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Updated: 2 hours 25 min ago

President Donald J. Trump Approves Major Disaster Declaration for Puerto Rico

Fri, 09/22/2017 - 10:44
Release Date: September 22, 2017

For Immediate Release
FEMA News Desk
Phone: 202-646-3272

WASHINGTON – The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) announced today that federal disaster assistance has been made available to the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico to supplement the Commonwealth and local recovery efforts in the areas affected by Hurricane Maria from September 17, 2017, and continuing.

The President's action makes federal funding available to affected individuals in the Aguas Buenas, Aibonito, Arecibo, Arroyo, Barceloneta, Barranquitas, Bayamón, Caguas , Canóvanas, Carolina, Cataño, Cayey, Ceiba, Ciales, Cidra, Coamo, Comerio, Corozal, Culebra, Dorado, Fajardo, Florida, Guayama, Guaynabo, Gurabo, Humacao, Jayuya, Juana Díaz, Juncos, Las Piedras, Loíza, Luquillo, Manati, Maunabo, Morovis, Naguabo, Naranjito, Orocovis, Patillas, Ponce, Rio Grande, Salinas, San Juan, San Lorenzo, Santa Isabel, Toa Baja, Toa Alta, Trujillo Alto, Utuado, Vega Alta, Vega Baja, Vieques, Villalba, and Yabucoa municipalities. Assistance can include grants for temporary housing and home repairs, low-cost loans to cover uninsured property losses, and other programs to help individuals and business owners recover from the effects of the disaster.

Federal funding is also available to the Commonwealth and eligible local governments and certain private nonprofit organizations on a cost-sharing basis for emergency work in all 78 municipalities in the Commonwealth.

Federal funding is also available on a cost-sharing basis for hazard mitigation measures throughout the Commonwealth. 

Alejandro De La Campa has been named as the Federal Coordinating Officer for federal recovery operations in the affected area. De La Campa said additional designations may be made at a later date if warranted by the results of damage assessments.

Individuals and business owners who sustained losses in the designated area can begin applying for assistance by registering online at www.DisasterAssistance.gov/es or 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.

Follow FEMA online at www.fema.gov/blog, www.twitter.com/fema, www.twitter.com/femaspox, www.facebook.com/fema and www.youtube.com/fema.  Also, follow Administrator Brock Long’s activities at www.twitter.com/fema_brock.

The social media links provided are for reference only. FEMA does not endorse any non-government websites, companies or applications.

FEMA's mission is to support our citizens and first responders to ensure that as a nation we work together to build, sustain and improve our capability to prepare for, protect against, respond to, recover from and mitigate all hazards.

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Topics:  Disaster Response and Recovery, Disaster Survivor Assistance, Disasters Keywords:  disaster relief, FEMA, Hurricane, natural disasters
Categories: Homeland Security

Hurricane Maria Response and Relief Operations Underway

Fri, 09/22/2017 - 10:35
Release Date: September 22, 2017

For Immediate Release
FEMA News Desk
Phone: 202-646-3272

WASHINGTON – The U.S. Department of Homeland Security's Federal Emergency Management Agency’s (FEMA) top priority is to provide life-saving resources to Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands, while aggressively working to gain greater access to disaster affected areas.

Federal coordinating officers and other FEMA personnel are on the ground, coordinating with the governors of the U.S. Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico, and their respective emergency management agencies.

FEMA Urban Search & Rescue (US&R) operations began today with initial damage assessments and intelligence reports. Four US&R task forces are stationed in the Caribbean with another eight teams awaiting airfield openings. The U.S. Coast Guard (USCG) is conducting search and rescue operations in St. Croix and in the surrounding waters.

U.S. Coast Guard aircrews deploy for search and rescue missions around Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands.

FEMA US&R New York Task Force 1 deploys to support rescue and recovery efforts in the Caribbean following Hurricane Maria

U.S. Coast Guard personnel and assets bunker down Sept. 20 in Puerto Rico in order to respond and provide relief for Hurricane Maria.

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) maintained air traffic control services in San Juan at the Combined Terminal Radar Approach and En Route Center (which provide air traffic services for high altitude flights over that region of the Atlantic) throughout Hurricane Maria’s landfall. This was the result of the extraordinary actions of a small group of FAA controllers and technicians who kept systems and generators operating. Also, a mobile air traffic control tower and instrument landing system is being returned to St. Thomas airport and will be operational today.

FEMA-loaded vessels with more than 1.3 million meals, 2 million liters of water, 30 generators and 6,000 cots are en route to St. Thomas, awaiting port opening and clearance. FEMA also pre-positioned commodities at its Distribution Center and Warehouse in San Juan, Puerto Rico.  Commodities including meals, water, cots, and blankets are readyfor distribution to the Commonwealth as requested.

Yesterday President Trump issued major disaster declarations for the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands as a result of Hurricane Maria. These declarations make federal funding available to affected individuals in designated areas. Assistance can include grants for temporary housing and home repairs, low-cost loans to cover uninsured property losses, and other programs to help individuals and business owners recover from the effects of the disaster.  Federal funding is available to the U.S. Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico and certain private nonprofit organizations on a cost-sharing basis for emergency work. Federal funding is also available on a cost-sharing basis for hazard mitigation measures. 

Those in designated areas of Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands who are able to register for assistance may do so online at www.DisasterAssistance.gov. If able, online registration is the quickest way to register for federal assistance.  Survivors who do not have access to the internet 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.

Federal Efforts Underway as of September 21, 2017  

  • The American Red Cross Emergency App features an “I’m Safe” button that allows users to post a message to their social accounts, letting friends and family know they are out of harm’s way. The app can be downloaded for free in app stores by searching for “American Red Cross” or by texting ‘GETEMERGENCY’ to 90999.
     
  • U.S. Department of Defense (DOD)
      
    • The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) is preparing to respond to the impacts of Hurricane Maria and resume its ongoing FEMA-assigned missions in the Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico as soon as it is safe to do so. USACE had more than 120 responders in the islands for the storm's passage, and all personnel have been accounted for. In response to Hurricane Irma, which affected the same region, USACE received mission assignments to provide Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands with temporary power, temporary roofing, debris removal/technical assistance, infrastructure assessment, and a commodities management expert.
       
    • The U.S. National Guard Bureau (NGB) is conducting security operations, route clearance, traffic control, and food and water distribution. They expect the airfield on St. Croix to be open today. Members of the Puerto Rico National Guard sheltered in place during the hurricane, and they were poised to respond following the storm.
       
    • U.S. Northern Command (NORTHCOM) is conducting incident awareness and assessment missions in Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands with six U.S. Navy helicopters and three U.S. Marine Corps V-22 Osprey aircraft launched from the USS Kearsarge Amphibious Readiness Gro. Additionally, a Navy surveillance aircraft launched from Naval Air Station Jacksonville, Florida, and is conducting an assessment of the damage in Puerto Rico.

Navy and Marine forward ground elements responded today to assist with response and recovery operations. The 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU) is inserting a Forward Coordination Element and Air Control Element into St. Croix to help open the airfield and coordinate with the Defense Coordinating Officer and National Guard at the Joint Force Headquarters there. The MEU will also insert an Air Control Element in the airport at St. Thomas in order to help open the airfield. DoD elements are focused on airfield assessments and opening runways to facilitate commodity distribution.

  • U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) is working with its partners in response and power restoration efforts for Hurricane Maria. DOE emergency responders are deployed to St. Thomas and St. Croix in support of FEMA Incident Management Assistance Teams and a responder will deploy to Puerto Rico as soon as conditions permit. DOE is also working closely with its Western Area Power Administration (WAPA), the American Public Power Association, the Department of Defense, and FEMA to facilitate mutual aid for the U.S. Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico. An eight-member advance team from WAPA deployed to Puerto Rico ahead of Maria, sheltered while it passed, and will join the local Virgin Islands utility in the work of damage assessment and power restoration as soon as it is safe to do so. Additional utility crews will head to Puerto Rico as soon as it is safe to do so, where they'll work with the government of Puerto Rico on response, restoration, and rebuilding efforts. DOE is posting Situation Reports here, and the Western Area Power Administration is posting updates here.
     
  • The General Services Administration (GSA) facilities in the U.S. Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico remain closed except to law enforcement and essential personnel due to Hurricane Maria. Initial damage assessments are underway, and GSA-owned facilities will reopen when they are determined to be safe and operational. As GSA facilities reopen, they will be removed from the list of closed facilities at gsa.gov/facilitystatus.
      
  • The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has more than 200 HHS medical professionals and public health experts poised to travel to Puerto Rico or the U.S. Virgin Islands to provide medical care and public health support. The HHS Disaster Distress Helpline assisted more than 5,000 callers in coping with the impacts of these storms. The helpline remains available 24 hours a day, 1-800-985-5990 or text TalkWithUs to 66746.
      
    • The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) continues to collaborate with the DoD and FEMA to provide information via radio and print materials to the impacted residents of U.S. Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico.
       
  • The U.S. Department of the Interior’s (DOI) Office of Law Enforcement sent 50 personnel to Puerto Rico with an additional 40 en route. DOI officers provided medical assistance, and assisted local hotels with shelter and evacuation plans.
     
