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Preparing the Nation for the 2020 Hurricane Season

Since March 18, FEMA has led the whole-of-America response to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. We have worked with state, local, tribal and territorial partners, as well as non-governmental organizations and the private sector to fight COVID-19. We have helped deliver millions of supplies, provided over $1.6 billion in disaster relief funds and expanded testing capabilities across the country. The lessons we have learned along the way are essential to the new challenges we face as we enter the hurricane seasons.

Our agency has been making extensive efforts not only to continue normal disaster preparations, but to also prepare for those disasters while the COVID-19 response continues. These efforts may look different as we practice social distancing and continue to slow the spread. To prepare for these new challenges, we released the COVID-19 Pandemic Operational Guidance for the 2020 Hurricane Season. This guidance will help emergency managers and public health officials best prepare for the upcoming hurricane season while continuing to respond to COVID-19.

The guidance outlines the anticipated challenges to disaster operations posed by the pandemic and highlights planning considerations based on those challenges. It also outlines how we plan to adapt response and recovery operations to create a shared understanding of expectations between FEMA and emergency managers. It includes guidance, checklists and resources to support emergency managers as they adapt their response and recovery planning during this COVID environment.

While the document focuses on the 2020 hurricane season, most planning considerations can be applied to any disaster operation during the COVID-19 pandemic, such as, flooding, wildfires and more.

In addition to providing guidance, we are actively preparing our workforce and putting plans in place to support state, local, tribal and territorial partners in responding to disasters. These efforts include:

  • Sheltering: We are working with partners on their locally implemented, state-managed, and federally supported sheltering planning efforts to ensure the safety and security of all.
  • Establishing virtual operations: We have established virtual Joint Field Offices and National and Regional Coordination Centers. These virtual response centers allow us to serve communities after a disaster while still practicing social distancing.
  • Inspections: Whenever possible, we will conduct virtual inspections for the agency’s Individual Assistance grants. In addition, joint Preliminary Damage Assessments for Public Assistance may also be conducted remotely.
  • Disaster Survivor Assistance: In coordination with state, local, tribal and territorial partners, we will determine the use of Disaster Recovery Centers or Disaster Survivor Assistance teams in accordance with the phased reopening of an impacted area. We may use online and phone registration, as well as virtual assessments to ensure program delivery.

Our team is more prepared than ever to face new and old challenges, to work with our government and non-government partners and to plan for disasters. We are ready. We are FEMA.

Communities on the Frontline: Week of May 11

Around the world, communities are using innovative approaches to support coronavirus (COVID-19) response efforts. Each week, FEMA is highlighting these extraordinary efforts so that other others can learn from and expand on them. This week focuses on how some communities are providing contactless or virtual solutions to new everyday problems.

Mobile Wi-Fi Vans

In San Antonio, vans equipped with high-speed Wi-Fi networks are dispatched to various locations in the city to enhance internet capabilities for students. The mobile hotspots provide free internet within a range of 100 to 200 feet. City residents accessing the network must observe social distancing guidelines. Vans are deployed based on an assessment of various factors. Some of these factors include student population in the area and areas that lack broadband internet access.

Virtual Tour App

In the Faroe Islands, a territory of Denmark that greatly relies on tourism, virtual visitors unable to travel during the coronavirus pandemic can use a free mobile application to visit the islands by "controlling" a local tour guide to create their own sight-seeing route. Camera-wearing locals will respond to sight-seeing commands from people at home. The tour guide app also has the capability to provide commentary.

Social Media Influencers Team Up with The Red Cross

The International Federation of the Red Cross recently announced that it is collaborating with social media influencers around the world to combat the spread of misinformation on COVID-19. Influencers who partner with the Red Cross will incorporate verified information and messaging into their creative content.

Drone Donation

A software company is donating dozens of drones to emergency responders across the country as part of its emergency response program. These drones can be used by police and fire departments to assess situations from afar and gain situational awareness. The company is also providing free training and support for the use of these drones.

