We can all agree that this past winter and spring have caused tumultuous consequences in our homes. Between leaking, flooding and physical damage from the elements, cleaning out crawl spaces and replacing siding may not be sufficient. If you have improper drainage around the foundation of your home this can result in serious problems, especially if you have a basement. A sump pump alone may not be enough.
Building an aesthetic rain garden can help to defray minor flooding from your home’s foundation. Rain gardens also help restore the natural water cycle.
Next time it happens to rain, grab an umbrella and pick a spot for the garden. Walk around the yard and see where the water is flowing and to where the runoff runs. A good rain garden should hold water for 12 to 24 hours. Note that If your soil is clay-filled, a rain garden won’t work.
Before you dig, call your local utilities hotline to make sure its safe to break ground. Allow at least 48 hours’ notice.
Map out your rain garden. You’ll be creating a shallow bowl6 to 9 inches deep that is level from side to side and end to end. The rain garden should be 7% to 20% of your roof size.
Start digging. A level garden will ensure even water filtration and reduce flooding. To ensure your water garden has a level surface, use a carpenter's level.
Use the excavated soil to create a “berm,” or bump on the lower edge of the rain garden. A compacted berm should prevent water from flowing out of the garden.
Plant native species. A border of low-growing grass (sideoats grama is a good choice) and a floor of flowering plants, such as black-eyed susans, butterfly milkweed, columbine and bluebells are good choices.
Mulch the rain garden with 2 to 3 inches of hardwood mulch to prevent weed growth and conserve moisture.
Earlier this week we discussed how a rain garden is made and how it can help with flooding due to rain run-off. The second part of this series is to show you how to build a French drain. French drains can help with more severe run-off and can work even if you have clay in your yard or basement/crawlspace.
If your neighbor’s land stands at a higher elevation than yours, you may be experiencing problems with excessive moisture on your property. Water from your neighbor’s property may be running down the slope and spilling onto your property. You need better yard drainage. One option in such cases is to install French drains.
When some people speak of a “French drain,” they refer to a trench in which a drain pipe is laid, but the traditional French drain is basically a trench filled with gravel.
What You Need:
Determine a spot on your property where the excess water coming off the slope could be re-routed. Determining such a location may end up being a matter of choosing “the lesser of two evils.” If water is currently spilling out at your house foundation and excessive moisture threatens to damage it, obviously almost any other spot would be preferable. The ideal French drain leach field would be an out-of-the-way area with sandy soil, through which the water could percolate harmlessly....
But be sure your attempt at yard drainage will not adversely impact anyone else’s land. Otherwise, installing a French drain could land you a lawsuit! Check your city codes before digging. Another preliminary step that could save you headaches later is checking with your local utilities concerning the whereabouts of underground cables and the like, so that you'll know where not to excavate for a French drain. There's a quick way to check: just dial the Dig Safe phone number.
Locate the best area for a French drain. Find an area along the slope on your side of the boundary where excavation would be easiest for your French drain (i.e., free of obstructions). Trench lines should be plotted out before you begin digging French drains. You need to create your own mini-slope to carry the water down to its destination. A grade of 1% (i.e., a drop of 1 foot for every 100 feet in length) is often recommended for French drains; others advise a drop of 6" for every 100'. Getting the water to go where you wish is essential for improving yard drainage; the grade will facilitate your efforts.
So how do you measure the grading for a French drain? Pound 2 stakes into the ground to mark the beginning and end of the trench. Tie a string tightly to one of the stakes, then run it over to the other stake and tie it off there, too, but loosely (for now). Attach a string level to the string, adjusting the string to get it level. Once it’s level, tighten the string at the second stake. Make sure the string is taut. Now begin digging the trench. As you dig, you’ll be able to measure down from the string to make sure you are achieving the desired grade for your French drain.
Check yourself as you go. For instance, if the trench for the French drain is to be 100’ long and the grade 1%, then by the time your trench is 50’ long, it should be 6" deeper than where you began excavating.
