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Monday, Dec. 23, 2013

EMPG Funding 101

Federal funding, while oftentimes crucial to our operations at the state and local levels, can be a challenging and frustrating venture. The Emergency Management Performance Grant (EMPG) process in particular can be difficult to navigate. In an effort to assist you at the local level in your EMPG process, I'd like to visit the issue in a little more detail - specifically, with regard to establishing expense and revenue codes.

 

Likely Timeline - EMPG 2014

Even though the federal funding opportunity announcement has not been issued, Oct. 1, 2013, will likely be the start of Iowa's local EMPG performance period for FFY 2014. (However, nothing is certain until FEMA issues the award.) Now is the time, as the local emergency management coordinator, that you need to plan and implement EMPG if you intend to apply. Recently, at the Emergency Management Program Development course we discussed the importance of ensuring your financial management systems are sufficient to meet standard grant requirements.

 

The Code of Federal Regulations (CFR), Title 44, Section 13.20, defines these requirements for state and local governments who receive EMPG funding. If you accept EMPG funds, you must understand and comply with these standards. The complete section can be read online by clicking here.

 

October 2013

Likely start of performance period

January 2014

Submit local application for work and spending plan. Include entire performance period (October 2013-September 2014)

April 2014

Federal budget (anticipated) to be approved for FFY 2014, which began October 2013

May 2014

FEMA (anticipated) to issue Funding Opportunity Announcement for FFY 2014 with EMPG funding levels

June 2014

HSEMD (anticipated) to submit State application

July 2014

HSEMD (anticipated) to receive grant award document and issue local grant agreements

August 2014

Local reimbursement requests and programmatic activity reports due for first nine months of the performance period (October 2013-June 2014)

September 2014

End of local performance period (Sept. 30, 2014)

October 2014

Local reimbursement requests and programmatic activity reports due for the final three months of the performance period (July-September 2014)

 

Expense and Revenue Codes

One of the areas that is especially challenging is establishing unique expense and revenue accounting codes. This stems from 44 CFR § 13.20 where it states, "Grantees and subgrantees must maintain records which adequately identify the source and application of funds provided for financially-assisted activities. These records must contain information pertaining to grant or subgrant awards and authorizations, obligations, unobligated balances, assets, liabilities, outlays or expenditures, and income."

 

When you apply for grant funding, you identify the expenses necessary to complete the scope of work provided in the work plan. For EMPG, this includes not only the expenses you will be reimbursed, but also the expenses you will be claiming as a match. You need a way (through your accounting system) to track these expenses separately from expenses used for non-EMPG activities. You also need a way through this same system to track the reimbursements you receive from EMPG, separately from other revenue you receive.

 

Case study

"Joe Coordinator" attends a training conference, which is covered by Homeland Security Grant Program (HSGP) funding. He pays for the lodging using his personal credit card, and his local agency reimburses him. Joe includes the lodging expense on his EMPG claim request for quarterly payment. Joe’s agency also receives a reimbursement check for the lodging from the fiscal agent for HSGP. While technically the lodging is an eligible expense under both the HSGP and EMPG programs, Joe’s emergency management agency has now essentially “double-dipped” and been reimbursed the lodging expense by two separate federal grant programs. At this point, his agency has demonstrated it may not have adequate financial systems in place to track its federal funding sources, which in turn may jeopardize its funding. The agency is also responsible for returning the duplicate payment it received for Joe's lodging expense.

 

Don't let this happen to you! If you need assistance, don't be afraid to ask.

 

I hope this has been somewhat helpful when it comes to dealing with EMPG tracking and reporting. As always, feel free to contact me if you have any questions, and click here for a printable EMPG 2014 checklist to help you with your planning.

 

Image of a blog iconTricia Boggs, EMPG Grant Manager

Iowa Homeland Security and Emergency Management

 

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10/29/2013 - Tornado Safe Rooms

 

Tuesday, Oct. 29, 2013

Tornado Safe Rooms

Many of the questions we get regularly at Iowa HSEMD center around the topic of tornado safe rooms - most of the time, regarding funding. It's a complex and relevant subject, as we live in a state frequently affected by tornadoes.

 

Types of safe rooms

There are two general types of tornado safe rooms: community and residential. Both are designed to provide near-absolute protection of life to their occupants from the effects of tornadoes.

 

A community tornado safe room is intended to hold 50 or more people, and is designed to meet or exceed the FEMA P-361 Design and Construction Guidance for Community Safe Rooms and the International Code Council Standard for the Design and Construction of Storm Shelters (ICC-500). Most community safe rooms are located in schools, parks, and other public places where there is a clearly identifiable and measurable at-risk population who have no other means of protection readily available. Sometimes, community tornado safe rooms serve multiple purposes in addition to serving as a tornado safe room. For example, a tornado safe room in a school may also serve as the wrestling room, hallway, or classroom. In Iowa, community tornado safe rooms are designed and constructed to withstand wind speeds of up to 250 mph and associated debris impacts. At present, there are more than 35 completed community tornado safe rooms in Iowa, with several more under construction.