  • The US Geological Survey has field crews in Puerto Rico who have deployed and are monitoring storm-tide sensors; more information can be found on the USGS Maria Flood Event Viewer.
     
  • National Park Service (NPS) incident management team is in San Juan to provide immediate assistance and communications.
     
  • Twenty U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service personnel scheduled for response and recovery operations in the Caribbean will work in cooperation with the U.S. Forest Service.
     
  • U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) temporarily paused all response operations in Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands due to Hurricane Maria. EPA is prepared to begin response operations again following the storm and as soon as staff can re-deploy. EPA response personnel who remained in the FEMA bunker on St. Croix are resuming assessment activities today.
     
  • U.S. Social Security Administration (SSA) offices will remain closed until September 25, 2017. There were approximately 2,000 benefit payments dated September 20 (Cycle 3) for delivery to the U.S. Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico. There were also about 160 checks dated September 14–19 resulting from daily payment files prior to Hurricane Maria. SSA is working with the United States Postal Service (USPS) to determine where these checks are in the mail stream.
     

U.S. Postal Service (USPS) facilities on Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands are closed—there are no retail services, package or mail pick up at any USPS location. As soon as it is safe to do so, USPS will begin to re-open postal facilities on the islands. Depending on the scope and level of damage, this could necessitate the use of temporary quarters on the islands and mainland plant processing and staging of Caribbean District mail, with a focus on transportation and distribution of essential items such as medications, Treasury checks, Social Security benefits, etc. Customers can find the latest service statuses at USPS Service Alerts.

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Topics:  Disaster Response and Recovery, Disaster Survivor Assistance, Disasters Keywords:  disaster recovery plan, disaster relief, federal response, FEMA, Hurricane, natural disasters, uscg
Categories: Homeland Security

FEMA and its Partners Provide Reunification Guidance for Hurricane Maria Survivors and their Loved Ones

Fri, 09/22/2017 - 10:25
Release Date: September 22, 2017

For Immediate Release
FEMA News Desk
Phone: 202-646-3272

WASHINGTON – As the United States responds to Hurricane Maria’s damage to Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands, the Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) is connecting community partners with disaster survivors and their loved ones, to reunite families separated as a result of the storm.

Working in close collaboration with the American Red Cross, the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC), and other partners, FEMA helps to facilitate the reunification of children who are separated from their parents or legal guardians as a result of disaster.

Following events like Hurricane Maria, we understand that communications networks are not always operational.  As communications are restored, there are numerous options for survivors, friends, and family members to search for loved ones. 

Survivors with internet access are encouraged to connect with friends and loved ones via social media platforms. Additional resources below are suggested for those both outside and inside the impacted areas.

American Red Cross  

The American Red Cross Safe and Well website is a free public reunification tool that allows individuals and organizations to register and post messages to search for loved ones, or for individuals to indicate that they are safe. The site is always available, open to the public, and available in English and Spanish.  There are a number of ways to use this service:

  • Registrations and searches can be done directly on the website.
  • Registrations can also be completed by texting SAFE to 78876. Messages exist in both Spanish and English.
  • To speak with someone at the American Red Cross concerning a missing friend or relative who has a serious, pre-existing health or mental health condition, please contact 1-800 Red Cross (1-800-733-2767).

The American Red Cross Emergency App features an “I’m Safe” button that allows users to post a message to their social accounts, letting friends and family know they are out of harm’s way. The app can be downloaded for free in app stores by searching for “American Red Cross” or by texting ‘GETEMERGENCY’ to 90999.

National Center for Missing & Exploited Children

Anyone who finds a child who may be separated from parents or caregivers, please contact the local police and enter basic information and/or a photo into the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children's Unaccompanied Minors Registry. If you find an unaccompanied child, please indicate whether the child has a disability or has access and functional needs in the appropriate field in the Unaccompanied Minors Registry. If you do not have access to the internet, please call 1-866-908-9570.

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Topics:  Disaster Response and Recovery, Disaster Survivor Assistance, Disasters Keywords:  disaster relief, federal response, FEMA, Hurricane, natural disasters
Categories: Homeland Security

President Donald J. Trump Approves Major Disaster Declaration for the U.S. Virgin Islands

Fri, 09/22/2017 - 10:13
Release Date: September 22, 2017

For Immediate Release
FEMA News Desk
Phone: 202-646-3272

WASHINGTON – The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) announced that federal disaster assistance has been made available to the territory of the U.S. Virgin Islands to supplement territory recovery efforts in the areas affected by Hurricane Maria from September 16, 2017, and continuing.

The President's action makes federal funding available to affected individuals on the island of St. Croix. Assistance can include grants for temporary housing and home repairs, low-cost loans to cover uninsured property losses, and other programs to help individuals and business owners recover from the effects of the disaster.

Federal funding is available to the territory and certain private nonprofit organizations on a cost-sharing basis for emergency work in all the islands in the territory.

Federal funding is also available on a cost-sharing basis for hazard mitigation measures throughout the territory.  

William L. Vogel has been named as the Federal Coordinating Officer for federal recovery operations in the affected area. Vogel said additional designations may be made at a later date if warranted by the results of damage assessments.

Individuals and business owners who sustained losses in the designated area can begin applying for assistance by registering online at www.DisasterAssistance.gov or 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 10:00 p.m. (local time) seven days a week until further notice.

Follow FEMA online at www.fema.gov/blog, www.twitter.com/fema, www.twitter.com/femaspox, www.facebook.com/fema and www.youtube.com/fema.  Also, follow Administrator Brock Long’s activities at www.twitter.com/fema_brock.

The social media links provided are for reference only. FEMA does not endorse any non-government websites, companies or applications.

FEMA's mission is to support our citizens and first responders to ensure that as a nation we work together to build, sustain and improve our capability to prepare for, protect against, respond to, recover from and mitigate all hazards.

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Topics:  Disaster Response and Recovery, Disaster Survivor Assistance, Disasters Keywords:  disaster relief, FEMA, Hurricane, natural disasters
Categories: Homeland Security

DHS Acting Secretary Elaine Duke Supports Hurricane Harvey Relief Efforts during Visit to Texas with Governor Abbott, Speaker Ryan

Thu, 09/21/2017 - 13:40
Release Date: September 21, 2017

For Immediate Release
Office of the Press Secretary
Contact: 202-282-8010

WASHINGTON – Last night, Acting Secretary of Homeland Security Elaine Duke traveled to Houston, Texas to discuss and observe ongoing recovery and relief efforts in the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey.

The Acting Secretary met with Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner at U.S. Coast Guard Sector Houston to discuss coordination of federal hurricane relief efforts.  She was joined in the meeting by representatives from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). Afterwards, Acting Secretary Duke and Mayor Turner met with Texas Governor Greg Abbott, Speaker of the House Paul Ryan, Rep. Rodney Freylinghuysen (R-NJ), Chairman of the House Appropriations Committee, Rep. John Carter (R-TX), Chairman of the House Appropriation Committee’s Homeland Security Subcommittee, Rep. John Culberson (R-TX), Rep. Blake Farenthold (R-TX), Rep. Pete Olson (R-TX), Rep. Randy Weber (R-TX), Texas A&M University Chancellor John Sharp, Texas Land Commissioner George P. Bush and Harris County Judge Ed Emmett.

This morning, Acting Secretary Duke traveled to Rockport, Texas with Governor Abbott to speak with community leaders and hurricane survivors. Country music legend George Strait, Rockport Mayor Charles J. Wax, Land Commissioner Bush, and Chancellor Sharp also attended the community event.

Thousands of federal workers are supporting preparedness, response, and recovery, including more than 3,200 FEMA staff, and more than 13,000 National Guard soldiers and airmen from 22 states, in conducting rescue, evacuation, security and support operations. 

The federal government continues to support Hurricane Harvey response and recovery efforts underway in Texas and Louisiana along with those impacted by Hurricanes Irma and Maria.

The Department of Homeland Security’s top priority is to protect the American people from harm – this includes from natural disasters. Registering online, at www.DisasterAssistance.gov,  is the quickest way for those affected to register for federal aid.

Acting Secretary Duke discusses federal hurricane relief efforts with Speaker of the House Paul Ryan (DHS Official Photo/Barry Bahler)

Acting Secretary Duke discusses coordination of federal hurricane relief efforts with Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner. (DHS Official Photo/Barry Bahler)

Acting Secretary Duke addresses Hurricane Harvey survivors with Texas Governor Greg Abbott, Rockport Mayor Charles J. Wax, country music legend George Strait and local officials. (DHS Official Photo/Barry Bahler)

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Topics:  Disaster Response and Recovery, Disaster Survivor Assistance, Disasters Keywords:  Acting Secretary Duke, Acting Secretary Elaine Duke, disaster relief, emergency response, federal response, FEMA, Flooding, Hurricane, Hurricane Harvey, natural disasters
Categories: Homeland Security

National Preparedness Month - You Are the Help Until the Help Arrives

Thu, 09/21/2017 - 07:27

September 17-23 is the third week of National Preparedness Month. During this week, we ask that you take some time to practice and refine your family emergency plans. Often you are the help until help arrives. That's why practice makes perfect! Practice your plans by completing an exercise, workshop, or training.