These stories are part of the FEMA Best Practice initiative, which focuses on compiling the best practices and lessons learned from communities fighting COVID-19.  To see more stories like this, visit the Best Practices page.

May is Wildfire Awareness Month

We are all adjusting to new schedules and routines due to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. One thing many of us have in common is we are spending more time at home which makes it especially important to prepare and protect our homes. As hotter, drier weather of summer approaches, the risk of wildfire increases.  While practicing social distancing, FEMA encourages you to make sure your home and your family are prepared for wildfires.

The United States Fire Administration promotes simple ways to prevent a fire from affecting your home and community, including:

  • Reduce amount of flammable materials and brush that can burn around your home by removing pine needles, dry leaves or other highly flammable materials.
  • Protect your roof: Trim branches that overhang your home and remove any leaves, needles, and sticks from your roof and gutters. 
  • Move wood piles and small propane tanks away from your (and your neighbor’s) home, 30 feet or more is best.
  • Embers from a burning fire can get under an unprotected porch or through vents. To prevent this, install a wire mesh screen with openings no larger than 1/8th inch.
     

Be prepared in case you need to evacuate:

  • Keep important documents in a fireproof safe, on a USB drive, or store password protected documents online.
  • Check your home insurance to make sure your policy protects your current home value and includes wildfires.
  • Give yourself time and evacuate early if possible. If you can’t leave, designate a room that can be closed off from outside air in case air conditions become hazardous.
  • Make your household emergency plan and go-kit.  When making plans, don’t forget the needs of pets.  Make sure that you know more than one way out of your neighborhood.
  • Sign up to receive emergency alerts and notices for your community.
  • Ready.gov offers vital safety tips on what to do before, during, and after a wildfire.

Another important thing to consider is buying flood insurance. After a wildfire, flood risk increases due to the inability of charred vegetation and soil to absorb water. Rainstorms after a wildfire lead to increased runoff down slopes and into channels, streams, and rivers.  Flooding after fire can be fast, severe, and include mudflows as runoff picks up debris, ash, and sediment from the burn scar. Flood insurance can protect property owners from catastrophic financial impacts of flooding following a wildfire.

Wildfires can develop and spread quickly, leaving little time to get somewhere safe. Know what to do to keep yourself, your family, and your pets safe and take steps now to protect your future.

 

Preparing for Hurricane Season During the COVID-19 Pandemic

As you continue to take precautions to keep yourself and your family safe from the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, it is important to stay prepared for other disasters. Hurricane season begins on June 1, and the time to prepare is now.

FEMA continues to coordinate with state, local, tribal, and territorial officials, along with the private sector, to share operational guidance and to encourage hurricane planning that reflects public health guidelines. While many preparedness tools available to you are the same, certain actions may look different while COVID-19 remains a concern. FEMA has updated guidelines for preparing for hurricane season.

Know Your Evacuation Route

Check with local officials about updated evacuation shelters for this year. You should note that your regular shelter may not be open this year due to COVID-19. If you evacuate to a community shelter, follow the latest guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

If you are able, bring items that can help protect you and others in the shelter from COVID-19, such as hand sanitizer, cleaning materials, and two cloth face coverings per person. Children under 2 years old and people who have trouble breathing should not wear cloth face coverings. While at the shelter, be sure to wash your hands regularly. If possible, be sure to maintain a physical distance of at least 6 feet of space between you and people who aren’t members of your household.

Gather Supplies

Have enough food, water, and other supplies for every member of your family to last at least 72 hours. Consider what unique needs your family might have, such as supplies for pets or seniors and prescription medications. In addition, it is recommended that you add two cloth face coverings per family member and cleaning items to your kit, like soap, hand sanitizer, disinfecting wipes, or general household cleaning supplies to disinfect surfaces. After a hurricane, you may not have access to these supplies for days or even weeks. Preparing now ensures that you are well-equipped to stay safe if you need to quickly grab your go kit and evacuate to a community shelter.

As you prepare, be mindful that not everyone can afford to respond by stocking up on necessities. For those who can afford it, making essential purchases in advance will allow for longer time periods between shopping trips and help to protect those who are unable to procure essentials in advance of the pandemic and must shop more frequently.

