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Building a Culture of Cyber Preparedness

October is National Cybersecurity Awareness Month; a month to ensure all Americans are safer and more secure online. At FEMA, we are always focused on preparing ourselves, our partners, and the American people for the many threats and hazards we face as a nation. As the need for cybersecurity has grown, so too has our cyber preparedness efforts. 

 

In partnership with our colleagues at the Cybersecurity & Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA), we support numerous programs aimed at making the nation more resilient to cyber-attacks. In the past ten years, we have invested over $165 million in grant funding to bolster state and local jurisdictions’ cyber preparedness. While more can always be done, this funding addresses what we are seeing in national reports and assessments where cybersecurity is identified as a national area for improvement.  Our state and local partners are using the funding to develop cybersecurity plans and programs, provide training, conduct outreach and exercises, and acquire hardware and software, firewall enhancements, and closed emergency network infrastructure.

 

Just like a more traditional response to a natural disaster, we must also be ready to respond to a “cyber disaster” as a cyber-attack can trigger physical consequences. These physical consequences could result in significant impacts to governments, businesses, and individuals. Thus, we work with CISA and other federal agencies to ensure our response plans are coordinated and rehearsed regularly with our government and private sector partners.

 

Next year we are facilitating a national level exercise based on a major cyber-attack. The exercise, known as NLE 2020, will integrate several existing exercises, including CISA’s series of exercise modules called Cyber Storm. This will enable us to examine different phases of a connected incident through a unified and collaborative effort. The exercise participants will include all levels of government and the private sector.  We will examine each participants’ respective roles and responsibilities to respond to such an event. Our joint goal is to ensure this is the largest and most impactful cyber exercise for all our stakeholders.  Exercises, such as this large-scale event or the more frequent offerings led by CISA, are instrumental in increasing our level of preparedness for cybersecurity incidents.

 

We also provide our state and local partners with the technical skills they require to make their communities more secure and resilient to cyber-attacks. We offer over 20 online and in-person courses, focused on everything from network assurance and digital forensics, to information security and cyber incident response. Since 2004, FEMA has trained more than 87,000 federal, state, local, tribal, and territorial officials on cybersecurity.

But cybersecurity does not fall squarely on the shoulders of government. Every American has a role to play, which is why this month is focused on raising awareness about what you can do to protect yourself at home, work, or school. Using complex and different passwords for your accounts, keeping your antivirus software and operating systems up to date, and scrutinizing emails before clicking on links are simple things that make a big difference. The theme of this year’s awareness month is “Own IT. Secure IT. Protect IT.” because these individual steps are often more important than technological solutions. Learn more about what you can do at Ready.gov/cybersecurity.

 

Preparedness is a team sport. Whether it be for natural disasters or cyber-attacks, it takes all of us to reduce our vulnerability to these risks. Given increasing cyber threats, we should strive to build a culture of cyber preparedness.

 

Daniel Kaniewski is deputy administrator for resilience at the Federal Emergency Management Agency and the Agency’s Acting Deputy Administrator.

How Community Lifelines and Infrastructure Planning are Essential to Mitigation Plans

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October is National Community Planning Month. Community planners around the globe join the American Planning Association  in highlighting this year’s theme ofPlanning for Infrastructure that Benefits All”.  This year, the focus is on how well-planned infrastructure projects strengthen communities, boost the economy, expand opportunity, and promote equitable development. Infrastructure projects include transportation systems, housing, parks, dams and levees, and communication systems, among others.

The topic of well-planned infrastructure is especially relevant to FEMA’s mission as we continue to focus on increasing community resilience across the nation through mitigation activities.  A key area of focus is specifically  mitigating those infrastructure systems that are considered “lifelines.”

Lifelines are systems, like roads and power, that allow critical government and essential business operations to continue. Lifelines are essential to human health and safety, or economic security. They include police and fire departments, hospitals, power plants, arterial roads, grocery stores, and the cellular towers that connect everything. These often-interconnected systems are, simply put, essential for communities to keep the “lights on.”

The best way to protect lifelines is to include them in your state, local, tribal, or territorial mitigation plans. Over 20,000 communities across the country begin planning for resilient actions and projects in their hazard mitigation plans. Mitigation plans help decision-makers understand their risks from natural hazards and prioritize actions that will reduce the impacts of future events. Often, these actions include improving and investing in lifelines. For example, a mitigation plan can help identify infrastructure-protecting actions like:

  • Adopting and enforcing up-to-date building codes
  • Retrofitting and strengthening infrasturtucture to resist natural hazard damage
  • Raising roads and bridges to maintain dry access during flooding

Plans become a great source for mitigation projects when funding becomes available, whether it is from FEMA’s Hazard Mitigation Assistance Program or another source.

