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Coordinated Response in Caribbean to Hurricane Irma Continues while Supporting Preparations in the U.S. Mainland

Release Date: 
September 9, 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) and its federal partners are actively coordinating the federal response to Hurricane Irma, a catastrophic storm that moved through the U.S. Virgin Islands (USVI) and Puerto Rico on Wednesday, and is taking aim for the U.S. mainland as early as Saturday.

Hurricane Irma, a Category 4 storm with sustained winds of 155 miles per hour, is one of the most powerful Atlantic Hurricanes ever observed, and is considered to be extremely dangerous. The National Hurricane Center said Irma is “a life-threatening situation,” urging people to follow evacuation and other instructions from local officials.

On September 8, President Donald J. Trump issued an emergency declaration for Georgia in advance of Hurricane Irma for 30 counties, and for the Seminole Tribe of Florida and their associated lands.  Everyone still in the storm’s potential path is urged to listen to local officials and follow their direction. Destructive winds, heavy rainfall and flash flooding are possible, as well as potentially deadly storm surges.

Storm surge and inland flooding pose a significant threat for drowning and can occur before, during, or after the center of a storm passes through an area. Storm surge can cut off evacuation routes, so do not delay leaving if an evacuation is ordered for your area.

Staff from the FEMA Caribbean Area Division are on the ground in Puerto Rico to provide support to Commonwealth and local officials as requested.  Additionally, FEMA Incident Management Assistance Teams (IMAT) are deployed to the U.S. Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico, and a FEMA Urban Search and Rescue Incident Support Team-Advance element and Virginia Task Force Two (VA-TF2) are on the ground on the U.S. Virgin Islands conducting operations.  Six Mobile Emergency Response Support (MERS) personnel also are deployed to support communications needs for the U.S. Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico.

FEMA maintains commodities strategically located at distribution centers throughout the United States and its territories. More than 209,000 meals and 114,000 liters of water are positioned across the U.S. Virgin Islands, and more than 290,000 meals and 600,000 liters of water are positioned in Puerto Rico.

Federal Efforts Underway on September 8, 2017

  • The American Red Cross (ARC) has 27 shelters open in Florida, with a population of 1,679 habitants. Currently ARC has 550 responders in Florida with 385 additional personnel, 120 emergency response vehicles, and shelter supplies en route. ARC also has a major response in the U.S. Virgin Islands.
     
  • The Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS) deployed three teams of AmeriCorps members serving with FEMA Corps to support logistical preparations and another 13 teams of AmeriCorps members to impacted areas with the American Red Cross, bringing the total active members to more than 160. All additional AmeriCorps and Senior Corps Disaster Response Teams are on standby. CNCS is coordinating with Volunteer Florida and other local partners to provide locally-serving AmeriCorps and Senior Corps members the appropriate disaster training and certifications in advance of Hurricane Irma so they can be tapped for shelter operations and other critical needs. In addition, CNCS is encouraging Florida residents to pre-register to volunteer with Volunteer Florida since there is still a huge need for additional volunteers.
     
  • The DHS National Protection and Programs Directorate (NPPD) prepositioned key staff to respond to and assist with the future restoration and recovery efforts of critical infrastructure impacted by Hurricane Irma.  The team also is currently assessing infrastructure needs to support restoration of communications and other infrastructure in areas that have already been impacted by the storm.
     
  • The U.S. Department of Education is actively coordinating with affected stakeholders in the Caribbean and with those who yet remain in the path of Hurricane Irma. The Department continues to prepare and distribute administrative and regulatory flexibility documents to alleviate the regulatory burden on stakeholders when they start the rebuilding process. The Department’s K-12 and Higher Education stakeholders who are seeking informational resources as well as those seeking relief from Department-based administrative requirements should visit the emergency response website or contact the Department toll free at 1-844-348-4082 or by email at HarveyRelief@ed.gov.
     
  • The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is in the process of securing and assessing Superfund sites; compiling data for regulated facilities; granting fuel waivers to help stabilize prices at the pump and ensure emergency vehicles have access to fuel; and, preparing for infrastructure assessments and environmental sampling following the storm.
     
  • The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) continues to pre-position technicians, emergency response equipment, and mobile air navigation aids to quickly restore air traffic control services to storm affected regions. The agency also continues to impose airspace restrictions to allow first responder aircraft to safely navigate as well as issue special waivers to drone operators for storm inspection and damage assessment.
     
  • The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) is monitoring the status of communications networks in the areas affected by Hurricane Irma and has created a dedicated webpage for daily communications status reports, information, and resources related to the hurricane, including tips for communicating during an emergency.
     
  • General Services Administration (GSA), through USA.gov and GobiernoUSA.gov, continue to support federal agency messaging efforts on their home pages and are compiling federal agency updates and messaging on their new Hurricane Irma pages found at https://www.usa.gov/hurricane-irma and https://gobierno.usa.gov/huracan-irma.
     
  • The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) is maintaining two HHS medical teams are in Puerto Rico and four additional teams are pre-positioned in the region to assist response efforts throughout the region to Hurricane Irma. HHS Secretary Tom Price, M.D., declared public health emergencies for Florida on Thursday and for Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands on Wednesday to help residents receive unimpeded care from local providers and healthcare facilities. Additionally, the Disaster Distress Helpline, a toll-free call center, continues to be available at 1-800-985-5990 to aid people in coping with the behavioral health effects of the storm and help people in impacted areas connect with local behavioral health professionals.
     
