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)

All That Stuff Named Debris

Posted by: Tony Robinson, Regional Administrator, FEMA Region 6

As you have seen on TV, a tornado leaves behind large amounts of wreckage and debris.  Unfortunately, that debris is generally made up of people’s homes, community buildings, cars, trees, and all sorts of things that a tornado may destroy with winds that can exceed 200 MPH. In order for disaster survivors to even think about rebuilding their homes or their schools or hospitals the debris needs to be picked up and removed.  FEMA and the federal government can assist by helping to pay debris removal costs.

tornado debris
Moore, Okla., May 22, 2013 — Residents look at the place their home stood after a tornado struck the community of Moore, Oklahoma on May 20th. Andrea Booher/FEMA

Local and tribal officials such as mayors, county commissioners, school superintendents, and emergency management officials ultimately make the decisions about how debris gets picked up, where it goes, and who does the work. Generally speaking, they have several options. They can have their own employees do the work, local volunteers and organizations can help, the town could hire a company with heavy equipment, or they could request assistance from the state who can ask the federal government to help if necessary. At this point local officials in Oklahoma are deciding which of these options they will use to go about getting all the debris picked up.

At FEMA, our role is very much a support role by joining the whole community team of local, state and tribal officials, disaster relief organizations, volunteers, and disaster survivors. One of our most valuable contributions to the mission is in the form of funding. As the debris left by the storm is being picked up, FEMA works with the state, local, and tribal officials to provide federal reimbursement for the removal costs. If you’re interested in what FEMA can fund, you can look at our Debris Management Guide.

search and rescue in tornado debris
Moore, Okla., May 22, 2013 — FEMA Urban Search and Rescue (Nebraska Task Force 1) team members search house to house for survivors in a tornado devastated neighborhood. Andrea Booher/FEMA

We can also assist the state with technical experts from FEMA or the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers who can offer assistance to local and tribal officials on debris management. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency may also provide guidance on how to safely handle hazardous waste debris. In Oklahoma, FEMA will be providing additional funding above our normal 75 percent cost share funding for debris that is quickly picked up through a new pilot program.  Remember, the quicker the debris is picked up, the faster people can rebuild their homes.

Local and tribal officials may ask disaster survivors to help with debris removal by bringing debris from their property to the curb or by helping to sort the debris into different categories. If you try to move debris please be careful. The Oklahoma Department of Environmental Quality published guidance on debris management for residents, including how to handle chemicals and other hazardous debris.

All of the debris typically doesn’t just end up in the landfill. It is often sorted before being picked up or taken to a staging site where it is sorted. Just like taking your garbage out on a normal day, items should be recycled and used again helping the environment and in some cases being sold, such as precious metals like cooper, for money.  With FEMA’s new pilot program, your local or tribal government may be able to use proceeds they earn from the recycling of debris for other debris removal or emergency management needs.

The removal of debris is a big job, but FEMA remains committed to assisting state, tribal and local officials and helping their communities in the recovery effort. If you would like to join the team and help those who were affected by the Oklahoma tornado, we have some information on our website, or you can visit the Oklahoma Strong webpage.

tornado debris damaged carMoore, Okla., May 22, 2013 — Moore resident looks at home destruction caused by an F5 tornado that struck on May 20. Andrea Booher/FEMA

Preparedness Matters: Preparing our Shops and Clubs for Extreme Climate

Posted by: Mark Cooper, Senior Director, Walmart Global Emergency Management

When it comes to severe weather, you never know when a thunderstorm may spawn into a deadly, destructive tornado. Considering Walmart serves more than 140 million customers in more than 4,000 U.S. locations on a weekly basis, it’s safe to say we’ve seen our fair share of bad weather.

Because of our size and scale, we cover a lot of territory and ride out a lot of storms with our fellow Americans. When there’s a weather warning, there’s usually a Walmart or Sam’s Club not too far in the distance. That’s why it’s extremely critical for us to ensure our stores and club associates know what to do when it comes to emergency preparedness and response.

