Federal Family Continues Response and Relief Operations Following Hurricane Irma

Release date:
September 14, 2017
Release Number:

WASHINGTON – In the wake of Hurricane Irma, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) is actively coordinating the efforts of the federal family, working alongside state and local emergency responders to help address the immediate needs of survivors.

More than 40,000 federal personnel are working in support of preparedness and response to Hurricane Irma, including more than 2,650 FEMA staff with additional staff continuing to deploy. Many federal agencies, including the U.S. Departments of State, Defense, Interior, and Homeland Security have deployed thousands of personnel to provide logistical support for commodities, employ search and rescue assets, as well as conduct damage assessments to develop and advance recovery efforts.

FEMA Worker

Search and rescue efforts continue in the Caribbean and the U.S. mainland. FEMA Urban Search & Rescue (US&R) task forces stationed in the Caribbean have conducted 1141 rescues, and in Florida, FEMA US&R saved 1,006 lives. The U.S. Coast Guard (USCG) have rescued 326 people and saved 53 pets. The U.S. Coast Guard has also answered more than 1750 emergency phone calls at their headquarters facility.

FEMA Workers

The Department of Energy (DOE) is coordinating with its partners to facilitate communications, provide situational awareness, and expedite restoration efforts. More than 60,000 personnel are activated from more than 250 investor-owned electric companies, public power utilities, and electric cooperatives from all corners of the United States and Canada, who are dedicated to the essential work of power restoration. Patience is still required, but progress is being made, and private sector partners report that about 50% of power is restored across the affected areas.

As of September 14, 2017, FEMA transferred approximately 6.6 million meals and 4.7 million liters of water to states in the Southeast, at the states’ requests. In addition, nearly 578,000 meals, 383,000 liters of water, 13,600 sheeting covers, 150 rolls of blue tarps, and 30 generators were transferred to St. Thomas and St. John. Currently, FEMA has the following commodities positioned in staging areas across the impacted areas, to be transferred to states and tribes upon their request:

  • Alabama: more than 7.2 million meals, more than 13.6 million liters of water;
  • Florida: more than 315,000 meals, more than 390,000 liters of water, 151 generators;
  • Georgia: more than 500,000 meals, 30 generators;
  • North Carolina: more than 340,000 meals, 2.1 million liters of water, 57 generators;
  • South Carolina: more than 717,000 meals, 1.8 million liters of water.

Survivors should not return home until local officials have deemed the area safe for return. Avoid downed power or utility lines; they may be live with deadly voltage. Stay away and report them immediately to your power or utility company.

The Department of Justice (DOJ) and FEMA Advise Disaster Applicants to Beware of Rumors, Misinformation, and Fraud. Federal and state workers do not ask for, or accept, money. FEMA staff will never charge applicants for disaster assistance, home inspections, or help filling out applications. Stay alert for false promises to speed up the insurance, disaster assistance, or building permit process. If fraud is suspected, contact the National Center for Disaster Fraud’s hotline at 1-866-720-5721, or email the organization at disaster@leo.gov.

For those in designated areas in Florida, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands, registering online, at www.DisasterAssistance.gov, is the quickest way to register for federal assistance, including FEMA assistance.If you do not have access to the internet, you may register by calling 1-800-621-FEMA (3362) or 1-800-462-7585 (TTY). If you use 711 relay or Video Relay Service (VRS), call 800-621-3362 directly.

FEMA has received a total of 154,800 registrations to date, and already approved $21 million for Hurricane Irma survivors. As it becomes safe for people to return to their homes, we expect registration numbers to increase.