  • The U.S. Department of the Interior (DOI) has more than a hundred personnel on assignments related to Hurricane Irma—more than half of whom are USGS staff providing advance support, real-time field measurements and installing storm-tide sensors before Hurricane Irma’s arrival along the coasts of Florida, Georgia and South Carolina, where USGS models project severe dune erosion. Hundreds of other Interior employees are preparing to protect Interior's assets and contribute to search and rescue and law enforcement. All Florida national parks and many of the other parks and the 100 U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service units in Irma’s possible path have been closed, or will be closed soon.
     
  • The Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) is coordinating with the Seminole and Micosukee Tribes of Florida, the Catawba Indian Nation of South Carolina, the Poarch Band of Creek Indians in Alabama and the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians in North Carolina.
     
  • The U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) announced the availability of low interest disaster loans to the U.S. Virgin Islands residents and businesses.
     
  • The Social Security Administration (SSA) has offices in Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands that will remain closed until they can fully assess the extent of damage to their facilities, and the impact to their employees and customers. The Atlanta Region is preparing for Hurricane Irma to reach the southern United States.  In anticipation, the region closed additional offices to allow employees to safely evacuate.
     
  • The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) has received FEMA Mission Assignments for temporary power, and is deploying 4 Power Planning and Response Teams to assist with assessments and generator installations in Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands, Florida, and South Carolina. Under their PL 84-99 (Flood Control and Coastal Emergencies) authority, USACE has a received a request to provide coastal engineering technical assistance and conduct berm construction at Washington Oaks State Park in Palm Coast, FL.
     
  • The United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) posted the operational status of USCIS field offices and Applications Support Centers (ASC) in the path of Hurricane Irma at https://uscis.gov/closings. USCIS also highlighted its Special Situations page https://uscis.gov/special-situations on the website, detailing how natural catastrophes may affect applications, petitions, and immigration status.
     
  • The United States Geological Survey (USGS) is currently deploying storm tide sensors, barometers and rapid deployment gauges at key locations along the Georgia and South Carolina coast in advance of Hurricane Irma, and is consulting with federal and state partners about the need for similar equipment for other coastal areas farther north along the coastlines.
     
  • U.S. Northern Command (USNORTHCOM) is providing urban search and rescue capabilities to the U.S. Virgin Islands (USVI) and Puerto Rico to assist with lifesaving and life-sustaining efforts following Hurricane Irma. The USS Wasp located near the USVI is conducting medical evacuations for critical care patients from St. Thomas to St. Croix and performing damage assessments in support of the local government. The Defense Logistics Agency is providing approximately 50,000 gallons of unleaded gasoline and 50,000 gallons of diesel to Warner Robins Air Force Base, Ga., in support of potential requirements. More than 2,000 active-duty service members are providing response to Hurricane Irma.
     
  • The U.S. Marine Corps (USMC) is now underway with approximately 300 Marines from the 26th MEU and 2nd Marine Aircraft Wing aboard the USS Iwo Jima. Approximately 700 Marines are embarked aboard the USS Kearsarge already in the Caribbean, ready to respond to Hurricane Irma. In total, 1,000 Marines, 11 USMC aircraft, and three expected additional aircraft are supporting hurricane relief efforts.
     
  • The U.S. Marine Forces Reserve (MFR) have units in Florida and Alabama that are poised to support FEMA, state, and local response efforts in anticipation of Hurricane Irma’s landfall. Personnel from 3rd Force Reconnaissance Company, based in Mobile, Alabama, 4th Assault Amphibian Vehicle (AAV) Battalion, based in Tampa and Jacksonville, Florida and Combat Logistics Battalion-451, based in Orlando, Florida are pre-positioned to provide support.  The preparations ensure Marine Forces Reserve is ready to respond to any requests to bolster Northern Command's support of FEMA's assistance to federal, state, and local authorities' ongoing relief efforts in the aftermath of Hurricane Irma.
     
  • The U.S. Coast Guard (USCG) personnel, working with local officials, are currently conducting damage assessment overflights and port facility inspections in Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands. Ports in San Juan, Puerto Rico are open with restrictions. Ports in the U.S. Virgin Islands remain closed. For those still in the storm's path, the Coast Guard is warning mariners and the boating public to take actions to protect themselves and their vessels before Hurricane Irma arrives. The Coast Guard is warning the public to stay off the water, evacuate as necessary, secure belongs, stay clear of beaches, be prepared and stay informed. Coast Guard rescue assets and personnel have been pre-staged outside the path of the storm and will move in to provide emergency search and rescue as quickly as possible after the storm moves on.
     
  • The United States Postal Service (USPS) emergency preparedness and response priorities include employee, customer and supplier safety and ensuring open lines of communications. Local press releases, Industry Alerts, social media and employee communication channels are keeping customers, employees and the news media updated with the latest information. Operations are being adjusted to be in line with evacuation orders and based on the arrival of the storm. The latest USPS service status is available on the Service Alerts page: https://about.usps.com/news/service-alerts/welcome.htm.
     
  • The U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs (VA) directed VA staff to break down barriers and eliminate any red tape to ensure that Veterans evacuating due to Hurricane Irma receive seamless care at any VA health care facility throughout the nation, especially the Southeast. Veterans will be offered mental health, homeless services, and health care through medical centers, clinics, and mobile medical units as needed.

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.

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.

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Last Published Date: August 14, 2018
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