As part of our commitment to emergency preparedness, our stores and clubs are set up to receive a phone call notification as soon as the National Weather Service issues a severe thunderstorm warning or a tornado watch/warning. When this happens, stores are expected to take immediate action to implement their severe weather safety plan.

It’s not only important to implement the plan, but it’s also important to review the plan on a regular basis. Case in point: About a month before the EF-5 tornado hit Joplin in May 2011, our store manager had decided to review his store’s safety plan. Andy Martin, Store Manager, and his team reviewed the store’s layout and determined the back of the store was the safest place to be in the event of a tornado. Then, he made sure that each and every associate knew how to execute the plan.

Andy was off from work the day the storm hit, but his associates knew what to do. They ran the plan. They alerted customers to huddle in the back of the store which was pre-determined as the safe zone. Their quick actions in working the plan ultimately helped to save more than 200 lives.

We take safety into account in everything we do. That includes identifying safe zones for every facility we have. Because locations vary, what is an appropriate safe zone for one store may not be appropriate for another. For example, we realize that the designated zone for Joplin, MO may not be the designated zone for every store. More importantly, we realize severe weather is unpredictable so we focus our energy on preparing our associates. By providing them with safety protocols and enabling them to develop an emergency plan for work and home, we’re helping them to be ready for the unexpected.

During National Severe Weather Preparedness Week, we encourage you to put together an emergency plan for your family and your business. Whether you are facing severe weather, a fire in your home, a utility outage in your workplace, or any other emergency, developing a preparedness plan will make you, your family and your employees more resilient. Walmart hopes you will take action by pledging to prepare for the unexpected at work and at home.

Severe Weather throughout the South & Midwest

Posted by: Lars Anderson, Director, Public Affairs

As the risk for severe weather conditions continue throughout parts of the Midwest and South, we wanted to take a second to remind everyone in areas expected to see severe weather to take necessary precautions now. We encourage all individuals in areas where severe weather is expected to listen to NOAA Weather Radio, especially as we head into the evening and overnight, and local news for severe weather updates and warnings and to always follow the direction provided by their local officials.

Here are a few severe weather terms you should familiarize yourself with now:

  • Severe Thunderstorm Watch – Tells you when and where severe thunderstorms are likely to occur. Watch the sky and stay tuned to NOAA Weather Radio, commercial radio or television for information.
  • Severe Thunderstorm Warning – Issued when severe weather has been reported by spotters or indicated by radar. Warnings indicate imminent danger to life and property to those in the path of the storm. 
  • Tornado Watch – Tornadoes are possible. Remain alert for approaching storms. Watch the sky and stay tuned to NOAA Weather Radio, commercial radio or television for information. 
  • Tornado Warning – A tornado has been sighted or indicated by weather radar. Take shelter immediately. 

As weather conditions often change quickly, it’s important to stay updated on your local forecast conditions at weather.gov (or mobile.weather.gov on your mobile device).

If severe weather is expected in your area, keep in mind these safety tips:

  • Continue to monitor your battery-powered radio or television for emergency information. 
  • Do not touch downed power lines or objects in contact with downed lines. Report downed power lines and electrical hazards to the police and the utility company. 
  • Injury may result from the direct impact of a tornado or it may occur afterward when people walk among debris and enter damaged buildings. Wear sturdy shoes or boots, long sleeves and gloves when handling or walking on or near debris. 
  • After a tornado, be aware of possible structural, electrical or gas-leak hazards in your home. Contact your local city or county building inspectors for information on structural safety codes and standards. They may also offer suggestions on finding a qualified contractor to do work for you.

Visit www.ready.gov/severe-weather  for more tips on what to do if severe weather is expected in your area. You can also visit http://m.fema.gov for safety tips on your mobile device.

How numerous lives does your data have?