 

A residential tornado safe room is one that provides the same level of protection as a community tornado safe room, but is designed to hold less than 50 people. These are designed to the standards in the FEMA P-320 Taking Shelter from the Storm: Buiding a Safe Room for your Home or Small Business. Residential tornado safe rooms are commonly found in homes, either built into the basement or first floor, or there are prefabricated safe rooms that can be installed either during construction of the residence, or installed later in the home. Although most residential tornado safe rooms serve exclusively as tornado safe rooms, some use them as closets. However, it is important to remember that its primary purpose is to provide protection to people from tornadoes, and should not be used as a storage space.

 

What funding is available for tornado safe rooms?

Funding for community tornado safe rooms is available in Iowa from two main grant programs: The Hazard Mitigation Grant Program (HMGP), and the Pre-Disaster Mitigation grant program (PDM).


The purpose of the Hazard Mitigation Grant Program (HMGP) is to reduce the loss of life and property in future disasters by funding mitigation measures during the recovery phase of a natural disaster. The state receives HMGP funding upon receiving a Presidential Disaster Declaration. HMGP consists of federal and state disaster funds along with local funds. The cost share for eligible HMGP expenses is typically 75 percent federal disaster funds, 10 percent state disaster funds, and 15 percent local funds. Only eligible expenses are covered by the grant, any other expenses are the sole responsibility of the applicant. The local cost-share funds must come from non-federal sources.

 

The Pre-Disaster Mitigation grant program (PDM) is a nationally-competitive grant program that provides funding on an annual basis. The cost share of eligible expenses for PDM grants is usually 75 percent federal funding, and 25 percent local funds. Again, only eligible expenses are covered by the grant, any other expenses are the sole responsibility of the applicant. Also, in the same way as HMGP funding, local funds must come from non-federal sources.


Unfortunately at present, Iowa does not offer funding assistance for residential tornado safe rooms under these programs.

 

Who can apply for community safe room funds?

There are two groups who are eligible for HMGP or PDM grants: governmental entities (cities, counties, school districts, Indian tribal governments, etc.) and private nonprofit organizations (PNPs) as defined in 44 CFR Section 206.221(e). In order for an entity to be eligible, the jurisdiction must have a current, FEMA-approved hazard mitigation plan. (The status of hazard mitigation plans in Iowa is available on HSEMD’s website.)


A hazard mitigation plan identifies several hazards, both natural and man-made, and methods of mitigating the hazard within participating jurisdictions. For an entity to be eligible for a tornado safe room HMGP or PDM grant, they must be a participating jurisdiction and have adopted by resolution their local hazard mitigation plan. Projects submitted for consideration must be consistent with the goals and objectives identified in the current, FEMA-approved local hazard mitigation plan. School districts must also comply with this requirement.


Additionally, proposed safe room projects must be located outside of the 100-year (1 percent chance) and/or the 500-year (0.2 percent chance) floodplain.

 

How can my community apply for funding?

The process for receiving funding starts with the submission of a notice of interest (NOI) form. This form gives a brief synopsis of the proposed project and an estimate of cost. Once the applicant (the entity seeking funding) and proposed project are determined to be eligible, within the available funds, and other factors are considered, an invitation to apply is sent. A project officer from Iowa Homeland Security and Emergency Management (HSEMD) is then assigned to assist in developing the full grant application.

 

The project officer works with the applicant in developing the application for submission to the State and FEMA for approval of funding. After FEMA’s review regarding eligibility, reasonableness of cost, and any environmental or historical preservation concerns, an approval letter will be issued from FEMA.

 

This year, Iowa was awarded HMGP funding after receiving four Presidential Disaster Declarations. NOI applications were accepted through Sept. 30, 2013, for these disasters. The PDM program funding NOIs were due by Oct. 1, 2013. What does that mean if you are looking for grant funding for your community's tornado safe room? At this time, there unfortunately is not a funding opportunity through HSEMD for your project.

 

Steps you should take

To recap, here is the process you should undergo for your community tornado safe room project:

  1. Find out if your community/jurisdiction has a current, FEMA-approved hazard mitigation plan in place. Talk to your local emergency management coordinator if you have any questions about whether or not you are eligible.
  2. Keep watching the news and HSEMD's website for information on how/when to apply. You may also wish to sign up to receive press releases from HSEMD.
  3. Visit FEMA's website for information on design standards for tornado safe rooms. This is especially useful if you know of a building project that could be or is in the works that may be ideal for incorporating a safe room in the future.
  4. If you still have questions about safe rooms, contact us.

