FEMA Continues Ida Response and Recovery Efforts

A week after Ida’s landfall in Louisiana, FEMA has given more than $165 million in grants to Louisiana survivors to help them begin their recovery. FEMA also received more than 13,500 National Flood Insurance Program claims from the affected states for processing.

People can help survivors and communities impacted by Hurricane Ida by donating to or volunteering with the voluntary or charitable organization of their choice, many of which are already in areas impacted by Ida and supporting survivors. Learn how to best help those in need.
Federal Actions to Support Areas Affected by Hurricane Ida

On Sept. 2, FEMA announced changes to its Individual Assistance program to better support disaster survivors by reducing the barriers to agency programs that aid underserved populations. Changes in this new policy include expanding acceptance of different forms of documentation to prove ownership or occupancy, while also expanding assistance for a disaster-caused disability.

There are eight FEMA Incident Management Assistance Teams deployed to support states affected by Hurricane Ida. Five are in Louisiana, New Jersey, New York and Pennsylvania. Seven AmeriCorps FEMA Corps teams are supporting Louisiana recovery efforts.

The National Emergency Management Association is helping facilitate additional resources to the Gulf Coast through the Emergency Management Assistance Compact. Resources from 14 states have been sent to assist with ongoing response and recovery efforts.

Commodities, equipment and personnel are working throughout the affected areas. This includes:
Disaster Survivor Assistance teams are on the ground in Louisiana providing in-person assistance in New Orleans and other parishes.

Urban Search and Rescue (US&R) teams have completed more than 39,000 structural evaluations in affected areas in Louisiana.

More than 278 ambulance crews and 30 air ambulances are deployed and working in Louisiana.

Additional ambulances and air ambulances are in Mississippi to support impacted areas.

Mobile Emergency Response Support assets, including emergency operations vehicles, are deployed to support communication needs in Louisiana and New Jersey.

The Defense Logistics Agency has been activated for fuel support and leasing of additional generators. High output generators are in Baton Rouge, La.

In Louisiana, The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) has activated its Operation Blue Roof program for parishes approved for individual assistance. Residents can sign up for the program and complete a Right of Entry form at Blueroof.us. Residents can call toll free 1-888-ROOF-BLU (1-888-766-3258) for more information regarding this program.

USACE Temporary Emergency Power Planning and Response Teams, contractor support, and the 249th Engineer Battalion’s power generation team are mobilized in Mississippi and Louisiana to conduct power assessments and installations.

The U.S. Department of Energy authorized the Strategic Petroleum Reserve to conduct an exchange of 300,000 barrels of crude oil between fuel storage companies in Louisiana to alleviate any logistical issues of moving crude oil within areas affected by Hurricane Ida. This action will help ensure the region has access to fuel as quickly as possible as they continue their recovery.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) approved Louisiana’s request to allow Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program households to use their benefits to purchase prepared meals and are assisting with program flexibilities needed for mass feeding operations. USDA’s Disaster Household Distribution program was approved and will provide food packages to 800,000 survivors in 19 parishes.
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) deployed more than 180 medical providers and other staff from the National Disaster Medical System to support the triage and treatment of patients in Louisiana. This includes three teams that will be providing Emergency Department decompression to three hospitals in Thibodaux, Kenner and Raceland. The team in Thibodaux will begin to see patients today. A 250-bed healthcare facility federal medical station at the New Orleans Ernest Morial Convention Center began seeing patients this weekend. Patients must be referred to the station.
The station is staffed by Disaster Medical Assistance personnel and credentialed medical volunteers identified by the Louisiana Department of Health.

The Salvation Army mobilized feeding kitchens and emergency response vehicles in Albany, Baton Rouge, Hammond, Houma, and Thibodaux Gonzalez, Kenner, LaPlace, Napoleonville, New Orleans and Raceland, La. These operations can feed up to 60,000 people a day.

The American Red Cross, with the help of their partners, has provided more than 49,000 meals and snacks for survivors in the Gulf Coast. There are more than 20 Red Cross and community shelters open in affected areas in Louisiana. There are 13 shelters open in New Jersey and three in New York.

The U.S. Department of Transportation (USDOT) Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration announced an Emergency Declaration that provides truck drivers flexibility to move critical freight to areas damaged by Ida.

Additionally, USDOT activated an Emergency Relief Docket for railroads so they can get temporary safety regulations waivers to help them speed up service to move goods necessary for emergency relief efforts.