In addition, check out the below information that can help prepare you and your family for the unexpected.     Did you know that a person with severe bleeding can die from blood loss within five minutes, before trained medical responders can arrive?  Though many severe injuries from gunshots, explosions, or traumatic accidents are not survivable with any amount of care, for others, the difference between life and death is a race against the clock—a race to treat the injury before blood loss claims a life.   Bystanders can play a critical role in survival by slowing or stopping blood loss long enough for the injured person to reach advanced medical care.      Recently, the Department of Homeland Security, along with other government agencies and private sector organizations, joined the effort to launch Stop the Bleed, an initiative to give individuals the knowledge to act quickly and save lives in those critical first few minutes.   Stop the Bleed and initiatives like it teach people to follow a few basic steps to control blood loss. These lessons, like CPR training, can transform bystanders without medical training into "immediate responders" to help the wounded survive long enough to get medical care. Actions as simple as applying pressure to the wound using a t-shirt or towel (or even your hands) can help save lives.   The Office of Health Affairs offers Stop the Bleed training to employees across the Department. If you would like to learn more about this lifesaving initiative or to set up training for your office/component, send a message to stopthebleed@hq.dhs.gov.  
  Another aspect of being prepared includes being financially ready before an emergency happens. Strengthen your financial preparedness:   
  • Check your insurance coverage. Most homeowner’s insurance policies do not cover damage or losses from flooding. If you are not insured for flood damages, talk with your insurance agent.      Information on flood insurance is also available at FloodSmart.gov. Remember, it takes 30 days for a new flood insurance policy to take effect, so act now to protect your family in the future.

The better we prepare our families, the better they are able to respond to the disaster and you can remain mission focused when our nation needs us the most.

Visit ready.gov/September for more tips and information. Remember, each step we take to become better prepared will make a real difference in how our families and communities will respond and persevere when faced with the unexpected. A prepared people is a prepared nation.

Topics:  Plan and Prepare for Disasters Keywords:  National preparedness, national preparedness month, preparedness Public Affairs
Categories: Homeland Security

DHS's Claire Grady Discusses Efforts to Curb Terrorist Recruitment Online At the 2017 United Nations General Assembly

Wed, 09/20/2017 - 18:27

Today, Claire Grady, the Senior Official Performing the Duties of the Deputy Secretary of Homeland Security (DHS), joined United Kingdom Prime Minister May, Italy Prime Minister Gentiloni and French President Macron at the United Nations General Assembly to discuss efforts to curb terrorist recruitment online. Ms. Grady’s remarks as prepared are below.

Good evening.

I’d like to thank our UK allies for arranging this event, the tech companies who are on the digital front lines of this fight, and the nations in this room who recognize the threat and are stepping up to address it.

Make no mistake: we have entered a new age of terror.  As the number-two official in the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, I see it firsthand every day.

The battleground is not confined by geographic borders.  It is now in our backyards, and the threat has spread virally.

Yet too often we come to these forums…talk about the threat…and then we go home to business as usual.

But while we talk, our enemies are plotting in real-time.  We cannot respond in slow motion.

That is why today, I implore all of you to replace complacency with concrete action.

We are not talking about ordinary criminals abusing internet platforms.

We are in the middle of a war, and terrorists are threatening our lives…our livelihoods…and our way of life.  And we must address it together.

For the tech companies, right now their content is on your websites, they are recruiting on your apps, and they are exploiting your innovation to incite violence.

So today I propose three urgent lines of effort to counter the threat.

First, we need to ramp up community awareness.

Before terrorists have a chance to reach our people online, I urge all governments and social media companies to make citizens aware of the threat.

This includes outreach at all levels through awareness campaigns, intelligence products regarding trends, training for frontline defenders and civic leaders, and interactive engagement for young people.

Second, we must focus on actively countering terrorist recruitment itself.

We must find better ways to counter their propaganda with truth and to empower credible voices that will dissuade potential terrorist recruits from violence.

The tech companies have made progress.  But I will repeat what has been said:  we urgently need you to do more.  You must establish a clear leadership of the GIFCT potentially through a rotating chairmanship.

You must measure your success by outputs, and not inputs—by how much harder you’ve made it for terrorists to exploit your websites and apps.

And you must find better ways to work with governments and smaller companies.  Not just through sporadic big events, but in actionable ways that result in rapid takedowns of terrorist content and that keep your platforms from becoming virtual terrorist safe havens.

Finally, we need more early warning to know when individuals are plotting with terrorists online—and before they commit acts of violence.

This requires building trust between communities and law enforcement, expanding “See Something, Say Something”-style campaigns, and ensuring there are confidential tip lines and easy tools for the public to report suspicious activity online.

The bottom line is that we cannot surrender the digital battlespace to violent extremists.

Instead, in this age of crowd-sourced terrorism, we must fight back by turning the crowd against them.

Thank you.

 

Topics:  Combat Cyber Crime, Cybersecurity, Preventing Terrorism Keywords:  cybercrime, cybersecurity, terrorism prevention Public Affairs
Categories: Homeland Security

DHS Acting Secretary Elaine Duke Observes Hurricane Irma Response and Recovery Efforts with Florida Governor Scott

Wed, 09/20/2017 - 17:26
Release Date: September 20, 2017

For Immediate Release
Office of the Press Secretary
Contact: 202-282-8010

WASHINGTON – Today, Acting Secretary of Homeland Security Elaine Duke traveled to Marathon and Miami, Florida to observe Hurricane Irma response and recovery efforts.

In Marathon, the Acting Secretary, along with Governor Scott and Red Cross President and CEO Gail McGovern, toured a Red Cross shelter at Marathon High School. They met with first responders, Red Cross employees and volunteers, and distributed food, water and ice to survivors of Hurricane Irma.

Acting Secretary Duke and Gov. Scott then traveled to the Monroe County Marathon Government Center where they discussed hurricane recovery challenges with Monroe County mayors and county executives. The Acting Secretary toured the Emergency Operations Center and spoke with FEMA employees, including surge capacity force members.

Acting Secretary Duke took an aerial tour of the Lower Keys in a U.S. Customs and Border Protection helicopter to assess the damages and saw firsthand the damage Hurricane Irma caused to homes and vital infrastructure in the Lower Keys. Shannon Weiner, Acting Incident Commander, Monroe County Emergency Management led the aerial tour.

Acting Secretary Duke then traveled to Miami where she met with Carlos Gimenez, the Mayor of Miami-Dade County. They discussed ongoing response and recovery efforts due to the devastation from Hurricane Irma.

Thousands of federal workers are supporting preparedness, response, and recovery, including more than 3,200 FEMA staff, and more than 13,000 National Guard soldiers and airmen from 22 states, in conducting rescue, evacuation, security and support operations.

The federal government continues to support Hurricane Harvey response and recovery efforts underway in Texas and Louisiana along with those impacted by Hurricanes Irma and Maria.

The Department of Homeland Security’s top priority is to protect the American people from harm – this includes from natural disasters. Registering online, at www.DisasterAssistance.gov, is the quickest way for those affected to register for federal aid.

Acting Secretary Elaine Duke, along with Governor Rick Scott and Red Cross President and CEO Gail McGovern, tour a Red Cross shelter at Marathon High School. (DHS Official Photo/ Barry Bahler)

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Topics:  Disaster Response and Recovery, Disaster Survivor Assistance, Disasters Keywords:  disaster relief, federal response, FEMA, Flooding, Hurricane, Hurricane Irma, natural disasters
Categories: Homeland Security

Finalize Preparations for Hurricane Maria, Follow Directions of Local Officials

Wed, 09/20/2017 - 11:12
Release Date: September 20, 2017

For Immediate Release
FEMA News Desk
Phone: 202-646-3272

WASHINGTON – As Hurricane Maria makes landfall today and tomorrow in the U.S. Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico, residents should continue to heed the instructions of territorial, commonwealth, and local officials.

Residents should be ready to take shelter, finish charging cell phones, and have emergency supplies readily available.

FEMA is ready to respond to the potential impact of Hurricane Maria. FEMA staff in headquarters and regional offices in Washington, D.C., New York, and the Puerto Rico Caribbean Area Office, in addition to critical staff on the ground in the U.S. Virgin Islands, will continue to closely monitor the track of the hurricane, and can ensure the pre-positioned assets and commodities are secured to weather the impacts from this storm.

FEMA recommends all residents and visitors in the path of Hurricane Maria review these tips:

  • Ensure your emergency kit is ready, and test your family communications plan.
  • Plan to stay in a shelter, and not in a home damaged by the previous storm. Let friends, family or coworkers know where you are taking shelter.
  • Stay vigilant and continue to monitor local radio or TV stations for local emergency management officials’ guidance, and for updated weather and emergency information.
  • The FEMA App (available in English and Spanish) provides National Weather Service alerts and directions to open shelters. Check this app every half hour to save your cell phone battery.
  • Turn on your TV/radio, or check your city/county website every half hour to keep up with the latest weather updates.
  • Only use social media to check in with family, friends and/or co-workers. Do not use social media to record/photograph the storm to conserve your phone’s battery.
  • Close storm shutters, and stay away from the windows, as flying glass from the windows could injure you.
  • Turn your refrigerator or freezer to the coldest setting and only open when necessary. If you lose power, this will ensure the food lasts longer.
  • Remember, never run a generator inside and keep it away from windows, doors, and vents.
  • If using candles, please use caution. If possible, use flashlights instead. If you must use candles, do not burn them on or near anything that can catch fire.
  • Businesses of all sizes are encouraged to follow directions of local officials and to share safety messaging with employees in order to reduce risk.
  • Remember, your life and family safety is key. Do not risk your life to attempt to save household possessions.