Make an Emergency Plan

Make sure everyone in your household knows and understands your hurricane plan. Discuss the latest CDC guidance on COVID-19 and how it may affect your hurricane planning. Don’t forget a plan for the office, kids’ daycare, and anywhere you frequent.

Download the FEMA mobile app

Download the FEMA mobile app for disaster resources, weather alerts, and safety tips. Available in English and Spanish, the app provides a customizable checklist of emergency supplies, maps of open shelters and recovery centers, disaster survival tips, and weather alerts from the National Weather Service.

Visit Ready.gov for more tips. Disasters won’t wait. Neither should you.

Have An Evacuation Plan

You Can’t Control the Weather, but You Can Prepare for it

As part of the National Weather Services’ Hurricane Preparedness Week, now is a good time to Get an Insurance Check-Up. With the 2020 hurricane season quickly approaching, FEMA encourages you to renew or purchase a flood insurance policy from the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) to protect your home and belongings ahead of the next storm.

Where it can rain, it can flood.

The NFIP understands that a home is a safe structure. Now more than ever, it is important that you keep your home safe and secure for your peace of mind. 

A property does not have to be near water to flood. In fact, people outside of high-risk flood areas filed 40% of all NFIP flood insurance claims between 2015 and 2019. Floods can result from storms, hurricanes, changes to the landscape as the result of new construction or wildfires and urban drainage systems overwhelmed by excessive water flow.

Just one inch of water in an average-sized home can cause $25,000 of damage. Without flood insurance, most residents have to pay out of pocket or take out loans to repair and replace damaged items.

Prepare for the Next Weather Event

The NFIP understands that a home is a safe structure. Now more than ever, it is important that you keep your home safe and secure for your peace of mind. 

Flood insurance is a key piece of the preparedness puzzle. It’s important to remember that homeowners or renters insurance doesn’t typically cover flood damage. Flood insurance helps cover the cost of flood damage and allows you to recover. This is true whatever the cause of the flood — heavy rains, a blocked creek, inadequate drainage or an overtopped levee.

Typically, it takes 30 days for a flood insurance policy to go into effect so it’s important to act now. If you have flood insurance, now is a good time to review your coverage with your insurance agent to be sure you have the coverage you need.

View in FEMA Multimedia Library

 

Plan Ahead

Natural disasters are often unpredictable. You should take the necessary precautions to reduce the potential for flood damage to your home. 

  • Keep important documents (birth certificates, passports, etc.) in a safe, dry place.
  • Clear debris from gutters and downspouts, make sure basements are waterproofed and ensure the sump pump is working.
  • Reduce the risk of damage from flooding by elevating critical utilities, such as electrical panels, switches, sockets, wiring, appliances and heating systems. 

You can’t always predict the weather, but you can be prepared for it by purchasing a flood insurance policy from the NFIP. To learn more about the benefits of flood insurance, or to find a local flood insurance provider, visit FloodSmart.gov.

The NFIP understands that a home is a safe structure. Now more than ever, it is important that you keep your home safe and secure for your peace of mind. 

 

 

 

Communities on the Frontline: Week of May 4

Across the country, communities are using innovative approaches to support COVID-19 response efforts. Each week, FEMA is highlighting these extraordinary efforts so that other others can learn from and expand on them. This week focuses on communities building new communication strategies that highlight the power and importance of effective communication.

Medical Supplies Facebook Group

A Facebook group called Open Source COVID-19 Medical Supplies (OSCMS) supports an international network of medical professional, engineers, writers and more in sharing ideas and information and asking for help. Posts on the group so far have included mask, gown and face shield designs, and companies that have manufactured PPE and are looking for places to donate.

Senior Citizen Call Center Resource

Henrico County, Virginia, has launched an “isolation-specific” call outreach center to aid senior citizens. The call center is staffed by furloughed librarians to help to combat negative effects of social isolation. Senior citizens may call with questions regarding resources, to set up times for wellness checks, or to simply talk. The center staff is available daily from 7 a.m. -7 p.m. to provide a resource to talk to during COVID-19.

