CERT. The idea of getting my friends and classmates interested in preparedness and prepared for disasters was exciting.  I asked around to see if I could get a trainer to help me get the team started.  I found a man in my neighboring community who seemed very willing to help me out, but unfortunately, that fell through.

I turned to my Local Emergency Preparedness Committee, which was formed after the tornado.  Although I made a presentation to them and they liked my ideas, we weren’t able to get the plans off the ground.  I did meet a woman in the Local Emergency Preparedness Committee meetings who happened to be the head of the MRC in my town, and she introduced me to Jr. MRC.   We’re still hoping to get the Jr. MRC started, and it’s a current work in progress.  I anticipate that the challenges for this year will again be finding someone to teach the course or help me with the establishment of the club.  I have a backup plan, so that if things fall through, I will take the Teen CERT “train the trainer” course so I can teach a class myself.

As a result of starting Teen CERT or Jr. MRC in Monson, I want to see this little community become prepared for future emergencies.  I hope never to see another disaster to the extent of the tornado ever again, but it’s better safe than sorry.  I will know I’ve met success when I have a fully functioning teen readiness club in Monson High School.  From there, I can only hope to expand my efforts to other communities and beyond.

Editor’s Note: The views expressed in this blog post do not necessarily represent the official views of FEMA, the Department of Homeland Security, or the United States Government. We are providing links to third party sites and organizations for your reference. FEMA does not endorse any non-government entities, organizations or services.

Law Enforcement’s Role in Responding to Disasters

Posted by: Roberto L. Hylton, Senior Law Enforcement Advisor

If you have ever had the chance to speak with Administrator Fugate or listen to him discuss the role of first responders in disasters… you will know he views their work with a revered appreciation.  They are an intricate part of the emergency/disaster response team.  As a former Police Chief, I can attest to their hard work and dedication and agree whole heartedly with Administrator Fugate.

In my 30 year career I have witnessed heroic efforts by my officers and colleagues, including during times of disasters.  While serving Prince George’s County, we responded to 9/11, Hurricane Isabel, snowstorms, and multiple tornadoes.  Specifically, I recall one of the tornadoes that impacted my county.  An EF-3 tornado impacted the nearby college campus and devastated neighborhoods and infrastructure.  Emergency services were stretched to the max.  Our officers worked relentless hours, 48 hours straight in some cases, setting up and supporting emergency response and rescue operations.  The scene was chaotic with debris and terrified college students, but the right training helped officers maintain public safety and conduct lifesaving missions.

Over the last two years I have had the distinct privilege of sharing the Administrator’s views with the law enforcement community and recently, he reflected on Law Enforcement’s Role in Responding to Disasters in an article in Police Chief Magazine:

We ask a tremendous amount of our first responders during disasters and emergencies. They are the first line of defense; they are the first helping hand extended to survivors. Every police officer knows emergencies can happen without notice. Our ability to respond to and recover from disasters is directly influenced by how well prepared our first responders are and how well we all work together as a team before, during, and after a crisis. 

The role of law enforcement in responding to a disaster is very similar to the day-to-day role of public safety and supporting the community. In preparing for a disaster, police officers trust in their training and capitalize on their knowledge of a community. Exercises portraying the situations (large- and small-scale events) help better prepare officers and allow them to fully understand the resources needed for each event and apply that information to each community’s needs. Law enforcement officials know their communities best and interact with residents on a daily basis. This knowledge gives them the ability to provide valuable situational awareness to response and recovery groups coming in to help. For example, where will there be language barriers? Does the community have unique challenges? Law enforcement can help communicate this information to the emergency management team and can offer support to other members of the team by simply being a presence in the neighborhoods.

During a disaster, police officers play a key role in many operations including: search and rescue, evacuations, door-to-door checks, and maintaining overall public safety within the community. These are critical actions that support not only their own communities but neighboring towns as well. 

As the Administrator explained in the article, the law enforcement community has two vital roles in responding to disasters:

  • As first responders during times of crisis, and
  • Providing for the safety and security of the community. 

Responding to disasters is a shared responsibility, and those in law enforcement are aware that emergency management planning is for all hazards and that it takes a team effort to keep our communities safe.  I’m proud to represent the law enforcement community at FEMA as we continue to strengthen the coordination among the entire emergency management team.

Editor’s Note: Police Chief Magazine is a publication from the International Association of Chiefs of Police and serves as the professional voice of law enforcement and supports programs and research, as well as training and other professional services for the law enforcement community.

