Hurricane Irma Response and Relief Operations Continue With Full Federal Capability

By  //  September 15, 2017

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Department of Homeland Security Acting Secretary Elaine Duke, Department of Energy Secretary Rick Perry, FEMA Administrator Brock Long, and other senior officials update the media on federal response efforts following Hurricane Irma. (Sept. 15, 2017, Jetta Disco)

WASHINGTON D.C. – The U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) continues coordinating the efforts of the federal family, working alongside state and local emergency responders to help address the immediate needs of survivors, following Hurricane Irma.

Thursday, President Donald J. Trump visited Florida to meet with Governor Rick Scott and disaster survivors throughout the state. He was joined by Vice President Mike Pence, Acting Secretary of Homeland Security Elaine Duke, Secretary of Energy Rick Perry, FEMA Administrator Brock Long, as well as federal, state, and local elected officials.

Tens of thousands of federal workers are supporting preparedness, response, and recovery to Hurricane Irma, including more than 3,100 FEMA staff with additional staff continuing to deploy.

Search and rescue efforts continue in the Caribbean and the U.S. mainland.  FEMA Urban Search & Rescue (US&R) task forces stationed in the Caribbean have conducted 1,141 rescues, and, in Florida, FEMA US&R saved 1,006 lives. The U.S. Coast Guard (USCG) has rescued 326 people and saved 53 pets. The U.S. Coast Guard has also answered more than 1,750 emergency phone calls at their headquarters facility.

Members of HHS’s Disaster Medical Assistance Team California-6 establish an operational area to support
damaged medical facilities in the wake of Hurricane Irma. The San Francisco based medical team members are
intermittent federal employees organized under the National Disaster Medical System (NDMS) to provide
emergency medical care and to augment local medical capabilities during times of disaster. (Sept. 15, 2017, Paul McKellips)

The Department of Energy (DOE) is coordinating with its partners to facilitate communications, provide situational awareness, and expedite restoration efforts.  More than 60,000 personnel are activated from more than 250 investor-owned electric companies, public power utilities, and electric cooperatives from all corners of the United States and Canada, who are dedicated to the essential work of power restoration. Patience is still required, but progress is being made, and private sector partners report that about 70 percent of power is restored across affected areas.

As of September 15, 2017, FEMA transferred approximately 7.2 million meals, 5.5 million liters of water, and 41 generators to states in the Southeast, at the states’ requests.  In addition, nearly 578,000 meals, 115,000 liters of water, 13,600 sheeting covers, 150 rolls of blue tarps, and 36 generators were transferred to St. Thomas and St. John.  FEMA also transferred more than 36,000 meals and 3,600 liters of water to Puerto Rico.

Currently, FEMA has the following commodities positioned in staging areas across the impacted areas to be transferred to states and tribes upon their request:

  • Alabama: more than 7.2 million meals, more than 16.7 million liters of water;
  • Florida: more than 835,000 meals, more than 583,000 liters of water, 121 generators;
  • Georgia: more than 721,000 meals, 30 generators;
  • North Carolina: more than 366,000 meals, 2.2 million liters of water, 55 generators;
  • South Carolina: more than 1.5 meals, 1.3 million liters of water.

Survivors should not return home until local officials have deemed the area safe for return. Avoid downed power or utility lines; they may be live with deadly voltage.  Stay away and report them immediately to your power or utility company.

For those in designated areas in Florida, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands, registering online atwww.DisasterAssistance.gov is the quickest way to register for federal assistance, including FEMA assistance.  If you do not have access to the internet, you may register by calling 1-800-621-FEMA (3362) or 1-800-462-7585 (TTY). If you use 711 relay or Video Relay Service (VRS), call 800-621-3362 directly.

FEMA received more than 249,000 registrations to date and has already approved $48.8 million for Hurricane Irma survivors. As it becomes safe for people to return to their homes, FEMA expects registration numbers to increase.