Managing Call Influx

Company call centers across industries are fielding an abundance of calls from customers inquiring about online orders, seeking refunds or forbearance. Many employers are seeking new workers to manage the heightened call volume. One option is hiring individuals with disabilities. The National Telecommuting Institute, a non-profit that works with the Social Security Administration to fill telecommuting jobs for people with disabilities, has been approached by numerous companies seeking workers. The institute trains individuals and aids them in acquiring necessary equipment and broadband internet connections allowing them to efficiently work from home

Seattle’s Approach to COVID-19

The first diagnosis of COVID-19 in the United States occurred in a Seattle suburb. Upon learning of the first diagnosis, doctors and nurses recognized that what they communicated was just as important as the response. As a result, members of the public entering Seattle-area hospitals were asked questions regarding foreign travel, respiratory issues and recent interactions with others upon arrival. Epidemiologists began persuading citizens to forgo travel and socializing even when it is not evident that they were directly at risk.

These stories are part of the FEMA Best Practice initiative which focuses on compiling the best practices and lessons learned from communities fighting COVID-19.  To see more stories like this, visit the Best Practices page.

Communities on the Frontline: Week of April 27

Across the country, communities are using innovative approaches to support COVID-19 response efforts. Each week, FEMA is highlighting these extraordinary efforts so that other others can learn from and expand on them. This week focuses on the everyday workers that are making personal sacrifices to help ensure that everyone receives the products and personal protective equipment (PPE) they need to stay safe.

Braskem America Workers

In an effort to ramp up production of polypropylene, a raw material used to produce PPE, 43 employees voluntarily isolated at a Pennsylvania Braskem America plant for 28 days. The workers slept, ate, and worked 12-hour shifts at the factory, producing tens of millions of pounds of raw material crucial for the manufacture of face masks, surgical gowns, and disinfectant wipes. By living at the factory, employees could avoid exposure to COVID-19 through daily commutes.

Lysol Factory Workers

The Lysol factory in Somerset county, New Jersey, has dedicated all of their aerosol lines to producing Lysol disinfect spray. The factory is receiving more than 50 railcar deliveries per month to supply alcohol, a key disinfectant ingredient, for aerosol lines that are operating 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. The company has distributed wallet cards to factory employees to display their essential service status. Employees are staying voluntarily into the next shift in efforts to aid in the fight against COVID-19. Employee morale has shifted from viewing their work as simply a job, to feeling like front-line fighters against the virus.

City of Shoreline Community Emergency Response Team

The Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) in the city of Shoreline, Washington, has made the showers at the local recreation centers available for those experiencing homelessness. The showers are available three days per week for four hours each day. The CERT members screen individuals coming in by taking their temperature as a preventative measure. The Shoreline CERT volunteers will begin assisting with food distribution at a King County Housing Facility in Shoreline in the near future.

These stories are part of the FEMA Best Practice initiative, which focuses on compiling the best practices and lessons learned from communities fighting COVID-19.  To see more stories like this, visit the Best Practices page.

Coronavirus Response Update: Providing Cloth Masks to the Workforce

Efforts have continued across the country to address the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. The White House Coronavirus Task Force, FEMA, and other federal partners are working to execute a whole-of-America response to fight COVID-19 and protect the public. This week, those efforts are focused on providing the guidelines, information and necessary personal protective equipment (PPE) to workers on the frontline. This is part of the multi-prong approach to re-open American economic activity while continuing to limit spread of COVID-19.

Over the weekend, Department of Health and Human Services’ Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) released targeted guidance for meat and poultry processing facilities. This guidance reinforces implement infection control practices to reduce risk of COVID-19 transmission and illness in these facilities.

This guidance includes implementation of engineering controls, cleaning and disinfection, social distancing, work practice controls, administrative controls, and use of personal protective equipment. It also outlines how to provide basic worker infection prevention information and training to all workers in a clear and accessible manner.