By Sameer Sule

SANDY- if you live in the northeast you will not forget her name for a long time. Every CEO, business owner and home owner was holding his/her breath as Sandy blew over us. I know I was. My house is surrounded by trees and every time a 50 mph gust came, I was praying to the higher power that the branches held up. Unfortunately a tree on the adjoining street couldn’t hold up and came down, knocking the power out from our neighborhood for a day. We were the lucky ones! Others in the NY and NJ area weren’t so lucky. 

The damage to people, property and businesses in NY and NJ  is unimaginable.  According to early estimates over 100,000 homes and businesses were completely destroyed or severely damaged. Many business owners have lost everything and may never recover. All their life’s work gone in a blink of an eye.  My prayers go out to people who have been disastrously affected by Sandy. Could they have done more to protect their businesses? In some cases the answer is no; we are powerless in front of mother nature and despite our best preparations things can go real bad. But in many cases, I am sure business owners are cursing themselves for not being better prepared. Most businesses do not have disaster recovery plans in place. Simple things like backing up data in a secure place, having redundant power supply such as a portable generator are not in place.Taking these simple steps can mean the difference between business recovery or business death. 
Events like Hurricane Sandy remind us how close we get to losing everything. Its just a matter of luck that one business or home gets destroyed and another doesn’t. Yet many of us thank our stars and move on without really considering what we can do to protect our family, home and business in the event of a disaster. We live in an information age and our life is practically a collection of bytes. Apart from a few hard copies most of our information is now stored in electronic format. Now is the time for those of us lucky enough to escape unscathed from Sandy to take a look at what is important in our lives and take steps to safeguard it. Do we have all our important documents in a safe place? How about all our electronic data- our files, family pictures, legal information, financial information? Have they been backed up online and can we recover them easily afterwards?
Knowing that we can recover our critical data after a disaster will make the recovery process relatively easier. So unless your data is a cat with nine lives, Sandy just used up one. How many more lives does your data have?

Sameer Sule is a Business Technology Consultant at Kinara Insights, a company providing contingency/disaster recovery planning services to doctors, dentists and healthcare practices. He helps his clients understand and use technology to reduce practice downtime, increase efficiency and improve quality of patient care.

Check out Sameer’s Google+ profile

 

How numerous lives does your data have?

By Sameer Sule

SANDY- if you live in the northeast you will not forget her name for a long time. Every CEO, business owner and home owner was holding his/her breath as Sandy blew over us. I know I was. My house is surrounded by trees and every time a 50 mph gust came, I was praying to the higher power that the branches held up. Unfortunately a tree on the adjoining street couldn’t hold up and came down, knocking the power out from our neighborhood for a day. We were the lucky ones! Others in the NY and NJ area weren’t so lucky. 

The damage to people, property and businesses in NY and NJ  is unimaginable.  According to early estimates over 100,000 homes and businesses were completely destroyed or severely damaged. Many business owners have lost everything and may never recover. All their life’s work gone in a blink of an eye.  My prayers go out to people who have been disastrously affected by Sandy. Could they have done more to protect their businesses? In some cases the answer is no; we are powerless in front of mother nature and despite our best preparations things can go real bad. But in many cases, I am sure business owners are cursing themselves for not being better prepared. Most businesses do not have disaster recovery plans in place. Simple things like backing up data in a secure place, having redundant power supply such as a portable generator are not in place.Taking these simple steps can mean the difference between business recovery or business death. 
Events like Hurricane Sandy remind us how close we get to losing everything. Its just a matter of luck that one business or home gets destroyed and another doesn’t. Yet many of us thank our stars and move on without really considering what we can do to protect our family, home and business in the event of a disaster. We live in an information age and our life is practically a collection of bytes. Apart from a few hard copies most of our information is now stored in electronic format. Now is the time for those of us lucky enough to escape unscathed from Sandy to take a look at what is important in our lives and take steps to safeguard it. Do we have all our important documents in a safe place? How about all our electronic data- our files, family pictures, legal information, financial information? Have they been backed up online and can we recover them easily afterwards?
Knowing that we can recover our critical data after a disaster will make the recovery process relatively easier. So unless your data is a cat with nine lives, Sandy just used up one. How many more lives does your data have?