Mitigation can and should be a part of everyday considerations, and the important role that planning plays is highlighted under FEMA’s recently released National Mitigation Investment Strategy. Often when people hear the words “hazard mitigation” their minds quickly jump to elevated homes and shelters for riding out storms, but those are only a few of the many great options for protecting where you live, work, and play.

By integrating mitigation plans with community planning processes, we can create safer, more sustainable neighborhoods that make mitigation a part of everyday life. For example, community planners can promote safe growth principles, protecting citizens by encouraging people to live in areas at lesser risk for flooding or earthquakes. Or when designing a new community park, developers could incorporate a drainage pond for storm runoff to reduce flood risks to nearby streets and housing. By including lifelines and risks to hazards in community planning decisions, you not only make your community safer from natural hazards, but more sustainable and resilient as well. 

Learn more about National Community Planning Month and those FEMA programs that work with community planners every day here:

For more information about National Community Planning Month, visit https://www.planning.org/ncpm/.

10 Safety Tips to Share with You During Fire Prevention Week

The frequency and costs associated with fires highlight the need to understand the major causes of home fires. With residential fires occurring every 88 seconds, it is important to identify risks early to prevent significant losses. In observance of Fire Prevention Week, Thorp & Trainer Insurance is sharing the 10 most common causes of home fires.

“Ever since organizations in the U.S. began tracking structure fires, we have been able to provide better suggestions to help prevent fire-related accidents,” said Howard Thorp, President of Thorp & Trainer Insurance. “We are hopeful that homeowners will be able to use these insights to help keep their families safe.”

According to the Insurance Information Institute, structure fires are more likely to occur on residential properties. While it is challenging to list every leading cause of home fires, certain causes are more likely to occur, the U.S. Fire Administration reports.

Here is the list of the 10 most common causes of home fires, and how to avoid them:

Distracted Cooking 

Unattended cooking is the leading cause of home fires. Fires are more likely to occur around Thanksgiving and Christmas when hosts are busy entertaining guests.

Heating Equipment

Homeowners fire up their heating equipment every year without performing regularly scheduled maintenance. It is typically recommended to schedule an inspection of furnaces and boilers every year.

Barbeque

Hosting a barbeque can be dangerous if homeowners don’t understand basic safety precautions when using a grill. Flare ups, the placement of the grill, and improper propane maintenance could all lead to a home fire.

Inadequate Wiring

Electrical fires are among the top causes of residential fires, especially during the winter. As the days get colder, families may not realize that equipment like space heaters should never be connected to extension cords, which can catch on fire from being used improperly.

Electrical Equipment

Not to be confused with inadequate wiring, electrical equipment fires are usually referring to incidents where damaged wires cause sparks. Homeowners should always check the condition of cords. 

Careless Smoking 

While the prevalence of careless smoking has declined because less people smoke, cigarette butts are known to cause fires. Having an ashtray handy for guests to sit outside could help you prevent a fire.

Candles

With Halloween around the corner, homeowners should consider safer alternatives to lighting Jack-O-Lanterns. Homeowners should also be mindful of candles that are lit during other festive holidays.

Flammable Liquids

Turpentine and paint thinners are just a few of the flammable liquids that can easily cause a fire. Many DIY homeowners may not know how to properly handle these substances during projects, which could lead to a fire.

Christmas Light Decorations

If Christmas trees are not regularly watered, they can become dry and ignite from the heat generated from decorations. Fire safety experts always recommend that homeowners remove trees from their home as soon as the holiday is over.

Children Playing with Fire

Children may accidently cause a home fire because of their curiosity with flames. To help prevent this from happening, homeowners are encouraged to keep lighters and matches out of reach. As an added measure, homeowners can secure stove handles.

Understanding the common causes of fires can help homeowners identify and address potential risks for fires. As we head into the colder season, Thorp & Trainer Insurance encourages homeowners to be mindful of these hazards to help keep your family members and guests safe. If you have questions about your insurance policy, we encourage you to speak with one of our insurance agents at (401) 596-0146.