Watches and Warnings

Get to know the terms that are used to identify severe weather and discuss with your family.

For a tropical storm:

  • Tropical Storm Watch is issued when tropical cyclone containing winds of at least 39 MPH or higher poses a possible threat, generally within 48 hours.
  • Tropical Storm Warning is issued when sustained winds of 39 MPH or higher associated with a tropical cyclone are expected in 36 hours or less.

For a hurricane:

  • Hurricane Watch is issued when a tropical cyclone containing winds of at least 74 MPH poses a possible threat, generally within 48 hours.
  • Hurricane Warning is issued when sustained winds of 74 MPH or higher associated with a tropical cyclone are expected in 36 hours or less. A hurricane warning can remain in effect when dangerously high water or a combination of dangerously high water and exceptionally high waves continue, even though winds may be less than hurricane force.

For coastal flooding:

  • Coastal Flood Watch is issued when moderate to major coastal flooding is possible.
  • Coastal Flood Warning is issued when moderate to major coastal flooding is occurring or imminent.
  • Coastal Flood Advisory is issued when minor or nuisance coastal flooding is occurring or imminent.

For more safety procedures and tips on what to do during and after a hurricane, visit ready.gov/hurricanes or listo.gov/es/huracanes.

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Topics:  Disasters Keywords:  disaster recovery plan, federal response, Hurricane, natural disasters
Categories: Homeland Security

FEMA Encourages Residents and Visitors in Hurricanes' Paths to Prepare Now

Mon, 09/18/2017 - 15:56
Release Date: September 18, 2017

For Immediate Release
FEMA News Desk
Phone: 202-646-3272

WASHINGTON - As Hurricane Maria advances toward the U.S. Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico, and Hurricane Jose approaches the northeastern United States, residents and visitors in potentially affected areas should review their preparations. Always remember, listen to the instructions of state, tribal, territorial, commonwealth, and local officials.  

As we continue response and recovery operations following Hurricanes Harvey and Irma, FEMA is preparing for response to the potential impacts of Hurricanes Jose and Maria. FEMA staff in headquarters and regional offices in New York, Boston, and the Caribbean Area Office, are closely monitoring the tracks of Hurricanes Maria and Jose, while pre-positioning assets and commodities to prepare for potential impacts from these storms. The U.S. Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico are under a Hurricane Watch and may receive impacts from Hurricane Maria by Tuesday.

According to the National Weather Service, Hurricane Jose is expected to produce life-threatening surf and rip currents and possible heavy rainfall along portions of the East Coast. Tropical Storm Watches and Warnings are being issued from Fenwick Island, Delaware north to Plymouth, Massachusetts, excluding New York City.

Now is the time to prepare for these hurricanes; FEMA recommends all residents and visitors in the paths of Hurricanes Jose and Maria to review these tips:

  • Check to make sure your emergency kit is stocked and test your family communications plan.
  • Know your evacuation routes and how to find higher ground. Determine where you would go, and how you would get there if instructed to evacuate. If directed to evacuate by local officials, evacuate.

Stay vigilant and continue to monitor local radio or TV stations, and local emergency management officials, for updated weather and emergency information.

  • The FEMA App (available in English and Spanish) provides National Weather Service alerts (for up to 5 areas), emergency kit checklists, directions to open shelters, safety preparation tips and more.
  • Make plans to secure your property:
    • Cover all of your home’s windows. Permanent storm shutters offer the best protection for windows. A second option is to board up windows with 5/8” marine plywood, cut to fit and ready to install. Tape does not prevent windows from breaking.
    • Reinforce your garage doors; if wind enters a garage it can cause dangerous and expensive structural damage.
    • Plan to bring in all outdoor furniture, decorations, garbage cans, and anything else that is not tied down.
    • Determine how and where to secure boats and other marine craft.
  • You can safely install a generator for emergencies. Remember, never run a generator inside and keep it away from windows, doors, and vents.
  • If using candles, please use caution. If possible, use flashlights instead. If you must use candles, do not burn them on or near anything that can catch fire.
  • Your phone is an important tool to ensure your family’s safety. Make sure to charge your phone and other electronic devices.
  • Businesses of all sizes are encouraged to follow local public safety authority direction and to share safety messaging with employees in order to reduce risk.
  • If you have a National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) flood insurance policy, you may be eligible for reimbursement for actions taken to protect your property. Call your insurance agent to find out more.
Watches and Warnings
  • Get to know the terms that are used to identify severe weather and discuss with your family what to do if a watch or warning is issued.

For a tropical storm:

  • A Tropical Storm Watch is issued when tropical cyclone containing winds of at least 39 MPH or higher poses a possible threat, generally within 48 hours.
  • A Tropical Storm Warning is issued when sustained winds of 39 MPH or higher associated with a tropical cyclone are expected in 36 hours or less.

For a hurricane:

  • A Hurricane Watch is issued when a tropical cyclone containing winds of at least 74 MPH poses a possible threat, generally within 48 hours.
  • A Hurricane Warning is issued when sustained winds of 74 MPH or higher associated with a tropical cyclone are expected in 36 hours or less. A hurricane warning can remain in effect when dangerously high water or a combination of dangerously high water and exceptionally high waves continue, even though winds may be less than hurricane force.

For coastal flooding:

  • A Coastal Flood Watch is issued when moderate to major coastal flooding is possible.
  • A Coastal Flood Warning is issued when moderate to major coastal flooding is occurring or imminent.
  • A Coastal Flood Advisory is issued when minor or nuisance coastal flooding is occurring or imminent.

For more safety procedures and tips on what to do before, during, and after a hurricane, visit ready.gov/hurricanes or listo.gov/es/huracanes.

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Topics:  Disasters Keywords:  FEMA, Hurricane, natural disasters, ready.gov
Categories: Homeland Security

Florida Keys: Plan Ahead Before Returning Home to Be Safe

Mon, 09/18/2017 - 10:09
Release Date: September 18, 2017

For Immediate Release
FEMA News Desk
Phone: 202-646-3272

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. As the reentry process for the Lower Keys begins, FEMA stresses the importance of following guidance from your local officials. Currently only residents, business owners, disaster workers, and supply vehicles with appropriate identification, or re-entry stickers, will be permitted to enter.

For those returning to homes or businesses on the Keys, Monroe County offers important public safety information on their website www.keysrecovery.org/.

  • Have identification with their current address ready to get through any checkpoints.
  • Be alert to emergency rescue crews, power crews, or other personnel who may block roads.
  • Expect to see numerous law enforcement officials throughout the area.
  • Be wary of displaced local wildlife such as snakes, insects, or alligators.
Prepare Before You Go

For those eligible to return, local officials stress the need to be prepared. The area still is without electricity, and there are challenging conditions for life safety, communications, and sewer access. Those who return should bring plenty of supplies. Consider all your potential needs for food, water, medication, mosquito repellent, and other important items.

Structural Safety

From the outside of your home, examine the building. If you see obvious damage, the building is off

the foundation, or you have doubts about its structural safety, do not enter. If the outside looks safe, enter the building slowly and carefully.

Register for Federal Assistance

In some cases, you may not be able to stay in your home because of the amount of damage. If so, consider staying with friends or family while you repair your home. Transitional sheltering may be available to you once you register for federal assistance with FEMA.

Apply for FEMA assistance online at DisasterAssistance.gov or by telephone at 800-621-3362 (voice, 711 or VRS) or 800-462-7585 (TTY). Due to high demand, lines may be busy. Try calling in the morning or evening when call volume may be low, and be patient.

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Topics:  Disaster Response and Recovery, Disaster Survivor Assistance, Disasters Keywords:  disaster relief, FEMA, Hurricane, Hurricane Irma, natural disasters
Categories: Homeland Security

Hurricane Debris Pick-Up a Priority for Florida Recovery

Mon, 09/18/2017 - 10:04
Release Date: September 18, 2017

For Immediate Release
FEMA News Desk
Phone: 202-646-3272

TALLAHASSEE, Fla.As Floridians begin the cleanup process after Hurricane Irma, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) urges everyone to know the best way to remove debris from their property.

Don’t wait to clean up storm damage. Document damage with photos or videos.