In addition to efforts to protect workers in the meat and poultry industry, FEMA, HHS, the Cybersecurity Infrastructure and Security Agency (CISA) and other federal agencies are distributing cloth face coverings.

As of today, 32.5 million cloth face coverings are being processed and distributed to state, local, tribal, private sector, and federal entities. The facial coverings are being delivered in a phased approach for infrastructure workers, first responders and food producers and other sectors that support community lifelines who do not need medical-grade PPE for their daily work. Distribution is based on CISA’s analysis of priority infrastructure sectors.

For more information on FEMA and other federal COVID-19 response efforts , visit the FEMA Best Practices page.

Communities on the Frontline: Week of April 20

Across the country, communities are using innovative approaches to support COVID-19 response efforts. Each week, FEMA is highlighting these extraordinary efforts so that other others can learn from and expand on them. This week focuses on community members that are going the extra mile to look after essential workers and provide local care.

Local Food Truck Provides Meals at Truck Stops
Owners of a local food truck in Grand Rapids, Colorado, took it upon themselves to help semi-truck drivers delivering vital supplies across the nation. With statewide stay-at-home orders in place, truck drivers are left with minimal options to access food or restrooms. To help support these critical members of the supply chain, the food truck served barbecue meals – available to truckers only – to ensure they had access to dinner while maintaining social distancing.

Automation to Reduce Essential Worker Exposure
As cities begin to suspend recycling services to prevent the transmission of COVID-19 among workers who sort through recyclables in close proximity and without adequate protective gear, there has been an increased use of robots that use artificial intelligence to fulfill this task. This involves identifying items on a conveyer and sorting them based on material composition. Similarly, grocery stores are relying on automation to relieve the burden on overworked employees by using robots to clean floors and to scan shelves to take inventory. Some stores are also using self-driving ground robots to deliver to customers in the area.

Establishing Centrally Located Sites to Deliver COVID-19 Assistance  
Cities across the country are setting up centrally located sites to provide a one-stop shop for COVID-related information and key resources such as masks, hand sanitizer, and food items. Palace Station in Las Vegas, Nevada, is coordinating a weekly drive-through distribution center to provide hygiene kits, educational materials, and food items.15 FIND Food Bank in Palm Springs, California, is setting up temporary mobile markets to distribute perishable and non-perishable free food to qualifying families and individuals.

These stories are part of the FEMA Best Practice initiative, which focuses on compiling the best practices and lessons learned from communities fighting COVID-19.  To see more stories like this, visit the Best Practices page.

 

Best Practices Information Hub Created for Coronavirus Pandemic Response

In the past few weeks, communities across the country have taken different approaches, and faced different challenges, in their tireless and heroic response to the coronavirus pandemic.  In an effort to preserve and expand on the work of these medical practitioners and emergency managers, FEMA has created a Best Practices page that compiles the most up-to-date, vital information in one central location.

FEMA is working with the U.S. Department of Health and Human (HHS) to collect and share these best practices and lessons learned. The information can help users learn from one another’s approaches and apply solutions to current response and recovery operations.

These best practices share the learning and experiences of successful interventions, as well as the experiences of communities that have already faced COVID-19 challenges. FEMA will continue to add content and highlight innovative approaches that have produced positive results as communities respond to the rapidly evolving COVID-19 pandemic.

Best practices are organized around five themes:

  • Helping People, which includes best practices on topics such as crisis counseling resources and anticipating and attending to civil rights;
  • Government Operations best practices, such as public information and continuity of operations considerations;
  • Private Sector and Infrastructure, which includes best practices for commercial trucking and food stores;
  • Recovery Planning and Implementation, to include the newly released FEMA Disaster Financial Management Guide and economic recovery considerations; and
  • Medical Supplies and Equipment, including best practices for the preservation of personal protective equipment while ensuring workers are protected.

State, local, tribal and territorial governments, non-governmental organizations, and businesses involved in the COVID-19 response can send their best practices or lessons learned to FEMA Continuous Improvement Program. Submissions are reviewed by subject-matter experts at FEMA and HHS before posting.

Visit coronavirus.gov for current health-related guidance and information on COVID-19.