I hope this helps to answer some of your questions regarding tornado safe rooms. Good luck with your planning!

 

Image of a blog iconKurt Hoffmann, Project Officer

Iowa Homeland Security and Emergency Management

 

 

10/21/2013 - University of Iowa makes strides in flood recovery

 

Monday, Oct. 21, 2013

University of Iowa makes strides in flood recovery

Severely damaged in the floods of 2008, the Hancher Auditorium and Voxman/Clapp School of Music complex stood empty for several years on the University of Iowa campus in Iowa City.


Demolition and construction could not begin until the funding was approved and in place. Final approval was not received from FEMA until August 2012.


“We were held by FEMA to keep the building in sort of a suspended state until all the t’s were crossed and i’s were dotted,” said Rod Lehnertz, the director of planning, design, and construction for UI Facilities Management.
HSEMD has played a significant role in assisting the University of Iowa in capturing the scope of work and resolving programmatic issues in order to secure funding from FEMA.


The first stage of demolition was to clear the interior of asbestos and render it safe for large-scale demolition. It wasn’t until the wrecking ball hit the exterior wall of the iconic Hancher Auditorium on Sept. 23, 2013, that the public was able to have a visual image of demolition progress. Mainly comprised of steel beams, large concrete panels, and huge sheets of glass, the demolition is a massive undertaking. It is expected to be completed by the end of the calendar year.


Ironically, the same day the exterior demolition of the old Hancher began, construction crews initiated the largest single-day concrete pour of 1,400 cubic yards on the new Hancher facility foundation. Located just to the north of the old building, the new Hancher facility sits seven to eight feet above the 500-year flood plain.


Hancher Auditorium was a premier 2,500 seat performance venue that hosted artists and productions such as the Joffrey Ballet, Frank Sinatra and the Broadway production of Les Miserables. The new facility will be a streamlined 1,800-seat venue and host similar productions. It is a key component of the University’s dedication to arts and education in Iowa.

 

Voxman and Clapp Recital Hall, which house the School of Music, are being relocated to downtown Iowa City on the corner of Clinton and Burlington streets. Demolition of two banks has been completed and excavation of the site has commenced to make room for the new facility. Both the Hancher and Voxman/Clapp replacement buildings are slated to be completed by late 2016. The entire demolition and replacement costs are now set at $265 million.

 

Image of a blog iconJustine Zimmer, Recovery Division Public Assistance Lead

Iowa Homeland Security and Emergency Management

 

 

10/19/2011 - What is HSEEP?

 

Wednesday, Oct. 19, 2011

What is HSEEP?

There are a lot of acronyms that get pushed around our industry. HSEEP is one of those acronyms. HSEEP stands for the Homeland Security Exercise and Evaluation Program. This program provides the guidance for how exercises are to be designed and conducted. HSEEP building blocks graphicAs a methodology, HSEEP is a series of best practices and guidance that help us build exercises that don’t focus on a specific scenario. Instead, they help us keep capabilities focus through use of discussions, operations, improvements and planning. Even though at its core HSEEP is a series of best practices, it has been tied to several grant programs.


The HSEEP methodology focuses on a building-block approach to exercises planning and development. This building-block approach has seven unique exercise models that are broken down into two categories. An exercise can either be discussion- or operations-based.


Discussion-based exercises include:

  • Seminars, which are designed to orient staff on updated plans, policies, etc.
  • Workshops, which are designed to build specific products such as draft plans or policies.
  • Tabletop exercises are more complicated exercise structures in which we use a low-stress environment to assess plans, policies and procedures.
  • Games are the final discussion-based exercise. These simulations of operations involve two or more teams in a competitive environment depicting an actual or assumed event.

Operations-based exercises are a little different. The exercises that fall under this category require the movement of equipment or the display of skills.

  • Drills are the simplest operational exercise. In this type of exercise a coordinated activity tests a single function within a single entity, such as tornado or fire drills.
  • Functional exercises test the command and control environment. Emergency Operation Centers (EOCs) and command posts are great entities to build functional exercises around. In this type of exercise, players interact in real time without actually moving equipment or personnel.
  • Full-scale exercises are multi-agency, multi- jurisdictional and multi-discipline, and involve real response moving equipment and personnel.

Specific information about these various exercises, along with more details about the other aspects of the HSEEP methodology, are found in the five HSEEP volumes. These documents can be found online.