Take care when cleaning up. Dangling power lines, flooding and other hazards remain. If trees and other debris have fallen on your private property, be sure to check with your insurance agent to determine if tree damage is covered by your policy. As you clean up, be sure to keep in mind the following information:

  • Due to the magnitude of recent disaster events, residents can move debris from their private property to public rights-of-way for pick up and removal by local governments for a limited time. Debris removal from private property is generally the responsibility of the property owner, just as before the hurricane.
  • Follow guidance from your local officials when placing debris for collection. Separate debris into six categories when disposing along the curb:
    • Electronics, such as televisions, computers or phones;
    • Large appliances, such as refrigerators, washers, dryers, stoves or dishwashers.  Be sure to seal or secure the doors so that they are not accessible;
    • Hazardous waste, such as oil, batteries, pesticides, paint or cleaning supplies. If you suspect that materials contain lead-based paint, keep them moist or contain materials in plastic bags so that the paint does not become airborne;
    • Vegetative debris, such as tree branches, leaves or plants;
    • Construction debris, such as drywall, lumber, carpet or furniture; and
    • Household garbage, discarded food, paper or packaging.
  • Place debris away from trees, poles or structures including fire hydrants and meters.
  • Remove all water-damaged materials from your home and place curbside for pickup.
  • Debris should not block the roadway.

Hurricane Irma left behind fallen trees, limbs and trash from damaged buildings on private and public property. Workers have begun picking up the tons of debris dumped on streets, highways, curbsides and from private yards. Federal and state aid will help pay for removing debris from public property.

For more Hurricane Irma recovery information, visit www.fema.gov/hurricane-irma.

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Topics:  Disaster Response and Recovery, Disaster Survivor Assistance, Disasters Keywords:  disaster relief, FEMA, Hurricane Irma, natural disasters
Categories: Homeland Security

FEMA Provides Update on Federal Support to Hurricane Irma Response

Mon, 09/18/2017 - 09:55
Release Date: September 18, 2017

For Immediate Release
FEMA News Desk
Phone: 202-646-3272

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

Tens of thousands of federal workers are supporting preparedness, response, and recovery to Hurricane Irma, including more than 3,200 FEMA staff, and more than 13,000 National Guard soldiers and airmen from 22 states, in rescue, evacuation, security and support operations.

Crewmembers from Coast Guard Aids to Navigation Team Jacksonville Beach make repairs to a light damaged by Hurricane Irma, Friday, Sept. 15, 2017, in Brunswick, Georgia. The ANT Jacksonville Beach crew is responsible for over 950 aids to navigation throughout northeastern Florida and southeastern Georgia. (U.S. Coast Guard photo courtesy of Aids to Navigation Team Jacksonville Beach)

The Department of Energy 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, to support power restoration. Private sector partners estimate that power should be returned to 95 percent of customers by September 17. Restoration to severely damaged areas will take additional time.

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

FEMA disaster assistance teams go door to door in Florida after Irma

FEMA received more than 413,000 registrations to date and has already approved $92.8 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 16, 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 8,100 people were provided refuge from Hurricane Irma in more than 100 government and Red Cross evacuation centers across four states, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands.  To date, the ARC served more than 380,000 meals and snacks. More than 3,000 Red Cross workers are responding to Irma now, with almost 350 more volunteers on the way.
     
  • The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) currently have more than 350 personnel engaged and have received 35 FEMA Mission Assignments (MA). For Florida, USACE’s mission assignments include providing temporary power, temporary roofing, debris removal, and infrastructure assessment. For Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands, USACE’s mission assignments include providing temporary power, temporary roofing, debris removal/technical assistance, infrastructure assessment, and a commodities management subject-matter expert.
     
  • The U.S. National Guard Bureau (NGB) is sending additional personnel to support law enforcement and security operations; they’re scheduled to arrive in the affected areas in the next four days. National Guard soldiers and airmen continue staffing critical points of distribution to deliver essential resources including food and water, and continue clearing debris to open roads in affected areas. The National Guard continues search and rescue efforts in the Keys, while route clearance, shelter operations, law enforcement support, communication restoration and essential resource distribution remain a priority as well.  The National Guard is augmenting civilian law enforcement in securing areas affected by Hurricane Irma and in helping citizens rebuild their communities.
     
  • U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) continues to work with its partners to ensure that fuel remains available in the areas impacted by Hurricanes Irma and Harvey. The fuel situation is stable, and DOE is working with its interagency and private sector partners to ensure that it remains available throughout the region. The Strategic Petroleum Reserve delivered 3.1 million barrels of crude, out of the 5.3 million authorized. A blog post about these efforts can be found here, and DOE continues to provide situational updates here.
     
  • The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) is sending a large, mobile air traffic control tower to Key West to help increase the safety and number of operations at the damaged airport. The mobile tower is currently at Bradley Airport, Connecticut and will be en route soon to Key West, and operational mid-week.
     
  • U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) response coordinators are working with federal and U.S. Virgin Islands territory agencies to identify long-term solutions for health care in the U.S. Virgin Islands; the territory’s entire medical care system and public health system were hard hit by the storm. National Disaster Medical System and U.S. Public Health Service Commissioned Corps teams have seen more than 3,700 patients, including dialysis patients evacuated from the Caribbean islands to Puerto Rico, as well as at the St. Thomas hospital, Florida shelters, and two hospitals in the Florida Keys. The HHS continues to provide the Disaster Distress Helpline (1-800-985-5990), which remains open 24/7 for free help coping with the stress of the storm.
     
  • The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) continues to provide personnel to support the efforts in Florida and the U.S. Virgin Islands, and share information about carbon monoxide and generator safety: https://www.cdc.gov/disasters/co-materials.html. The agency is currently translating guidance material into more than ten languages for survivors.
     
  • The U.S. Coast Guard (USCG) is working with the U.S. Navy and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration in Key West, Florida, to open the shipping channel from the sea buoy to the Mole Pier, to facilitate the safe movement of relief supply deliveries.  However, the port of Key West remains closed at this time. Since Sept. 12, sixteen (16) tank ships have been cleared to deliver their supplies of fuel to ports in Florida. Eight additional tank ships are expected to arrive in the coming days. Coast Guard National Strike Force crews are working with local, state and federal teams on 64 pollution cleanup responses across the storm-impacted areas.
     
  • The U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) released a message from Attorney General Jeff Sessions to those impacted by Hurricanes Irma and Harvey. To view this release, click here or see the video. The NCDF Disaster Fraud Hotline is (866) 720-5721. The Bureau of Prisons is providing updates at www.bop.gov.
     
  • U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) continues to coordinate closely with local, state, tribal and federal partners, especially the Florida Department of Environmental Protection in response to Hurricane Irma. EPA deployed six National Priority List (NPL) Assessment Teams to Florida this week and over one third, and counting, of the NPL sites in Florida have been assessed. EPA is also exercising enforcement discretion for diesel fuel use by utility work vehicles and equipment.  Florida Governor Rick Scott issued a request that will go into effect immediately, and terminates when all diesel reserves have been used or by the end of the day on September 22, 2017, whichever comes first.
     
  • The U.S. Social Security Administration (SSA) is working with the United States Postal Service and the Department of Treasury regarding check payments to be delivered. Cycle 3 benefit payments will be delivered on September 20. They estimate approximately 5,700 checks will be issued in the areas affected by Irma. The SSA will continue to monitor the status of all check payments in affected areas.
     
  • The U.S. Postal Service (USPS) continues to restore all mail processing operations in the state of Florida, including the areas hardest hit. In the Florida Keys, delivery and retail operations have resumed today in Key Largo and Tavernier. All facilities in Puerto Rico are open except for one post office.

VATF1 and NYTF1 personnel w/ @forestservice force protection officers re-raised US flag above the old firehouse at Fort Christian. [U.S. Virgin Islands]

Sailors work with heavy equipment to remove debris from Naval Air Station Key West, Florida, Sept. 15, 2017. Clean up efforts are in full swing across the Florida Keys after Hurricane Irma caused extensive damage across the state. (U.S. Coast Guard Petty Officer 2nd Class Dustin R. Williams)

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Topics:  Disaster Response and Recovery, Disaster Survivor Assistance, Disasters Keywords:  disaster relief, federal response, FEMA, Flooding, Hurricane, Hurricane Irma, natural disasters
Categories: Homeland Security

What to Expect When You Register for FEMA Disaster Assistance

Mon, 09/18/2017 - 09:41
Release Date: September 18, 2017

Release Number: R4 DR-4337-FL NR 008

For Immediate Release
FEMA News Desk
Phone: 202-646-3272

TALLAHASSEE, Fla.If you live in one of the disaster-designated Florida counties and experienced property damage or loss directly caused by Hurricane Irma, register with the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) for disaster assistance – even if you have insurance. This can be an important step to begin the process of recovery.

You may register for assistance the following ways:

  • At www.DisasterAssistance.gov.
  • If you don’t have Internet access, you can call 800-621-3362.
  • People who have a speech disability or hearing loss and use TTY should call 800-462-7585.
  • For those who use 711 or Video Relay Service (VRS), call 800-621-3362.
  • These toll-free telephone numbers will operate from 7 a.m. to 11 p.m. (EST) seven days a week until further notice.

FEMA assistance for individuals may include grants for rent, temporary housing and home repairs to their primary residences, as well as funding for other serious disaster-related needs, such as medical, dental or funeral costs. If you have insurance, FEMA may still be able to assist with disaster-related expenses that were underinsured or not covered by your policy.

After you apply, a FEMA inspector will contact you to schedule an inspection. The inspection generally takes 30-40 minutes or less and consists of a general verification of your disaster-related losses and a review of ownership or residence records. There is no fee for the inspection.