Federal Efforts Underway as of September 15, 2017  

  • The American Red Cross (ARC) is operationally focused on safety, shelter, food, which includes shelf-stable meals, and positioning personnel and supplies. More than 10,300 people were provided refuge from Hurricane Irma in more than 120 government and Red Cross evacuation centers across four states, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands.  To date, the ARC served more than 354,000 meals and snacks. Approximately 2,900 Red Cross workers are responding to Irma now, with almost 380 more volunteers on the way.
  • Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS) deployed 23 AmeriCorps Disaster Response Teams, including FEMA Corps, to Florida, Georgia, and Puerto Rico to support the American Red Cross, FEMA, and Save the Children. They have also placed Senior Corps members with Save the Children to create child-friendly spaces in shelters and AmeriCorps members in impacted areas that have been temporarily reassigned for Hurricane Irma support.  CNCS is directing people to NationalService.gov/Irma to find updates about volunteering and urging people to sign up to volunteer in the state of Florida.
  • U.S. Department of Defense (DOD)   
  • The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) currently have more than 350 personnel engaged and have received 39 FEMA Mission Assignments (MA). On September 14, Lieutenant General Todd Semonite, Chief of Engineers and Commanding General, talked about the USACE’s missions in the U.S. Virgin Islands. Temporary Power, comprised of 249th Engineer Battalion and planning response team members, is performing assessments on 17 nursing/assisted living facilities in Georgia. A generator arrived in St. Thomas to support the U.S. Virgin Islands Water and Power Authority (WAPA) power plant, and additional generators and equipment are en route to the rest of the islands.
  • The U.S. National Guard Bureau (NGB) is continuing their efforts to send and maintain life and property sustaining resources, while working with civil partners in the affected areas. In Florida, search and rescue operations are still underway, to also include route clearance, shelter operations, law enforcement support, communication restoration and essential resource distribution. The Tennessee National Guard deployed soldiers and helicopters from the 1-230th Aviation Regimen to the U.S. Virgin Islands to move supplies and personnel to the affected areas and conduct search and rescue. Tennessee also deployed the 119th Command and Control Squadron to help improve communications in the U.S. Virgin Islands.
  • U.S. Northern Command (NORTHCOM) is working with FEMA to support authorities in Florida and the U.S. Virgin Islands, providing life-saving and life-sustaining relief to those in affected areas. The U.S. Army Area Support Medical Company (ASMC) is scheduled to begin operations on St. Thomas yesterday, providing triage, a variety of medical treatments, and pre-evacuation care, including a six-person U.S. Air Force Ground Surgical Team. A mobile communications tower will also be providing air traffic control radar capability at the Cyril E. King International Airport located on St. Thomas, which is crucial for emergency operations.
  • U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) continues to work with its partners to ensure that fuel remains available the states impacted by Hurricanes Irma and Harvey. It worked with its interagency and state partners on fuel waivers, and with the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) on a Jones Act wavier, which was extended through September 22. DOE also authorized release of 5.3 million barrels of crude from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve, of which more than 3 million barrels have been delivered as of September 14. A blog post about these efforts can be found here, and DOE continues to provide situational updates here.
  • The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) is monitoring the status of communications networks in the areas affected by Hurricane Irma, and created a dedicated webpage for daily communications status reports, information, and resources related to the hurricane, including tips for communicating during an emergency.
  • The General Services Administration (GSA) is releasing federal building re-openings by state via social media and can be found at the following links: @USGSAFacebookBlog. For more information on general building statuses, visitgsa.gov/facilitystatus.
  • The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) continue to provide medical support in shelters and for emergency department decompression in areas affected by Hurricane Irma. Centers for Medicare Services (CMS) temporarily suspended certain Medicare enrollment screening requirements for health care providers that are assisting with Hurricane Irma recovery efforts in the affected areas.
    • The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is sharing information about Carbon Monoxide and generator safety: https://www.cdc.gov/disasters/co-materials.html. They have deployed an Environmental Health Team to St. Thomas to support operations for two weeks.
  • U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Acting Secretary Elaine Duke extended the limited Jones Act Waiver initially signed on September 8 at the recommendation of the Departments of Defense and Energy.
    • The United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) continues to update the operational status of their offices impacted by Hurricane Irma – in English and Spanish – via web posting on www.uscis.gov and amplified on social media and www.usa.gov. In addition, the Special Situations page continues to be available detailing how natural catastrophes may affect petitions, applications, and immigration status.
    • Office for Civil Rights and Civil Liberties (CRCL) reissued Tips for Effective Communication with the Whole Community, which includes civil rights guidance on communicating with persons with disabilities and other access and functional needs. CRCL and other federal disaster resources specifically for persons with disabilities are available on their Disaster Preparedness and Disability Access webpages.