Traumatic Incident Tension: No Very good Deed..

..goes unpunished, they say. Nowhere is that more true than with those who respond to disasters- natural or man-made, where death and severe injury is present.  These workers are at risk of experiencing stress from what psychologists refer to as a traumatic incident. A traumatic incident is one that may involve exposure to catastrophic events, severely injured children or adults, dead bodies or body parts, or a loss of colleagues. All workers involved in response activities help themselves and their coworkers and reduce the risk of experiencing stress associated with a traumatic incident by utilizing simple methods to recognize, monitor, and maintain health on-site and following such experiences.  

A Personal Case Study

As emergency responders, we often feel a need to “be brave”, impervious to the bad things we see, stoic in the face of tragedy. Unfortunately, that is not the case. The very parts of our nature that drive us to respond to disasters- to help those most affected- also prevents us from turning a completely blind eye to what we witness. We may fool ourselves for a while, but sooner or later, it will surface.

Immediately following hurricanes Katrina and Rita, I found myself in New Orleans, serving in the city’s Emergency Operations Center as a Safety Officer. In the ten months I served, four of those months were with the New Orleans Fire Department‘s Urban Search and Rescue team. From March through June, 2006, our mission was to make a final sweep through New Orleans devastated 9th Ward searching for any as yet unfound victims. This entailed going from one ruined home to another, led by teams of cadaver dogs. Climbing over stinking refuse and debris, trying to block out the fact that these had been people’s homes- where children had been raised, homework done, Christmases and birthdays celebrated. And yes, even 6 months after the storms, there were remains to be found. During this mission, twenty six total. 

Of all of these, there was one recovery that stands out vividly in my mind. We had been given an address for a couple of residents that had been reported missing by the family- two brothers who had not been heard from since before Katrina had struck. Searching through what remained of the home using the dog teams and literally picking the structure apart with an excavator, the remains of the brothers were finally located. But, the story did not end there. The dog had alerted on something else nearby. 

A pile of debris, what looked like the roof of a garage lay atop what was left of other structures, all commingled in the corner of a lot, where it had come to rest against another house. The dog alerted several times in this are, and the team searched.. and searched.. dug through the debris and searched more.  After a couple of hours, the debris had been pulled apart with nothing found. Another dog was brought in, and it, too, alerted in the same area. Frustrated and tired, the team called off the search, sure that what the dogs had alerted on had probably been fragments carried by wildlife from another location.

The next morning, it was decided to give it one more try. After a bit more digging and removal of debris around the perimeter, the dog again alerted- this time on a bit of blue canvas half buried in the dried mud.  Carefully, the dirt was removed from around the find, uncovering a blue, Tommy the Train child’s knapsack. Underneath that, a small skull and a few other pieces of bone. I never learned her name, only that she had been 6 or 7 years old, and had been wearing the knapsack, ready for her parents to decide whether they were going to evacuate or not. Inside the knapsack were a couple of dolls, and other items that were obviously of great importance to her.

It was over a year after I returned home from my service in New Orleans before I could tell that story to anyone without physically choking up. Of all of the things I had seen or heard during those 10 months- of all of the death and destruction I had witnessed.. that was the one thing that got stuck sideways, as they say.  It wasn’t until I sat down with a trusted friend and forced it out, that I was finally able to move past that experience.

I submit this as an example of the kind of stress we all face as emergency or disaster responders. Everyone is familiar with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). TraumaticIncident Stress (TIS), while similar, is not quite the same thing. If not dealt with in a timely manner, however, it can result in PTSD. TIS builds within a person’s psyche incrementally, depending on the severity of the situation and the person’s duties. Those whose duties puts them “in the trenches”, working first hand with victims and the worst of the destruction are the ones most at risk.