You'll be digging a horizontal trench across the length of the slope. The digging is the most labor-intensive part of installing French drains. The trench will slope down toward the area where you’ve determined the water will be re-routed (if it doesn’t quite reach that spot, you’ll have to dig a connecting ditch down to it). Trench width will depend on the magnitude of your moisture problem. Bigger moisture problems call for wider trenches. Small trenches are often dug to a width of 5”-6”.
Before applying gravel, line the trench with landscape fabric. The landscape fabric will keep dirt out of the gravel. You want to preserve the porosity of the gravel, which promotes percolation of water through it -- one of the underlying principles that make covered French drains work. Shovel coarse gravel onto the landscape fabric. Wrap the ends of the landscape fabric over the top of the gravel layer.
You now essentially have a tube of landscape fabric filled with gravel. To fill in the rest of the trench, shovel in a layer of coarse sand, cover it with more landscape fabric, add 4" of topsoil and lay sod on top. Your French drain is complete!
Hire a surveyor. If you don't think you can get the grading right for a French drain on your own, hire a surveyor. Or simply hire a pro to do the whole job.
Hire a backhoe operator. If you're not inclined to dig a French drain trench by hand, you could hire a backhoe operator. But that will jack up the cost for the French drain -- not only for the digging, but for the extra gravel you will need (since a backhoe can't dig as small a trench as can a person wielding a spade).
Bigger is not necessarily better. If you can get away with a small trench for your French drain, you'll save money, as there'll be less gravel needed to fill the trench
This week we have been discussing how one can have a mold problem without knowing it. We are now going to discuss wood used in current construction.
The first mistake is the fact that some lumber mills are obtaining their inventory from the rain forests, where many fungal species live, and they are not treating the wood with fungicides.
Previously, builders often used kiln dried wood, but unfortunately the use of quality wood products has essentially ceased. Due to the cost factor, most contractors use "green" wood. This wood does not have the ability to endure humidity and moisture factors as kiln dried wood does.
The worst problem is that most home improvement stores and lumberyards store lumber outside and are often ignorant to the problems they may be imposing on possible customers. When these products are exposed to the elements, fungal growth often starts even before the wood is purchased. Wood that is purchased with any visible mold (lumberyard mold?) should be returned to the vendor immediately as it is a potential source of a serious health hazard. If that wood is exposed to at least 55% humidity or any moisture, dormant mold can begin to self-replicate and turn into a potential health hazard.
It is also much safer to purchase a home that was constructed during the summer months as lumberyard mold can also proliferate during the construction phase, as well. Most builders have to make a year-round living, thus they do construction during wet, winter climates. Often, due to time constraints, they seal up these houses before they have thoroughly dried out. This can make a perfect breeding ground for mold to grow.
Water damage after a fire. (Unfortunately, many restoration companies fail to address or prevent mold while they control water/fire restoration).
Faulty air conditioning or heating system.
Vinyl siding that is defective or installed in a incorrect manner, such as trim pieces missing or bowing, or not installed properly around windows or has holes from branches or improper care.
Clogged vents or air ducts.
Cracked or disconnected hoses behind refrigerators from automatic ice makers/water dispensers or dishwashers.
Construction defects that could lead to water intrusion (i.e., windows not seated properly, soffits with pieces missing or installed in the wrong direction, cracked foundations, shoddy workmanship).
Poor planning (i.e., lack of crawl space, sealed windows, no overflow spouts in sinks/bathtubs, carpeting in bathrooms.
Downspouts that are disconnected, allowing water to flow under the foundation or along the siding.
Cut-rate materials; substandard plumbing, shoddy siding, etc.
Flat roofs that are not properly maintained (annually checked for drainage, bubbles, holes and coating).
Location; flood zones, water table, environmental issues, etc.
Improperly installed or maintained basements.
Poor carpet cleaning jobs where excess water was not removed properly.
