What We’re Watching: 4/12/13

Posted by: Dan Watson, 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.

Monitoring Severe Weather
We continue to closely monitor the severe weather, including dangerous winds, tornadoes and severe winter weather that affected parts of the Central U.S., Midwest and Southeast, last night and Wednesday. We encourage those in affected areas to continue to monitor local radio or TV stations for updated emergency information, and to follow the instructions of state, tribal and local officials.

If you haven’t already, now is the time to get prepared for severe weather.  Visit www.ready.gov to learn more about what to do before, during, and after severe weather.

Here are a few safety tips to keep in mind should severe weather occur in your area:

  • Familiarize yourself with the terms that are used to identify a tornado hazard.
    • A tornado watch means a tornado is possible in your area.
    • A tornado warning is when a tornado is actually occurring, take shelter immediately.
  • Ensure your family preparedness plan and contacts are up to date and exercise your plan.  Learn about the emergency plans that have been established in your area by your state, tribal or local government, and ensure your home and car are prepared for the severe weather.
  • If you haven’t already, now is the time to get prepared for tornadoes and other disasters. Determine in advance where you will take shelter in case of a tornado warning:
    • Storm cellars or basements provide the best protection. If underground shelter is not available, go into an interior room or hallway on the lowest floor possible.
    • In a high-rise building, go to a small interior room or hallway on the lowest floor possible. Stay away from windows, doors and outside walls. Go to the center of the room. Stay away from corners because they attract debris.
    • Vehicles, trailers and mobile homes are not good locations to ride out a tornado. Plan to go quickly to a building with a strong foundation, if possible.
    • If shelter is not available, lie flat in a ditch or other low-lying area. Do not get under an overpass or bridge. You are safer in a low, flat location.

We will continue to monitor weather conditions as these storm systems move across the East Coast and will provide updates as necessary.

National Tribal Consultation Call
Over the past several weeks, we’ve hosted regional tribal consultation calls with tribal leadership, their organizations and stakeholders to present information regarding changes to how the federal government provides disaster assistance to tribes and how we can better meet the unique needs of Indian Country after disasters. We’ve gathered valuable comments and insights from our tribal partners related to declarations procedures and this process is culminating in a National Tribal Consultation call next week to further discuss improvements to the disaster assistance process.

Join us on Thursday, April 18 at 3:00 p.m. EDT for a National Tribal Consultation conference call and provide your comments on:

  • the Public Assistance threshold,
  • Individual Assistance declaration criteria, and
  • Cost Share adjustment for Indian Tribal governments.

Here’s the call-in information:

  • Date & Time: Thursday, April 18 at 3:00 p.m. EDT
  • Number: 888-708-5699
  • Passcode: 1601121

You can also provide your ideas and comments by visiting FEMA’s online collaboration community, or by sending us an e-mail at [email protected].

In case you missed it, Administrator Fugate recently blogged:

When you’re tackling a new and challenging topic, starting from a solid foundation is crucial to success.  Right now, there is an opportunity to change how the federal government provides disaster assistance and we’re looking for tribal leaders to help set a solid foundation for those changes…

We hope that you can take part in this opportunity to shape disaster assistance programs and processes more effectively.

Youth Preparedness Council
It’s not too late to submit an application or nominate a young leader in your community for our Youth Preparedness Council.  FEMA’s Youth Preparedness Council provides an opportunity for young leaders to share ideas and solutions to strengthen the nation against all types of disasters.

Here’s a short video from U.S. Senator Jack Reed from Rhode Island encouraging teenagers to apply to serve on the council.

Remember, the deadline to submit an application or nomination is next Friday, April 19.  So head over to Ready.gov/youth-preparedness for more information or to download an application today!

Preparing Communities for Severe Climate

Posted by: Rachel Little, FEMA Youth Council Member

Along with the advantages of witnessing the changing of New England’s beautiful seasons, residents must be ready to face a variety of severe weather conditions. My name is Rachel Little, a member of the FEMA Youth Preparedness Council, and a resident of Massachusetts. My favorite part of living in New England is the variety of activities to do like skiing and snowboarding in the winter, swimming and visiting the beach in the summer and all within just a couple hours of where I live.

While I love to enjoy the great outdoors, nor’easters, blizzards, tornadoes, hurricanes and flash floods are all dangerous hazards New Englanders have faced within the past two years. Preparing for severe weather is critically important when living here. Preparedness is imperative when a storm is approaching, though some don’t always know how to prepare for something severe. When I heard about the February blizzard approaching, I knew it was going to be a big one. One measure that our area took to prepare for the blizzard was putting a driving ban after four o’clock on the evening the storm was set to hit. All motor vehicles had to evacuate the roads or face large fines. As far as preparedness goes, I thought this was an extremely brilliant precaution and would keep many people safe. It would also make the job easier for emergency personnel working through the night. The type of snow that a storm brings makes all the difference in the world. If it’s light snow, it’s easier to deal with, less dangerous, and easier for snow removal. If it’s thick, wet, heavy snow, it makes it more difficult for all residents. It’s harder to remove, can cause severe damage to personal property and is a nightmare for men and women working for the power company. Thankfully the snow was light, but there was just a lot of it!

23590 tornado 63990

CAPTION: South Kingstown, R.I., Feb. 19, 2013 — Damage in South Kingstown following the Northeastern Blizzard.

This situation was very similar to the October snowstorm in 2011. We knew there was a possibility of snow around Halloween, but it was not forecasted to be as bad as it turned out to be. A major problem with the October 2011 snowstorm were the remaining leaves on the trees, which gave the heavy snow more of an opportunity to break branches and limbs. Trees snapped all through the night and took out power lines, leaving so many without power. My father works for National Grid, and I didn’t see him for several weeks after the storm because the power outages were so widespread.

23590 tornado 63985

CAPTION: Narragansett, R.I., Feb. 19, 2013 — Utility workers repair downed power lines following the Northeast Blizzard. 

By far the most disastrous and destructive disaster to hit our community was the 2011 tornado that cut through Massachusetts. No one ever thought a tornado could possibly make its way to us, as we have large mountains all around us and live in a valley. I think that it is an important fact to be made known across the country, that any place is vulnerable to the attack of a vicious natural disaster at any time.

These experiences have only made disaster preparedness more important to me and make me want to be ready for anything in the years ahead. After our last blizzard in February, I have continued to spread three key factors to being prepared: know your risk, take action, and be an example for your family and community. Taking action is not only readying yourself and family members for a disastrous situation, but spreading the word to your neighborhood and throughout the community. By knowing our risk, we can greatly reduce the amount of fatalities and injuries during a disaster because we took steps to prepare beforehand. I also continue to be a champion of preparedness for all the people I care so much about. I have encouraged my family, school and community to talk about emergency plans and build a preparedness kit before severe weather hits. If we all take part in spreading the word about disaster preparedness and sharing tips, many people will be much safer if they have to go through a severe storm.

Editor’s Note: FEMA’s Youth Preparedness Council is a unique opportunity for a nominated group of youth leaders to serve on a highly distinguished national council and to voice their opinions, experiences, ideas and solutions to help strengthen the nation’s resiliency for all types of disasters.