Financially Prepare for a Disaster

It only takes one storm, one flash flood, or one inch of water to cause significant damage to a home or business. September marks National Preparedness Month – a reminder to all of us that we need to be prepared for unexpected disasters and emergencies that can strike at any time.  One of the most important steps you can take to prepare for the next storm is to purchase flood insurance.

One year ago, this month, Hurricane Florence released record-breaking rain on the Carolinas and much of the Southeastern United States. The powerful storm dropped up to 35 inches of rain on eastern North Carolina alone, causing flash floods throughout the region. Florence survivors Tony and Rita Morello of New Bern, North Carolina lost everything, but they were prepared with flood insurance.

After the storm, it took Tony and Rita Morello days to get back to their home from a family reunion in Georgia. When the couple finally arrived, they discovered that everything in their home had been destroyed. The Morellos were left with nothing but the items in their suitcases and the clothes on their backs. The realization was devastating, yet the Morellos knew they had a flood insurance policy that would allow them to recover, rebuild, and get back to their routine.

As we know all too well at FEMA, disasters happen every day. National Preparedness Month is an opportunity for all residents to take simple steps today to reduce the impact of storms tomorrow:

  • Create a family emergency plan and talk to your children about what to do during a disaster.
  • Get involved with community preparedness efforts and sign up for alerts and warnings in your area.
  • Learn your evacuation zone.
  • Build a preparedness kit or “go-bag” with water, food, medications, clothing, and critical financial, medical, and legal documents.
  • Speak with your insurance agent to renew your policy or visit FloodSmart.gov to purchase a new flood insurance policy.

Flooding is the most common and costly natural disaster in the United States. Purchasing or renewing flood insurance is one of the most important steps you can take to financially prepare for a disaster. Most homeowner’s and renter’s insurance policies do not cover flood damage, and just one inch of water in the average-sized home can cause more than $25,000 in damage. Insured residents, like the Morellos, can recover quicker and more fully from a flood than their uninsured neighbors.

Preparedness makes us more resilient as a nation, and it starts with you: individuals, families, and communities, taking the right steps to protect the life you’ve built.

What is Service Line Coverage?

Service Line Coverage is an optional endorsement which provides payment for loss or damage resulting from a service line failure. A service line constitutes underground piping and wiring that is located at the residence premise and produces a service, such as delivering water or power to the dwelling or other structure from a utility or private water supply. A service line failure is physical damage that results in a leak, break, tear, rupture, collapse or arcing of a covered service line. Without this endorsement, any cost of repair or replacement are the full responsibility of the homeowner.

Service Line Coverage can be purchased for less than $50 per year and is likely subject to a smaller deductible than on your existing homeowners’ policy. At Thorp & Trainer Insurance,

we are always looking for additional ways to safeguard our policyholders. To see if your policy is eligible for this unique coverage, please contact our office to discuss further.

Service Line Coverage is a relatively new and innovative endorsement that can be added to some homeowner’s insurance policies

Prepared, Not Scared

National Preparedness Month is every September when we focus on preparing ourselves, our families, and our communities for the disasters and emergencies that can happen where we live, work, and visit. This month we encourage everyone to take actions that will make us better prepared to reduce the impact of disasters. The 2019 theme is: “Prepared, Not Scared,” and focuses on teaching children the importance of preparedness.
Over the last two years, emergencies and natural disasters have tested us as a nation. We have responded to unprecedented hurricanes and wildfires as well as flooding, earthquakes, tornadoes, and other unexpected, perilous events. As emergency managers we know that our efforts will be most successful if the public is prepared. 

Disasters affect everyone, so it takes everyone to help prepare. This includes making sure our children are prepared. Ask your child’s school and child care providers about how you’ll be reconnected with your children in the event of an evacuation. Talk to your kids about what to do in a disaster. This can be a tricky conversation to navigate but using the resources available on Ready.gov/kids can make it easier to talk through the topic.

Preparedness starts with having an emergency plan. An essential part of this is ensuring you are financially prepared. To start, keep emergency cash at home to have on hand if you need to leave your home quickly. Start an emergency or rainy-day fund to cover unexpected disaster costs that include food, water, hotel, gas, and insurance deductibles; this can help stem the impact of lost income. Sticking to a budget can be hard but saving even a small amount can make the difference during recovery. Also, take steps to protect your personal finances. By collecting, copying, and storing your financial information now, it could help you avoid problems and recover faster after a disaster. Use and share this checklist with friends and loved ones to make sure you have the information and documents you need.