    • The U.S. Coast Guard (USCG) continues to work with federal and state partners on search and rescue response and port reconstitution in the wake of Hurricane Irma. Coast Guard Aids to Navigation teams are focused on restoring maritime aids to navigation damaged in the storm to facilitate safe delivery of critical relief supplies to impacted areas. Tank ships carrying gasoline, diesel, and aviation fuel were cleared by Coast Guard Captains of the Port for arrival to ports of Miami and Port Everglades with additional tank ships expected to arrive in Tampa, Saint Petersburg, and other Florida ports over the coming days. Coast Guard teams are also conducting water rescues, saving more than 441 lives to date.
  • The U.S. Department of the Interior (DOI) currently has a total of 194 personnel supporting FEMA missions related to Hurricane/Tropical Storm Irma including 43 U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) personnel who continue to contribute USGS water monitoring, coastal change, mapping, and modeling expertise; and 142 Interior staff providing law enforcement support for search and rescue and other FEMA functions. The Bureau of Indian Affairs sent 25 officers to help the Seminole Tribe at their request.
    • The National Park Service (NPS) is now operating in South Florida, coordinating the bureau’s response to parks impacted by Hurricane Irma. Immediate objectives are to support employee emergency needs, conduct damage assessments, and remove debris in the affected areas. The team relocated its response operation to South Florida, putting its response and recovery efforts in closer proximity to the affected parks. So far, 107 National Park Service employees from outside the impacted areas are working in the parks or en route, with additional resources being ordered in the coming days.  Information from damage and critical assessments can be foundhere, to include photos. The public is reminded that parks are closed to all use, including motorists, cyclists and pedestrians, due to safety concerns during cleanup operations. Parks will reopen as soon as it is safe to do so.
  • The U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) law enforcement components are participating in quick response teams in Florida and Texas. The Department announced local disaster task forces to combat potential disaster fraud following Hurricane Irma. Also, the National Center for Disaster Fraud continues to provide messages to help the public avoid and to report Hurricane relief fraud schemes. The NCDF Disaster Fraud Hotline is (866) 720-5721. The Bureau of Prisons is providing updates at www.bop.gov.
  • The U.S. Department of Labor initially committed up to $40 million in Disaster Dislocated Worker Grant funding to Florida, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands to assist in disaster response efforts after Hurricane Irma. These grants were first announced on Tuesday, Sept. 12, 2017. The amount of total funding announced Thursday may increase as the needs and impacts on state and local partners are assessed following the hurricane.
  • The U.S. Social Security Administration (SSA) continues to attempt to contact employees in the affected areas to determine their safety and location.  They expect many of our Florida offices to re-open Thursday; however, many of their South Florida offices remain closed.  Their Puerto Rico and St. Thomas field offices remain closed and will be closed for an indefinite period.
  • The U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) announced the availability, in Spanish and English, of the addition of more counties to the Florida Hurricane Irma disaster declaration. They encourage hurricane survivors to register online atwww.DisasterAssistance.gov.
  • The U.S. Department of Treasury (DOTreas) activated the Financial and Banking Information Infrastructure Committee (FBIIC) communications protocols and will continue monitoring key financial sector infrastructure in the Hurricane Irma impact zone. Treasury also assists with preparation and priority restoration of financial institution operations, and continues working as necessary to mitigate any impact on the financial system.  The Department provided personnel and facilities to assist with FEMA’s response efforts and provided tax payers with guidance for storm preparation and recovery, and any available tax relief.  In addition, a “Treasury Quick Response Team” of special agents is deployed in Miami assisting with recovery operations.  Finally, Treasury closed facilities in the Virgin Islands, Florida, Georgia, South Carolina, and Alabama.
  • The U.S. Postal Service (USPS), as of September 13, restored all mail processing operations in the southern area distracts. Less than 30 offices in the Florida and Georgia area remain suspended, due to accessibility issues. The USPS continues to re-establish operations in more than five offices affected in the Upper Keys. All facilities in Puerto Rico are open except for one post office.
  • U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs (VA) continue to push information out through all available means on their medical facilities operating status, here. Fifteen out of nearly 60 clinics remain closed and all VA hospitals are open. A limited number of VA mobile medical units will begin deployment to the most impacted areas Thursday, and throughout the rest of the week.

    ST. JOHN, U.S. Virgin Islands (Sept. 13, 2017) Seabees assigned to Naval Mobile Construction Battalion (NMCB) 202 perform route clearance on St. John, U.S. Virgin Islands. Hurricane Irma sustained 185-mph winds for 37 hours, the longest any cyclone on the globe has maintained that intensity. The Department of Defense is supporting the Federal Emergency Management Agency, the lead federal agency, in helping those affixed by Hurricane Irma to minimize suffering and as one component of the overall whole-of-government response efforts. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Liam Kennedy/Released)

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