Note: Carpet absorbs mold, bacteria, dust mites, cockroach mix, chemicals, and many other toxins. It should be avoided if at all possible. Throw rugs and natural or even synthetic flooring is a much healthier alternative. Many industrialized nations who recognize the hazards of mold have banned wall to wall carpeting in new home construction due to health concerns.
It's Earth Week, and we at UrthPRO™ are proud to do our part in spreading the word about ways to celebrate. We came across these "10 meaningful ways to celebrate Earth Week" from Melinda at 1greengeneration and feel obliged to share these great suggestions! Maybe you have some suggestions of your own? Let us know by commenting below!
Ten Meaningful Ways To Celebrate Earth Week
Start/plant a garden in a public-facing space. Try planting vegetables or fruits in your front yard, in a community garden, on your parking strip, in your church yard, or in another neighborhood space. Celebrate eating locally and sustainably!
Take a week off of buying things. A good way to counter the consumerist aspect of Earth Day is to remind yourself and those around you that celebrating the earth is about not buying more than you need. So go on, try not buying new things for one week, and let your friends and family know how you’re celebrating Earth Week.
Spend time reflecting on your surroundings. Take family walks each evening, walk or bike to work, go for a local hike or bike, sit on your porch and soak in the neighborhood… There are so many ways!
Support a local Earth Day event. There are more and more Earth Day events each year. Pick one that you believe in, and volunteer for the day or for a few hours – help them spread the word about Earth Day.
Have a family staycation. Camp in the backyard, have a picnic in a local park, eat dinner by candlelight, tell family stories around the dinner table, …
Eat locally all week, or all day. Changing the way we eat is so important for our own well-being as well as that of the earth. Some of us jumped right into this idea and live quite locally and seasonally. However, for others it is more difficult, so start slow: eat local meals for a day, or even for a week. You might find it’s addictive! Check out Local Harvest if you don’t know where to begin.
Volunteer locally. There are many local organizations who have needs in the spring. Local environmental organizations likely have work parties to plant native plants, for example. Local community gardens likely need help harvesting and growing food for local food banks, local charities can likely use your help in numerous ways. Call, email, or visit them – I’m sure they could use your help!
Give up plastic for a week. Need incentive to give up plastic? Check out Fake Plastic Fish for loads of ideas.
Give away things you don’t need. Go through that stuff in your closets, basement, and garage that you haven’t used for years, and give it to a local charity, thrift store, Freecycle, or a neighbor or friend who will use it. Not only does this free your home from clutter, it also keeps others from buying new things because you give them hand-me-downs.
What else? What else can we do for Earth Week that is low- to no-cost and stays true to our values? I’m sure you’ve thought about it, and if you haven’t take a moment now to think about it, and leave a thought for us in the comments. I’m sure your comment will help someone else. What are you thinking of doing this week for Earth Day or Earth Week?
Now that spring has sprung it is time to prepare and protect your home and/or business against Mother Nature. After vigorous spring cleaning you must reassess their tactical measures towards maintaining a healthy home.
Who once said, “An ounce of prevention is worth a lb of cure?”
We, as Americans, have learned that we must take proper care of our cars more than our homes. The average mortgage on a home is 30 years; much less than what a home would actually be safe or livable if not properly maintained. We strongly suggest you have a home inspection every 4 years so one can take care of potential and expensive repairs and problems later on.
A good home inspector should look at big items such as the roof, plumbing, and basement issues. For the Do-it-yourselfer we suggest you at least hire a roof inspector to be able to get up on the roof and carefully examine it for roof defects or damage such as shingles missing.
If any of the above signs appear to be a possible problem for you it is imperative that you take care of it as soon as possible. Waiting could cause a much more expensive repair later, potential health problems, and other severe issues.
Remember, it is always better (and less costly) to be proactive than reactive in these types of situations.
Floods are the Nation’s #1 natural disaster, FEMA’s National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) provides the following tips on what to do before, during and after a flood.
In addition to information about how to avoid and re-enter flooded areas, the tips provide guidance on filing flood insurance claims for those who have coverage through the NFIP.
