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Webinars Provide Details on COVID-19 Guidance for the 2020 Hurricane Season

The ongoing coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic introduces new challenges to hurricane season.  To prepare the nation, FEMA is holding webinars to expand awareness and understanding of the recently released COVID-19 Pandemic Operational Guidance for the 2020 Hurricane Season and the Exercise Starter Kits for Preparedness in a Pandemic.

The operational guidance document provides actionable information to state, local, tribal and territorial officials to prepare for response and recovery operations amidst the ongoing pandemic. While it focuses on hurricane season preparedness, the planning considerations can be applied to all-hazards events, including flooding, tornadoes, and wildfires. The document has been downloaded from the website nearly 40,000 times, providing planning support to thousands of communities across the country.

The Exercise Starter Kits, which were developed to be used alongside this document, also provide partners planning and exercise documents they can use to conduct their own workshops on preparedness in a pandemic. The Exercise Starter Kits have been downloaded more than 59,500 times, in addition to 11,600 downloads of the Preparedness in a Pandemic Exercise Starter Kits.

The webinars focused on these tools have so far hosted more than 1,500 participants from federal, state, local, tribal and territorial government, academia, associations and the private sector.  They allow emergency managers an opportunity to discuss how the guidance and exercise kits can assist their communities in reviewing and modifying their plans, while still managing the constraints and limitations of the ongoing pandemic.


This week, FEMA will hold the following webinars:

  • Register: 11 a.m. ET on Tuesday, June 23
  • Register4 p.m. ET on Wednesday, June 24
  • Register: 2 p.m. ET on Thursday, June 25


Webinar discussions have focused on:

  • Sheltering and Social Distancing: Participants expressed concerns with having to decide between limiting shelter capacity to adhere to social distancing constraints or sacrificing social distancing guidelines in order to accommodate more people within the shelters. 
  • Recovery: Representatives from the Field Operations Directorate, Individual Assistance, and Public Assistance provided information on virtual preliminary damage assessments, sheltering and direct housing missions.  
  • Exercise Starter Kits: Discussions focused on the kit’s adaptability to a variety of audiences and how they could be used to support planning efforts across the whole community.


The webinars also offer a list of resources to help participants locate additional planning products, register for National Incident Management System Alerts and access the FEMA and White House coronavirus websites.

Communities on the Frontline: Week of June 15

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 unique ways communities are educating children about COVID-19.

“COVID-19! How Can I Protect Myself and Others?”

The Smithsonian Institution is collaborating with the World Health Organization (WHO) and the InterAcademy Partnership (IAP) to develop an educational tool for young people that blends inquiry-based science, social and emotional learning and civic engagement. The guide, "COVID-19! How can I protect myself and others?", lets youth participate in seven activities which explore the global impact of COVID-19, demonstrate safe practices, teaches methods to research more information about COVID-19 and aids in understanding scientific evidence.

 "Our Smallest Warriors, Our Strongest Medicine: Overcoming COVID-19"

Harvard University partnered with the Johns Hopkins Center for American Indian Health and the University of Arizona Native Nations Institute to launch a COVID-19 resources toolbox for tribal nations. One featured resource is a children's book called "Our Smallest Warriors, Our Strongest Medicine: Overcoming COVID-19." The book aims to educate children in tribal nations about COVID-19 and provides coping strategies.

“We’re Going to Be O.K.”

Two physicians wrote a children's book to inform and empower children who are living through the COVID-19 pandemic. Targeted to children between the ages of 5 to 9 years old, the book authors were purposeful in representing communities of color in the illustrations. "We're Going to be O.K." follows the story of a young African American protagonist as he learns about the change COVID-19 will bring to his life and how to cope with grief and stress. The book is available for free download.

 

From My Window: Children at Home During COVID-19"

The United Nations (UN) released a book called "From My Window: Children at Home During COVID-19" which incorporates the direct perspectives of children from around the world. The book shares children's experiences on how their communities are taking care of each other and keeping vulnerable family members safe. The book aims to help children overcome the uncertainties of the pandemic by being creative, staying positive, spreading kindness, and taking precautions to stay healthy.