Sameer Sule is a Business Technology Consultant at Kinara Insights, a company providing contingency/disaster recovery planning services to doctors, dentists and healthcare practices. He helps his clients understand and use technology to reduce practice downtime, increase efficiency and improve quality of patient care.

Check out Sameer’s Google+ profile

 

Taking Care of Your Individuals in Disaster Response

It’s about time. Someone has admitted that DR/BCP writers have ignored the personal issues of employees following a disaster when creating business continuity plans, reviewing them, or just writing about them. Eric Krell wrote in Business Finance on November 6, 2012, an article entitled “Sandy Exposes the Human Side of Continuity.” I was alerted to the article by Phil Rothstein. Perhaps for Mr. Krell, Sandy was HIS first exposure to the human side of continuity. I’ve been teaching a unit called “Take Care of Your People” with my colleague Deidrich Towne, Jr. at DRJ conferences since 1999. We have presented lessons learned from our real experience of “people” issues associated with disaster response.

People, including employees, have routines that must be followed daily. Examples are taking care of children, pets, elderly parents, and farm animals. If you were to review Maslow’s hierarchy, you wouldn’t find work or career in the list of critical, life-sustaining functions. Let me give you an example. When putting together a strike plan, management employees were assigned duties requiring they work 6 days, 12-hour shifts. I got a call from a woman who said she couldn’t work that many hours in a week. I told her it was a “condition of employment” for management personnel. She responded, “Dr. Phelan, three months ago my husband and I adopted a child on the condition I would not work outside the home more than 35 hours per week. If I accept the strike assignment, I will lose my child.” I called her boss and set up a job-sharing arrangement to cover the duty.

There are human considerations that “trump” reporting to work. These are escalated when disaster strikes.

So, what’s a business continiuty planner to do? Some of you remember the exercise I used to illustrate what might happen when one is required to work under alternate or disaster recovery circumstances. Remember my asking you to sign your name while talking on the phone? Then I asked you to put the phone in the other hand and sign your name again. I observed three things.

1. You laughed, knowing that signing your name with the other hand would be difficult. This is an expression of fear or anxiety. This almost always happens when people are asked to work under alternate conditions. You can counter some of this with more exercises.

2. Your second signature was of lower quaility than your first. People working in disaster response mode will often not produce the same quality of work as they would under normal conditions. Plan for time to correct errors.

3. You took more time to sign your name with the other hand. Workers in alternate or disaster response mode will need more time to complete the same work they complete under normal circumstance. You can counter this with longer shifts and planning for backlog once the disaster response is over.

When workers have pressing needs at home, they will meet those needs before reporting to work. You need to plan for a certain percentage of your workforce to be unavailable in disaster response.

Most of all, you need to be compassionate toward those workers who have to make the difficult choice to “not report” because personal issues are more important. Find time to discuss this both in advance of a disaster and certainly during the debreif following a disaster.

I congratulate Eric Krell for admitting he had not considered this prior to Hurricane Sandy. He will going forward.

 

Sandy Update 5: The Next Step After You Register for Disaster Assistance

Author:

Hoboken, N.J., Nov. 1, 2012 -- FEMA Inspector Richard Martin inspects a basement apartment in Hoboken two days after the residents applied for FEMA assistance. FEMA is working with many partners and organizations to provide assistance to residents affected by Hurricane Sandy.

Hoboken, N.J., Nov. 1, 2012 — FEMA Inspector Richard Martin inspects a basement apartment in Hoboken two days after the residents applied for FEMA assistance. FEMA is working with many partners and organizations to provide assistance to residents affected by Hurricane Sandy.

