Disaster Preparedness News

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Disaster Preparedness Program Supports COVID-19 Response


Kate Wheelock, Chief of the National Ocean Service (NOS) Disaster Preparedness Program (DPP), shares what the DPP is doing to support all of the NOS offices in response to COVID-19, commonly known as the novel coronavirus. Learn more about those response efforts here

NOAA's National Ocean Service: Preparedness and Risk Reduction


Coastal communities represent a major economic engine for the United States. Immediate and potentially life-threatening events such as hurricanes, as well as long-term issues like high tide flooding, are real challenges to coastal communities. NOAA’s National Ocean Service (NOS) brings a unique range of information and capabilities to help communities prepare for, respond to, and recover from these events.

For example, NOS maintains the nation's network of coastal tide and water level sensors to provide real-time data that supports accurate weather forecasts, coastal storm and flood predictions, and tsunami warnings. Additionally, NOS responds to natural disasters and more than 150 oil and chemical spills in U.S. and state waters each year. These events can severely damage environments, impact public safety and welfare, and disrupt economies. As the authoritative resource for science related to marine debris, oil, and chemical spills, NOS provides responders with the information they need to understand the severity of a spill, where it will travel, and response solutions.

Click here to learn more about the NOS Program Offices and the capabilities they provide.

The Importance of Continuity Planning


Flooding resulting from Hurricane Katrina. Image credit: NOAA

As highlighted during the current COVID-19 pandemic, the government can’t stop working because there is an emergency. This means that federal agencies need to be prepared, with plans that account for every situation, to ensure our jobs always get done. This is called comprehensive continuity planning. 

Continuity of Operations plans (COOP) cover everything from natural disasters like hurricanes and earthquakes, to fires and terrorist attacks. The National Ocean Service's Disaster Preparedness Program (DPP) works with NOAA’s Homeland Security Program Office to make sure we are ready for any possible scenario. Learn more about the importance of continuity planning and how the DPP supports those efforts here.

Disaster Preparedness Program Helping Support Disaster Recovery

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Divers cache coral fragments for emergency stabilization in Puerto Rico. Image credit: NOAA

As the federal agency entrusted with the conservation and management of coastal and marine resources, NOAA plays an important and unique role in supporting communities to plan for, recover from, and increase resilience to disasters. The Disaster Preparedness Program (DPP) supports NOAA’s work in this area in several ways.

Internally, DPP is working across the agency to develop a NOAA-wide programmatic framework for recovery. This includes strategic planning and the development of training and coordination resources to strengthen operational support capacity for future disaster recovery efforts. 

Externally, DPP helps to facilitate collaboration with federal, state, and local stakeholders to link NOAA scientific and technical expertise, resources, and services with national and community disaster recovery priorities. This involves coordinating the science-based recommendations for addressing coastal and marine environmental and economic issues that NOAA provides to the federal Recovery Support Function Leadership Group (RSFLG). DPP also coordinates with disaster field leadership to identify where and how NOAA resources might be applied to support local recovery needs after an event, such as in Puerto Rico where NOAA is providing technical assistance for coral reef restoration efforts following Hurricanes Irma and Maria.

As we prepare for the 2020 hurricane season and beyond, the DPP will continue to support NOAA and external partners in planning for and working towards community recovery after disaster.

Disaster Preparedness Program Announces First Annual Preparedness Lagniappe Awards

The Disaster Preparedness Program (DPP) recently announced the recipients of the first annual Preparedness Lagniappe Awards. Funds were made available to other NOAA National Ocean Service (NOS) program offices to fill preparedness gaps or innovate their current preparedness efforts. The award name,"lagniappe" (lan’yap), is a creole term to describe a bonus, or something extra.

In our first year of an annual award cycle, four projects were funded. Each of the selected projects aligns with the DPP mission to support NOS and our partners to prepare for, response to, and recovery from disasters. We look forward to learning more from these efforts and improving preparedness efforts, ideas, and culture across NOS.


Florida Emergency Support Function Resource Advisor Training Course

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Resource Advisor monitoring a vessel salvage operation in the Apalachicola National Estuarine Research Reserve following Hurricane Michael in 2018. Image credit: NOAA

On February 26-27, the National Ocean Service's Disaster Preparedness Program (DPP) co-hosted a two-day Emergency Support Function (ESF) Resource Advisor Training course for the state of Florida, at the Apalachicola National Estuarine Research Reserve.

Along with the DPP, the training course was developed and co-hosted with Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, and the Florida Department of Environmental Protection.

The purpose of the ESF Resource Advisor Training is to ensure the state of Florida has a number of coastal resource managers trained on the tools and knowledge needed to successfully fill the Resource Advisor role either in an Incident Command Post (ICP) or in the field after an ESF-3 (public works, including debris) or ESF-10 (hazardous materials) activation. The training covered a wide range of topics including the National Response Framework and the Incident Command System structure, use of an Incident Action Plan, the roles and responsibilities of a Resource Advisor, overview of best management practices for unique cases in the field, appropriate and inappropriate coastal salvage techniques, and a discussion on environmental trade-offs.