The Federal Communications Commission is working directly with wireless carriers so that those in affected areas can roam on any available network while restoration efforts are underway.


Keystone Accidents Investigated by GOA

The Department of Transportation's Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) required TC Energy to take additional safety measures specified in a special permit as conditions of allowing certain portions of the Keystone Pipeline (Keystone) to operate at a higher stress level than allowed by regulation. PHMSA reviewed technical information and drew on its experience granting similar permits to natural gas pipelines to develop 51 conditions with which TC Energy must comply. Most pipeline safety and technical stakeholders GAO interviewed agreed the conditions offset the risks of operating at a higher stress level. However, PHMSA did not allow TC Energy to fully operate Keystone at this higher stress level until 2017, after TC Energy replaced pipe affected by industry-wide pipeline quality issues.

Keystone's accident history has been similar to other crude oil pipelines since 2010, but the severity of spills has worsened in recent years. Similar to crude oil pipelines nationwide, most of Keystone's 22 accidents from 2010 through 2020 released fewer than 50 barrels of oil and were contained on operator-controlled property such as a pump station. The two largest spills in Keystone's history in 2017 and 2019 were among the six accidents that met PHMSA's criteria for accidents “impacting people or the environment.” According to PHMSA's measures for these more severe types of accidents, from 2010 to 2020 TC Energy performed better than nationwide averages, but worse in the past five years due to the 2017 and 2019 spills.

The Keystone Pipeline has transported over 3 billion barrels of crude oil from Canada to U.S. refineries since 2010. Keystone's accident history is similar to other pipelines, but the severity of its spills has worsened in recent years due to 2 large spills in 2017 and 2019.

The Department of Transportation required Keystone operator TC Energy to investigate and address the root causes of the 4 largest spills. DOT has also issued enforcement actions and civil penalties for problems like inadequate corrosion prevention. Based on Keystone "lessons learned," DOT has increased inspection resources for other pipelines during construction.

In response to each of Keystone's four largest spills, PHMSA issued Corrective Action Orders requiring TC Energy to investigate the accidents' root causes and take necessary corrective actions. These investigations found that the four accidents were caused by issues related to the original design, manufacturing of the pipe, or construction of the pipeline. PHMSA also issued other enforcement actions and assessed civil penalties to TC Energy for deficiencies found during inspections, such as inadequate corrosion prevention and missing pipeline markers. Based in part on its experience overseeing Keystone, PHMSA officials said they have increased resources to conduct inspections during construction of other pipelines and are establishing a more formal process to document and track the compliance of all special permits, including Keystone's permit.

European Parliamentarians set out to strengthen disaster resilience

The United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction (UNDRR) Regional Office for Europe and UN Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Disaster Risk Reduction, Ms. Mami Mizutori, together with Members of the European Parliament Ms. Sirpa Pietikäinen, Ms. Lídia Pereira and Ms. Monica Silvana Gonzalez, held a discussion on building greater resilience in Europe and beyond.

Members of the European Parliament play a key role in leading the change towards a resilient future in the face of growing climate impacts felt worldwide. This is important as the latest figures show that in the last 20 years both the number of recorded disasters and resulting economic losses almost doubled. The discussion highlighted the urgent need to invest in prevention to save lives and looked at how the EU is actively implementing the Sendai Framework priorities.

MEP Sirpa Pietikäinen highlighted that comparing the cost of investing in disaster risk reduction (DRR) to that of inaction is crucial to understand the importance of investing in prevention. A science-based approach should be adopted when it comes to implementing the Sustainable Development Goals and the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction 2015-2030 (Sendai Framework).

MEP Lídia Pereira emphasised that economic growth needs to address climate adaptation and disaster resilience. Infrastructure investments in particular need to be resilient. With the $80 trillion to be invested in infrastructure globally, the investments must go through a robust screening process to ensure they are disaster resilient.

MEP Monica Silvana Gonzalez underlined that people and communities can better resist disasters if the risk of their occurrence and vulnerabilities to impacts are reduced, a point she stresses in her report on the impacts of climate change on vulnerable populations in developing countries. She further noted that a greater commitment to the Sendai Framework is necessary and that it is important to look at how EU resources can be better invested in disaster risk reduction.

