Watch: Secretary Johnson Gives a Press Conference on Flood Response in Louisiana
Today, Secretary of Homeland Security Jeh Johnson is visiting Baton Rouge to meet with state and local officials and review ongoing response and recovery efforts in areas affected by severe flooding. While in Baton Rouge, Secretary Johnson is participating in a press conference to discuss the relief and recovery efforts, including assistance by the U.S. Coast Guard and the Federal Emergency Management Agency.
The state of Louisiana continues to deal with a significant level of flooding and one of the worst natural disasters in recent years. Yesterday, the President spoke with FEMA Administrator Craig Fugate, who traveled to Louisiana yesterday, to receive an update on the response to ongoing flooding in the state. In the latest of a series of updates the President has been receiving since the weekend, Administrator Fugate briefed the President on the resources that have been provided to support the response and recovery, including FEMA Corps volunteers and federal assistance available to individuals who have been impacted.
The President directed Administrator Fugate to utilize all resources available to assist in the response and recovery and asked to be regularly briefed on the ongoing response. In addition, Department of Homeland Security Secretary Johnson visited the impacted region this week to review the ongoing response.
According to the National Weather Service, significant river flooding will persist this week across portions of southern Louisiana. Major to record flooding will continue along portions of the Amite, Vermilion, Mermentau, and Calcasieu Rivers. Additional rain is possible in slow-moving, persistent thunderstorms, with the greatest threat across south central Texas and western Louisiana. Pockets of flash flooding may develop as a result of this additional rainfall.
So here’s what you should know about the federal response in Lousiana and the resources that you or anyone you know who is impacted by flooding can use:
President Obama has declared 20 parishes for a major disaster for severe storms and flooding, a declaration that makes federal funding available to affected people in Acadia, Ascension, Avoyelles, East Baton Rouge, East Feliciana, Evangeline, Iberia, Iberville, Jefferson Davis, Lafayette, Livingston, Pointe Coupee, St. Helena, St. Landry, St. Martin, St. Tammany, Tangipahoa, Vermilion, Washington and West Feliciana. Additional parishes may be added to the declaration at a later date as damage assessments continue in affected areas.
This federal assistance can include grants for temporary housing and home repairs, low-cost loans to cover uninsured property losses, and other programs to help individuals and business owners recover from the effects of the disaster.
Last week when flooding began, President Obama spoke with Governor Edwards of Louisiana last Thursday and ordered federal aid last week to support state and local recovery efforts in the area affected by severe storms and flooding — support that will continue as state and local officials in the affected areas address the impacts of the disaster. Since then, FEMA and Louisiana state officials have convened a Strategic Housing Task Force to explore immediate temporary housing solutions for displaced survivors. The Department of Housing and Urban Development announced it will speed federal disaster assistance to Louisiana and provide support to homeowners and low-income renters forced from their homes due to severe storms and flooding
The Small Business Administration is also opening Business Recovery Center in Waka, LA to provide a wide-range of services. You can learn more about that center here.
Right now, FEMA, through its regional office in Denton, Texas, is highly engaged in response efforts in Louisiana as flooding continues across areas of the Gulf Coast. FEMA staff are on the ground in Louisiana as FEMA continues to coordinate closely with the Governor’s Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness. FEMA is also monitoring potential flooding in Texas and in states across the Gulf Coast. As of today, the Corporation for National and Community Service has assigned 310 AmeriCorps members serving through FEMA Corps to relief efforts, including 114 AmeriCorps members on the ground in Louisiana to support disaster assistance and other critical tasks and 196 members remotely staffing survivor call centers. In addition, 39 AmeriCorps National Civilian Community Corps (NCCC) members serving through the American Red Cross have deployed to Baton Rouge to support sheltering, disaster assessments, and feeding.
Here’s what FEMA is doing on the ground in Louisiana:
- More than 300 housing inspectors are on the ground in Louisiana verifying damages reported by survivors who have registered for assistance. The number of inspectors is expected to increase rapidly over the next several days.
- FEMA established an Incident Support Base in Camp Beauregard in Pineville, Louisiana to distribute supplies such as water, meals, cots and blankets to the state of Louisiana. These include over 650,000 liters of water, over 800,000 meals, over 20,000 cots, and 42,000 blankets.
- FEMA Mobile Emergency Response Support (MERS) personnel and equipment are deployed to the Incident Support Base in Pineville to support the state with secure and non-secure voice, video and information services to support emergency response communications needs.
- After the state requested a Federal Urban Search & Rescue task force, FEMA has deployed Texas Task Force 1 to Louisiana.
- Six FEMA Incident Management Assistance Teams are deployed to Louisiana to support response activities and ensure there are no unmet needs.
Louisiana residents impacted by flooding can directly apply for assistance online or by phone. Already, more than 80,000 people in Louisiana have registered for FEMA Individual Assistance, and more than $3.7 million has been approved to help survivors with temporary rental assistance, essential home repairs, and other serious disaster-related needs. More than 17,000 National Flood Insurance policyholders have submitted claims for flood loss.
If you are a resident or business owner who has sustained losses in the designated parishes, you can apply for assistance from FEMA by registering online atwww.DisasterAssistance.gov or by calling 1-800-621-FEMA (3362) or 1-800-462-7585 (TTY) for the hearing and speech impaired. The numbers are toll-free, and will operate from 7am to 10pm (local time) seven days a week until further notice.
First and foremost, you should return home only when authorities indicate it is safe.
If you can safely return to your home, and have filed an insurance claim or applied for FEMA assistance:
- Be ready when an adjuster or housing inspector calls
- Take pictures
- Make a list
- Remove water damaged items to prevent mold
- Don’t have damaged items hauled away until adjuster or inspector sees or gives the ok
An important note: When cleaning up your home, assume everything touched by flood water is contaminated and will have to be disinfected. Residents who are able to start cleaning up should do so with care.
If you are a veteran and your home has been impacted by the floods, the VA has provided guidance on how to ensure you receive the assistance you need here.
Most importantly, don’t put yourself at risk. Follow the instructions of local officials — and if told to evacuate, do so immediately.
If you’re in impacted parishes, you can also download FEMA’s app to your smartphone so you can locate and get directions to open shelters across the state, and receive weather alerts from the National Weather Service for up to five difference locations anywhere in the United States.
And finally, make sure you take note and share these important tips on how you can stay safe in the event of flooding near you.
- Don’t put yourself at risk; follow the instructions of local officials – and if told to evacuate, do so immediately.
- Get to know the terms that are used to identify floods and discuss with your family what to do if a flood watch or warning is issued.
- A Flood Watch is issued when conditions are favorable for flooding.
- A Flood Warning is issued when flooding is imminent or occurring.
- A Flash Flood Watch is issued when conditions are favorable for flash flooding.
- A Flash Flood Warning is issued when flash flooding is imminent or occurring.
- A Flash Flood Emergency is issued when severe threat to human life and catastrophic damage from a flash flood is imminent or ongoing.
- If you encounter flood waters: turn around, don’t drown.
- Driving through a flooded area can be extremely hazardous. Almost half of all flash flood deaths happen in vehicles.
- Do not walk through flood waters. A few inches of water can sweep you off your feet.
- When in your car, look out for flooding in low lying areas, at bridges, and at highway dips.
- As little as six inches of water may cause you to lose control of your vehicle.
Learn more about what you can do to prepare for, respond to, and address the impacts of flooding in your neighborhood here: Ready.gov
Sean Griffin is the Director for Incident Management Integration Policy in the National Security Council.