Today, President Obama visited the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s (FEMA) National Response Coordination Center in Washington, D.C. to participate in a briefing with several members of his cabinet, including Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano, Transportation Secretary Raymond LaHood, Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, Department of Energy Secretary Steven Chu, Department of Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, and Department of Housing and Urban Development Secretary Shaun Donovan as well as National Security Advisor John Brennan, White House Chief of Staff Jack Lew, FEMA Administrator Craig Fugate, and many other senior government officials. Vice President Biden and USNORTHCOM Commander General Jacoby joined the briefing by video-teleconference.
The President directed the federal family during the briefing to continue to bring all federal resources to bear that are needed without delay as they lean forward to support states, tribes, and communities in their response. FEMA continues to coordinate the federal government’s assistance to support the states in response and recovery of Hurricane Sandy.
Today, the President, Governor Chris Christie and FEMA Administrator Fugate toured the storm damaged New Jersey coast and met with disaster survivors and first-responders, and were briefed by state and local officials on response efforts. Tomorrow, November 1st, Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano will travel to Connecticut and New York to meet with state and local officials and view ongoing response and recovery efforts to Hurricane Sandy.
Also, at the direction of the President, a power restoration working group has been established to cut through the red tape, increase federal, state, tribal, local and private sector coordination and restore power to people as quickly as possible. Led by FEMA Administrator Fugate, this working group includes representatives from private sector utilities and includes government representatives from the Department of Defense, Department of Transportation, the Department of Energy, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and representatives from local law enforcement, among others.
More than 2,200 FEMA personnel are working to support response operations, including search and rescue, situational awareness, communications and logistical support. Nine federal urban search and rescue task forces are supporting local search and rescue operations and an additional six teams are on alert should they be needed. Community relations teams are on the ground in the hardest hit areas of the Mid-Atlantic going door-to-door to inform disaster survivors about available services and resources and to gather situational awareness. Mobile Emergency Response Support (MERS) personnel and teams are located in storm-affected states to provide secure and non-secure voice, video, information services, operations and logistics support to response efforts in affected states. 14 Incident Management Assistance Teams and 12 liaison officers, positioned in affected states before the storm, continue to support response activities and ensure there are no unmet needs.
More than 500 HHS personnel are deployed for storm response efforts, including nineDisaster Medical Assistance Teams (DMATs) from eight states and a team of U.S. Public Health Service officers who are providing care at medical shelters in the New York City area. HHS is setting up two Federal Medical Stations to augment these shelters. Two additional DMATs and four Federal Medical Stations are enroute to New York. One DMAT is deployed to provide care in two New Jersey shelters. Approximately 350 ambulances have been deployed with five liaison officers and two pharmacists through the National Ambulance Contract.
“First responders and emergency crews on the ground have the full support of the federal government,” said FEMA Administrator Craig Fugate. “We are actively engaged with the entire emergency management team – in and outside of government – to aggressively respond to the aftermath of this storm. Residents and business owners who were impacted by Sandy in the designated counties in Connecticut, New York and New Jersey should apply for assistance by calling 1-800-621-FEMA (3362), online at www.DisasterAssistance.gov or on mobile devices at m.fema.gov.”
States, tribes, localities and the Red Cross continue to operate emergency shelters along the East Coast. To find a shelter, people can download the Red Cross Hurricane app, visit the Red Cross web site, call 1-800-RED CROSS (1-800-733-2767), or check local media outlets.
Yesterday, the President Obama declared major disasters for Connecticut, New York and New Jersey, making disaster assistance available to those in the heaviest hit areas affected by the storm. Individuals and business owners who sustained losses in the designated counties in Connecticut, New York and New Jersey can begin applying for assistance by calling 1-800-621-FEMA (3362). Disaster assistance applicants, who have a speech disability or hearing loss and use TTY, should call 1-800-462-7585 directly; for those who use 711 or Video Relay Service (VRS), call 1-800-621-3362. The toll-free telephone numbers will operate from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. (local time) seven days a week until further notice. Those in affected areas with access to the internet may register by web enabled mobile device at m.fema.gov, or online at www.disasterassistance.gov. FEMA is asking that those with ability to register online do so to keep phone lines open for those without connectivity.