 

The State of Iowa is in the process of implementing a new exercise cycle. Under this first year of the structure, half of the districts/regions are responsible for two tabletop exercises, or one functional exercise, or one full scale or actual event (which is the legacy exercise program, or the "old" program). The other half of the districts/regions are in an improvement year (which is the beginning of the new cycle). We are asking county programs that have been identified as being in the improvement year to submit documentation of a single improvement that has been made as a result of an exercise they participated in last year.

 

We are HSEMD’s two exercise and training specialists, and can provide technical support for local emergency managers in designing exercises or assisting with exercise evaluation. Part of HSEMD’s Preparedness Bureau, we also review after-action reports and other reports that are submitted to our office. If you have questions or comments please feel free to contact us.

 

Image of a blog iconSteve Warren & John Halbrook, Exercise/Training Specialists

Iowa Homeland Security and Emergency Management

 

 

10/10/2011 - Fremont County: "Don't forget about us"

 

Monday, Oct. 10, 2011

Fremont County: "Don't forget about us"

You may have heard something about a flood on the Missouri River this summer. Or, most recently about water retreating back to the river’s banks and people returning to their homes. Omaha Mayor Jim Suttle told reporters in mid-September that the flood fight was over. “We beat this river,” he proclaimed.


Overlooking a washed out road north of Percival in Fremont County.  Photo by Stefanie Bond, Iowa HSEMD.The flood fight may very well be over in Omaha, but residents in Fremont County, Iowa, would say folks on this side of the river are still battling.


Although the swollen Missouri River has been steadily going down as the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers began lowering the amount of water it is releasing upstream at Gavins Point Dam in South Dakota – the “fight” is hardly over in western Iowa.


“We don’t want people to forget about us,” said Pat Sheldon, chairman of the Fremont County Emergency Management Commission.


On Sept. 28, I had the opportunity to see the effect the mighty Missouri has had on areas of Pottawattamie and Fremont counties. In Pottawattamie County, I traveled with one of three damage assessment teams that surveyed damage in six counties along the river. The teams were made up of local, state (including HSEMD) and federal officials who were working together to capture information on every home damaged by flood waters. I saw collapsed basement walls and condemned properties deemed “unsafe” for habitation. I saw cracked foundations. I saw homes still under water.


Top: A collapsed section of Highway 2 underneath Interstate 29 in Fremont County. Below: Fremont County Board of Supervisors member Randy Hickey stands in a crevice of the same section of Highway 2. Photos by Stefanie Bond, Iowa HSEMD.Later that same day in Fremont County, I saw a 100-foot wide breach in a levee northwest of Percival. I saw buckled roads. I saw propane tanks and debris littering the countryside. I saw tons of sand, displaced by floodwaters, deposited on roads and land where crops used to grow. I saw fish that will likely die once the ponds they are now living in, left by retreating water, dries up. And, I saw farm fields and homes still inundated or surrounded by water.


It was a lot of water… but I was reminded that this was far less water than there had been all summer.


There was a small group of us touring Fremont County, including Lieutenant Governor Kim Reynolds and County Emergency Management Coordinator Mike Crecelius. It is really hard to put things into perspective when only viewing aerial photography of flooding. You have to be on the ground to understand how vast the impact of this disaster is.


Now that the last damage assessments have been completed, and the Governor has officially appealed FEMA’s denial of Individual Assistance funding – which could be a lifeline for many residents in western Iowa – I am hoping and praying for a reversal of fortune that will help these people. The people who not only have been forced out of their homes since June, but are now paying rent somewhere in addition to their regular mortgage or rent payments. The people who have no idea what they will find when they are allowed to return to their homes, and the people who have returned only to find their home and belongings in ruin.


We haven’t forgotten about you, Fremont County. Or Harrison, Mills, Monona, Pottawattamie and Woodbury counties. The fight isn’t over.

 

Image of a blog iconStefanie Bond, Public Information Officer

Iowa Homeland Security and Emergency Management

 

 

04/29/2011 - Making 9-1-1 Work for You: Keeping Your Cool When Calling

 

Friday, April 29, 2011

Making 9-1-1 Work for You: Keeping Your Cool When Calling

When you call 9-1-1, you need to remember to stay as calm as possible when talking with the 9-1-1 dispatcher. Even though it may be hard to do, it makes it easier for you to answer the questions and provide the correct information to the 9-1-1 dispatcher. If you are crying or yelling, it makes it harder for others to understand you – so take a deep breath and try not to panic.

 

Knowing your location when you call 9-1-1 is also very important. Always be aware of your surroundings; you never know when an emergency will arise, and this information may save your life. Your location is the most important piece of information you can provide to the 9-1-1 dispatcher. If you are outside, look around for landmarks or cross streets. If you are inside a large building, especially one with multiple floors, letting them know what floor you are on or the room number is very helpful information to provide to help in locating you. Keeping your cool and being knowledgable about your surroundings will save time in an emergency situation.