 

Grover from Sesame Street on Coping During COVID-19

Grover from Sesame Street joined TV news hosts in talking directly to children about the importance of wearing masks, how to stay connected with friends, and how to cope with negative emotions related to the pandemic. An audio version with a transcript of the conversation can be found here.

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. For more information on how to help during COVID-19, visit FEMA’s website for information on donations and volunteering.

Communities on the Frontline: Week of June 8

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 ways organizations are helping their communities stay safe.

Safe Practices During Protests

To encourage safe practices during protests, some health departments and experts have posted health recommendations on social media, such as wearing a face covering and using eye protection, using hand sanitizer, maintaining adequate social distancing from others and using signs or noisemakers instead of yelling to reduce the spread of droplets.

Therapeutic Robotic Pets

In an effort to combat social isolation due to strict visitation rules at nursing homes, the Florida Department of Elder Affairs has provided isolating seniors with Alzheimer's and dementia with therapeutic robotic pets. Research has shown robotic pets to have similar positive effects as traditional pet therapy for seniors.

Reopening Courts

Virtual “Picnic” Courts

Due to restrictions on the number of people who can enter public buildings, some courthouses in Prattville, Alabama have created a "picnic” court for traffic violations and child support. Respondents are able to handle matters virtually under a canopy located on the courthouse lawn.

Physical Barriers

The common pleas courts in Franklin County, Ohio is working to keep jurors, prosecutors, attorneys judge, bailiff, and witnesses safe by installing plexiglass barriers.  Additionally, only 10 observers will be allowed inside the courtroom at a time and they’ve reduced the need for multiple stops throughout the courthouse by installing video terminals so some matters can be completed from a single location.

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. For more information on how to help during COVID-19, visit FEMA’s website for information on donations and volunteering.

 

Providing Food and Shelter Relief to Communities Across the Country

As the nation faces many new challenges amid the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, one of the toughest is also a consistent one: providing food and shelter for those in need.

The National Board of the Emergency Food and Shelter Program (EFSP) was formed to meet challenges such as these. This week, the program began disbursing $200 million in grants from the Coronavirus Aid Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act to help people and communities across the country that have been impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. These funds will support local social service agencies and organizations dedicated to feeding, sheltering and providing critical resources to our nation's hungry and homeless.

EFSP grants can be used for a variety of services to assist hungry and homeless people including food in the form of served meals or groceries, payment of one-month’s utility bills to prevent loss of services, payment of one-month’s rent or mortgage to prevent evictions or foreclosures, and transition assistance from shelters to stable living conditions.

Over the past 38 years, EFSP distributed more than $4.8 billion to over 14,000 organizations in more than 2,500 communities in the United States and its territories. EFSP assisted in providing an estimated 3.1 billion meals, 293.4 million nights of shelter, 7.2 million utility payments and 5.3 million rent/mortgage payments to help families stay in their homes will have been provided.

The Emergency Food and Shelter Program was established by Congress in 1983. The legislation created a National Board, chaired by FEMA, that consists of representatives from American Red Cross, Catholic Charities USA, The Jewish Federations of North America, National Council of the Churches of Christ in the USA, The Salvation Army and United Way Worldwide. Congress appropriates funding to FEMA which then awards it to the National Board. Using a formula designed to allocate money to areas with the highest need, the National Board qualifies jurisdictions (counties and cities) for funding.

Once jurisdictions are selected, local boards convene to consider applications from local social service agencies. Local boards are made up of representatives from voluntary organizations with knowledge of and experience with community need. A homeless or formerly homeless person serves on every local board. Oversight by the National Board, FEMA and independent auditors ensures there is accountability in the stewardship of the program.

For 38 years, EFSP has been working to ensure that even in the toughest times, impacted communities across our country can get the help they need. This work continues as EFSP rises to meet COVID-19 challenges by helping to meet the basic food and shelter needs of the most vulnerable people in our nation.

Communities on the Frontline: Week of June 1

Around the world, communities are using innovative approaches to respond to coronavirus (COVID-19). Each week, FEMA is highlighting these extraordinary efforts so that others can learn from and expand on them. This week focuses on unique ways communities are helping to inform and protect one another.