We encourage residents who are not insured for flooding to protect themselves from the financial costs of future floods by obtaining flood insurance through the NFIP. Learn about the NFIP and its FloodSmart Campaign by visiting www.floodsmart.gov.
BEWARE OF HAZARDS
First, check for damage. Check for structural damage before re-entering your home. Contact professionals immediately if you suspect damage to water, gas, electric or sewer lines.
Throw away food that has come in contact with floodwaters.
Boil water until authorities declare the water supply safe to drink.
FILE YOUR FLOOD INSURANCE CLAIM
Call your insurance agent who handles your flood insurance to file a claim. Have the following information with you when you place your call: (1) the name of your insurance company (your agent may write policies for more than one company); (2) your policy number; and (3) a telephone number/e-mail address where you can be reached.
Take photos of any water in the house and damaged personal property. If necessary, place these items outside the home. Your adjuster will need evidence of the damage and damaged items (e.g., cut swatches from carpeting) to prepare your repair estimate.
List damaged or lost items and include their age and value where possible. If possible, supply receipts for those lost items to the adjuster. Officials may require disposal of damaged items. If so, try to keep a swatch or other sample of the items for the adjuster.
Remove wet contents immediately to prevent mold. Wet carpeting, furniture, bedding and other items holding moisture can develop mold within 24 to 48 hours. During the first 48 hours, you can help control mold growth by cleaning with UrthPRO. Then dry and monitor for several days. If any mold develops, throw the item away.
Thoroughly dry out the building’s interior. Portable dehumidifiers are useful, and rental costs may be covered under your flood policy. An air conditioner can also be used to start the drying-out process.
Help damaged walls dry out. If the walls are damaged, take photographs of the baseboard. Then remove the baseboard. Knock small holes at floor level in the drywall, between the wall studs. This will let moisture trapped behind the drywall seep out.
Have your furnace checked for damage. Your water heater may work, but if the floodwater covered part of, or the entire tank, the insulation between the walls may be damaged. Obtain an estimate to replace the damaged furnace and water heater.
FOR MORE INFORMATION
Contact your local building inspections or planning office or county clerk’s office to get more information on local building requirements before repairing your structure. If you can’t find a local contact, call your state NFIP coordinator. Contact information can be found at www.floods.org/statepocs/stcoor.asp.
From now until Earth Day (April 22), we're giving away $50 every Friday, and a $250 grand prize just for signing up! There's never been an easier way to pick up extra cash (not in this economy anyway!)
But hurry...the sooner you sign up, the more chances you'll have to win!
If you have a chronic mold problem, repair to the building’s exterior structure is required if moisture is entering the home from the outside. At the same time, steps should be taken inside the home to reduce the occupants’ exposure to mold.
Step 1 — Discard moldy or damaged materials
Wear a dust mask and gloves. Furnishings, such as mattresses, carpets, or sofas that got wet or have been stored in damp conditions should be discarded. Discard items that are no longer needed. Use this opportunity to reduce the amount of furnishings — this means fewer materials to absorb moisture and grow mold. Clothes and other items that have been cleaned should be stored in sealed plastic bags to prevent re-contamination.
Step 2 — Vacuum
Proper vacuuming reduces the amount of mold spores. All surfaces in the home (floors, walls, ceilings, shelves) and non-washable furnishings (such as sofas, chairs, etc.) must be vacuumed thoroughly.
Step 3 — Prevent
Keep moisture generated within the home to a minimum by conscientiously following the prevention steps here.
Step 4 — Clear wet areas
Pull carpets and furnishings away from walls that get wet. Carpets and carpet padding that are moldy should be cut out and discarded.
Step 5 — Dry
Take steps to dry up areas that get wet. Monitor the relative humidity of the air. Use a portable dehumidifier, if necessary. Ensure that the condensate drain pan of the dehumidifier is emptied regularly.
Step 6 — Isolate
If the mold is limited to one area, isolate the area if possible. Cover the affected surfaces with plastic sheeting secured at the edges with duct tape. Note that this is only a temporary measure to minimize your exposure.
