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  6. Coordinated Response in Caribbean to Hurricane Irma Strengthens: Federal Family Supports Survivors with Recovery and Rebuilding

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Coordinated Response in Caribbean to Hurricane Irma Strengthens: Federal Family Supports Survivors with Recovery and Rebuilding

Release Date: September 10, 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 battering southern Florida now.

According to the National Hurricane Center, Hurricane Irma is a dynamic, active, and dangerous hurricane that will produce storm surge up to 15 feet in southwest Florida, very heavy rain, inland flooding and tornadoes. The eye of Irma should move over the Lower Florida Keys this morning, then move near or over the southwestern coast of the Florida Peninsula later today through tonight.  Hurricane and storm surge watches and warnings are in effect along Florida, Georgia, and South Carolina coasts.

FEMA is concurrently coordinating the federal response to Hurricane Irma in the Caribbean as well as preparing for impact in the Southeastern United States. Shelters are open in Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands and across Florida, Georgia, Alabama and Tennessee.

FEMA has two incident management assistance teams (IMAT) on site at Florida’s emergency operations center (EOC), one IMAT at the Georgia EOC, one IMAT at the South Carolina EOC, one IMAT at the Virginia EOC, two IMATs in the U.S. Virgin Islands, and one IMAT on site in San Juan, Puerto Rico. These IMATs allow FEMA to identify ways federal assistance could be used to best support the response and recovery efforts of the affected areas. There are also eight strategically located incident support bases (ISB) that will allow the quick mobilization of commodities following the storm.

FEMA maintains commodities strategically located at distribution centers throughout the United States and its territories.  FEMA pre-staged commodities in the U.S. Virgin Islands, Puerto Rico and on the U.S. mainland in advance of the storm, and is delivering more supplies to the U.S. Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico, as areas become more accessible.