When a FEMA housing inspector comes to visit your home, be sure they show you proper identification. All FEMA inspectors have prominent photo identification badges. If you suspect someone is posing as a FEMA housing inspector, call our toll-free Disaster Fraud Hotline at 866-720-5721, or call local law enforcement officials.

Once the inspection process is complete, your situation will be reviewed by FEMA. You will receive a letter by email or physical mail, depending on your preference, which outlines the decision about your claim. For more information about the inspection process, and documentation you will need to provide the inspector, visit the FEMA Individual Assistance Inspection Process page.

Know that you may receive a visit from more than one inspector throughout the recovery process. In addition to FEMA housing inspectors, representatives from the U.S. Small Business Administration, state and local officials and inspectors for private insurance coverage also visit neighborhoods in affected areas.

For more recovery information visit FEMA’s Hurricane Irma web page at www.fema.gov/hurricane-irma.

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Topics:  Disaster Response and Recovery, Disaster Survivor Assistance, Disasters Keywords:  disaster relief, FEMA, Hurricane, Hurricane Irma, natural disasters
Categories: Homeland Security

Hurricane Irma Response and Relief Operations Continue with Full Federal Capability

Fri, 09/15/2017 - 16:11
Release Date: September 15, 2017

For Immediate Release
FEMA News Desk
Phone: 202-646-3272

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.

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)

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.

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.

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)

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 at www.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: @USGSA, Facebook, Blog. For more information on general building statuses, visit gsa.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 found here, 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 at www.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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Topics:  Disaster Response and Recovery, Disaster Survivor Assistance, Disasters Keywords:  disaster relief, federal response, FEMA, Flooding, Hurricane, Hurricane Irma, natural disasters
Categories: Homeland Security

FEMA’s National Flood Insurance Program Enhances the Flood Claims Process and Extends Grace Period for Policy Renewals

Fri, 09/15/2017 - 13:01
Release Date: September 15, 2017

Release Number: HQ-17-118

For Immediate Release
FEMA News Desk
Phone: 202-646-3272

WASHINGTON — To support the ongoing disaster recovery, the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s (FEMA) National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) is enhancing the flood insurance claims process, and extending the grace period for paying policy renewal premiums for insured survivors affected by Hurricane Irma.

Due to the wide-spread catastrophic damage caused by Hurricane Irma, FEMA implemented temporary changes to rush recovery money into the hands of NFIP policyholders, for repair and replacement of flood-damaged properties. FEMA also wants to ensure continuous flood insurance coverage for current NFIP policyholders affected by this storm, even if the renewed policy premium cannot be paid at this time. FEMA is directing all NFIP private insurance partners to:

  • Provide advance payments on flood claims, even before visits by an adjuster;
  • Increase the advance payment allowable for policyholders who provide photographs or video depicting flood  damage and expenses, or a contractor’s itemized estimate;
  • Waive use of the initial Proof of Loss (POL) form; and
  • Extend the grace period for payment of NFIP flood insurance policy renewal premiums to 120 days. This waiver applies to all NFIP policies, whether issued by the NFIP Servicing Agent or a Write Your Own Company, written for properties in areas in the U.S. Virgin Islands, Puerto Rico, and counties in Florida that have received a Major Disaster Declaration for Individual Assistance (IA) under the Stafford Act.

Advance Payments

The NFIP is making it easier for policyholders to receive an advance payment for their flood claim to help them begin the process of recovery as quickly as possible. After filing a flood insurance claim, the policyholder can discuss advance payment with the insurer:

  • When a policyholder contacts his/her insurer and verifies his/her identity, he/she can receive an advance payment for up to $5,000 on a flood claim without an adjuster visit or additional documentation.  When the advance payment is issued, a letter is sent to the policyholder which explains that by accepting this payment the policyholder is certifying the damage.
  • Up to $20,000 may be advanced to a policyholder who provides photos and/or videos depicting damage, and receipts validating out-of-pocket expenses related to flood loss or a contractor’s itemized estimate. Policyholders with significant damage who have a contractor’s itemized estimate may be eligible for a larger advance payment and should discuss this with the adjuster.

Advance payments are deducted from a policyholder’s final claim settlement amount. Advance payments may only be used according to the terms of the policy. For example, if a policyholder has a building/structure flood insurance policy, the advance payment must be used to repair or rebuild the structure. Or if a policyholder has contents coverage, the advance payment must be used to repair or replace contents that were within the structure. Advance payments may not be used for temporary housing and living expenses.

If a policyholder’s property is mortgaged, the lender will also be named on the advance payment issued for a building/structure flood insurance policy. In this case, the policyholder and lender will both be required to sign the advance payment check. 

Proof of Loss Waiver

To expedite processing of NFIP claims for Hurricane Irma, the NFIP is waiving the requirement for a policyholder to submit an initial Proof of Loss (POL) document. Here’s how the expedited process will work:

  • After a policyholder files a claim, a time is set up for the adjuster to inspect the flood damaged property. The adjuster will document the damage and submit a report to the policyholder’s insurance company.
  • If additional damage is discovered or a policyholder does not agree with the payment amount, a policyholder can seek additional payment if the policy’s coverage limits have not been met. A POL will be required to seek a supplemental payment on the claim. If payment is issued based upon the adjuster’s initial report and an additional proof of loss is not submitted by the policyholder, the insurer will close the file.

If a policyholder decides to request an additional payment, which must be done by completing a POL, the policyholder will have one year from the date of filing the initial claim to submit the request to the insurance company. FEMA has informed all of its NFIP insurance partners about this process and how it will work.  NFIP policyholders are encouraged to work closely with an adjuster on this expedited process.

Grace Period Extension for Policy Renewals

To ensure that policyholders affected by Hurricane Irma can focus on recovery and continue to have flood insurance coverage, FEMA is extending the current 30-day grace period of continual flood insurance coverage to 120 days, for policies in Florida, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands, that were set for renewal during the immediate response to Hurricane Irma.

Policies with an expiration date of August 7, 2017, through October 6, 2017, are eligible for the grace period extension.  Payment for those policies must be received within 120 days of the policy expiration.

The NFIP cannot pay a claim for a flood loss that occurs after a policy expiration date unless the policyholder’s insurance company receives the payment in full for renewal on or before the last day of the grace period. 

The grace period extension applies to NFIP policies covering properties in Puerto Rico, U.S. Virgin Islands, and Florida counties designated under the Presidential Disaster Declaration. NFIP policyholders are encouraged to contact their insurance company and report a flood claim as soon as possible.  For any policy with a renewal date on or after October 7, 2017, the normal 30-day grace period will apply.

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Topics:  Disaster Response and Recovery, Disaster Survivor Assistance, Disasters Keywords:  disaster recovery plan, disaster relief, FEMA, flood, Hurricane Irma, National Flood Insurance Program
Categories: Homeland Security

DHS Acting Secretary Elaine Duke Welcomes New U.S. Citizens during Constitution Week

Fri, 09/15/2017 - 10:18
Release Date: September 15, 2017

For Immediate Release
Office of the Press Secretary
Contact: 202-282-8010

Duke Delivered the Keynote Address at a Naturalization Ceremony at the National Archives  

WASHINGTON – Today, Acting Secretary of Homeland Security Elaine Duke addressed a group of new United States citizens at a naturalization ceremony in Washington, DC. The ceremony, held at the Rotunda for the Charters of Freedom at the National Archives, was part of special programming celebrating Constitution Week. Acting Secretary Duke was also joined by Acting U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services Director James McCament.

During the ceremony, 30 men and women from 22 countries, all of whom went through the legal U.S. immigration process, took an oath to uphold the Constitution. The group was also the first to be shown a video from President Donald J. Trump welcoming the new citizens to the United States.

Excerpts from Acting Secretary Duke’s prepared remarks are below.

“It is a privilege for me to join you and your families today, on your first day as citizens of the United States of America.

“It is especially an honor to stand here, in the Rotunda, among the Charters of Freedom, and reflect on the promise of this great nation.

“Throughout our history, people have come to the United States in pursuit of freedom and opportunity.  Whether they wanted to be free to practice their religion, free to choose their leaders, or free to speak their mind, this country is a place where freedom is a right for all of our citizens, whether natural-born or naturalized. 

“In choosing to become citizens of the United States, you’ve demonstrated that you value our country.  You value the rule of law.  You value the time and effort it takes to do things the right way.

“I know your journey to this moment has involved a lot of hard work.  I congratulate you, and I congratulate your families, and I wish you all the happiness in the world in celebrating this accomplishment.

“But as citizens, we still have work to do in pursuit of a more perfect union. So participate in your local community.  Vote in every election.  Voice your ideas.  Make your mark in the land of opportunity.

“I wish you all the best in living and achieving your American dream.  Welcome home, my fellow citizens.”

You can read her full remarks here.

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Topics:  Immigration and Citizenship Services Keywords:  Acting Secretary Elaine Duke, naturalization ceremonies, naturalized citizens
Categories: Homeland Security

DHS Acting Secretary Elaine Duke visits Florida with President Trump to Assess Hurricane Irma Response and Recovery Efforts

Fri, 09/15/2017 - 09:08
Release Date: September 15, 2017

For Immediate Release
Office of the Press Secretary
Contact: 202-282-8010

WASHINGTON – Yesterday, Acting Secretary of Homeland Security Elaine Duke traveled to Fort Myers and Naples, Florida with President Donald J. Trump to meet with federal, state and local officials carrying out Hurricane Irma response and recovery efforts.