Consider seeking professional help from trained IAQ investigators to identify appropriate remediation steps inside the home. Removing large amounts of mold will require the services of mold clean-up contractors. For help hiring a remediation professional, visit our section on how to hire a mold contractor.
oisture – Moisture can be caused by a number of different factors including condensation from HVAC systems, persistent humidity, plumbing failures, flooding, or a number of other sources. If you see moisture, chances are you already have a mold problem.
dor – Ever noticed a musty smell that just won’t go away no matter how much you clean? Sometimes molds are hidden and cannot be seen. A musty or earthy smell often indicates that mold is hiding, but a smell may not be present for all molds.
eaking – This goes hand-in-hand with moisture. A leaky roof or pipe in your home is a sure source of food for mold. If you see leaking water, fix it fast! It is important to dry water damaged areas and items within 24-48 hours to prevent mold growth.
iscoloration – The only sure sign that you have mold is if there is visible growth. Mold comes in all colors and textures, so if you notice a change in color on drywall, studs, carpet, concrete, or other building materials, you almost certainly have a mold infestation.
There are no federal regulations covering professional services in the general field of indoor air quality (IAQ). However, there are some steps that you can take to ensure that you select the best assistance available. A qualified IAQ consultant should have appropriate experience and be able to demonstrate a broad understanding of indoor air quality problems and the conditions that can lead to them. Ask questions-it's your money!
Ask consultants to explain the nature of the diagnosis and/or mitigation they will perform. This explanation should include the sequence of the investigation. A general systematic approach is usually more effective than relying on extensive air testing. The proposal should emphasize observations rather than measurements. Beware of contractors and consultants who want to conduct air sampling as a first step in determining the extent of your mold problem. There are currently no uniformly accepted standards that quantify how much or what kind of airborne mold is acceptable. A thorough visual inspection is the first and most important way to assess water damage and mold growth problems.
Ask how much and what type of IAQ work the firm has done. Identify the personnel who will be involved in your case, their experience and their qualifications. Request and contact references to verify that the consultant has helped them solve their IAQ problem.
Since some mold growth problems can be related to water or moisture intrusion, you may want to consider using a company that has expertise in this area. These companies can be found in the local phone book under fire and water damage restoration. You can also check with your insurance company for a listing of these companies in your area.
A firm needs a preliminary understanding of the facts about what is going on in your building to evaluate if it has the skills necessary to address your concerns. Competent professionals will ask questions about your situation in order to determine if they can offer services that will assist you. Be alert and check for conflicts of interest.
Find out if the contractor belongs to trade groups and follows industry standards/guidelines in conducting mold evaluation and remediation. Two groups that provide training, certifications, and guidance for water damage restoration contractors are:
The scope of the project should be identified. Communication between you and the consultant is essential, whether in person or by telephone. The frequency of status reports and meetings should be spelled out. The schedule, costs, and written report should be described.
5. Conflict of Interest
If you hire a consultant to investigate and identify a problem in a building, that should be all the consultant does. Do not hire a consultant who also provides remediation services. Although most consultants and contractors are honest, some may interpret environmental results (which are often somewhat uncertain) to steer you toward their services.
Last but not least, make sure the occupants of the building that is being evaluated are kept informed of the progress on the problem and are involved in the process. Oversee the work and ask questions that will help you assure that the work is properly performed.
For additional information on hiring an IAQ consultant:
No matter what cleaning products you’re using, if they’re not cleaning better or killing germs faster then they’re just wasting your time. So many cleaning products are marketed as “green” because the manufacturer used natural or less-toxic ingredients—or in some cases just used less of the same ingredient. But what does that mean for you? After all, isn’t using natural products what “green cleaning” is all about? Well…that’s part of it, but green cleaning is less about safer ingredients—although safety is important—and more about reducing waste.