The President also signed federal emergency declarations for Connecticut, Delaware, District of Columbia, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Virginia and West Virginia. This allows FEMA to provide resources directly to state, tribal and local government engaged in life-saving and sustaining activities.
FEMA and the Department of Defense established Incident Support Bases in Westover, Mass. and Lakehurst, New Jersey to pre-position supplies including water, meals, blankets and other resources closer to potentially impacted areas, should they be needed and requested by states. As of this morning, more than 305,000 liters of water and more than 185,000 meals in staging at Incident Support Bases in Westover, MA and Lakehurst, NJ, have been transferred to states to supplement their existing inventory. The Incident Support Bases continue to be restocked in anticipation of additional requests for assistance from affected states.
An additional Incident Support Base, dedicated to temporary emergency power, has been identified at Lakehurst Naval Air Station and will serve as a staging area for generators from FEMA, the Department of Defense, General Services Administration (GSA) and other agencies throughout the country. At the request of the state, FEMA has established staging areas in Martinsburg and Charleston, West Virginia, to support state response operations. The staging area allows FEMA and federal partners to proactively stage commodities closer to areas affected by the severe weather, allowing supplies to be quickly moved throughout the affected state, should they be needed and requested.
In addition, the following federal activities are also being coordinated:
The Department of Defense (DoD) continues to coordinate with FEMA, U.S. Northern Command and the National Guard Bureau on providing lifesaving and life sustaining assets to FEMA and governors, as requested, and is available for disaster response to support recovery efforts.
The U.S. Navy is deploying three helicopter carrier ships to the coast off New York and New Jersey to help rescue operations. The USS Wasp, USS Carter Hall, and USS Mesa Verde had been ordered to head to the area to provide landing platforms for Coast Guard, National Guard and civilian agency helicopters if needed.
U.S. Northern Command Regional Defense Coordinating Officers (DCO), and portions of the Defense Coordinating Element (DCE) remain on the ground to validate, plan and coordinate potential Department of Defense (DoD) support of FEMA’s response operations and to facilitate DOD support of life-saving and response operations.
The National Guard currently has more than 11,800 National Guard forces on duty supporting the governors of New York, Massachusetts, Virginia, New Jersey, Delaware, Connecticut, Pennsylvania, North Carolina, Rhode Island, New Hampshire and Maryland. These forces are providing assistance to local first responders and FEMA with critical tasks such and assistance at evacuation shelters, route clearance, search and rescue and delivery of essential equipment and supplies.
The U.S. Coast Guard has teams along impacted areas to conduct search and rescue missions, respond to and mitigate threats to public health and the environment, and assess and advise status of ports along the East Coast.
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) has more than 400 people engaged to support the response mission. The USACE received an un-watering mission assignment from FEMA to assist with response efforts in areas that are flooded. The U.S. Army Corps has deployed the 249th engineer battalion and other temporary emergency power assets to provide support to areas impacted by the storm.
The U.S. Department of Transportation is making $17 million in quick-release emergency relief funds immediately available to New York, North Carolina and Rhode Island to help begin repairing the damage to roads, bridges, and tunnels. Assessments continue throughout the Northeast to determine the full extent of the damage.
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has deployed more than 500 HHS personnel, including nineDisaster Medical Assistance Teams (DMATs) from eight states and a team of U.S. Public Health Service officers who are providing care at medical shelters in the New York City area. HHS is setting up two Federal Medical Stations to support these shelters. Two additional DMATs and four Federal Medical Stations are enroute to New York. One DMAT is deployed to provide care to two New Jersey shelters. Approximately 350 ambulances have been deployed with five liaison officers and two pharmacists through the National Ambulance Contract.
