Tag Archives: fema

This House committee has clearly picked a side in the national monument debate.

A new report by Kaiser Family Foundation and the Episcopal Health Foundation found economic and health disparities among those affected by Harvey.

Sixty-six percent of black residents surveyed said they are not getting the help they need to recover, compared to half of all hurricane survivors. While 34 percent of white residents said their FEMA applications had been approved, just 13 percent of black residents said the same.

And even though they are receiving less assistance, black and Hispanic respondents and those with lower incomes were more likely to have experienced property damage or loss of income as a result of the storm.

Additionally, 1 in 6 people reported that someone in their household has a health condition that is new or made worse because of Harvey. Lower-income adults and people of color who survived the storm were more likely to lack health insurance and to say they don’t know where to go for medical care.

“This survey gives an important voice to hard-hit communities that may have been forgotten, especially those with the greatest needs and fewest resources following the storm,” Elena Marks, president and CEO of the Episcopal Health Foundation, said in a statement.

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This House committee has clearly picked a side in the national monument debate.

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Donald Trump is threatening to end federal relief to Puerto Rico — on Twitter, of course.

In a memo leaked last week, Department of Homeland Security adviser Tom Bossert recommended White House staff pivot to a “theme of stabilizing” with regard to messaging around the humanitarian crisis in Puerto Rico.

President Trump, however, appears to have missed that particular update. On Thursday morning, he threatened to pull federal relief workers from the devastated island just three weeks after Maria made landfall.

Meanwhile, most of Puerto Rico is still without power, hospitals are running out of medical supplies, and clean water remains scarce.

Trump isn’t the only prominent Republican refusing to recognize the severity of the crisis. In an interview with CNN on Thursday morning, Representative Scott Perry, a Pennsylvania Republican, accused host Chris Cuomo of fabricating reports of the severity of the disaster.

“Mr. Cuomo, you’re simply just making this stuff up,” Perry said. “If half the country didn’t have food or water, those people would be dying, and they’re not.”

45 Puerto Rican deaths have been officially confirmed so far, and reports from the ground indicate the unofficial number of deaths due to the storm is higher.


Donald Trump is threatening to end federal relief to Puerto Rico — on Twitter, of course.

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FEMA director calls San Juan mayor’s concerns ‘political noise.’

Sorry to ruin the party, but a report from the Food Climate Research Network casts doubt on recent suggestions that pasture-raised cattle could sequester massive amounts of carbon in the soil.

By nibbling plants and stimulating new root growth, the old argument goes, cows can encourage deeper root networks, which suck up more carbon. Proponents of grass-fed meat have embraced these findings, saying that pasture-raised livestock could mitigate the impact of meat consumption on the environment.

The new report — cleverly titled “Grazed and Confused?” — acknowledges that pastured cattle can be carbon negative, but this depends on the right soil and weather conditions. In most places, according to the report, grazers produce much more greenhouse gas than they add to the ground. It is an “inconvenient truth,” the authors write, that most studies show grass-fed beef has a bigger carbon footprint than feedlot meat. “Increasing grass-fed ruminant numbers is, therefore, a self-defeating climate strategy,” the report concludes.

Fortunately, grass-fed beef is not the only solution being bandied about: Research shows that a small dose of seaweed in livestock feed could drastically reduce methane emissions. And if you really want to reduce your impact on the climate you could, you know, stop eating meat.


FEMA director calls San Juan mayor’s concerns ‘political noise.’

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Obama’s FEMA chief: To rebuild after hurricanes, let’s talk climate change

This story was originally published by Mother Jones and is reproduced here as part of the Climate Desk collaboration.

The former Federal Emergency Management Agency chief has some advice for the Trump administration after back-to-back hurricanes in the past month: You have to look at climate change science if you want smarter disaster relief.

Drawing on eight years of experience leading FEMA under President Barack Obama, Craig Fugate warned on Tuesday that flood-prone areas can’t simply “rebuild to the past” using historical data on 100-year flood risk. Instead, he said at an event at the liberal Center for American Progress, the country needs to “build to future risk.”

The situation is especially critical now that Congress will be appropriating billions in aid to Texas, Florida, Puerto Rico, and the Virgin Islands. Climate change is helping make these disasters bigger and nastier, but Fugate said they are only natural hazards that “become natural disasters when we’re pricing risk too low. We’re putting vulnerable populations and your tax dollars at risk.”