Cleaning products are not meant to clean or kill germs by themselves. They assist in the process of cleaning. So if you’re using a natural product that’s not useful in your cleaning regiment then you’re wasting unnecessarily…a big no-no when it comes to environmentalism. A natural and safer cleaning product should also improve cleaning or disinfecting performance (or both), otherwise it’s not helping you or the environment.
Well, enhancing performance isn’t just for baseball players anymore. With just four natural ingredients, UrthPRO is a cleaner, disinfectant, deodorizer, degreaser and stain remover all in one. And with no pre-cleaning necessary for UrthPRO to be effective, it can do the work of five products at once providing maximum efficiency with minimal environmental impact.
UrthPRO is used by disaster restoration contractors throughout the US to help remediate mold infestations, sewage backups and flood damage, but UrthTech—owner of the UrthPRO brand—plans to develop other products for everything from hospital sterilization to household cleaning and disinfection.
Disasters happen anytime and anywhere. Sadly, when an emergency happens, you may not have much time to respond. A highway spill of hazardous material could prompt an evacuation. A winter storm could confine your family at home. An earthquake, flood, tornado, fire, or any other disaster could cut water, electricity, and telephones-for days.
After a disaster, local officials and relief workers will be on the scene, but they it’s impossible for them to reach everyone immediately. You could get help in hours or it could take days. Would your family be prepared to cope with the emergency until help arrives?
Your family will cope best by preparing for disaster before it strikes. The Red Cross says that one way to prepare is by assembling an Emergency Kit. Once disaster hits, you won't have time to shop or search for supplies. But if you've gathered supplies in advance, your family can endure an evacuation or home confinement.
Place the supplies you'd most likely need for an evacuation in an easy-to-carry container like a duffle bag or camping backpack. And make sure these supplies are in an easily accessible place (say your hallway closet) and that everyone in your family knows where it is.
There are six basics you should stock for your home: water, food, first aid supplies, clothing and bedding, tools and emergency supplies, and special items.
Store a minimum of one gallon per person per day for drinking and sanitation purposes. You should store a three day supply. Store water in plastic containers such as soft drink bottles.
Store at least a three-day supply of ready-to-eat, canned food. Select foods that require no refrigeration, preparation or cooking, and little or no water. If you must heat food, pack a can of sterno. (And if you have a pet, don’t forget to store food and water for him too!)
First Aid Kits
You should have two: one for your home and one for the car. Both should include the following:
sterile adhesive bandages in assorted sizes
assorted sizes of safety pins
sterile gauze pads (various sizes)
bandages (various sizes)
ace bandages (various sizes)
Remember family members with special requirements, such as infants and elderly or disabled persons
For Baby: formula, diapers, bottles, powdered milk, medications
For Adults: Heart and high blood pressure medication, Insulin, Prescription drugs, Denture needs, contact lenses and supplies, extra eye glasses
Entertainment: Games and books
Important Family Documents: Keep these records in a waterproof, portable container:
Will, insurance policies, contracts deeds, stocks and bonds
Passports, social security cards, immunization records
Bank account numbers
Credit card account numbers and companies
Inventory of valuable household goods, important telephone numbers
Family records (birth, marriage, death certificates)
A few things to remember:
Store your kit in a convenient place known to all family members.
Keep a smaller version of the Disaster Supplies Kit in the trunk of your car.
Keep items in airtight plastic bags.
Change your stored water supply every six months so it stays fresh.
Replace your stored food every six months.
Re-think your kit and family needs at least once a year.
Replace batteries, update clothes, etc.
Ask your physician or pharmacist about storing prescription medications.
Since 1900, floods have taken more than 10,000 lives in the United States alone.
Flash floods often bring walls of water 10 to 20 feet high.
95% of those killed in a flash flood try to outrun the waters along their path rather than climbing rocks or going uphill to higher grounds.
66 % of flood deaths occur in vehicles, and most happen when drivers make a single, fatal mistake trying to navigate through flood waters.
Just 6 inches of rapidly moving flood water can knock a person down.