Before a disaster occurs, be sure to check your homeowner’s or renter’s policies to ensure adequate coverage. This includes making sure you have flood insurance, which is typically not covered by homeowner’s insurance. Just an inch of water can cause more than $25,000 of damage to your home.

Another important step is developing a family emergency communications plan, designating an out-of-town person to serve as a contact for all family members to reconnect. Establish a family meeting place that’s familiar and easy to find. And sign up for First Aid and CPR training so that you know what to do if a family member, friend, neighbor or co-worker needs your help. Life-threatening emergencies can happen in the blink of an eye, and emergency responders may be minutes away, when seconds count. You may be able to save a life by taking simple actions immediately.

While we may not know when or where a disaster could strike, taking steps to be prepared can reduce the impacts to you and your family. Go to Ready.gov to learn more.

Residents in Hurricane Dorian’s Path Urged to Prepare Now

As the storm track and severity of Hurricane Dorian changes, it’s important for those in its forecasted path to stay alert to the dangers it could bring. 

Pay attention to the forecast in your area, and be prepared to follow guidance from local officials. You may be ordered to evacuate with little notice. Be ready to leave, have a plan for where you will go. 

Areas in the storm’s path include Florida, southeastern Georgia and the Carolinas. Impacted areas could experience life-threatening storm surge, dangerous winds and significant infrastructure damage in the coming days. This could include damage to power, water and road systems.

The window of time to prepare is rapidly closing, so don’t wait to finalize your storm preparations.

  • In Florida, download the FL511 mobile app for updated road and traffic conditions on evacuation routes. You can visit floridadisaster.org for information on emergency preparedness, shelters, road closures and evacuation routes. In Georgia, visit GEMA.Georgia.gov for evacuation or storm updates. In South Carolina, download the SC Emergency Manager mobile app. In North Carolina download the ReadyNC mobile app.
  • Download the FEMA app (in English or Spanish) for directions to open shelters, a customizable checklist of emergency supplies, disaster survival tips, and weather alerts from the National Weather Service.
  • Visit Ready.gov for more information on what you can do ahead of this dangerous storm.

FEMA and its federal, state, local, tribal partners will continue to dedicate resources and staff until this storm is no longer a threat to our country.
 

How to Safely Enjoy Your Summer Barbecues

Some of the most memorable summer moments occur when friends and family gather in the backyard for a barbecue. These gatherings can make for a great summer; however, it is important to remember safety when barbecuing. 

At Thorp and Trainer, we want to ensure this is your best and safest summer. Please review the followingsafety tips to help keep everyone and everything safe at your next barbecue. 

  • Clean the grill – The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) reported that 22% of structure fires were due to the grill not being cleaned. The 10 minutes it takes to clean the grill before use will not only make the food you’re grilling taste better, it will also protect you, your family, and your home.
  • Never abandon it – One in six backyard grilling fires begin when someone turns their back on the grill. Fire can spread quickly, but you can avoid this from happening by keeping your eye on the grill.
  • Keep the grill at a distance – An alarming 17% of grill-based home fires start because of the grill being placed too close to flammable material. Keep your grill away from walls, low overhangs, fences, dry grass, or anything else that is flammable.
  • Be cautious of whether it’s a gas or charcoal grill – It is important to inspect the propane tanks of gas grills before use. A spray bottle of soapy water can help spot tiny leaks – douse the suspect area with several sprays of soapy water and look for bubbles forming after the spray settles. Soap increases the surface tension of the water, making the bubbles formed by escaping propane gas persist for a few seconds and stack on each other, making it easier to spot leaks.
  • Trim excess fat – While fat is needed to keep the meat juicy and flavorful, if it is too fatty it can cause flare ups and fires. Keeping a spray bottle near your grill is a good idea to stop flare ups immediately, while they are still controllable.
  • Keep children away from the grill – Children under the age of five account for 35% of contact-type burns each year.  While kids are playing in the backyard, they can easily forget to be cautious around a hot grill. Make sure your children are kept at a safe distance and that hot coals are disposed of properly and away from areas of play.

We are dedicated to helping you protect what matters most. Contact us at 401.596.0146 to discuss additional ways to safeguard your family and property. At Thorp & Trainer, “Your Security Is Our Concern.”

4 reasons to add water backup coverage

Reason #1: It’s not included in a standard homeowners insurance policy.
Not sure if your home insurance policy includes water backup coverage? Then it’s time to give our office a call and speak to your account manager.