MEP Dragoș Pîslaru, from his point of view as rapporteur of the EU recovery instrument to COVID 19 (Recovery and Resilient Facility), reflected that the Sendai Framework is important for recovery policies and noted that it is important to cooperate to make sure we are better prepared in the future.

Ms. Mami Mizutori, UN Special Representative of the Secretary-General for DRR, emphasized that now is the moment when we can put words into action, to build a more resilient future, so that every decision you make in forming policies and investing are risk-informed and have a “think resilience” approach. The participating Members of the European Parliament all expressed support to continue this momentum and work together towards building a more resilient future.

How science can help build a more resilient Europe

Enhanced data collection, more knowledge sharing and a long-term approach to risk will be key in strengthening Europe’s resilience against future disasters, according to a new book published today by the JRC.
Drawing lessons from the coronavirus pandemic and other crises, ‘Science for Disaster Risk Management 2020: acting today, protecting tomorrow’ explores how to protect lives, livelihoods, the environment and our rich cultural heritage from future disasters.
With input from over 300 experts, the book highlights the important role of science in preparing Europe to face the challenges that lie over the horizon.
Commissioner for Crisis Management, Janez Lenarčič, said: “As disasters defy borders the EU supports national action and promotes cross-border cooperation on disaster risk management – with the EU Civil Protection Mechanism being at the heart of this work. Using all data, science and lessons learnt available is vital to strengthen the collective safety and resilience against disasters in the EU and beyond”.
Commissioner for Innovation, Research, Culture, Education and Youth, Mariya Gabriel said: “The Joint Research Centre has long held key expertise in disaster risk management, spawning valuable tools like early warning systems and satellite mapping services, disaster risk studies and global risk models. The new book ‘Science for Disaster Risk Management 2020: acting today, protecting tomorrow’, is the latest of these tools: it shows how vital science is in helping us prepare for disasters, and how we can all work together to learn the lessons of the past and prepare better for the future.”
The aftermath of disasters can be learning opportunities, both in recovering quickly and dealing with the underlying drivers of disaster risk to avoid or mitigate similar events. This new book provides several examples and recommendations on how to grasp these opportunities to build a more resilient future.
Data is key to understanding the impact of disasters, and better managing them in the future
Events like the Fukushima accident in 2011 or the coronavirus pandemic show that, however improbable they may seem, disasters do occur and they can have a huge impact.
On a practical level, past disasters can serve to highlight weaknesses and trigger changes in the policy framework. For example, the forest fires of 2017 in Portugal caused a reassessment of fire management policies and led to new legislation to protect people and territory from forest fires.
To make the most of these opportunities, scientists need quality, comprehensive data and information gathered after a disaster to develop the right methodologies and tools. The book authors recommend developing a mechanism so that disaster loss data can be collected and used in this way.
A major challenge to collating and using data is that much of the damages and loss to cultural and environmental ecosystems caused by disasters can remain hidden when the value of these assets are not easy to define in economic terms.
It is hard to put a price on cultural artefacts or quantify what is lost when certain oral traditions and customs are no longer performed.
As a first step, the authors recommend compiling an inventory of the current state of cultural heritage assets in Europe, which can contribute to preserving that heritage in the face of disasters.
Taking a long-term view on disaster risk
The book also calls for a shift from a short-term, reactionary approach to disaster risk management, towards a long-term view that tackles the underlying drivers of risk - such as inequality, urbanisation, or climate change.
For example, the authors show how urban planning can play a key role in avoiding building in risk-prone areas like flood plains. Climate change also poses a challenge that requires a long-term response: sectors like European agriculture will need to deal with more frequent and extreme weather events in the coming years.
The book recommends actions such as supporting research groups from across different scientific disciplines to work together to find nature-based innovative solutions to societal challenges.
Sharing knowledge and working together to become more resilient
In today’s complex world and the many links between assets, sectors and governance levels, disasters often have an impact across countries and sections of society. It is therefore necessary that different stakeholders and groups share their data and knowledge to co-create effective strategies to reduce disaster risk.
One positive example of this came following the explosion of a fertiliser plant near Toulouse in 2001. It triggered a set of actions to engage local stakeholders in the co-design of strategies and measures to deal with technological risk.
By establishing local committees for information and consultation, people can now participate in the decision-making process and implementation of measures to prevent these risks, while also having an influence on land-use planning.
The book recommends education and training to raise awareness and build the capacity of individuals and communities to contribute to these efforts.