ACT NOW Preparedness Update #10

A periodic notice from FEMA’s Community & Family Preparedness Program

August 30, 1999 

A Note from Ralph Swisher

"Communication Is Essential To Success"

One of the ways that we gain better knowledge about certain problems is by noting what works. One good way for us to know what works is through communication and networking. Different parts of the country have different experiences, implement different plans, have different levels of success, and apply regulations differently. Only by sharing our unique experiences can we gather enough information to integrate the pieces into a complete picture.

Because of the severe weather in many parts of the United States and the droughts that are affecting many, this is a good opportunity for us as a group to network and share ideas. We have never really compiled good information in this program on what people should do during severe drought, and a lot of the country going through it now has no personal memory of such problems, either in their households, their communities or their local emergency management offices. Besides which, patterns of dependence on water have changed in the 30 or 40 years (depending on where one lives) since the last droughts of this severity in those areas.

The basic rules and regulations for what water use is allowed during a severe drought are issued by the states after consulting the experts. The states involved are drawing on good expertise, and the USDA/State Extension Services are involved. CFP is asking for any information you can send us about special applications of those rules, inventive ways people find for coping with the problem, and things they find they can do on their own or cooperating with neighbors. Further, rules affect people differently depending on their particular situation and vulnerability. We would like to hear anecdotal accounts as well as the principle involved in how people cope. For example, a colleague in Virginia told me he stopped watering his own grass, even though he had pumped the water from his own 400 foot well, when the water table got so low that two neighbors’ wells, not so deep, ran dry and damaged their electrical pumps.

Shifting to the school curriculum project, in which FEMA Associate Director Kay Goss and Maryland Emergency Management Agency Director David McMillion are working toward a national model program and package of all-hazard disaster preparedness curriculum materials for grades K-12, we continue to hear about good materials already on hand or under development. After we hear the next set of presentations August 30, we’ll prepare a brief summary and make it available to you. However, we especially want to know about and have copies of hazard awareness and disaster preparedness materials that may be in use in your schools, whatever the source, or information about them. We do already know about FEMA earthquake (in the system) and multi-hazard (under development) curriculum materials, and the co-logoed FEMA, Red Cross, National Weather Service and U.S. Geologic Survey materials use in classroom presentations. Also see the progress report on the Red Cross K-8 natural hazard curriculum project. But we do want to hear about and see anything else you know about or run into.

Finally, look for opportunities to get involved in "America Goes Back to School" events and activities in your area. It may provide you an opportunity to associate yourself with reassuring ways to make people sensitive to school violence and to school preparedness for any disaster, and also to arrange for you, your staff or community volunteers to give presentations in classrooms using FEMA’s basic CFP brochures, in class and for students to take home: Your Family Disaster Supplies Kit (L-189), Your Family Disaster Plan (L-191), Emergency Preparedness Checklist (L-154), and the Emergency Preparedness Coloring Book (FEMA-243).

There are several ways you can communicate your ideas and experiences. First, you are encouraged to utilize the CFP mailing list to share your experiences with each other. ( In addition, you can send a private message to Kellye Junchaya or Ralph Swisher, either as things happen or as a list of events over time. ( or


Highlights of Y2K Workshops at the 1999 CFP Conference

The June 1999 CFP conference provided an opportunity to discuss some aspects of the unique Y2K event. The workshop discussions focused on the idea that this is a window of opportunity, especially for the states that have very few disasters. With Y2K we will have lots of people thinking about where they can get help if they need it, and we will need to prepare to take care of ourselves. This can enhance the preparedness programs. There are several aspects of Y2K that are unique, including the media attention and the known date of the event. The media attention can help us to get the preparedness message out while warning the public against rash actions such as taking all of their money out of bank accounts.

FEMA is asking people to do preparedness for Y2K, just like you should for other disasters in your community, being self-sufficient for a period of 3-7 days. One of the big concerns, could be the "man-made" disaster that would be caused by the public’s overreaction. Another big concern is the ripple effect from third world countries, the worry that we can have some problems because the less technologically developed countries are not Y2K compliant.

Some of the challenges that we face regarding Y2K have to do with maintaining an informed and balanced perspective. We have to find a balance in achieving adequate preparedness without overreacting. We need to find a way to counteract potential hysteria and hype with reality. We must encourage preparedness, but try to avoid misuse of equipment and supplies (for example, storing fuels improperly or using gas burners indoors) due to lack of knowledge. We need to be aggressive with responsible public reporting, but try to downplay unrealistic media hype. It will also be a challenge to convince people to be prepared in general, and not just for Y2K potentials.

Through workshops, discussions and follow-up actions, the lists of things that have already been done by several organizations and states is impressive. The many web sites, informational brochures, public relations programs and education efforts in place are helping to achieve that balance we are looking for.


Disaster Safety Curriculum Project Update

Rocky Lopes

With the good graces of Allstate and lots of legwork by our chapter in Los Angeles, we officially "kicked off" the Disaster Safety Curriculum Project on June 1 in Los Angeles by making a public announcement about the Allstate/Red Cross partnership and our planned activities. We are delighted to have made the announcement so we can proceed to publicly talk about what we're doing and how we envision the project proceeding.

Through the Spring, we convened meetings of subject matter experts on general preparedness, hurricanes, earthquakes, tornadoes, floods, and lightning. We learned quite a bit! I can say most assuredly that all of us who participated in these meetings are a bit more prepared ourselves from what we have learned. This information was consolidated and provided to our teacher team to ensure that we're including the information that the experts think is most critical in the content of this project. We are delighted that a competent group of five individuals are working all summer at Red Cross national headquarters, cranking out lessons, demonstrations, activities, and materials that will become a part of the project. We have four people on our team who have extensive classroom teaching experience working with us. Daily, I see progress toward our goal of having most of the content written by the end of the summer.