Water backup coverage is an optional endorsement that must be added onto a standard homeowners, condo or renters insurance policy. Without the endorsement, you would be stuck paying for the cost of cleanup or damages caused by the failure of sump pump or back-up of sewers or drains.

Reason #2: It’s fairly inexpensive.
The average cost of water backup and sewer coverage is $50 to $250 annually, depending on the limits you select.

Different limits are available to match people’s different needs. For example, think about what’s in your basement—it’s an area that’s more likely to flood during a water backup. Is it partially or fully finished? Is your basement a storage area for expensive or hard-to-replace items?  Work with your account manager to choose a limit that matches your unique coverage needs.

Reason #3: Water backups can happen to anyone.
There are a lot of misconceptions about who is more or less likely to experience a water backup situation. And the truth is it doesn’t matter if you live on top of a hill, if you don’t have a basement or if your home has never had a water backup issue before. Everyone has the potential to experience this type of loss.

Reason #4: It qualifies you for Loss of Use coverage if your home is uninhabitable.
In most cases, a sump pump failure or the back-up of sewers or drains would not make your home uninhabitable. But in the rare case that it does make your home uninhabitable, having water backup coverage would qualify you for Loss of Use coverage.

Loss of Use covers additional living expenses.  So if a water backup makes your home uninhabitable and requires a hotel stay for a couple of days, your claim adjuster may approve you for Loss of Use coverage.

Tips for avoiding water backups:

  • Don’t pour cooking oil or grease down your drains.
  • Only flush bathroom tissue in your toilets.
  • Consider replacing your line with plastic pipe to prevent tree roots from entering it.
  • Consult a sump pump professional, typically a plumber, to check your sump pump regularly and look for any pre-existing drainage system issues.
  • Install a backwater prevention valve to prevent sewer backups—in fact, most new homes are built with this already installed.
  • Buy a battery backup to keep your sump pump running when the power goes out or buy a water-powered backup sump pump.

Credit: The Grange Guide to Insurance

Why You Need To Know Where Your Main Shut-Off Valve Is

Knowing the location of your home’s main shut-off valve is extremely important. If a plumbing disaster should occur in your home, being able to get to your main shut-off valve quickly can mean the difference between a little water on the floor and a major homeowner’s insurance claim.

If you’re reading this and you don’t know where your main shut-off valve is, now is the time to change that! Here’s a quick guide on how to easily find your home’s main shut-off valve, as well as the individual fixture shut-off valves throughout your home.

Main Shut-Off Valve Scavenger Hunt

Tip #1: Check Along The Outside Areas Of Your Home – Main shut-off valves are rarely ever within the central confines of a home, so go ahead and start by looking around the outer borders of your house.

Tip #2: Don’t Bother Checking Any Upper Levels – The main shut-off valves will be on either the ground or basement level of your home, so don’t waste your time checking on your upstairs level.

Tip #3: Check The Inspection Report That You Received After Purchasing Your Home – If you still have the inspection report that was provided to you upon the purchase of your home, the location of your main shut-off valve should be listed on the report.

Tip #4: Follow Your Main Water Line – In most cases, your main water line will lead to your shut-off valve with no additional piping or deviations. That being said, if you know where your water main is, figuring out where the shortest path into your house would be a good way of finding the main shut-off valve, too.

Following these steps should easily help you locate your main shut-off valve and help you be prepared to halt a plumbing disaster in its tracks. If you went through all of these steps but still couldn’t locate your main shut-off valve, it’s possible that it is outside, underground, along your water main line, so check there as well.  

Individual Plumbing Fixture Shut-Off Valves:

  • Sinks: Underneath the sink (usually in a cabinet), you’ll find a small valve that you can turn clockwise to turn off the water if there’s a sink emergency.
  • Toilets: Much like with your home’s sinks, you should find a small valve behind the toilet, connected to the wall. Turning the valve clockwise will stop the water in the case of a major leak or overflow.
  • Washing Machine: In the case of washing machines, you’ll find two valves behind the machine that will both need to be turned off in the event of a plumbing emergency. Some houses may have a lever in place of or in addition to the valves. You might have to maneuver your washing machine out of its nook in order to access these valves or the lever.

Whether or not you ever have a plumbing emergency it’s good to know where your shut-off valves are so that you’re ready to act quickly. Knowing your home is the first step in protecting it from unnecessary damages!

Credit: www.jblanton.com/blog