Fugate refused to discuss President Donald Trump’s or FEMA’s response in Puerto Rico in his remarks or in conversations with the press on Tuesday, but his discussion of the Obama administration’s response to Superstorm Sandy in 2013 presented a stark contrast. He recounted how Obama gave him a specific charge after Sandy, saying that “we need to start talking about climate adaptation” to better cope with the new risks posed by rising global temperatures.

EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt had the opposite response after the hurricanes, saying a discussion of “a cause and effect isn’t helping.” When Trump was asked about climate change after Harvey, he said only, “We’ve had bigger storms.”

Just 10 days before Harvey’s record rainfall in Houston, Trump reversed Obama’s 2015 executive order to hold federal infrastructure spending to higher elevation standards in floodplains. Building even a foot or two above the existing standards saves money, and potentially lives, in the long-term, Fugate said. “Putting more money in the front end, we save the taxpayer in the long run,” he said. He also criticized the federal flood insurance program for pricing risk so low that it encourages overdevelopment in vulnerable areas, shifting the losses from flooding to the federal taxpayer.

Speaking to reporters at the event, Fugate gave an example of why climate adaptation is necessary. If, after a natural disaster, you rebuild a fire station at the same elevation, to the same building codes, then you risk losing critical emergency resources when they’re needed most. But if you build it to withstand the future risk we know is coming, then the fire station stays intact to help residents through the disaster.

“In many cases we’re doing things that just don’t make sense … and you’re saying you’re building back better,” Fugate said, adding, “We have to rebuild [Puerto Rico] back for a Maria.”

Mother Jones AJ Vicens has been reporting on the ground from Puerto Rico; read his story about how FEMA supplies and assistance have been slow to reach some communities, including one just 45 minutes from the capital, San Juan.

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Obama’s FEMA chief: To rebuild after hurricanes, let’s talk climate change

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A leaked memo sketches out the Trump team’s PR plan for Puerto Rico.

On Thursday, President Trump announced — after much feeble deliberation — that he would waive the Jones Act, a century-old law that requires all shipping to U.S. territories to be made through American ships and companies. This massively expensive policy, Puerto Rico Governor Ricardo Rossello noted, created an unnecessary obstacle to getting crucial supplies to a devastated island.

Good! One obstacle down, a billion and three to go — including the fact that trucks, drivers, and gasoline to distribute supplies around the island are currently few and far between.

CNN reports that only 4 percent of 3,000 containers of supplies that recently arrived at the Port of San Juan have made it to communities in need. There are currently upwards of 10,000 containers of supplies waiting to be circulated. Only 20 percent of truck drivers have returned to work, and many are hard to contact due to downed cell towers.

Remember that Puerto Rico’s current financial insecurity and infrastructure failings are largely a product of predatory hedge fund lending and lack of access to states’ resources — like, for example, a congressional representative.

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A leaked memo sketches out the Trump team’s PR plan for Puerto Rico.

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What Will You Eat if Disaster Strikes?

September is National Preparedness Month. It comes around every year, but most peoplemaybe including youare still surprised when some kind of disaster strikes and they find themselves totally UNprepared to deal with the situationespecially when it comes to food. Here’s what you should have in your pantry in the event you lose power or can’t get to a grocery store for a while.

Water – The U.S. Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) encourages people to store one gallon of water per person for at least three days. You’ll still have to ration that amount, since you’ll use it for drinking, maybe cooking and personal hygiene. Plus, children, nursing mothers and the sick may need a little more. Living in a hot climate might also affect how much water you need to drink. And don’t forget that your pets will need water to drink, as well.

FEMA recommends that you buy commercially bottled water that you keep in its original container in a cool, dark place. If you want to store water from your own tap, you can get food-grade water storage containers online or from a camping supplies store. Just make sure to wash them well with hot soapy water and rinse well so there is no residue left when you fill them. Don’t reuse old milk jugs or soda bottles. They’re hard to clean thoroughly and may leak. Also, keep a water filter on hand in the event that you can get water, which might not be safe to drink.

Dried Food – Rice, lentils, peas, kidney beans, chickpeas, black beans, pasta and quinoa are among the dried foods you can store, as long as you have water to reconstitute them. The benefit is that they don’t need refrigeration, last a very long time in their dried state, provide a lot of good nutrition and can be cooked in a pot over a camping cookstove if you don’t have gas or electricity coming into your kitchen.