 

Image of a blog iconBarbara Vos, E-911 Program Manager

Iowa Homeland Security and Emergency Management

 

 

04/26/2011 - Helping Others Comes Naturally to Iowans

 

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Helping Others Comes Naturally to Iowans

Last week, I was able to accompany the damage assessment team made up of local, HSEMD, FEMA and Small Business Administration (SBA) officials that visited Monona County to survey the damage from the tornado that ripped through town on April 9, 2011. While I had seen photos of the destruction from the air before heading into town, I was unprepared for how devastating a toll the storm had actually taken on the small western Iowa town. There were city and Iowa DOT dump trucks everywhere, and lots of people with shovels, skid loaders and backhoes, all working to clean up this one little corner of the world.

 

The newspaper and television reporters came, too - asking questions and shooting video of the assessment team as they made their way around town, documenting the damage that had been inflicted on each smashed, tilted, and broken home.

 

The local residents were in relatively good spirits - despite what they had been through - and were extremely welcoming of everyone on the assessment team. While we were there, I had an opportunity to talk with some of the citizens impacted by the storms, and also with those who were willing to lend a hand to those less fortunate than themselves.

A Family Affair

David J. Malloy of Sloan, Iowa. Photo by Michael Flores, SBA.David J. Malloy doesn’t live in Mapleton, but he wants to help the citizens who have been impacted here.

 

Only one day after being released from the hospital, he walked into the Mapleton City Hall and offered a home in the city of Sloan, two campers, and other equipment to anyone in town who "could use a break."

 

“Some people called me and knew I had rental properties,” he said. “I just got over here this morning and started figuring out what to do.”

 

It’s astounding how the community – even the extended community in surrounding counties – has pulled together for a common cause.

 

“I’ve got a dump truck. I’m going to have it fixed up enough to start hauling [debris] for people [in Mapleton] and helping them out. And I’ve got a small skid loader that I’m going to offer, and then my time,” Malloy said. “And then I’ve got a couple of campers that I would rent out at a low price, just to make it easier on them. I [also] have a house over in Sloan that if it turns out that they can’t salvage their home. I’d just offer it to them at a reasonable price.”

 

Malloy is a lifelong Iowa resident and has lived in Sloan in Woodbury County for the past 33 years.

 

“I know how it is to be in hardship. That’s about it. [What I’m doing isn’t] something special,” he insisted.

 

The Malloy family has definitely faced its fair share of adversity. Malloy used to live in Salix – the town where five of nine of his ancestors living there on June 11, 1899 - including his great-grandparents and three of their seven children - were killed by a tornado dubbed the “Salix Cyclone.”

 

Food for Thought

Aarokotah's Restaurant in Mapleton, Iowa. Photo by Michael Flores, SBA.After a long morning surveying the damage in Mapleton, some of us decided to grab something to eat. The good folks working at City Hall gave us a few suggestions of local eateries. We were intrigued by the name of one establishment on Main Street and headed that direction.

 

A sign on the front door of the restaurant made us even more curious: “Aarokotah’s serving a free will lunch and dinner. Please come in.”

 

Traci Pawlowski has owned and operated Aarokotah’s Restaurant in Mapleton for more than three years. The restaurant’s name is a combination of her two children’s names: Aaron and Dakotah. The restaurant is a comfortable, hometown place, with mismatched furniture, fun signs on the walls, and giant-sized candy bars, eclectic purses, and other crafty things for sale.

 

“I thought Mapleton was a nice community, and I looked for a building so I could put a business here,” Pawlowski said. She is also a lifelong Iowa resident, and has lived in Monona County for the past 10 years.

 

On Monday, Aarokotah’s was teeming with people enjoying a home-cooked meal. On the menu for the day was a hot beef sandwich with mashed potatoes and gravy, ham and bean soup, and a ham or turkey sandwich. Most of us took one look at the hot beef sandwich being served to other patrons and decided that was the only thing to order. Aarokotah’s did not disappoint. The food was hot and delicious, and there was a lot of it.

 

Pawlowski served her guests with friendly efficiency. She apologized profusely for any time we spent waiting. Despite the large crowd in her dining room and the even larger portions she was serving up, the service was pretty fast.

 

We asked what the deal was with the freewill lunch. She told us that we could pay whatever we wanted. Yep, whatever we wanted. And those who couldn’t pay, didn’t have to.

 

“This week and all of last week I’ve extended my business hours,” she explained. They were staying open until 8 p.m. serving up freewill dinners. But that wasn’t the amazing part.

 

“After my food costs, I’m donating all of the money to the community and helping out the families here,” Pawlowski told us. “It’s a blessing for me. In a tragedy like this, God is so good,” she said. “He gave me the resources to be able to do this.”