Protect the Sacred Campaign

Navajo Nation youth have launched a social media campaign called "Protect the Sacred." The campaign targets tech-savvy youth, with internet or electricity access, to spread accurate information about COVID-19 to their families and elders. Since March, the campaign has held three livestreams featuring Navajo healthcare providers, politicians and celebrities.

Alternative Care Sites Preparedness Assessment Tool

The American Institute of Architects (AIA) released an assessment tool that architects can use to help hospitals and public health agencies identify and adapt alternative care sites, such as convention centers, sports arenas, hotels and dormitories for occupancy during the pandemic. The Preparedness Assessment tool lists considerations for functional requirements such as mitigating the risk of spreading pathogens within the facility, monitoring and managing sites for 24/7 operations, mechanical and electrical changes and additional considerations for cultural competency and accessibility of the facility.

The AIA also released architectural and engineering guidance for businesses operating in non-medical settings to reduce the risk of exposure and transmission of COVID-19. Important considerations for workplaces include development of infectious disease preparedness and response plans, implementing basic prevention measures and developing procedures for identifying cases and notifying workers. The assessment tool promotes best practices that protect the health, safety and welfare of the public.

Retail Shopping

As malls reopened, some retail stores have closed every other fitting room, installed plexiglass dividers at checkouts and, during checkout, request that customers take receipts from the printer themselves. Some stores have set up welcome tables with hand sanitizer, disposable masks and sticky blue mats that clean the soles of shoes. Clothes are folded in a way that encourages minimal physical handling while browsing. Some stores have instituted temperature checks at entrances and others are requesting that customers make appointments to shop. A jewelry store has moved its jewelry cleaning machines to the front of stores so that employees can sanitize merchandise in plain view after customers try on jewelry.

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. For more information on how to help during COVID-19, visit FEMA’s website for information on donations and volunteering.

Communities on the Frontline: Week of May 25

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 communities that have found new, virtual ways to get people the help they need.

Smart911 Application

New Orleans is using a new technology that relies on artificial intelligence and cloud computing to provide 911 and 311 call centers with enhanced location, videoand chat capabilities. Callers can volunteer personal data via app-based profiles that provide responders important data, including COVID-19 status, without asking for it. Responders are able to remotely triage callers via video chat and begin treatment while putting distance between the patient and other people.

#WeAllMove Web Platform

The World Economic Forum COVID Action Platform, in partnership with a private company, created the #WeAllMove web platform. The platform allows users to find mobility operators around the world for different needs, such as access to vehicles for grocery delivery, alternative commuting options and commuting solutions for both healthcare and essential workers. Some options for healthcare workers are discounted or free.

Staying Connected Phone Program

The Ohio Department of Aging introduced a free, automated daily well-being check-in phone service for residents in Ohio for people ages 60 and older in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. The "Staying Connected" phone program is available 7AM-6PM daily and contacts participants within the one-hour window the user selects upon enrollment. The service confirms the well-being of an individual and then offers to connect them to the local Area Agency on Aging for further information or assistance. If participants do not answer after three attempts, a call is placed to the alternate contact on file. The program is intended to extend beyond the pandemic.

Virtual Disaster Assistance

The Mississippi Emergency Management Agency has been sending postcards to reach residents that include methods to virtually apply for disaster assistance for damage sustained from severe storms and flooding in February in lieu of going door-to-door. In situations where a physical presence is required, the agency has collaborated with nonprofits to manage three disaster assistance centers, where staff and volunteers wear masks and adhere to social distancing guidelines.

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 May 18

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 collaboration that goes the extra mile to help people stay connected, safe and informed.

Stanford Pet Partners

In collaboration with Stanford Health Care's Professional Animal Workers program, therapy dogs at Stanford Hospital, and Stanford University have moved to online video communication applications such as Zoom and Instagram to continue providing emotional support services for staff and students.

Advanced Patient Isolation Coverings

A multidisciplinary collaboration at Harvard University has led to the creation of a new piece of personal protective equipment (PPE): transparent patient isolation coverings. These shields serve to protect healthcare providers by covering the patient's head and top part of their body and maintaining negative air pressure inside.