We understand the mixed range of emotions survivors may be experiencing after going through a catastrophic and life changing disaster.  Many people are returning home to find that everything they’ve ever known is completely destroyed.  During these difficult times, it’s hard to even process everything that has occurred over the past several days, let alone think about the next steps — but we’re here to help you through the disaster registration process and make it as easy as possible.

If you’re a survivor in one of the declared counties you should call to apply for federal assistance.  If you have access to the Internet, you can apply online and on your mobile device too.  If you don’t have access to the Internet, please call 1-800-621-FEMA(3362) TTY 1-800-462-7585.  Our online application is an easier and faster way to apply for assistance, visit at www.disasterassistance.gov to complete your application. You should also be aware that FEMA often opens Disaster Recovery Centers  in disaster areas, once they are established in your area, you can visit the location to speak to someone in person about available disaster programs.

Once you’ve applied for federal assistance, here’s what you can expect next:

  1. Applicants who register with FEMA will be given a personal application number. This number will be used to provide later to a FEMA Housing Inspector. So it’s important that you write this number down, and keep it secure and handy for future use.
  2.  A FEMA Housing Inspector will contact you to make an appointment to visit your property within 14 days after you apply. The inspector will assess disaster related damage for your real and personal property.

    Important notes:

  • There is no fee for the inspection.
  • Inspectors are contractors, not FEMA employees, but your inspector will have picture identification.
  • It is important to understand that you or someone 18 years of age who lived in the household prior to the disaster must be present for your scheduled appointment. This inspection generally takes 30-40 minutes but can be shorter, and consists of a general inspection of damaged areas of your home and a review of your records.It’s also important to understand what the inspector will be asking of you.

    The inspector will ask to see:

  • Picture Identification
  • Proof of Ownership/Occupancy of damaged residence (Structural Insurance, Tax Bill, Mortgage Payment Book/Utility Bill)
  • Insurance documents: Home and/or Auto (Structural Insurance/Auto Declaration Sheet)
  • List of household occupants living in residence at time of disaster
  • All disaster related damages to both real and personal property
  1. Once the inspection process is complete, your case will be reviewed by FEMA and you will receive a letter, or email if you signed up for E-Correspondence, outlining the decision.
  2. If you qualify for a FEMA grant, FEMA will send you a check by mail or deposit it directly into your bank account. You will also receive a letter describing how you are to use the money.  You should only use the money given to you as explained in the letter and save receipts on how you spent the money.
  3. If you do not qualify for a FEMA grant, you will receive a letter explaining why you were turned down and will be given a chance to appeal the decision. Your appeal rights will be described in this letter. Appeals must be in writing and mailed within 60 days of FEMA’s decision.
  4. If you’re referred to the Small Business Administration (SBA), you will receive a SBA application. The application must be completed and returned in order to be considered for a loan as well as certain types of grant assistance. SBA representatives are available to help you with the application at localDisaster Recovery Centers. Completing and returning the loan application does not mean that you must accept the loan.

As with all disasters, FEMA is just part of the team that supports disaster response and recovery efforts.  That team is comprised of tribal, territorial, state, and local governments, faith-based and community organizations as well as the private sector and voluntary organizations.  Together we are working to help survivors through this difficult time in their lives.

If you know someone who lives in an eligible county and has suffered damages from Hurricane Sandy or if you have suffered damages yourself, we encourage you to register for federal disaster assistance as soon as possible.  The sooner you apply, the faster you will receive a reply and can move forward in the recovery process.

And if you were not affected by Hurricane Sandy but know survivors, please help us spread the message and encourage them to apply for assistance.

Here are some other ways everyone can help Hurricane Sandy survivors:

  • Cash is the most efficient method of donating – Cash offers voluntary agencies the most flexibility in obtaining the most-needed resources and pumps money into the local economy to help businesses recover.

Also, please review our page with info on volunteering and donating responsibly.