Dried cereals, nuts, raisins, cranberries and other dried fruits– These are also handy staples for the emergency-focused pantry. You can eat cereal for almost any meal and feel satisfied, and the nuts and dried fruits make a good substitute for a sweet snack when more perishable cookies and treats aren’t available.

Buy sealed bags of driedfoods, then store them in larger plastic containers with lids on them so they won’t be tempting to rodents or bugs that occasionally infiltrate a pantry. The jugs will also keep them dry in the event water gets into the house. It might be handy to have salt, pepper and other spices on hand, also in a sealed container, as well as a small cookbook to give you ideas for some delicious recipes so you won’t be reduced to eating just rice and beans.

Food in Cans or Glass Jars – The advantage of preparedfood like soups, fruits, pasta sauces, juices, olives, condiments and tuna is that they contain liquid, which might be in short supply in a true emergency. Plus, they last a very long time, usually far past the designated expiration or “use by” date on the packaging. Cans are easier to stack than jars, so if space is limited, cans might be the best option. If possible, choose cans whose linings don’t contain the chemical BPA, which can leach into food and have toxic consequences.

Freeze Dried Food – The advantage of freeze dried food is that it takes up so little space. The disadvantage is that it needs to be reconstituted with water, which might not be available. But it might take less water to reconstitute some freeze dried foods than to say, make a big pot of pasta or soak a few cups of beans. Here are some organic freeze dried foods you could add to your pantry for variety in the event disaster strikes.

Aseptically Packaged Drinks – You can get milk, juice, protein drinks and power drinks in aseptic packages, which are essentially cartons that are sealed in such a way that they don’t require refrigeration. This is particularly important where dairy products are concerned. If you love milk with your morning coffee, tea or cereal, stock up on some single serving size cartons. Don’t aim for larger cartons, since once they’re opened they can’t be stored without refrigeration.

Powder for Drinks – Powdered milk is terrific to have in an emergency pantry; you can reconstitute it with as much or as little water as you want, or add the powder to something else you’re cooking to get the calcium and protein it contributes. Many powdered “juice” mixes contain more sugar than anything else, so read the label carefully before you buy. Whey powder and other protein powders are another option.

Don’t stock your emergency pantry willy nilly. Think about the foods you and your family like to eat, so if needed, the meals you make can provide comfort as well as nourishment. Keep a list by category of the foods you stock; an emergency throws people into a state of confusion, but being organized will help you stay calm and reassure the people around you. Pull together some recipes in advance so you’re sure you have the ingredients you need to produce a meal.

Also, keep some traps on hand in case rats, mice, roaches or flour moths, also known as pantry moths, show up. The last thing you want to do is have your food supply spoiled by vermin!


What’s the Best Freeze-Dried Food?
Which Canned Foods Still Contain BPA?

Disclaimer: The views expressed above are solely those of the author and may not reflect those of Care2, Inc., its employees or advertisers.

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What Will You Eat if Disaster Strikes?

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Understanding Louisiana’s big flood risks

high water

Understanding Louisiana’s big flood risks

By on Aug 18, 2016Share

This story was originally published by Wired and is reproduced here as part of the Climate Desk collaboration.

There is a lot of water in southern Louisiana right now. The region’s been lashed with rain for the past week — the water has inundated freeways, surged past levees, and left about 40,000 homes water-logged husks of their former selves. The rain has stopped, for now. And when the water finally drains, people will return to their homes, pick up what’s left, and start rebuilding.

But the climate science prognosis doesn’t look good. This is the eighth time in about a year that 500-year rainfall has hammered the United States, and climate change will make extreme weather events like this more common. That means, among other things, millions of dollars worth of property damage. Fixing everything up and managing the growing threat of climate-related destruction hinges on flood insurance — which relies on ever-evolving, incomplete maps to determine risk. But new models will make it possible to better predict floodplains as it becomes increasingly dangerous to live on the coast.

The system isn’t perfect, but for people living in flood-prone regions like southern Louisiana, it’s the best line of defense, says Rafael Lemaitre, a FEMA spokesperson. If you’re covered, FEMA will pay out as much as $250,000 to repair your home.

But there are problems with how those policies get parceled out. “So much of it starts with what you define as a floodplain,” says Craig Colten, a geographer at Louisiana State University. FEMA creates flood risk maps that delineate areas of the region with a certain likelihood of being flooded every year. (An area that has a 1 percent probability of being flooded every year is called a 100-year floodplain.) Then, they base insurance premiums on where residents fall in those areas — the higher the risk, the higher the price.