A mere 2 feet of water can float a large vehicle even a bus.
1/3 of flooded roads and bridges are so damaged by water that any vehicle trying to cross stands only a 50% chance of making it to the other side.
The great Mississippi River Flood of 1993 covered an area 500 miles long and 200 miles wide. More than 50,000 homes were damaged, and 12,000 miles of farmland were washed out.
Hurricanes, winter storms and snowmelt are common (but often overlooked) causes of flooding.
New land development can increase flood risk, especially if the construction changes natural runoff paths.
Communities particularly at risk are those located in low-lying areas, near water, or downstream from a dam, but everyone lives in a flood zone — it's just a question of whether you live in a low, moderate, or high risk area.
As a major winter storm continues to impact the Midwest and South, and heads toward the Northeast tomorrow, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) is continuing to urge all residents to get prepared, especially for potential power outages and icy roads. Families and individuals can visit www.ready.gov or www.listo.gov for information on how to get ready for snowstorms, dangerous driving conditions and other types of winter emergencies
We are continuing to work with our federal partners, and state, local and tribal officials to make sure they have what they need to prepare for and respond to the storm," said FEMA Administrator Craig Fugate. "But we also need the public's help. Residents should listen to their local news to monitor for severe weather updates and follow any directions from their local officials. If a winter storm warning is issued, people should avoid driving and stay indoors. And if you and your family are safe, do one more thing and check on your neighbor."
Earlier today, President Obama was briefed by phone by Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Secretary Janet Napolitano and Administrator Fugate on the ongoing federal efforts to support preparations for the storm. FEMA continues monitoring the storm and working closely with state and local officials through its regional offices in Kansas City, Mo.; Denton, Texas; Chicago; Atlanta; Philadelphia; New York City and Boston. FEMA is also monitoring a separate, slightly weaker storm that is expected to bring snow to parts of Pennsylvania, New York and New England through this evening.
The National Weather Serviceremains the source for official severe weather information, and has issued winter storm watches, warning or advisories in over 30 states, and blizzard warnings have been issued for eight states, including Kansas, Missouri, Wisconsin, Oklahoma, Illinois, Iowa, Michigan and Indiana.
As of this morning, FEMA has deployed personnel to Arkansas, Connecticut, Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Missouri, New Jersey, New York, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, and Rhode Island to closely coordinate with state officials should federal emergency response assistance be needed.
FEMA has pre-staged emergency commodities across the United States should they be needed to support state and local emergency response operations. Additionally, FEMA is proactively sending additional supplies such as water, meals, blankets, cots and power generators to various locations in case they become needed.
Everyone should get familiar with the terms that are used to identify a winter storm hazard and discuss with your family what to do if a winter storm watch or warning is issued. Terms used to describe a winter storm hazard include:
Freezing Rain creates a coating of ice on roads and walkways.
Sleet is rain that turns to ice pellets before reaching the ground. Sleet also causes roads to freeze and become slippery.
Winter Weather Advisory means cold, ice and snow are expected.
Winter Storm Watch means severe weather such as heavy snow or ice is possible in the next day or two.
Winter Storm Warning means severe winter conditions have begun or will begin very soon.
Blizzard is issued for winter storms when the following conditions are expected to last for at least three hours: winds of at least 35 miles per hour with considerable snowfall that reduces visibility to ¼ of a mile or less.
Remember, when a winter storm warning is issued, stay indoors during the storm. Avoid traveling by car, but if you must, make sure you have an emergency supply kit in the trunk of your car. FEMA urges families to maintain an emergency supply kit both at home and in the car to help prepare for winter power outages and icy or impassable roads. Visit www.ready.gov or www.listo.gov for more winter preparedness information, as well as additional information on staying safe during emergencies.
The Federal Emergency Management Agency plans to engage the public more in disaster response by sharing data and leveraging reports from mobile phones and social media, FEMA administrator Craig Fugate said today.