The Department of Energy (DOE) continues to work closely with FEMA, and in support of state, tribal, and local officials as the electric industry engages in power restoration efforts. Daily Situation Reports that detail the storm’s impacts and the restoration activities being taken by the energy sector are available at www.doe.gov.
National Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster (National VOAD) remains in close communication with the East Coast state VOAD’s to coordinate on a regional, multi-state level. Currently 15 states have activated their VOAD networks for readiness actions; the National VOAD is sharing their activities and needs with all VOAD members and partners.
The American Red Cross is responding across a large portion of the Mid-Atlantic and Northeast by helping people with safe shelter and food and water. On Tuesday night, more than 9,000 people stayed in 171 Red Cross shelters across 13 states. Red Cross has mobilized 1,700 disaster workers from all over the county who have served more than 25,000 meals and snacks so far. Red Cross has also activated 167 response vehicles and shipped in more than 230,000 ready-to-eat meals.
FEMA’s National Business Emergency Operations Center remains activated. More than 330 representatives from retail, transportation, food and groceries, building management, and other industries receive daily briefings on key federal response efforts. These briefings assist in federal and private sector planning efforts, and provide a forum to discuss response efforts and challenges for maintaining business operations and provides the opportunity to collaborate on innovative solutions.
The Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) ensured inspectors independently verified that plant operators made the proper preparations and actions to ensure plant safety before, during and after the storm. All plants are functioning normally. The NRC will continue to coordinate with FEMA and other federal and state agencies as a normal business practice.
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Hydrometerological Prediction Center continues to track the remnants of Sandy and provides regular forecast updates. NOAA Navigation Response crews are commencing waterway surveys in the affected areas. NOAA Aircraft Operations Center has deployed aircraft to take high resolution photographs of affected areas to assist emergency responders.
The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) is coordinating with FEMA and affected states to identify housing providers who may have available housing units, including public housing agencies and multi-family owners. HUD is also speeding federal disaster assistance to Connecticut, New York and New Jersey to provide support to homeowners and low-income renters forced from their homes in the most heavily impacted areas. The President’s major disaster declarations for Connecticut, New York and New Jersey allow HUD to offer foreclosure relief and other assistance to some families in the designated counties.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture regional Food and Nutrition Service leadership is working with state commissioners and program administrators in the affected area to meet food needs for emergency shelters and feeding sites and to assist with Disaster Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) requests.
The U.S. Department of Interior bureaus are mobilizing incident management teams to assess natural resource and infrastructure damage at national parks, wildlife refuges, Indian reservations and other DOI facilities in impacted areas. More than 300 personnel are deployed in this effort. The National Park Service is mobilizing 44 boats and crews to support DOI search and rescue efforts. Receiving numerous media requests for damage assessments and need to work with FEMA to coordinate how and when and who will respond. The U.S. Geological Survey continues to collect storm surge and tidal flow gages and assess coastal impacts and erosion.
The U.S. Postal Service has procedures in place to expedite recovery efforts, including making sure there is timely delivery of mailed ballots. Voters in areas affected by Hurricane Sandy as well as other customers can obtain updates on postal facility operation changes due to the storm on the Mail Service Updates page on the Postal Service website. The safety of employees, the public and the U.S. Mail remains the top priority, and the USPS will continue to post Mail Service updates for residential customers on their front home page on usps.com, located in the bottom right corner. Access this information directly at http://about.usps.com/news/service-alerts/welcome.htm Also, USPS will continue to post updated information for business mailers on the following web site. Access this information at https://ribbs.usps.gov/.
The FEMA smartphone app provides further safety tips and displays open shelter information at www.fema.gov/smartphone-app. Sharing information using social media tools is also a good way for residents to stay informed. Follow FEMA online at www.fema.gov/blog, www.twitter.com/fema, www.facebook.com/fema, and www.youtube.com/fema.