Those maps, it turns out, are only updated every decade or so, when FEMA looks back on which places have flooded in the past. “It’s going to be a while before the recent flooding is factored into the maps,” Colten says. And the way water moves on the land is changing all the time: More developed areas with roads and parking lots lead to more runoff, for example. Climate change, too, is dramatically increasing the risk of flooding.

What coastal communities really need is predictive flood maps: projections of flood risk based on modeling. Right now, pretty much all flood insurance comes from FEMA, which, again, updates its maps infrequently and also allows residents to comment and push back on the boundaries, effectively letting them determine their own flood risk. Insurance companies, which might have the capital to invest in models that incorporate climate change, have largely stayed out of the business since the 1920s — partly because it’s too risky, partly because government-subsidized rates are too low for private companies to compete with.

But that may change soon, says Jeff Waters, a flood modeler at Risk Management Solutions, which models catastrophe risk for insurance companies. In recent years, he says, computers have finally been able to handle the computationally draining task of modeling something as dynamic as flooding across the U.S. Better modeling could lead to better estimates of risk in certain places, which would allow companies to price policies accordingly and residents to really understand how risky their locations are. And as FEMA enacts some much-needed reforms (like phasing out government subsidies, for one), it may become easier for insurance companies to offer up flood policies, too.

Another way to manage deepening risks, Colten says, is to widen the pool of people who buy into flood insurance. Currently, only the people living in 100-year floodplain areas are really expected to buy insurance — they’re the ones most at risk, after all. But if the insurance pool included people from 500-year floodplains, say, the risk would spread out more thinly. This scheme would’ve worked well for the flooding happening now, Colten says, since the water traveled far beyond the 100-year floodplain.

And FEMA is going with another, more direct way of managing the increasing risks of climate change: encouraging more severe weather-resistant infrastructure. Some of the funds FEMA provides for a disaster go toward rebuilding cities and houses to stricter code and in areas that aren’t quite so risky — say, at higher elevations or further away from the ocean. “Instead of constantly rebuilding for the next disaster, it’s much smarter to use federal dollars to build safer and build back,” says Lemaitre. As climate change risks climb and insurance costs rise to reflect reality, the shoreline of Louisiana will change, too: fewer buildings on the coast, and a lot more houses on stilts.

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Understanding Louisiana’s big flood risks

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GAO adds climate change to list of fiscal risks to the government

GAO adds climate change to list of fiscal risks to the government


A nondescript government office building.

The U.S. Government Accountability Office is basically the definition of bureaucracy. It is bureaucrats on bureaucrats on bureaucrats, probably organized into an Excel-like matrix of desks. The GAO will not order lunch before assembling 14 accountants to do an overview of the competing economics.

This morning, it released a 275-page report (short, by its standards) in its “High-Risk Series,” addressing the main economic risks the government faces. It’s an update to the agency’s 2011 offering, noting that two problems cited then (interagency contracting, IRS modernization) are no longer high risks. You know what does pose a high risk to the government’s fiscal health? Climate change. From the report [PDF]:

This year, GAO has added two areas.

Limiting the Federal Government’s Fiscal Exposure by Better Managing Climate Change Risks. Climate change creates significant financial risks for the federal government, which owns extensive infrastructure, such as defense installations; insures property through the National Flood Insurance Program; and provides emergency aid in response to natural disasters. The federal government is not well positioned to address the fiscal exposure presented by climate change, and needs a government wide strategic approach with strong leadership to manage related risks.

Mitigating Gaps in Weather Satellite Data. Potential gaps in environmental satellite data beginning as early as 2014 and lasting as long as 53 months have led to concerns that future weather forecasts and warnings—including warnings of extreme events such as hurricanes, storm surges, and floods—will be less accurate and timely. A number of decisions are needed to ensure contingency and continuity plans can be implemented effectively. [Ed. – We’ve covered this before.]

That “managing climate change risks” wasn’t seen as high risk in 2011 is a little alarming, but then, the GAO isn’t known for leaping into action.

There’s a reason the GAO calls the issue high-risk: The government’s efforts to combat it have been haphazard.

In 2009, we recommended that the appropriate entities within the Executive Office of the President develop a strategic plan to guide the nation’s efforts to adapt to climate change, including the establishment of clear roles, responsibilities, and working relationships among federal, state, and local governments. In September 2012, we recommended, among other things, that FEMA develop a methodology to more accurately assess a jurisdiction’s capability to respond to and recover from a disaster without federal assistance. FEMA concurred with this recommendation. Some actions have subsequently been taken, including the development of an interagency climate change adaptation task force. However, a 2012 NRC report states that while the task force has convened representatives of relevant agencies and programs, it has no mechanisms for making or enforcing important decisions and priorities.