We are committed in continuing to provide support to the governors, tribal leaders and communities impacted by Hurricane Sandy.  As response efforts continue, FEMA and our federal partners have been in close contact with emergency officials to assess the unmet needs of survivors. Visit our Hurricane Sandy page for updates and other resources related to response and recovery efforts.

Disaster Recovery Plan Sample

The objective of a disaster recovery plan is to ensure that you can respond to a disaster or other emergency that affects information systems and minimize the effect on the operation of the business. When you have prepared the information described in this topic collection, store your document in a safe, accessible location off site.

You can download this Disaster Recovery Plan Sample for free using the links below:

Microsoft Word 97-2003: Click Here

Microsoft Word 2010: Click Here

Adobe PDF:  Click Here

Disaster Recovery Plan Sample

Section 1. Example: Major goals of a disaster recovery plan sample

 Here are the major goals of a disaster recovery plan.
  • To minimize interruptions to the normal operations.
  • To limit the extent of disruption and damage.
  • To minimize the economic impact of the interruption.
  • To establish alternative means of operation in advance.
  • To train personnel with emergency procedures.
  • To provide for smooth and rapid restoration of service.

Section 2. Example: Personnel

You can use the tables in this topic to record your data processing personnel. You can include a copy of the organization chart with your plan.
Data processing personnel
Name Position Address Telephone
Data processing personnel
Name Position Address Telephone
Data processing personnel
Name Position Address Telephone

Section 3. Example: Application profile

You can use the Display Software Resources (DSPSFWRSC) command to complete the table in this topic.
Application profile
Application name Critical Yes / No Fixed asset Yes / No Manufacturer Comments
Comment legend:

1.
Runs daily.
2.
Runs weekly on ____________.
3.
Runs monthly on ____________.

Section 4. Example: Inventory profile

You can use the Work with Hardware Products (WRKHDWPRD) command to complete the table in this topic.
Application profile
Manufacturer Description Model Serial number Own or leased Cost
Notes:

1.
This list should be audited every ____________ months.
2.
This list should include the following items:Processing units                        System printer
Disk units                                 Tape and optical devices
Models                                     Controllers
Workstation controllers              I/O Processors
Personal computers                   General data communication
Spare workstations                    Spare displays
Telephones                               Racks
Air conditioner or heater            Humidifier or dehumidifier
Miscellaneous inventory
Description Quantity Comments
Note: This list should include the following items:

Tapes                                                    CDs and DVDs
PC software                                          Emulation packages
File cabinet contents or documentation     Language software (such as COBOL and RPG)
Tape vault contents                                Printer supplies (such as paper and forms)
Optical media

Section 5. Information services backup procedures

Use these procedures for information services backup.
    • System i® environment
      • Daily, journals receivers are changed at ____________ and at ____________.
      • Daily, a saving of changed objects in the following libraries and directories is done at ____________:
        • ____________
        • ____________
        • ____________
        • ____________
        • ____________
        • ____________
        • ____________
        • ____________

        The preceding procedure also saves the journals and journal receivers.

      • On ____________ at ____________ a complete save of the system is done.
      • All save media is stored off-site in a vault at ____________ location.
    • Personal Computer
      • It is suggested that all personal computers be backed up. Copies of the personal computer files should be uploaded to the System i environment on ____________ (date) at ____________ (time), just before a complete save of the system is done. It is then saved with the normal system save procedure. This provides for a more secure backup of personal computer-related systems where a local area disaster can wipe out important personal computer systems.