 

Traci Pawlowski, owner/operator of Aarokotah's restaurant in Mapleton, Iowa. Photo by Monique Pilch, FEMA.Last week, one gentleman in town who had been affected by the tornado called her and asked if it was true that she was offering free meals. She told him it was. The man began to cry.

 

Wow, I thought. That’s incredible. She wasn’t affected by the tornado and wants to help those who were touched by the disaster.

 

Not so. The roof of her business was damaged, and after multiple power surges, she lost all of the freezers in the restaurant. So, I asked her: If she is going to have to worry about her own business and getting back to normal, why was she doing this for her community?

 

“They’re worth it,” she said.

 

I couldn't agree more.

 

Image of a blog iconStefanie Bond, Public Information Officer

Iowa Homeland Security and Emergency Management

 

 

04/22/2011 - Making 9-1-1 Work for You: When to Hang Up

 

Friday, April 22, 2011

Making 9-1-1 Work for You: When to Hang Up

It’s probably happened to you or someone in your family at one point: you dial 9-1-1 by accident. Never hang up when you call 9-1-1, even if you realize you have called by accident! It is important to stay on the line and inform the 9-1-1 dispatcher that you dialed by mistake. If you end the call abruptly, they may assume you did so because something is terribly wrong and will try to call you back. If you don’t answer, they will send help anyway. It is best to stay on the line and let them know that everything is okay and you dialed by mistake, which saves valuable time and resources.

 

When you call 9-1-1 during an emergency, never hang up until the 9-1-1 dispatcher tells you it is okay to do so. That way, if they need more information, you are available to answer questions. At times it may seem that the call is finished, but the dispatcher may be using the radio to dispatch responders to your location. So, stay on the line until you’re told to hang up.

 

Image of a blog iconBarbara Vos, E-911 Program Manager

Iowa Homeland Security and Emergency Management

 

 

04/15/2011 - What's the Situation in Northwestern Iowa?

 

Friday, April 15, 2011

What's the Situation in Northwestern Iowa?

By now I’m sure you’ve heard about the devastation created in northwestern Iowa last weekend as a result of several tornadoes moving through the state. Local and national news organizations have well publicized the damages incurred, especially in the town of Mapleton in Monona County.

 

When a disaster happens, there are certain questions that always seem to pop up: “What is the State doing to help the citizens affected by this storm?” and, “Will (or when will) there be any federal assistance provided?”

 

The answer is never cookie-cutter. Every situation is different. Let me explain, using Mapleton as our example:

 

Once a disaster happens, the immediate response generally is about making sure everyone is safe and/or accounted for. The tornado hit Mapleton around 7:30 p.m. on Saturday, April 9. Officials in Monona County immediately asked for a search and rescue team to be sent to Mapleton to search for people trapped in the debris. Because the state's Urban Search and Rescue Team (USAR, or "Iowa Task Force 1") is a state resource, a the governor needed to issue an emergency diaster proclamation to enable them to be deployed. (A governor's disaster proclamation enables state resources to be used in local response efforts.) Governor Branstad did issue a proclamation for Monona County shortly after the tornado hit Mapleton.

 

The state's USAR team is comprised of the Sioux City and Cedar Rapids fire departments. In this case, the Sioux City group was sent to Monona County as they were located only one county away.

 

Iowa Homeland Security and Emergency Management (HSEMD) opened the State Emergency Operations Center (SEOC) by 8 p.m. National Guard personnel were also on hand in the SEOC. Iowa State Patrol deployed state troopers to Mapleton around the same time the SEOC was opened.

 

Additionally, because these extreme weather events had unfolded at dusk and after, much of the recovery effort was happening in the dark of night. Because Mapleton had lost power, things were, obviously, darker than normal – making the response operation more dangerous. HSEMD Administrator J. Derek Hill requested the National Guard assist by sending some lighting equipment. It was too late in the evening to rent equipment; the Guard was able to provide personnel to bring the lights and operate them. Later on, lighting equipment was rented to replace the lighting the Guard had provided at short notice.

 

On Sunday, April 10, the day after the tornado outbreak, Governor Branstad boarded a helicopter to tour some of the damaged areas. He was accompanied by Administrator Hill, Adjutant General Tim Orr, and a few others from his staff. HSEMD staff coordinated the flight with the Iowa National Guard, Department of Public Safety (DPS) and the county emergency management coordinators to determine where the helicopter would be landing. Because of declining weather conditions, however, the group was only able to make it to the town of Mapleton to survey the damage. HSEMD Public Assistance program staff were also on the ground on Sunday with Iowa Department of Natural Resources (DNR) staff surveying the damage to Mapleton’s infrastructure and utilities.