In May 2011, we found no coherent strategic government-wide approach to climate change funding and that federal officials do not have a shared understanding of strategic government-wide priorities.

This, the GAO suggests, should be fixed. How? See pages 72 to 74. Improve insurance programs, offer assistance to state and local governments, and fix those goddamn satellites.

I’ll say this: If the GAO can do for climate change preparedness what it did for modernizing the IRS, we’re in good hands. Just look at how well the IRS runs these days.

Philip Bump writes about the news for Gristmill. He also uses Twitter a whole lot.

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As Sandy aid finally arrives, FEMA unveils new flood maps

As Sandy aid finally arrives, FEMA unveils new flood maps

The flooded Brooklyn-Battery Tunnel.

Midnight tonight marks the three-month anniversary of Hurricane Sandy making landfall in New Jersey. To celebrate, Congress finally cleared the aid package for victims of the storm. You’ll forgive the East Coast if it doesn’t send a thank-you note.

From The New York Times:

By a 62-to-36 vote, the Senate approved the measure, with 9 Republicans joining 53 Democrats to support it. The House recently passed the bill, 241 to 180, after initially refusing to act on it amid objections from fiscal conservatives over its size and its impact on the federal deficit.

The newly adopted aid package comes on top of nearly $10 billion that Congress approved this month to support the recovery efforts in New York, New Jersey, Connecticut and other states that were battered by the hurricane in late October.

The money will provide aid to people whose homes were damaged or destroyed, as well as to business owners who had heavy losses. It will also pay for replenishing shorelines, repairing subway and commuter rail systems, fixing bridges and tunnels, and reimbursing local governments for emergency spending.

Obama pledged to sign the bill as soon as it gets to him.

Yesterday, the Federal Emergency Management Agency presented its own gift to the community: new flood maps for the New York City area. The reassessment of risk to neighborhoods updates the existing, 30-year-old maps, adding some 35,000 new homes and businesses to at-risk areas.

New York Times

Revamped flood zones. Click to embiggen.

In a separate story, the Times reports:

The maps will not formally go into effect for about two years, but the mayor’s office was already preparing an executive order to help owners of damaged homes rebuild to higher standards. That means that a badly damaged home that was not in the old flood zone, but is in the new one, would be allowed to rebuild to prepare for dangers predicted in the new maps. For instance, a home could be hoisted onto posts or pilings, which might have previously been disallowed because of zoning. …

To help offset the costs, [Michael] Byrne, of FEMA, said homeowners with federally backed insurance policies could get up to an additional $30,000 for rebuilding their homes to comply with new codes. Mr. Holloway said it was hoped that federal aid in the wake of the storm would include money to help homeowners better protect their homes.

According to the agency, owners of a $250,000 home with a ground floor built four feet below sea level could pay up to $9,500 a year for flood insurance, compared with $427 for homes built three feet above the flood line.

You may remember that the first, $10 billion package approved by Congress went to bolster FEMA’s ability to pay out claims. For years, the agency has been charging flood-insurance premiums that don’t reflect the actual risk of flooding across the country, meaning that it has been operating at a loss. Homeowners in areas that have been added to the newly mapped flood zones will have to pay higher insurance rates, but not for another few years. Which means FEMA will continue to bring in less money than it needs and will be constrained in paying out claims.

Worse still, FEMA’s new maps reflect only the present conditions: current sea levels, current storm estimates.

Mr. Byrne said the maps were based on current conditions. “We’re not taking into consideration any future climate change,” he said.

Within a decade, then, even FEMA’s new maps will be out-of-date. Sea-level rise is happening faster than anticipated, and New York Harbor is witnessing that directly. If FEMA waits another 30 years to update the maps, the harbor could be almost four inches higher than it is today.

The constraint is financial. Elements of the government are loathe to spend on preventative measures and are reluctant to provide additional funding to programs like FEMA. It took them three months to OK even minimal aid to the largest city in the country. How many years will it be before Congress approves resources to combat climate change preemptively?


Congress Approves $51 Billion in Aid for Hurricane Victims, New York Times
Twice as Many Structures in FEMA’s Redrawn Flood Zone, New York Times

Philip Bump writes about the news for Gristmill. He also uses Twitter a whole lot.

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