The course also included a small scale tabletop exercise that allowed trainees to walk through real-world case studies from Hurricanes Irma and Michael, and get hands-on experience with Resource Advisor tools including NOAA’s Environmental Response Management Application, NOAA’s Environmental Sensitivity Index maps, Survey 123, and Collector App in ArcGIS, to aid in decision making in the field and report recommendations to the ICP in an active response.

NOAA's Office of Response and Restoration Dives Deep into National Ocean Service Devolution


On February 5-6, 2020 at NOAA’s Western Regional Center in Seattle, Washington, the Disaster Preparedness Program facilitated a devolution site coordination meeting.

The meeting was well attended with over 20 representatives from the NOAA Offices of the Chief Financial Officer and the Chief Administrative Officer, National Marine Fisheries Service, National Ocean Service, and NOAA’s Homeland Security Program Office. 

The purpose of the meeting was to learn about the devolution process and procedures for each NOAA office, and to explore opportunities for coordination across line and staff offices. Devolution is a part of continuity planning that establishes procedures to transfer statutory authority and responsibilities from an organization’s primary operating staff and facilities to other designated staff and or facilities for the purpose of maintaining our mission essential functions.

The meeting provided an opportunity for the line and staff offices to work through devolution scenarios; identifying potential impacts and areas at risk. While we hope to never have to activate our devolution option, having a viable, actionable, and comprehensive devolution plan is critical for ensuring continuity under the most dire circumstances.

NOAA's Gulf of Mexico Disaster Response Center

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Front entrance to the NOAA Disaster Response Center located in Mobile, Alabama. Image credit: NOAA

The Gulf of Mexico Disaster Response Center (DRC) is a NOAA facility in Mobile, Alabama, that establishes an unprecedented regional presence for the Gulf of Mexico region for disaster preparedness and response. As part of the National Ocean Service's Disaster Preparedness Program, experts at the DRC use tools and sound science to advise decision makers and enhance regional preparedness.

The DRC expands the federal capacity to plan for and respond to hazards of all types in the five states bordering the Gulf of Mexico. The facility, equipped with a state-of-the-art emergency operations center, is designed to withstand Category 5 hurricane winds, contains a Force-5 tornado shelter, and has backup power systems to continue operations in the midst of severe weather. Intended to serve as a safe and ready command center during major disaster responses in the Gulf, the DRC also offers facilities for drills, trainings, workshops, and planning activities.

This facility brings together NOAA-wide resources to improve preparedness, planning, and response capacity for natural and human-caused disasters along the Gulf Coast. You can learn more about the DRC here.

Partnerships in Preparedness

Working together to build a safer and stronger America

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Two cleanup crew members work to remove oil from the sand along a portion of soiled coastline. Image credit: U.S. Coast Guard.

Southeast and Caribbean Disaster Recovery Partnership Meeting

On January 28-29, 2020, staff from the National Ocean Service's Disaster Preparedness Program attended the Southeast and Caribbean Disaster Recovery Partnership (SCDRP) 2020 Winter Meeting in Jacksonville, Florida. The SCDRP is an affiliation of federal, state, and local governments, private businesses, and non-profit organizations, that come together to share resources and best practices for disaster preparedness and recovery.

Disaster Preparedness Program Participates in Region IV Regional Response Team Meeting

On February 4-6, 2020, members of the National Ocean Service's (NOS) Disaster Preparedness Program (DPP) and Emergency Response Division attended the Regional Response Team IV Winter Meeting in Franklin, Tennessee. Presenting on the DPP, Charles Grisafi, Southeast Regional Preparedness Coordinator, highlighted how the DPP can support preparedness needs in the region; including training, exercises, and workshops, as well as being a preparedness and response liaison to NOS. 

Disaster Preparedness Program Conducts Outreach with Partners in the Northeast

On March 2-6, 2020, Collin Buckner, Disaster Preparedness Associate, with the Disaster Preparedness Program (DPP), traveled to the Northeast to meet with regional partners to highlight how the DPP can support preparedness, response, and recovery needs in the Northeast region of the country, and to take note of potential areas of collaboration. Collin made his way to New Hampshire and Massachusetts to meet with partners including the University of New Hampshire’s Coastal Response Research Center, Great Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve (NERR), Waquoit Bay NERR, and the Barnstable County Regional Emergency Planning Committee.  

DPP Training

Training for Responders

The NOAA Office of Response and Restoration offers a schedule of training courses for emergency managers and responders throughout the year. These trainings help ensure that NOAA field responders, federal partners, and state and local emergency managers have the tools necessary to plan for and respond to disasters so commerce, communities, and natural resources can recover as quickly as possible. 

Click the link below to learn more about courses offered and registration requirements. 

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Disaster Preparedness Exercises

The NOAA Disaster Preparedness Program supports exercise design, development, delivery, and evaluation for multiple exercises throughout the year.  These exercises help NOAA and our partners test our abilities to ensure we can carry out our missions effectively and efficiently during a disaster or emergency. 

Click the link below to learn more about DPP exercises.  

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