Symptoms of Stress

Workers may experience physical, cognitive, emotional, or behavioral symptoms of stress. Some people experience these reactions immediately at the scene, while for others symptoms may occur weeks or months later.  The CDC has put together an excellent examination of the issue of TIS- what it is, how to identify it, and how to deal with it. Every person involved in emergency or disaster response should consider it required reading. So, here it is:

Physical symptoms

Workers experiencing any of the following symptoms should seek IMMEDIATE medical attention:

  • Chest pain
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Severe pain
  • Symptoms of shock (shallow breathing, rapid or weak pulse, nausea, shivering, pale and moist skin, mental confusion, and dilated pupils)

Workers may also experience the following physical symptoms. If these symptoms occur over time or become severe, workers should seek medical attention. Additional physical symptoms include:

  • Fatigue
  • Nausea/vomiting
  • Dizziness
  • Profuse sweating
  • Thirst
  • Headaches
  • Visual difficulties
  • Clenching of jaw
  • Nonspecific aches and pains

Cognitive symptoms

If these symptoms occur on the scene workers may not be able to stay clearly focused to maintain their own safety or to rescue injured victims. Workers may experience momentary cognitive symptoms; however, if symptoms are chronic or interfere with daily activities, workers should seek medical attention. These symptoms include:

  • Confusion
  • Disorientation
  • Heightened or lowered alertness
  • Poor concentration
  • Poor problem solving
  • Difficulty identifying familiar objects or people
  • Memory problems
  • Nightmares

Emotional symptoms

Strong emotions are ordinary reactions to a traumatic or extraordinary situation. Workers should seek mental health support from a disaster mental health professional if symptoms or distress continue for several weeks or if they interfere with daily activities. Emotional symptoms include:

  • Anxiety
  • Guilt
  • Denial
  • Grief
  • Fear
  • Irritability
  • Loss of emotional control
  • Depression
  • Sense of failure
  • Feeling overwhelmed
  • Blaming others or self
  • Severe panic (rare)

Behavioral symptoms

As a result of a traumatic incident, workers may notice the following behavioral changes in themselves or coworkers:

  • Intense anger
  • Withdrawal
  • Emotional outburst
  • Temporary loss or increase of appetite
  • Excessive alcohol consumption
  • Inability to rest, pacing
  • Change in sexual functioning

Recommendations to Monitor and Maintain Health On-Site

Responders need to take care of their own health to maintain the constant vigilance they need for their own safety. Responders must be able to stay focused on the job in the dynamic, changing emergency environment. Often responders do not recognize the need to take care of themselves and to monitor their own emotional and physical health. This is especially true if recovery efforts stretch into several weeks. The following guidelines contain simple methods for workers and their team leaders to help themselves and their team members. These guidelines should be read while at the site and again after workers return home.

Control the organization and pace of the rescue and recovery efforts

  • Pace yourself. Rescue and recovery efforts at the site may continue for days or weeks.
  • Watch out for each other. Coworkers may be intently focused on a particular task and may not notice a hazard nearby or behind.
  • Be conscious of those around you. Responders who are exhausted, stressed, or even temporarily distracted may place themselves and others at risk.
  • Take frequent rest breaks. Rescue and recovery operations take place in extremely dangerous work environments. Mental fatigue, particularly over long shifts, can greatly increase emergency workers’ risk of injury.

Maintain adequate nutrition and rest

  • Eat and sleep regularly. Maintain as normal a schedule as possible and adhere to the team schedule and rotation.
  • Drink plenty of fluids such as water and juices.
  • Try to eat a variety of foods and increase your intake of complex carbohydrates (for example, breads and muffins made with whole grains, granola bars).
  • Whenever possible, take breaks away from the work area. Eat and drink in the cleanest area available.

Monitor mental/emotional health

  • Recognize and accept what you cannot change—the chain of command, organizational structure, waiting, equipment failures, etc.
  • Talk to people when YOU feel like it. You decide when you want to discuss your experience. Talking about an event may be reliving it. Choose your own comfort level.
  • If your employer provided you with formal mental health support, use it!
  • Give yourself permission to feel rotten: You are in a difficult situation.
  • Recurring thoughts, dreams, or flashbacks are normal—do not try to fight them. They will decrease over time.
  • Communicate with your loved ones at home as frequently as possible.

Recommendations to Maintain Health Following the Incident

Over time, workers’ impressions and understanding of their experience will change. This process is different for everyone. No matter what the event or an individual’s reaction to it, workers can follow some basic steps to help themselves adjust to the experience:

  • Reach out—people really do care.
  • Reconnect with family, spiritual, and community supports.
  • Consider keeping a journal.
  • Do not make any big life decisions.
  • Make as many daily decisions as possible to give yourself a feeling of control over your life.
  • Spend time with others or alone doing the things you enjoy to refresh and recharge yourself.
  • Be aware that you may feel particularly fearful for your family. This is normal and will pass in time.
  • Remember that “getting back to normal” takes time. Gradually work back into your routine. Let others carry more weight for a while at home and at work.
  • Be aware that recovery is not a straight path but a matter of two steps forward and one back. You will make progress.
  • Appreciate a sense of humor in yourself and others. It is okay to laugh again.
  • Your family will experience the disaster along with you. You need to support each other. This is a time for patience, understanding, and communication.
  • Avoid overuse of drugs or alcohol. You do not need to complicate your situation with a substance abuse problem.
  • Get plenty of rest and normal exercise. Eat well-balanced, regular meals.