We received 48 applications by the July 9 deadline from all over (from Guam to Puerto Rico and everywhere in between) from chapters wishing to host pilots of the curriculum. We are delighted that a volunteer-led team reviewed the applications and made suggestions on whom to select to pilot sections of the material. The team's selections have been made and chapters that will pilot the material have been notified. Piloting will occur during the months of October and November, keeping on the schedule as described in the "Disaster Services Connection" about our project. We regret that we can not add additional sites to pilot the curriculum.

As the teachers complete development of the proposed curriculum content, we intend to send it to a number of people for preliminary review. Content experts, education and curriculum specialists, and others, will receive something to review in September. We will have a tight turn-around on review. If you are interested in reviewing the curriculum, or parts of it, and will have some dedicated time between September 6-14, please let me know.

If you have questions or comments about the project, please contact:

Rocky Lopes
Disaster Services
American Red Cross National Headquarters
8111 Gatehouse Road
Falls Church, VA 22042
(703) 206-8805


Hunger In The United States Increases in 1998

[Note: for information about the FEMA Emergency Food and Shelter Program, see]

Stephen M. Apatow

The U.S. Department of Agriculture recently released data showing that in 1998, 10.5 million households did not have access to enough food to meet their basic needs. This number represents a little more than 10 percent of all households in the U.S. About 36 million people lived in these households, including 22 million adults and 14 million children. (Children made up 40 percent of the total number of food insecure individuals). This number is up by 6.4 million adults and 3.7 million children from 1997. Among these food insecure households, 3.7 million reached a level of food insecurity in 1998 that was great enough to cause one or more members of their household to be hungry due to inadequate resources for food. This meant that 6.6 million adults and 3.4 million children lived in households suffering outright from hunger in 1998. (The data was derived from the annual Food Security Supplement, a questionnaire that is part of the Current Population Survey of the U.S. Bureau of Census.)

From 1997 to 1998, there was a sharp increase in hunger and food insecurity -- 6.4 million more adults and 3.7 million more children. The story the numbers tell should act as a warning signal that in spite of a booming economy there are millions among us who still cannot meet their most basic needs -- sufficient food to lead a healthy life.

The Physicians for Human Rights Study carried out in March 1998 among Latino and Asian legal immigrants in 13 hospitals and community-based clinics and community centers in California, Texas and Illinois found a high prevalence of food insecurity and hunger. Using methodology developed and tested by the U.S. Census Bureau and the Department of Agriculture, medical researchers found that, of the 682 households included in the study, 79 percent were hungry or food insecure (forced to cut back on the nutritional quality and overall quantity of food consumed due to lack of resources) -- seven times the rate in the general U.S. population. More than one in three of the immigrant households surveyed reported suffering from moderate or severe hunger, meaning that adults and children were experiencing hunger caused by lack of resources.

Other studies cited show an increase in homelessness (especially among families with children) and poverty as well. In an effort to support front-line service programs across the United States, Humanitarian Resource Institute has constructed the Focus On America National Community Needs Database. The purpose of the database is to serve as a one stop national communication resource for interfaith, community organizations and youth leadership programs that would like to coordinate volunteer efforts that can best impact their communities. Information and links include:

Food Research and Action Center
National Coalition for the Homeless
Second Harvest National Foodbank Network
FoodChain National Food Rescue Network
Federal Emergency Management Agency
USDA: Cooperative State Research, Education and Extension Service
Volunteer Networks & Programs: Youthlink, SERVEnet, Action Without
Borders, Community Action Network, The Helping Place, Volunteer for
Kids, Neighborhoods Online

The Focus On America National Community Needs Database is accessible on the web at:

For more information contact: Stephen M. Apatow

President-Executive Director, Humanitarian Resource Institute
Telephone: (203) 668-0282


EIIP Celebrates 2nd Anniversary

The Emergency Information Infrastructure Partnership held its virtual birthday party on August 17th celebrating two years of existence. Special messages from Dennis Mileti, Kay Goss, Lacy Suiter, and Senator Fred Thompson (R, TN) included commendations to the organization for their strides, and the benefits and importance of the partnership. They also recognized the tremendous efforts of Avagene Moore, Coordinator, and Amy Sebring, Technical Projects Coordinator, who have worked diligently to make the program a success. Avagene and Amy also expressed their gratitude for the many helping hands over the two years. "By our count, we have had at least 125 presenters this year. Most of these people are very busy and volunteered an average of 4 hours including preparation, rehearsal and presentation time," said Amy Sebring as she thanked the many participants, interns, and audience members.

The festivities of the celebration included several games focusing on the many acronyms used in the disaster/emergency field, with a tie between David Crews and Lacy Suiter for the most acronyms in one sentence. Throughout the party, a ringing bell noted the addition of another pledge for EIIP’s ongoing pledge drive. The pledge drive is not for finances, but rather for participation. People are pledging to attend a certain number of online discussions and will be recognized next year for successfully meeting that number. The goal is to have 100 pledges and we are about a third of the way there. See the EIIP web site for information about pledging at

The birthday party was complete with decorations, fancy icons, lots of humor, and even the "Happy Birthday To You" music. It was a fun celebration and one to look forward to for many years to come.


Upcoming Events

IAEM Annual Conference, November 13-16, 1999, Hyatt Regency, Louisville, KY, where President-elect Phyllis Mann, from Kitsap County (Bremerton), WA, a pioneer in building strong, local Community & Family Preparedness programs, takes the helm.

For more information - or to send information to the Update:

Ralph Swisher
FEMA CFP Program Manager
Phone: 202-646-3561
Fax: 202-646-4371

Act Now is compiled by Kellye Junchaya, in partnership with the EIIP. Please send submissions to