Section 6. Disaster recovery procedures

For any disaster recovery plan, these three elements should be addressed.
  • Emergency response procedures
    • To document the appropriate emergency response to a fire, natural disaster, or any other activity in order to protect lives and limit damage.
  • Backup operations procedures
    To ensure that essential data processing operational tasks can be conducted after the disruption.
  • Recovery actions procedures

Section 7. Recovery plan for mobile site

This topic provides information about how to plan your recovery task at a mobile site.
    • Notify ____________ of the nature of the disaster and the need to select the mobile site plan.
    1. Confirm in writing the substance of the telephone notification to ____________ within 48 hours of the telephone notification.
    2. Confirm all needed backup media are available to load the backup machine.
    3. Prepare a purchase order to cover the use of backup equipment.
    4. Notify ____________ of plans for a trailer and its placement (on ____________ side of ____________).
    5. Depending on communication needs, notify telephone company (____________) of possible emergency line changes.
    6. Begin setting up power and communications at ____________.
      1. Power and communications are prearranged to hook into when trailer arrives.
      2. At the point where telephone lines come into the building (____________), break the current linkage to the administration controllers (____________). These lines are rerouted to lines going to the mobile site. They are linked to modems at the mobile site.The lines currently going from ____________ to ____________ would then be linked to the mobile unit via modems.
      3. This can conceivably require ____________ to redirect lines at ____________ complex to a more secure area in case of disaster.
    7. When the trailer arrives, plug into power and do necessary checks.
    8. Plug into the communications lines and do necessary checks.
    9. Begin loading system from backups.
    10. Begin normal operations as soon as possible:
      1. Daily jobs
      2. Daily saves
      3. Weekly saves
    11. Plan a schedule to back up the system in order to restore on a home-base computer when a site is available. (Use regular system backup procedures).
    12. Secure mobile site and distribute keys as required.
    13. Keep a maintenance log on mobile equipment.

Section 8. Recovery plan for hot site

An alternate hot site plan should provide for an alternative (backup) site. The alternate site has a backup system for temporary use while the home site is being reestablished.
    1. Notify ____________ of the nature of the disaster and of its desire for a hot site.
    2. Request air shipment of modems to ____________ for communications. (See ____________ for communications for the hot site.)
    3. Confirm in writing the telephone notification to ____________ within 48 hours of the telephone notification.
    4. Begin making necessary travel arrangements to the site for the operations team.
    5. Confirm that you have enough save media and that it is packed for shipment to restore on the backup system.
    6. Prepare a purchase order to cover the use of the backup system.
    7. Review the checklist for all necessary materials before departing to the hot site.
    8. Make sure that the disaster recovery team at the disaster site has the necessary information to begin restoring the site.
    9. Provide for travel expenses (cash advance).
    10. After arriving at the hot site, contact home base to establish communications procedures.
    11. Review materials brought to the hot site for completeness.
    12. Start to load the system from the save media.
    13. Begin normal operations as soon as possible:
      1. Daily jobs
      2. Daily saves
      3. Weekly saves
    14. Plan the schedule to back up the hot-site system in order to restore on the home-base computer.

Section 9. Restoring the entire system

You can learn how to restore the entire system.
  • To get your system back to the way it was before the disaster, use the procedures in Checklist 20: Recovering your entire system after a complete system loss.

    Before you begin: Find the following save media, equipment, and information from the on-site tape vault or the offsite storage location:

    • If you install from the alternate installation device, you need both your save media and the CD-ROM media containing the Licensed Internal Code.
    • All save media from the most recent complete save operation
    • The most recent save media from saving security data (SAVSECDTA or SAVSYS)
    • The most recent save media from saving your configuration, if necessary
    • All save media that contains journals and journal receivers that you saved since the most recent daily save operation
    • All save media from the most recent daily save operation
    • PTF list (stored with the most recent complete save media, weekly save media, or both)
    • Save media list from most recent complete save operation
    • Save media list from most recent weekly save operation
    • Save media list from daily saves
    • History log from the most recent complete save operation
    • History log from the most recent weekly save operation
    • History log from the daily save operations
    • The Installing, upgrading, or deleting i5/OS and related software PDF. You can order a printed version of this PDF (SC41-5120; feature code 8006) with i5/OS software upgrade orders or new hardware orders.
    • The Recovering your system PDF. You can order a printed version of this PDF (SC41-5304; feature code 8007) with i5/OS software upgrade orders or new hardware orders.
    • Telephone directory
    • Modem manual
    • Tool kit