What is Critical Incident Stress Debriefing? 

Critical Incident Stress Debriefing (CISD) is a facilitator-led group process conducted soon after a traumatic event with individuals considered to be under stress from trauma exposure. When structured, the process usually (but not always) consists of seven steps: Introduction; Fact Phase; Thought Phase; Reaction Phase; Symptom Phase; Teaching Phase; and Re-entry Phase. During the group process, participants are encouraged to describe their experience of the incident and its aftermath, followed by a presentation on common stress reactions and stress management. This early intervention process supports recovery by providing group support and linking employees to further counseling and treatment services if they become necessary. 

  • Managing traumatic stress: Tips for recovering from disasters and other traumatic events (apa.org)
  • After the Boston Marathon Bombings (drvitelli.typepad.com)
  • Critical Incident Stress (osha.gov)
  • Managing Stress: A Guide for Emergency and Disaster Response Workers (Free Download) (samhsa.gov)

What We’re Watching: 6/14/13

Posted by: Lars Anderson, Director, Public Affairs

At the end of each week, we post a “What We’re Watching” blog as we look ahead to the weekend and recap events from the week. We encourage you to share it with your friends and family, and have a safe weekend.

Severe weather threat continues

Millions around the country dealt with a series of severe storms this week – and forecasts from the National Weather Service are calling for a potential for storms over the Great Plains, stretching from North Dakota to Kansas today.  As this week’s storms remind us, keeping up with your local forecast and having a plan are two key steps to stay safe.  What are the best ways to do that?  Well, you can follow the weather in your area through local TV/radio, but you can also do so on your phone through the National Weather Service mobile site at mobile.weather.gov.  And if you don’t have a NOAA Weather Radio, it’s definitely worth the investment.  It can alert you of severe weather conditions in your area 24/7, while providing specific actions for staying safe.  You can pick them up at most big box stores, and hardware stores are a good place to look, too.

As for making a plan for severe weather, Ready.gov has you covered.  You can visit the site on your computer or mobile device for a full list tips on staying safe before, during, or after severe weather.

Come Join our Team

Here at FEMA, we’re always looking to expand our team and recruit highly motivated people interested in a rewarding career in emergency management. Here are a few open positions within different departments of the agency:

  • Supervisory Hazard Mitigation Specialist – Boston, MA
  • Training Specialist – Hyattsville, MD
  • Reports Analyst – Denton, TX
  • Senior Mitigation Planning Specialist – Philadelphia, PA

Visit our Careers page to learn more about FEMA and browse through other opportunities that are available.

Upcoming Events

Here are a few events happening next week:

  • Small Business Week – It’s important for everyone to be prepared for an emergency, even businesses. As part of Small Business Week, we’re encouraging all business owners and employees to take the time to make sure your business is prepared for an emergency and employees/coworkers know what to do in the event of an emergency. Visit the Small Business Administration’s website and Ready.gov for tips and resources on preparing your business for an emergency.
  • Operation Hope – If you’re in the Atlanta, Georgia area, on Tuesday June 18 at 12:30 p.m. EDT Administrator Craig Fugate will be participating on the Operation Hope Forum titled Financial and Economic Disaster Recovery: People, Preparedness and the Price.  To learn more about the event or to register, visit the Operation Hope website, follow @OpHOPE_ATL and follow the conversation using #HOPEforum.

Video of the Week

FEMA’s Private Sector forged a relationship with the Girl Scouts of the Jersey Shore, the state of New Jersey Department of Homeland Security and Preparedness and the Lakewood BlueClaws minor league baseball team to raise donations of preparedness items and increased awareness of the importance of preparedness.