In Fort Myers, the President and the Acting Secretary, along with Vice President Mike Pence, Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) Administrator Brock Long, and Department of Energy Secretary Rick Perry received a briefing on relief efforts. Florida Governor Rick Scott, Senators Bill Nelson and Marco Rubio, Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi, President & CEO of Florida Power & Light Company Eric Silagy as well as state, county, and local emergency management officials participated in the discussions. The Acting Secretary then traveled to Naples, Florida where she met with individuals impacted by Hurricane Irma.

“We owe a debt of gratitude to our first responders, federal employees, and volunteers who have worked tirelessly to evacuate local communities and aid with recovery. Today, we saw the damage from Hurricane Irma firsthand, and connected with state and local officials to discuss the additional resources they need to continue recovery efforts,” said Acting Secretary Duke. “We also met with survivors, and heard their stories. Let me tell you this - Floridians are tough. The road to recovery will take time, but I am confident the administration’s efforts, along with our state and local partners, will help rebuild local communities quickly and put Florida back on track.”

The Department of Homeland Security’s top priority is to protect the American people from harm – this includes from natural disasters. Registering online at www.DisasterAssistance.gov is the quickest way for those affected to register for federal aid. The federal government continues to support Hurricane Harvey response and recovery efforts underway in Texas and Louisiana along with those impacted by Hurricane Irma.

Today, more than 40,000 federal personnel, including more than 2,650 FEMA staff, are working in support of preparedness and response to Hurricane Irma. Many federal agencies, including the U.S. Departments of State, Defense, Interior, and Homeland Security have deployed thousands of personnel to provide logistical support for commodities, employ search and rescue assets, as well as conduct damage assessments to develop and advance recovery efforts.

Acting Secretary Elaine Duke joins FEMA Administrator Brock Long to survey damage following Hurricane Irma. (DHS Official Photo/Jetta Disco)

Acting Secretary Elaine Duke meets with members of  the U.S. Coast Guard responding to Hurricane Irma. (DHS Official Photo/PA2 Patrick Kelly)

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Topics:  Disaster Response and Recovery Keywords:  Acting Secretary Elaine Duke, disaster recovery plan, disaster relief, federal response, FEMA, Hurricane Irma, natural disasters
Categories: Homeland Security

DHS Acting Secretary Duke Remarks from Constitution Week Naturalization Ceremony

Fri, 09/15/2017 - 08:09
Release Date: September 15, 2017

As Delivered

ACTING SECRETARY DUKE:  Thank you, Archivist Ferriero.

It is a privilege for me to join you and your families today, on your first day as citizens of the United States of America.

It is especially an honor to stand here, in the Rotunda, among the Charters of Freedom, and reflect on the promise of this great nation. 

For years, before I was the Acting Secretary of Homeland Security, I taught civics to people preparing for their naturalization test—a test each of you knows well, and that I’m sure each of you aced.   

I taught civics to immigrants because I believe in the American dream you all have pursued.

I believe in our system of government, in our laws, and in our rights and responsibilities as citizens.

I believe in tolerance, and I believe in inclusion. 

I believe we all have the potential to change our country, and our communities, for the better. 

And I believe it is our duty to do so. 

This Sunday, we mark the 230th signing of the United States Constitution—the supreme law of the United States.

To go back to those civics lessons, the Constitution set up—and defined—the U.S. government.  It also protects the fundamental rights of all Americans.

It was the first permanent written Constitution of its kind, and one that has survived for centuries. This is a remarkable accomplishment, and a testament to the strength of the so-called noble experiment. 

By design, attaining citizenship in the United States is a matter of commitment and conscience, not a fact of heritage or history. 

President Ronald Reagan once received a letter from a man, shortly before Reagan left office.  I’d like to quote it for you now.  “He wrote that you can go to live in France, but you can’t become a Frenchman.  You can go to live in Germany or Italy, but you can’t become a German, an Italian. 

“He went through Turkey, Greece, Japan, and other countries.  But he said anyone, from any corner of the world, can come to live in the United States and become an American.” 

And people have become Americans in great numbers.  Over the past decade, we’ve welcomed more than 7.4 million naturalized citizens into the fabric of our nation.  

In fiscal year 2016 alone, three-quarters of a million people took the same oath you did today, and over a million immigrants moved to the United States to start the journey to citizenship you are completing today.

Throughout our history, people have come to the United States in pursuit of freedom and opportunity.  Whether they wanted to be free to practice their religion, free to choose their leaders, or free to speak their mind, this country is a place where freedom is a right for all of our citizens, whether natural-born or naturalized.   

Over the centuries, America has been enriched by the talents, cultures, skills, ingenuity, and values brought here by immigrants. It continues to be enriched by the gifts you bring with you today.

It hasn’t always been easy.  In each generation, immigrants have worked hard to find their place, and to build their own American dream.  But we live in the land of opportunity, where countless immigrants have built businesses, strengthened their communities, and made their dreams come true. 

Each of you have taken unique and exceptional journeys to arrive here at the National Archives today.  But you are all part of a great tradition, in a great country, and we are proud to welcome you home. 

In choosing to become citizens of the United States, you’ve demonstrated that you value our country.  You value the rule of law.  You value the time and effort it takes to do things the right way. 

Your commitment to these values is a tremendous strength to this nation. 

There is no question that we are living in a time of division in the world.  We see demonstrations of ugliness and intolerance on our streets, on the Internet, and on the evening news.

We see that’s what’s right is not always popular, and what’s popular is not always right. 

We see the censorship of controversial ideas.  We see a lack of civil discourse on important topics.

We often see a race by many to label those we disagree with as evil.  Or those one quarrels with as morally flawed.

But, just as you have come from different backgrounds and bring different views and ideas to your new nation, a diversity of thought and viewpoints can ultimately make our nation stronger.

Challenging each other intellectually.  Defending your own ideas.  And learning from your neighbors is vital. 

There’s another President Reagan quote, one that I think of often.  That is, “If we love our country, we should also love our countrymen.” 

We can be better.  We must be better. 

Our nation was built on the highest ideals, and those ideals were brought to life by hardworking, law-abiding citizens. 

People gave their lives for our nation’s freedom.  We owe them the continuation of law and order, and the responsibilities of good citizenship. 

The world is different place today than when the Constitution was signed 230 years ago. 

One thing that has not changed, though, is that the United States of America is for “We the People.” 

In the preamble to the Constitution, we talk about establishing a “more perfect” union.  In that phrase—“more perfect”—is the potential of “We the People.”

We are free to practice our religion.  We are free to speak out against intolerance.  We are free to petition our government, and we are free to peacefully protest. 

We are free to volunteer with organizations that speak to our hearts.  We are free to make good personal choices, as well as bad.  We are free to vote for the leaders we choose.  We the People live in the land of the free.

No one is above the Constitution—it belongs to all of us.  So does our nation belong to its citizens. 

I know your journey to this moment has involved a lot of hard work.  I congratulate you, and I congratulate your families, and I wish you all the happiness in the world in celebrating this accomplishment. 

But as citizens, we still have work to do in pursuit of a more perfect union. 

So participate in your local community.  Vote in every election.  Voice your ideas.  Make your mark in the land of opportunity. 

I wish you all the best in living and achieving your American dream.  Welcome home, my fellow citizens. 

Thank you.

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Keywords:  Acting Secretary Elaine Duke, naturalization ceremonies, naturalized citizens
Categories: Homeland Security

Federal Family Continues Response and Relief Operations Following Hurricane Irma

Thu, 09/14/2017 - 16:36
Release Date: September 14, 2017

Release Number: HQ-17-115

For Immediate Release
FEMA News Desk
Phone: 202-646-3272

WASHINGTON – In the wake of Hurricane Irma, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security's Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) is actively coordinating the efforts of the federal family, working alongside state and local emergency responders to help address the immediate needs of survivors.

More than 40,000 federal personnel are working in support of preparedness and response to Hurricane Irma, including more than 2,650 FEMA staff with additional staff continuing to deploy. Many federal agencies, including the U.S. Departments of State, Defense, Interior, and Homeland Security have deployed thousands of personnel to provide logistical support for commodities, employ search and rescue assets, as well as conduct damage assessments to develop and advance recovery efforts.

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 1141 rescues, and in Florida, FEMA US&R saved 1,006 lives. The U.S. Coast Guard (USCG) have rescued 326 people and saved 53 pets. The U.S. Coast Guard has also answered more than 1750 emergency phone calls at their headquarters facility.

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 50% of power is restored across the affected areas.

As of September 14, 2017, FEMA transferred approximately 6.6 million meals and 4.7 million liters of water to states in the Southeast, at the states’ requests. In addition, nearly 578,000 meals, 383,000 liters of water, 13,600 sheeting covers, 150 rolls of blue tarps, and 30 generators were transferred to St. Thomas and St. John. 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 13.6 million liters of water;
  • Florida: more than 315,000 meals, more than 390,000 liters of water, 151 generators;
  • Georgia: more than 500,000 meals, 30 generators;
  • North Carolina: more than 340,000 meals, 2.1 million liters of water, 57 generators;
  • South Carolina: more than 717,000 meals, 1.8 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.

