FEMA Hosts Hurricane Awareness Day, Notes Response Improvements

Gearing up for the impending hurricane season, which officially begins June 1, FEMA hosted a Hurricane Awareness Day at its national headquarters May 20. FEMA Administrator David Paulison joined Department of Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff and other senior leaders from government and the private sector to address the joint activities planned this year to improve coordination when helping communities prepare for, respond to, and recover from hurricanes.

The event highlighted FEMA's new equipment, on-line resources, new programs, and recent reforms in place for this year's hurricane season. For example, this year the agency will have teams standing by to be on the ground within hours of a storm or other disaster striking. Paulison said it also has worked with vulnerable states to identify where they will most need support, noting that one size does not fit all and any response will be tailored to individual state needs. FEMA has improved its logistics to better get the supplies and resources to a disaster site more quickly than in the past, he added.

The agency continues to work with federal, state, and voluntary partners to build a robust system for evacuation, sheltering, and housing, including its collaboration with the American Red Cross to implement the National Shelter System, Paulison noted. In addition, FEMA established a National Emergency Family Registry and Locator System and a National Emergency Child Locator Center to help those displaced find their loved ones. The agency also instituted a new policy to help those with pets.

But Paulison stressed that individuals also must prepare themselves for a hurricane. "Americans in hurricane-prone states must get serious and be prepared," he said. "Government--even with the federal, tribal, state, and local governments working perfectly in sync--is not the entire answer. Everyone is part of the emergency management process. We must continue to develop a culture of preparedness in America in which every American takes personal responsibility for his or her own emergency preparedness."

Experts at the event demonstrated equipment used by the National Guard, DHS, and the U.S. Coast Guard. Other participants in emergency management explained new and improved capabilities that will be used this year by government agencies such as the U.S. Small Business Administration and the Virginia-based Urban Search & Rescue Task Force, as well as volunteer organizations such as the American Red Cross and the Humane Society. In all, the government has improved its logistics to better get the supplies and resources to a disaster site more quickly than in the past and has improved its ability to deliver assistance, Paulison said.

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