 

Since the weekend, county emergency management coordinators in a handful of counties, including Monona, have been steadily reporting their damage estimates to HSEMD. At this point, two governor’s disaster proclamations for state resources have been issued – one for Monona County and one for Pocahontas County – which enable state resources to be deployed to assist with the response efforts in those counties. So far, the state assistance that has been offered to the citizens in Monona County (Mapleton) are:

  • A technical assistance team of both DNR and HSEMD staff to assist with debris removal in the community;
  • DNR staff to take water samples, check on water and wastewater treatment operations and assist with solid waste issues;
  • Iowa Department of Transportation (DOT) trucks to assist with debris removal;
  • Iowa Department of Corrections (DOC) has supplied inmates to help with debris removal;
  • Iowa State Patrol troopers were sent to Mapleton by the Iowa Department of Public Safety;
  • HSEMD also worked with the Iowa Disaster Human Resource Council (IDHRC) to coordinate volunteer management throughout the impacted counties.

The process of assessing damages in the affected counties is ongoing. At this time, no monetary assistance for affected citizens as a result of the weekend’s storms has been provided.

 

If a Presidential Disaster Declaration for Individual Assistance is issued, the federal IA program is then activated, making assistance available for homeowners, renters and businesses including grants to help pay for temporary housing, home repairs and other disaster-related expenses not covered by insurance. The federal IA program may also include low-interest disaster loans from the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) to cover residential and business losses that are not fully-reimbursed by insurance.

 

Public Assistance (PA) is a federal program that also requires a Presidential Disaster Declaration to be activated. As part of the federal PA program, FEMA awards grants to help state and local governments and certain private nonprofit organizations (such as rural electric cooperatives) with the response and recovery from disasters. The program provides funding for debris removal, emergency protective measures and the permanent restoration of public roads, buildings, bridges, etc. The program also frees up funding for hazard mitigation projects, to prevent damages caused by or lessen the impact of future disasters.

 

As a result of the information HSEMD has gathered this week, we have requested that joint PDAs (preliminary damage assessments) be conducted in five counties to determine if they are eligible for funding under the federal Individual Assistance program: Buena Vista, Ida, Monona, Pocahontas and Sac. HSEMD will also be conducting damage assessments in those same five counties, plus Cherokee County, to determine their eligibility for the Public Assistance program. We plan to start the assessments on Monday morning and hope to have them completed by Tuesday evening. After the assessments are complete, if it appears any of the counties will qualify for the federal IA or PA program, HSEMD will forward the information to the governor, who will send an official letter through FEMA requesting a Presidential Disaster Declaration. The regional FEMA office in Kansas City will review the request and then make their recommendation for or against a Presidential Declaration to FEMA headquarters in Washington, D.C. If the regional office recommends that a Presidential Declaration be made and FEMA headquarters agree, they will forward the request to the President to consider.

 

The whole process can take weeks or even months. The last two declarations we requested in 2010 were received in about one month.

 

So, at this time, the answers are: The State has provided and continues to provide assistance to the communities affected by the April 9 storms. We are also moving forward with the process of determining the eligibility of six counties for federal assistance.

 

Look for an update from HSEMD as soon as the end of next week.

 

Image of a blog iconStefanie Bond, Public Information Officer

Iowa Homeland Security and Emergency Management

 

 

04/15/2011 - Making 9-1-1 Work for You: When to Call

 

Friday, April 15, 2011

Making 9-1-1 Work for You: When to Call

It is very important to know when to call, or not to call 9-1-1. You should only call 9-1-1 if someone is hurt or in danger. It is not the number you call because you don’t know how to cook the turkey for Thanksgiving dinner, or you have a question on your homework, or you need directions to the mall – this may be an emergency to you but it is not the right time to call 9-1-1. If you are really not sure if your situation is an emergency, lean towards the side of safety and call 9-1-1 and let the experts determine whether or not to send help.

 

Sometimes, 9-1-1 centers have problems when parents give old cell phones to their children to play with. Even though you have cancelled the service on the phone, if it still has a battery, the phone is still capable of dialing 9-1-1. Please remove the battery prior to giving it to a child. Also – remembering to lock the keyboard of your phone is another helpful tool to avoid "pocket dialing” 9-1-1. If you don’t remember to lock your phone, you run the risk of accidentally calling 9-1-1 when you put the phone in your pocket, which ties up a 9-1-1 line that may be needed for someone with an actual emergency.

 

Prank calls are one of the biggest issues 9-1-1 centers have to deal with, and they do so on a daily basis. In most states, including Iowa, making prank calls or calling 9-1-1 for a non-emergency is a crime. It may cause someone to not get the assistance they need during an emergency.