People are increasingly connected in disaster areas, and FEMA needs to factor that into its disaster planning, Fugate said in a keynote speech at ESRI's government user conference in Washington, D.C. As an example, Fugate pointed to the January 2010 earthquake in Haiti, where rescue workers and survivors used text messages, e-mail, and social media to communicate amid chaotic and dangerous conditions.
"One of our assumptions has been that when there's a big disaster, we lose all communications, we lose all wireless," Fugate said in a follow-up interview. "Haiti was sort of a validation that that's no longer the case. We can adjust much quicker if we can figure out how to have this two-way conversation and if we can look at the public as a resource. The public is putting out better situational awareness than many of our own agencies can."
Fugate, who regularly posts on Twitter himself, said FEMA is building applications for popular mobile platforms and that he is pushing to establish more open data feeds. "These are the baby steps," he said. "Government has to change the mentality that, love it or hate it, you have to adapt to us. We need to adapt to them."
FEMA is engaging the private sector and the public to determine how best to take advantage of open data, social media, and two-way interaction to improve disaster response. Fugate has met with Google, Microsoft, Apple, Twitter and other companies, and FEMA is using Challenge.gov to seek ideas more widely through crowdsourcing. The private sector and groups like Random Hacks of Kindness will be represented at FEMA's annual disaster recovery event this year.
For example, in its disaster recovery scenario, FEMA could ask retailers which of their stores are closed, then overlay that information on a map to provide food aid to areas where needed. It could also set up mesh WiFi networks to enable people who lose cell or Internet service to communicate using WiFi-enabled mobile devices.
Fugate advocates leveraging personalized information, as well. "If you talk to social scientists and ask how to get people to change their behavior, they say information that's personalized is much more important," he said. For example, an app could be developed by FEMA or a third party that uses GPS to provide location-specific information to a person, such as weather updates or turn-by-turn directions to a site where the agency is providing aid.
Open data is a big part of Fugate's thinking. "Free the data," he said. "We need to leverage the investment we've made by putting the data in the hands of the public. If you look at a lot of government Web sites, [the government] determined how [information] was going to be seen and you had to go to their site to see it. Instead of doing that, why not put out the data feeds?"
Central to FEMA's strategy are geospatial data and mapping applications. One new FEMA app, called SAVER, maps emergency declarations, earthquakes, models of building failures, status and location of relief facilities, and the progression of search operations. SAVER integrates with Microsoft's Bing search to provide a birds-eye view of maps, and disaster relief workers can send SMS updates from the field that are integrated with the maps.
To manage such efforts, FEMA is looking to hire a "geospatial information officer," a new position within the agency, Fugate said.
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Kansas City, Mo. -- With the holiday season upon us and 2011 fast approaching, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) is encouraging all Americans to make emergency preparedness one of their New Year's resolutions for the coming year.
Throughout the rest of December, FEMA Region VII will promote Resolve to be Ready in 2011, a nationwide effort to urge individuals, families, businesses and communities to focus on being ready and aware of all the hazards that exist in their communities.
"Emergencies can happen at anytime, anywhere," said Beth Freeman, Administrator of FEMA Region VII in Kansas City, Missouri. "They can range from natural disasters such as flooding to events such as power outages. The key to successful emergency response, regardless of the nature of the event, is personal preparedness. During this holiday season, make a resolution to be prepared through a few simple steps: get an emergency supply kit, make an emergency plan and be informed of the hazards in your area."
According to a study by researchers at the University of Scranton, Americans who make New Year's resolutions are 11 times more likely to succeed in meeting a goal or tackling a problem than individuals that do not. Resolve to be Ready 2011 is one resolution anyone can keep thanks to the tools and resources available at www.ready.gov or the Spanish language site, www.listo.gov. These sites include important information such as how to put together a kit, make a plan and stay informed.
Resolve to be Ready in 2011 is led by FEMA's Ready Campaign in partnership with Citizen Corps and The Advertising Council. Local events are happening all over the country to underscore the importance of getting people of all ages to make a resolution to be prepared for emergencies.
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.