Emergency Operations Center Future Planning for Evacuation

In preparation for the hurricane season, the Emergency Operations Center (EOC) in Galveston, Texas, conducts daily virtual meetings with stakeholders, to include the Chamber of Commerce, school districts, hospitals and universities. The city has updated its list of people registered for the need-a-ride program in the event of a hurricane evacuation and now anticipates a need to double the number of buses available for transport to maintain social distancing during evacuations. The city also works to ensure it has sufficient PPE and thermometers to resource health assessment stations before people are allowed to board a bus to a hurricane shelter. The EOC set up laptop stations to make the EOC more portable for potential future continuity of operations situations.

Online Situational Update Aggregator

In Ontario, Canada, Public Health Ontario has developed an online platform that consolidates COVID-19-related updates in a daily scan of national and international health organization situational updates and guidance for the public to access. The platform also provides resources for professionals who are responding to the pandemic and a regularly updated summary table including research articles relating to the virus. Resources include fact sheets, guidance, best practices, laboratory testing, presentations, reports and research.

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.

Why Should Strong Building Codes Matter to You?

As we prepare for the upcoming hurricane season during response to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, you may want to consider the importance of building codes. One thing COVID-19 has reminded us is that home or essential office spaces are the places we may feel safest. It puts a finer point on why the structural safety of these places must be of the highest standard.

Every year FEMA recognizes the month of May as Building Safety Month. This year’s theme Safer Buildings, Safer Communities, Safer World is a reminder that the use and enforcement of up-to-date building codes, specifications and standards will enhance community resiliency while saving money and lives. In recent years, we have seen natural disasters devastate communities and destroy homes and businesses. Damage costs exceeded $135 billion in 2018 - 19 and affected tens of millions of Americans. Modern building codes are essential for building a resilient Nation. From architects to engineers to builders, the adoption and enforcement of building codes ensure sound construction and help build a culture of preparedness.

Minimum model building codes are more disaster-resistant than ever and constructing to the latest model codes protects building occupants and the nation’s infrastructure investments. An April 2020 National Institute of Building Sciences study found that adopting modern model building codes saves $11 for every $1 invested through earthquake, flood, and wind mitigation benefits, with a $4 to $1 wildfire mitigation benefit. These are more than just numbers. This considerable savings represents avoided casualties, less post-traumatic stress disorder, reduced property damage, fewer business interruptions, lower insurance premiums and quantifies the significant role modern codes have in protecting us from the destructive forces of disasters whether from nature or elsewhere.

But the truth is the nation can do more to maximize these benefits through broader adoption and enforcement of these codes across the country. A different set of data from inspect2protect.org reveals that unfortunately, nearly two-thirds of our nation’s jurisdictions do not currently have a recent edition of the model codes in place, with the minimum hazard provisions intact. This gap is a risk that we must work to close in order to achieve uniformity and resiliency nationwide.

How do we close the gap?

It starts with awareness. A recent survey by the Federal Alliance for Safe Homes, Inc. (FLASH), a non-profit disaster safety organization, found that 8 out of 10 Americans don’t worry about building codes, incorrectly assuming that they’re already protected living under strong building codes in their community.

FEMA places a strong emphasis on building codes because they enhance public safety and property protection. FEMA  assistance programs, aided by the Disaster Recovery Reform Act of 2018, are expanding the ways in which building codes are used and incentivized pre- and post-disaster.  FEMA is also increasing its stake and broadening its reach on the vital importance of building codes by establishing a building codes working group that will develop an Agency-wide strategy to advance the outreach, training, education, development, adoption and enforcement of disaster-resistant building codes and standards for FEMA-wide programs, ultimately strengthening community resilience nationwide.

How can you make a difference?

More frequent and costly disasters demand that we adapt to the changing environment if we are to reduce disaster suffering. While it is the responsibility of local, state, tribal and territorial governments to enact strong building codes, your voice is essential in this process. Greater public awareness, understanding of building codes and community efforts can make a big difference. You can help by visiting InspectToProtect.org to see what codes your community has adopted. Reach out to your community’s decision makers if you aren’t happy with what you find. Ensuring strong building codes in your area and across the country begins with community members like you.

 You can get free resources and learn about the status of building codes in their community by visiting 2020-building-safety-month and InspecttoProtect.org. We all can take part in creating Safer Buildings, Safer Communities and a Safer World.

 

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.