 

Image of a blog iconBarbara Vos, E-911 Program Manager

Iowa Homeland Security and Emergency Management

 

 

04/08/2011 - Making 9-1-1 Work for You: Knowing Your Phone's Capabilities

 

Friday, April 8, 2011

Making 9-1-1 Work for You: Knowing Your Phone's Capabilities

When you make a call to 9-1-1 you need to know the capabilities of the device you use. From a “landline” phone (the phone plugged into the wall in your house), the 9-1-1 dispatcher will receive on their computer screen your name, address, and the phone number you are calling from so it will be easier to find you. The dispatcher will still verify the information because accuracy in your information is very important. That way, when the needed emergency services are dispatched, they can be sent to the correct location.

When you make a call to 9-1-1 from a wireless phone, the 9-1-1 dispatcher will receive your name and the phone number from which you are calling. Once they determine you are calling from a wireless phone, they must activate a button on their computer screen, and a map will pop up showing your location. The dispatcher will verify your information and location, so knowing where you are is very important to ensure that emergency services are sent to the correct location.

 

What about texting to 9-1-1? Texting is very popular, but not everyone realizes that it doesn’t work the same in the 9-1-1 world as it does when you are sending messages to your friends. If you try to contact 9-1-1 via a text message, most 9-1-1 centers will not receive that message because they do not have the technology in their 9-1-1 center to receive those messages. There may be times that texting instead of calling 9-1-1 would make more sense, like when there is an intruder in your house, but the message will most likely not reach the 9-1-1 center. The 9-1-1 industry is diligently working toward a solution for texting to 9-1-1, but for now, the only way to reach a 9-1-1 center in an emergency is to call.

 

Image of a blog iconBarbara Vos, E-911 Program Manager

Iowa Homeland Security and Emergency Management

 

 

02/16/2011 - Our First Blog

 

Friday, April 1, 2011

Our First Blog

 

Welcome to our first official HSEMD blog. We are so very excited to begin! Here will be a place where we can not only share information, but also have a conversation with you. We appreciate your feedback, and will do our best to answer any questions and concerns you may have.

 

You will also notice, I'm sure, that our website has been redesigned. This is a process that has been ongoing for well over a year. We got a web team together in October 2009, began sketching out our ideas for a new and improved site, and have been working on it ever since.

 

Of course, we've hit a few speedbumps along the way. First, we had severe winter weather hit the state in December 2009 and January 2010, resulting in two Presidential Disaster Declarations at the end of February and beginning of March last year. Spring was tense because we were waiting for the proverbial "other shoe" to drop, with predictions of widespread flooding across Iowa weighing on our minds and preparations being made for "if" the flooding should occur. With all the "hurry up and wait," planning, and more planning going on, we wondered if we would be able to get the new site up by the end of June.

 

Then the slow and steady rain fell, from mid-May through the end of August, and we were hopping in response to a renewed threat. We received a third and fourth Presidential Disaster Declaration in July, one for flash flooding in Des Moines and Lee Counties in May and the other for flooding and severe storms across 61 of Iowa's 99 counties, beginning June 1. That declaration ultimately included weather events that occurred through the end of August. Not just flooding, but severe winds and tornadoes that struck the state as well. With visions of 2008 still fresh in all of our minds, it was déjà vu all over again.

 

I don't have to tell you what things were like on July 24 or the month following. When the Lake Delhi Dam failed that Saturday, all bets were off. From around noon that day and continuing all weekend, my cell phone was ringing nonstop with calls from Des Moines to Atlanta to New York. CNN, The Weather Channel, NBC, ABC, CBS, FOX...well, you get the idea. Suddenly, Iowa was again thrust into a worldwide spotlight with the breaking of an earthen dam, and a whole lot of people in eastern Iowa were experiencing a very bad end to a bad month of weather.

 

Suffice it to say, we had a long, drawn out year, weather wise, in 2010. And it kept HSEMD, county emergency management agencies, communities, businesses, and citizens busy all year.

 

Now that 2010 is behind us, there is still much work left to be done. But somehow, through it all, we've managed to make some important changes and get this new website out. We've added social media links to our template, so you can link to our Twitter account, Facebook page, this new blog and podcasts. Soon, you will be able to link to video. The menu includes flyout menus for quicker navigation. There is again a search feature, and a new A-Z index to help you find anything you couldn't find using the menu. You may also notice a scrolling "headline" feature at the top of the page and contact information for the Division at the bottom of every page.

 

We hope you will find our new site easy to use, easy on the eyes, and full of important and useful information.

 

Thanks for your patience during our transition. Talk to you soon!

 

Image of a blog iconStefanie Bond, Public Information Officer

Iowa Homeland Security and Emergency Management