Section 10. Rebuilding process

The management team must assess the damage and begin the reconstruction of a new data center.
  • If the original site must be restored or replaced, the following questions are some of the factors to consider:

    • What is the projected availability of all needed computer equipment?
    • Will it be more effective and efficient to upgrade the computer systems with newer equipment?
    • What is the estimated time needed for repairs or construction of the data site?
    • Is there an alternative site that more readily can be upgraded for computer purposes?

    After the decision to rebuild the data center has been made, go to Section 12. Disaster site rebuilding.

Section 11. Testing the disaster recovery plan

In successful contingency planning, it is important to test and evaluate the plan regularly.
  • Data processing operations are volatile in nature, resulting in frequent changes to equipment, programs, and documentation. These actions make it critical to consider the plan as a changing document.

    Table 1 should be helpful for conducting a recovery test.

    Table 1. Checklist for testing the disaster recovery plan
    Item Yes No Applicable Not applicable Comments
    Conducting a Recovery Test
    1. Select the purpose of the test. What aspects of the plan are being evaluated?
    2. Describe the objectives of the test. How will you measure successful achievement of the objectives?
    3. Meet with management and explain the test and objectives. Gain their agreement and support.
    4. Have management announce the test and the expected completion time.
    5. Collect test results at the end of the test period.
    6. Evaluate results. Was recovery successful? Why or why not?
    7. Determine the implications of the test results. Does successful recovery in a simple case imply successful recovery for all critical jobs in the tolerable outage period?
    8. Make suggestions for changes. Call for responses by a given date.
    9. Notify other areas of results. Include users and auditors.
    10. Change the disaster recovery plan manual as necessary.
    Areas to be tested
    1. Recovery of individual application systems by using files and documentation stored off-site.
    2. Reloading of system save media and performing an initial program load (IPL) by using files and documentation stored off-site.
    3. Ability to process on a different computer.
    4. Ability of management to determine priority of systems with limited processing.
    5. Ability to recover and process successfully without key people.
    6. Ability of the plan to clarify areas of responsibility and the chain of command.
    7. Effectiveness of security measures and security bypass procedures during the recovery period.
    8. Ability to accomplish emergency evacuation and basic first-aid responses.
    9. Ability of users of real time systems to cope with a temporary loss of online information.
    10. Ability of users to continue day-to-day operations without applications or jobs that are considered noncritical.
    11. Ability to contact the key people or their designated alternates quickly.
    12. Ability of data entry personnel to provide the input to critical systems by using alternate sites and different input media.
    13. Availability of peripheral equipment and processing, such as printers and scanners.
    14. Availability of support equipment, such as air conditioners and dehumidifiers.
    15. Availability of support: supplies, transportation, communication.
    16. Distribution of output produced at the recovery site.
    17. Availability of important forms and paper stock.
    18. Ability to adapt plan to lesser disasters.

Section 12. Disaster site rebuilding

Use this information to do disaster site rebuilding.
    • Floor plan of data center.
    • Determine current hardware needs and possible alternatives.
    • Data center square footage, power requirements and security requirements.
      • Square footage ____________
      • Power requirements ____________
      • Security requirements: locked area, preferably with combination lock on one door.
      • Floor-to-ceiling studding
      • Detectors for high temperature, water, smoke, fire and motion
      • Raised floor
    • Vendors
      You can attach the vendors information here.
    • Floor plan
      You can include a copy of the proposed floor plan here.

Section 13. Record of plan changes

Keep your plan current, and keep records of changes to your configuration, your applications, and your backup schedules and procedures.
  • You can get print a list of your current local hardware by typing the following command:

    DSPLCLHDW OUTPUT(*PRINT)