Federal Efforts Underway as of September 9, 2017 

  • The Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS) activated more than 160 AmeriCorps members, including two FEMA Corps teams, to provide support to FEMA and the American Red Cross in impacted areas. Additional FEMA Corps teams are being held at the Vicksburg Campus and all other AmeriCorps and Senior Corps Disaster Response Teams are on standby. CNCS is coordinating with Volunteer Florida and other local partners to provide thousands of locally-serving AmeriCorps and Senior Corps members any additional disaster training or certifications necessary to be able to support immediate response needs. In addition, CNCS is calling upon its network of alumni, nonprofits, and other volunteer-organizations to answer the call for volunteers in the state of Florida, a critical need.
  • The U.S. Department of Education is actively coordinating with affected stakeholders in the Caribbean and with those who remain in the path of the Hurricane Irma. The Department continues to prepare and distribute administrative and regulatory flexibility documents to alleviate the regulatory burden on our stakeholders when they start the rebuilding process.
  • The 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. The Department completed delivery of more than 2 million barrels of crude oil from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve, out of the 5.3 million so far authorized, and is prepared to take additional steps to ameliorate potential fuel disruptions.
  • The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) deployed staff to Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands, including community involvement coordinators. EPA has 6 EPA staff embedded in Florida EOC in Tallahassee and in Miami-Dade, West Palm, and Broward Counties. The EPA EPA is evaluating status of all superfund sites in the path of the storm, including prioritizing sites for response once storm has subsided.
  • 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.
  • General Services Administration (GSA) is using USA.gov and GobiernoUSA.gov to continue to support federal agency messaging efforts on their home pages and are compiling federal agency updates and messaging on their Hurricane Irma and Hurricane GSA continues to use social media to send preparedness and life-safety messaging.
  • The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has medical teams that are providing care at an overwhelmed hospital emergency department on St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands. HHS and DoD began evacuating dialysis patients from USVI, and HHS medical teams are accompanying Urban Search and Rescue teams in locating dialysis patients whom authorities were unable to reach in order to evacuate the patients. More than 370 HHS personnel are engaged, including three teams from the National Disaster Medical System and U.S. Public Health Service Commissioned Corps providing support in Puerto Rico and the USVI, and nine medical teams being pre-positioned to provide care quickly in Florida. Additional teams are on alert. To aid Medicare and Medicaid beneficiaries in receiving care unimpeded, HHS Secretary Tom Price, M.D., signed public health emergencies declarations for Puerto Rico, U.S. Virgin Islands, Florida, Georgia and South Carolina.
  • The U.S. Department of the Interior (DOI) has a hundred personnel on FEMA mission assignments related to Hurricane Irma—more than half of whom are U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) staff who have been providing advance support, real-time field measurements and installing storm-tide sensors along the coasts of Florida, Georgia and South Carolina, where USGS models project severe dune erosion (100 percent in Florida). Secretary Ryan Zinke announced that Interior will be expediting an advance payment of $223 million for estimated fiscal 2018 rum excise tax collections to the U.S. Virgin lslands, to help with hurricane response and recovery. Hundreds of Interior employees are working 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 U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) units in Irma’s possible path have been closed or will be closed soon. Parks and wildlife refuges in the U.S. Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico are closed. There are two FWS 20-person crews onsite in Puerto Rico, which are working in partnership with the Forest Service’s onsite response personnel to begin to clear roads and debris. The Incident Management Team IMT is conducting initial stabilization and will be working with Special Operations Response Team SORT reconnaissance.
  • The U.S. National Guard Bureau (NGB) has more than 50,000 members supporting domestic operations, including wildfires in the west; the U.N. General Assembly; and Hurricane Irma support as well as contingency operations world-wide. NGB is providing care, sheltering, and presence patrols to relieve suffering & ensure security in the U.S. Virgin Islands. Eight of 11 assessments are complete; both airfields are open to military and relief aircraft.
  • The U.S. Office of Personnel Management (OPM) is supporting federal agencies with the issuance of guidance and tools to assist agencies regarding human resources for federal employees adversely affected by the storm. This includes the authorization for federal agencies to conduct a special solicitation to allow federal employees and military personnel to assist with cash or check donations outside the normal Combined Federal Campaign.
  • The U.S. Department of State is working with the Department of Defense to provide departure by air to a number of U.S. citizens from St. Martin, beginning with those needing urgent medical care. These operations were limited in scope by the conditions on the ground and the approach of Hurricane Jose. These U.S. citizens were transported to San Juan, Puerto Rico, for initial treatment as needed.
  • The U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) began damage assessments in Puerto Rico. The Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) division communicated with Puerto Rico’s Governor and Commissioner about FHWA’s Emergency Relief options.
  • The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) pre-positioned 280 screening personnel at various airports to include ORD, BNA, DTW, BOS, and BDL for deployment to impacted airports.
  • The U.S. Department of Treasury activated the Financial and Banking Information Infrastructure Committee (FBIIC) communications protocols and will monitor key financial sector infrastructure in the potential Irma impact zone. Treasury will also assist with preparation and priority restoration of financial institution operations, and continue working as necessary to mitigate any impact on the financial system. The IRS provided personnel and facilities to assist with FEMA’s response efforts and provided tax payers with guidance for storm preparation. In addition, Treasury law enforcement officers have been placed on standby to provide support as needed.
  • U.S. Northern Command (NORTHCOM) is working closely with U.S. Southern Command and U.S. Transportation Command to provide assistance to islands devastated by Hurricane Irma. To date the USS Wasp located near the U.S. Virgin Islands completed approximately 44 medical evacuations for critical care patients from St. Thomas to St. Croix. USNORTHCOM is also prepared to support the Department of State in providing assistance to the Bahamas.  USNORTHCOM is also putting capabilities in place to support states that may be impacted by Hurricane Irma. Department of Defense has search and rescue forces, strategic and vertical lift, planning, communication and medical capabilities on standby. The assets are prepositioned in multiple locations to facilitate timely response to needs identified by FEMA in the affected areas.
  • The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) is leaning forward in partnership with local, tribal, state, and federal response in preparation for Hurricane Irma.USACE is deploying Power Planning and Response Teams (PRTs) to assist with assessments and generator installations in Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands and Florida. USACE also has temporary roofing SMEs ready to deploy to the Virgin Islands as soon as conditions permit.USACE SMEs and PRTs deployed or enroute to support the state of Florida include temporary roofing, temporary power, debris, infrastructure assessment, dam safety, water/waste water, commodities and unwatering.
  • The U.S. Marine Corps (USMC) sent a forward coordination element (FCE) from the USS Kearsarge ashore to St. Croix, U.S. Virgin Islands, in preparation for potential mission assignments in the coming days. Marine MV-22 Ospreys are being used to provide support requested by FEMA and transport personnel. In total, approximately 1,000 are embarked aboard Naval vessels in response to Hurricane Irma.
  • The U.S. Coast Guard (USCG) continues to work with federal, state and local partners to provide assistance and support to storm-impacted territories and states. Damage assessment overflights and port reconstitution efforts in Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands are underway. The port of San Juan is open and other ports in Puerto Rico, St. Thomas and St. Croix are open with restrictions. Remaining ports in the U.S. Virgin Islands are still closed. The Coast Guard is warning the public and mariners still in Hurricane Irma’s path to stay off the water and beaches. The Coast Guard continues to move personnel and assets to safe locations out of the storm’s path to ensure our personnel are ready to provide critical search and rescue, damage assessments and pollution response as soon as it is safe to do so.
  • The U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs (VA) is coordinating with local agencies to deploy outreach services to affected Veterans. Medical facilities in Puerto Rico are operational; VA implemented hurricane preparedness plans at mainland facilities within the projected storm path. Medical Centers have sufficient supply of food, water, fuel, medical supplies and other critical commodities to ensure uninterrupted patient care. VA staff contacted home-based primary care, dialysis and other high-risk patients to assess needs and provide any needed supplies. VA is also prepared to deploy staff and mobile medical assets to support veteran patient care and to citizens as part of the National Disaster Medical System. Go to www.va.gov for additional updates and resources.

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 Updated: 02/05/2021
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