Photos of the Week

And finally, here are a few of my favorite photos that came into our Photo Library this week:

Governor Mary Fallin stops at the memorial set up at Plaza Towers Elementary School to pay her respects.
Moore, Okla., June 12, 2013 — Governor Mary Fallin, stops at the memorial set up at Plaza Towers Elementary School to pay her respects during a tour with federal, state and local officials. Residents are encouraged to register with FEMA if they sustained damage during this storm. Jocelyn Augustino/FEMA

FEMA Corps members register a local resident at a Vietnamese Survivor Event.
Moore, Okla., June 8, 2013 — FEMA Corps members Lorna Parish, center, and Eloy Arguello, right, register a local resident at a Vietnamese Survivor Event held at the Saigon Taipei Market Residents impacted by the May 20th tornado are still encouraged to register with FEMA. Jocelyn Augustino/FEMA

Have a safe weekend!

What We’re Watching: five/31/13

Posted by: Lars Anderson, Director, Public Affairs

At the end of each week, we post a “What We’re Watching” blog as we look ahead to the weekend and recap events from the week. We encourage you to share it with your friends and family, and have a safe weekend.

fema administrator fugate at podiumMiami, Fla., May 31, 2013 — FEMA Administrator Craig Fugate speaks at NOAA’s annual Atlantic Hurricane press event discussing the upcoming hurricane season.

Kicking off the Atlantic hurricane season
We are coming to the end of National Hurricane Preparedness Week, which means the official start of the Atlantic hurricane season (June 1) is almost here. All week long we’ve been sharing hurricane safety tips on our website, Facebook and Twitter accounts.  There are lots of ways you can get prepared for hurricane season at Ready.gov/hurricanes – especially important if you live in a coastal area – but I will share two things you can do in the next five minutes to make sure your phone is ready for the start of hurricane season:

  • From your phone, text the word HURRICANE to 43362 – You’ll receive hurricane safety tips every two weeks from FEMA’s dedicated text message number.  It’s a great way to have regular reminders sent to you that can inspire action to staying safe.  (Standard message & data rates apply.)
  • Download the FEMA app – It’s filled with tips on what to do before, during, and after a hurricane – and other disasters, for that matter.  Should a storm hit, the app has maps of any open shelters or FEMA disaster recovery centers.  And one thing I really like about the app is that even if cell service is unavailable, you can still access all the safety tips since accessing them doesn’t require a data connection.  The app is available for Android, iTunes, and Blackberry phones and tablets.

So start the 2013 hurricane season off on the right foot.  Have a plan for how you, your family, and your business will stay safe if a hurricane or tropical storm impacts your area.  Ready.gov/hurricanes has all the info you need, so check it out today.

Hacking for good – National Day of Civic Hacking
Coming up this weekend, developers and technology enthusiasts will meet in 95 locations across the country to solve challenges relevant to our communities, states, and our country.  FEMA is one of the government agencies supporting the effort through our Fire Data Visualization challenge.   We’ve recently released the world’s largest fire-related dataset to inspire people to use the data and build an online data visualization that inspires fire awareness and safety at the local level.  There are lots of other great challenges from other agencies and organizations, so I encourage you to check them out and join the effort if you’re interested!

FEMA around the web
In addition to upcoming events, I wanted to share a few articles, as well.  Earlier this week, we launched new public service announcements about the Wireless Emergency Alert system.  The New York Times did a great write up about the alerts, how they are automatically enabled on many smartphone models, and how they can save lives.  If you haven’t seen the new public service announcements – here it is:


And related to the start of the Atlantic hurricane season, a few of our employees were featured on other blogs. Both are great perspectives and worth the read:

  • Microsoft Citizenship Blog – FEMA’s social media lead talks about the lessons he’s learned about using technology (and especially his phone) as a resource before, during, and after emergencies
  • Coast Guard Compass blog – One of the members of our External Affairs team talks about how right now is the ideal time to prepare and gives the key steps to doing so.

Photos of the week
To wrap up, here are some of the photos from our photo library this week.

oklahoma tornado damageMoore, Okla., May 27, 2013 — Disaster Survivor Assistance Team (DSAT) member, Kathleen King and FEMA Corps member, Ana Canizales canvas the Whispering Oaks area of Moore. They are providing disaster related information and taking FEMA disaster assistance registrations. The Moore area was struck by a F5 tornado on May 20, 2013. Andrea Booher/FEMA

dog check upOklahoma City, Okla., May 28, 2013 — Local resident Elijah Meza is fitted for a pair of glasses by Vision Source volunteer optometrist Taylor Oliphant after an eye exam. Vision Source is providing local residents with eye care who were impacted by the recent tornado on May 20, 2013. The center is set up at the Graceway Baptist Church. Jocelyn Augustino/FEMA

With that, have a safe weekend!