Federal Efforts Underway  

  • The American Red Cross (ARC) is operationally focused on safety, shelter, food, which includes shelf stable meals, and positioning personnel and supplies. On short notice, an estimated 22,000 people sought refuge from Hurricane Irma in as many as 200 government and Red Cross evacuation centers across six states, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands. To date, the ARC have served more than 154,000 meals and snacks.
  • Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS) deployed 23 AmeriCorps Disaster Response Teams including FEMA Corps, to Florida, Georgia, and Puerto Rico to support the American Red Cross, FEMA, and Save the Children. In coordination with local partner, Volunteer Florida, additional locally-serving AmeriCorps and Senior Corps members have been put on standby as CNCS assesses additional needs. CNCS is directing people to NationalService.gov/Irma to find updates about volunteering and urging people to sign up to volunteer in the state of Florida.
  • U.S. Department of Defense (DOD)
    • The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) Temporary Roofing Planning and Response Team (PRT) arrived in USVI Monday. The PRT conducted an assessment of high priority critical facilities in St. Thomas. USACE currently have more than 350 personnel engaged and have received 39 FEMA Mission Assignments (MA).
      • In Florida: Temporary Roofing experts are coordinating a flyover of South Florida residential areas to identify potential mission areas. USACE mobilized contractors to South Florida and worked with area shelters to identify debris removal requirements.
      • In USVI/Puerto Rico: New FEMA mission assigned activities include Deployed Tactical Operations System (DTOS) or mobile communications Support, Water/Wastewater, Temporary Housing, Unwatering experts, Logistics Support, and GIS Specialists.
    • The U.S. National Guard Bureau (NGB) is responding to Hurricane Irma with 17,000 soldiers and airmen from all over the country in rescue, evacuation, security, and support operations, with nearly 5,300 more en route to the affected areas.
      • In Florida, National Guard soldiers and airmen are conducting assessments using satellite and aerial imagery, while also performing route clearing to deliver fuel and lifesaving, essential resources. Utility restoration is underway to allow citizens to return home.
      • In Saint Martin, the National Guard is continuing evacuation operations with over 1,600 U.S. citizens evacuated thus far.
    • U.S. Northern Command (NORTHCOM) is working with FEMA to support authorities in Florida, and the U.S. Virgin Islands, providing life-saving and life-sustaining relief to those in affected areas. In the U.S. Virgin Islands, the USS Kearsarge and USS Oak Hill continue to work moving people and supplies to the islands.  The USS Abraham Lincoln arrived near the Florida Keys Tuesday afternoon and its helicopters immediately started assessments and evaluations of airfields for state and local authorities.
    • The U.S. Marine Corps’ (USMC) stationed 500 Marines in the U.S. Virgin Islands to assist clearing the roads and removing debris for people and vehicles to pass.
  • U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) continues to work closely with its interagency and private sector partners to ensure that fuel remains available the states impacted by Hurricanes Irma and Harvey. DOE worked with the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Department of Transportation (DOT), and states to support issuing proper waivers to provide flexibility in the market that alleviates some fuel logistics issues and recovery operations. DOE also authorized release of 5.3 million barrels of crude from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve, of which 2.8 million have been delivered as of September 13.
  • The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) is monitoring the status of communications networks in the areas affected by Hurricane Irma, and created a dedicated webpage for daily communications status reports, information, and resources related to the hurricane, including tips for communicating during an emergency.
  • The General Services Administration (GSA) is releasing federal building re-openings by state via social media and can be found at the following links: @USGSAFacebookBlog. For more information on general building statuses, visit gsa.gov/facilitystatus.
  • The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) provided data to public health authorities in Florida, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands to assist them in reaching Medicare beneficiaries who rely on any of 14 types of electrically powered medical equipment at home—such as electric wheelchairs, oxygen concentrators home ventilators—or home health services. Power outages become life-or-death situations for people with these medical conditions.
    • The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is sharing information about Carbon Monoxide and generator safety: https://www.cdc.gov/disasters/co-materials.html. CDC also distributed the Health Alert Notice on Carbon Monoxide to the impacted states in both Spanish and English, and have sent guidance on carbon monoxide safety to home improvement stores and other partners in the affected regions.
  • U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) will speed federal disaster assistance to the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico and provide support to homeowners and low-income renters from their homes due to Hurricane Irma. For more information, visit https://portal.hud.gov/hudportal/HUD.
  • U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Acting Secretary Elaine Duke extended the limited Jones Act Waiver initially signed on September 8 at the recommendation of the Departments of Defense and Energy. Due to the severe disruptions of the oil supply system resulting from Hurricanes Harvey and Irma, the extended waiver will facilitate movement of refined petroleum products, including gasoline, diesel, and jet fuel, to be shipped from New York, New Jersey, Delaware, Maryland, Pennsylvania, New Mexico, Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, and Arkansas to Florida, Georgia, South Carolina, North Carolina, Virginia, West Virginia, and Puerto Rico.  Effective immediately, this waiver applies to covered merchandise laded on board a vessel through and including September 22, 2017.
    • The United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) continues to update the operational status of their offices impacted by Hurricane Irma – in English and Spanish – via web posting on www.uscis.gov and amplified on social media and www.usa.gov. In addition, the Special Situations page https://uscis.gov/special-situationscontinues to be available detailing how natural catastrophes may affect petitions, applications, and immigration status.