The Department of Justice (DOJ) and FEMA Advise Disaster Applicants to Beware of Rumors, Misinformation, and Fraud. Federal and state workers do not ask for, or accept, money. FEMA staff will never charge applicants for disaster assistance, home inspections, or help filling out applications. Stay alert for false promises to speed up the insurance, disaster assistance, or building permit process. If fraud is suspected, contact the National Center for Disaster Fraud's hotline at 1-866-720-5721, or email the organization at disaster@leo.gov

For those in designated areas in Florida, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands, registering online, at www.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 has received a total of 154,800 registrations to date, and already approved $21 million for Hurricane Irma survivors. As it becomes safe for people to return to their homes, we expect registration numbers to increase.

Federal Efforts Underway  

  • The American Red Cross (ARC) is operationally focused on safety, shelter, food, which includes shelf stable meals, and positioning personnel and supplies. On short notice, an estimated 22,000 people sought refuge from Hurricane Irma in as many as 200 government and Red Cross evacuation centers across six states, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands. To date, the ARC have served more than 154,000 meals and snacks.
     
  • 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. In coordination with local partner, Volunteer Florida, additional locally-serving AmeriCorps and Senior Corps members have been put on standby as CNCS assesses additional needs. 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) Temporary Roofing Planning and Response Team (PRT) arrived in USVI Monday. The PRT conducted an assessment of high priority critical facilities in St. Thomas. USACE currently have more than 350 personnel engaged and have received 39 FEMA Mission Assignments (MA).
      • In Florida: Temporary Roofing experts are coordinating a flyover of South Florida residential areas to identify potential mission areas. USACE mobilized contractors to South Florida and worked with area shelters to identify debris removal requirements.
      • In USVI/Puerto Rico: New FEMA mission assigned activities include Deployed Tactical Operations System (DTOS) or mobile communications Support, Water/Wastewater, Temporary Housing, Unwatering experts, Logistics Support, and GIS Specialists.
    • The U.S. National Guard Bureau (NGB) is responding to Hurricane Irma with 17,000 soldiers and airmen from all over the country in rescue, evacuation, security, and support operations, with nearly 5,300 more en route to the affected areas.
      • In Florida, National Guard soldiers and airmen are conducting assessments using satellite and aerial imagery, while also performing route clearing to deliver fuel and lifesaving, essential resources. Utility restoration is underway to allow citizens to return home.  
      • In Saint Martin, the National Guard is continuing evacuation operations with over 1,600 U.S. citizens evacuated thus far.
         
    • 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. In the U.S. Virgin Islands, the USS Kearsarge and USS Oak Hill continue to work moving people and supplies to the islands.  The USS Abraham Lincoln arrived near the Florida Keys Tuesday afternoon and its helicopters immediately started assessments and evaluations of airfields for state and local authorities. 
       
    • The U.S. Marine Corps’ (USMC) stationed 500 Marines in the U.S. Virgin Islands to assist clearing the roads and removing debris for people and vehicles to pass.
       
  • U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) continues to work closely with its interagency and private sector partners to ensure that fuel remains available the states impacted by Hurricanes Irma and Harvey. DOE worked with the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Department of Transportation (DOT), and states to support issuing proper waivers to provide flexibility in the market that alleviates some fuel logistics issues and recovery operations. DOE also authorized release of 5.3 million barrels of crude from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve, of which 2.8 million have been delivered as of September 13.
     
  • 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: @USGSA, Facebook, Blog. For more information on general building statuses, visit gsa.gov/facilitystatus.
     
  • The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) provided data to public health authorities in Florida, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands to assist them in reaching Medicare beneficiaries who rely on any of 14 types of electrically powered medical equipment at home—such as electric wheelchairs, oxygen concentrators home ventilators—or home health services. Power outages become life-or-death situations for people with these medical conditions.
     
    • 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. CDC also distributed the Health Alert Notice on Carbon Monoxide to the impacted states in both Spanish and English, and have sent guidance on carbon monoxide safety to home improvement stores and other partners in the affected regions.
       
  • U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) will speed federal disaster assistance to the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico and provide support to homeowners and low-income renters from their homes due to Hurricane Irma. For more information, visit https://portal.hud.gov/hudportal/HUD.
     
  • 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. Due to the severe disruptions of the oil supply system resulting from Hurricanes Harvey and Irma, the extended waiver will facilitate movement of refined petroleum products, including gasoline, diesel, and jet fuel, to be shipped from New York, New Jersey, Delaware, Maryland, Pennsylvania, New Mexico, Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, and Arkansas to Florida, Georgia, South Carolina, North Carolina, Virginia, West Virginia, and Puerto Rico.  Effective immediately, this waiver applies to covered merchandise laded on board a vessel through and including September 22, 2017.     
     
    • 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 https://uscis.gov/special-situations 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 continues to participate on daily calls with national and local disability stakeholders, and closely coordinate with FEMA’s Office of Disability Integration and Coordination on issues that arise. They have sent out a message with a comprehensive list of CRCL and other federal disaster resources specifically for persons with disabilities, as well as emergency providers that interact with them. These resources can also be found on our 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. All ports in Florida, with the exception of Key West, are open, though many with restrictions. 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. Coast Guard teams are also conducting water rescues, saving more than 320 lives to date.
       
    • U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) created a Hurricane Irma Centralized repository on CBP.gov, emphasizing operational assets ready across the state of Florida as most airports and seaports have reopened and resumed operations. Click to VIEW coverage or see @CBPFlorida.
       
    • The U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) has twelve law enforcement personnel assisting the Disaster Medical Deployment Team in St. Thomas. An additional six personnel have deployed to St. Thomas to assist with reconstitution efforts.
       
    • The National Protection and Programs Directorate (NPPD) support for restoration and recovery efforts continues, with an emerging focus on power restoration and fuel prioritization to support emergency services and critical infrastructure.
       
    • The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) deployed 60 personnel to Miami International Airport on September 11, 2017. Teams from airports in Los Angeles, Boston, and San Francisco were also deployed. TSA deployed 166 screening personnel from additional airports on September 12 to impacted areas.
       
  • The U.S. Department of the Interior (DOI) provided an overview of Department of Interior and partner support for the hurricane-battered U.S. Virgin Islands. Additionally, Secretary Ryan Zinke talked about Hurricane Irma on September 12. Interior currently has a total of 220 personnel supporting FEMA missions related to Hurricane/Tropical Storm Irma including 57 U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) personnel continuing real-time field measurements and daily reporting of water heights in Puerto Rico, Georgia, South Carolina, and Florida; and 140 staff providing law enforcement support for search and rescue and other FEMA functions. With multiple national parks and wildlife refuges impacted by the hurricanes throughout the Southeast, the Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico, the National Park Service (NPS) Eastern Incident Management Team (IMT) relocated its response operations to Everglades National Park while two U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service IMTs have arrived in Tallahassee, along with one Saw Team from North Carolina in Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge.
     
  • The U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) law enforcement components are participating in quick response teams in Florida and Texas, and are assisting and preparing to assist local response and recovery efforts in the wake of both Hurricanes Irma and Harvey. The Department announced antitrust guidance for businesses taking part in relief efforts and those involved in rebuilding communities affected by Hurricanes Harvey and 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. Social Security Administration (SSA) offices in Puerto Rico and U.S. Virgin Islands remain closed. All offices in South Carolina and Georgia have re-opened. They also expect the following offices in Florida to re-open Wednesday: the Pensacola, Ft. Walton Beach, Panama City, and Marianna field offices, as well as the Orlando, Tallahassee, and Tampa hearing offices. The SSA is working with the United States Postal Service (USPS) to ensure the benefit payments are received. In Florida, the USPS transported paper checks via express mail Tuesday to post offices for delivery Wednesday. The USPS website will show any service disruptions and alternate pick up locations for mail.
  • The U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) announced the availability, in Spanish and English, of SBA disaster loans to residents and businesses in Florida. They encourage hurricane survivors to register online at www.DisasterAssistance.gov.
     
  • U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT)
     
    • The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) deployed a mobile air traffic control tower to St. Thomas and continues to work cross-agency and with airlines to conduct relief flights to affected islands. The FAA also issued over 30 special government interest authorizations to drone operators to conduct damage assessment and infrastructure inspection.
       
  • 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.
     
  • The U.S. Postal Service (USPS) continues to restore services where it’s safe to do so. USPS provided Meals-Ready-to-Eat and water, conducted wellness checks, and communicated Post Office facilities open in certain areas. In Florida, the USPS is delivering mail. All facilities in Puerto Rico are open except for three post offices. Deliveries are able to be made in St. Croix when it is safe to do so.
     
  • U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs (VA) deployed two liaisons – one each to Valdosta, Georgia, and to the Florida State EOC in Tallahassee, Fla. – to assist with HHS mission requirements. Several VA outpatient clinics and facilities throughout the state of Florida have reopened to resume services for veterans.

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Topics:  Disaster Response and Recovery Keywords:  emergency response, federal response, FEMA, Hurricane Irma, natural disasters
Categories: Homeland Security

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