    • Office for Civil Rights and Civil Liberties (CRCL) reissued Tips for Effective Communication with the Whole Community, which includes civil rights guidance on communicating with persons with disabilities and other access and functional needs. CRCL continues to participate on daily calls with national and local disability stakeholders, and closely coordinate with FEMA’s Office of Disability Integration and Coordination on issues that arise. They have sent out a message with a comprehensive list of CRCL and other federal disaster resources specifically for persons with disabilities, as well as emergency providers that interact with them. These resources can also be found on our Disaster Preparedness and Disability Access webpages.
    • The U.S. Coast Guard (USCG) continues to work with federal and state partners on search and rescue response and port reconstitution in the wake of Hurricane Irma. All ports in Florida, with the exception of Key West, are open, though many with restrictions. Coast Guard Aids to Navigation teams are focused on restoring maritime aids to navigation damaged in the storm to facilitate safe delivery of critical relief supplies to impacted areas. Coast Guard teams are also conducting water rescues, saving more than 320 lives to date.
    • U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) created a Hurricane Irma Centralized repository on CBP.gov, emphasizing operational assets ready across the state of Florida as most airports and seaports have reopened and resumed operations. Click to VIEW coverage or see @CBPFlorida.
    • The U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) has twelve law enforcement personnel assisting the Disaster Medical Deployment Team in St. Thomas. An additional six personnel have deployed to St. Thomas to assist with reconstitution efforts.
    • The National Protection and Programs Directorate (NPPD) support for restoration and recovery efforts continues, with an emerging focus on power restoration and fuel prioritization to support emergency services and critical infrastructure.
    • The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) deployed 60 personnel to Miami International Airport on September 11, 2017. Teams from airports in Los Angeles, Boston, and San Francisco were also deployed. TSA deployed 166 screening personnel from additional airports on September 12 to impacted areas.
  • The U.S. Department of the Interior (DOI) provided an overview of Department of Interior and partner support for the hurricane-battered U.S. Virgin Islands. Additionally, Secretary Ryan Zinke talked about Hurricane Irma on September 12. Interior currently has a total of 220 personnel supporting FEMA missions related to Hurricane/Tropical Storm Irma including 57 U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) personnel continuing real-time field measurements and daily reporting of water heights in Puerto Rico, Georgia, South Carolina, and Florida; and 140 staff providing law enforcement support for search and rescue and other FEMA functions. With multiple national parks and wildlife refuges impacted by the hurricanes throughout the Southeast, the Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico, the National Park Service (NPS) Eastern Incident Management Team (IMT) relocated its response operations to Everglades National Park while two U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service IMTs have arrived in Tallahassee, along with one Saw Team from North Carolina in Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge.
  • The U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) law enforcement components are participating in quick response teams in Florida and Texas, and are assisting and preparing to assist local response and recovery efforts in the wake of both Hurricanes Irma and Harvey. The Department announced antitrust guidance for businesses taking part in relief efforts and those involved in rebuilding communities affected by Hurricanes Harvey and Irma. Also, the National Center for Disaster Fraudcontinues to provide messages to help the public avoid and to report Hurricane relief fraud schemes. The NCDF Disaster Fraud Hotline is (866) 720-5721. The Bureau of Prisons is providing updates at www.bop.gov.
  • The U.S. Social Security Administration (SSA) offices in Puerto Rico and U.S. Virgin Islands remain closed. All offices in South Carolina and Georgia have re-opened. They also expect the following offices in Florida to re-open Wednesday: the Pensacola, Ft. Walton Beach, Panama City, and Marianna field offices, as well as the Orlando, Tallahassee, and Tampa hearing offices. The SSA is working with the United States Postal Service (USPS) to ensure the benefit payments are received. In Florida, the USPS transported paper checks via express mail Tuesday to post offices for delivery Wednesday. The USPS website will show any service disruptions and alternate pick up locations for mail.
  • The U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) announced the availability, in Spanish and English, of SBA disaster loans to residents and businesses in Florida. They encourage hurricane survivors to register online at www.DisasterAssistance.gov.
  • U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT)
    • The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) deployed a mobile air traffic control tower to St. Thomas and continues to work cross-agency and with airlines to conduct relief flights to affected islands. The FAA also issued over 30 special government interest authorizations to drone operators to conduct damage assessment and infrastructure inspection.
  • The U.S. Department of Treasury (DOTreas) activated the Financial and Banking Information Infrastructure Committee (FBIIC) communications protocols and will continue monitoring key financial sector infrastructure in the Hurricane Irma impact zone.
  • The U.S. Postal Service (USPS) continues to restore services where it’s safe to do so. USPS provided Meals-Ready-to-Eat and water, conducted wellness checks, and communicated Post Office facilities open in certain areas. In Florida, the USPS is delivering mail. All facilities in Puerto Rico are open except for three post offices. Deliveries are able to be made in St. Croix when it is safe to do so.
  • U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs (VA) deployed two liaisons – one each to Valdosta, Georgia, and to the Florida State EOC in Tallahassee, Fla. – to assist with HHS mission requirements. Several VA outpatient clinics and facilities throughout the state of Florida have reopened to resume services for veterans.

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