At the president’s request, FEMA Administrator Craig Fugate will travel to Missouri to ensure that the state has all the support it needs, and today FEMA Deputy Administrator Rich Serino will also travel to Joplin to tour the damages and meet with state and local officials. More details on Fugate’s trip will be released later today.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and its federal partners are working closely with state and local officials in Missouri and the other states impacted by the deadly tornadoes and severe storms that struck the Midwest on Saturday and Sunday.

At the direction of President Obama, FEMA this morning added the two Missouri counties impacted by tornadoes, Jasper and Newton, to an ongoing disaster declaration the state received for recent storms, which means that tornado survivors in those counties can now apply for disaster assistance with FEMA.

FEMA has already deployed staff on the ground in Missouri to help state officials with coordination and other needs as they continue their response. Earlier this morning, President Obama and Secretary Napolitano both called Missouri Governor Jay Nixon to express that all of the families of Joplin affected by the severe tornadoes are in their thoughts and prayers and reiterate this administration’s commitment to assisting the state and Missouri residents.
 
At the president’s request, FEMA Administrator Craig Fugate will travel to Missouri to ensure that the state has all the support it needs, and today FEMA Deputy Administrator Rich Serino will also travel to Joplin to tour the damages and meet with state and local officials. More details on Fugate’s trip will be released later today.

"What happened over the weekend in Missouri, Minnesota and Kansas, is simply heartbreaking, and all of us are thinking of and praying for the families and communities devastated by these deadly storms," said Fugate. "As President Obama and Secretary Napolitano told Governor Nixon over the past day, the entire federal family is ready to support the impacted states in any way needed. We thank the first responders, volunteers and good Samaritans who have been working heroically, around the clock, to save lives and conduct search and rescue efforts. We urge all survivors of these storms in Jasper and Newton counties to contact FEMA about applying for federal disaster aid by visiting www.disasterassistance.gov or m.fema.gov."

This morning, FEMA added Jasper and Newton counties to a pre-existing disaster declaration Missouri had received for recent storms, which was the quickest way to approve disaster aid for individuals and communities. Specifically, the counties were approved for individual assistance to help survivors repair or replace damaged properties and other personal losses, and public assistance to help with debris removal and other emergency response needs.  Individuals in these counties can apply for aid three ways: by calling FEMA at (800) 621-3362 / TTY (800) 462-7585; online at www.disasterassistance.gov; or directly on their mobile phones at m.fema.gov.

Since the tornadoes struck, FEMA, through its regional offices in offices in Kansas City, Missouri, and Chicago, Illinois, has been in constant contact and coordination with officials in Missouri, Minnesota and Kansas.  At the request of the state, FEMA has already deployed staff to Missouri’s emergency operations center to help with coordination needs, and deployed special teams to support the state as response efforts continue.

Specifically, last night FEMA deployed a Mobile Emergency Response Team to Missouri to provide self-sustaining telecommunications, logistics and operations support. In anticipation of requests from the state, FEMA has also sent an Incident Management Assistance Team to Joplin to coordinate with state and local officials; this team is currently en route.

Also last night, FEMA activated the Department of Health and Human Services to coordinate hospital medical needs and patient evacuations with the state of Missouri, if needed.  HHS has the lead federal role in supporting the state for public health and medical services needs during disasters.

Last week, as part of the federal government’s National Level Exercise 2011, which simulated a catastrophic earthquake hitting Missouri and other states in the central U.S., Administrator Fugate spent time in Missouri with state and local officials, including Gov. Nixon. Missouri was one of several states that participated in the exercise, along with federal agencies, the private sector and other organizations.

While severe weather continues to affect the region, we urge the public to listen to the instructions of state and local officials, and to listen to NOAA Weather Radio and their local news to monitor for updates and directions provided by their local officials.  Also follow these steps to stay safe before, during and after a storm:

• Follow the instructions of state and local officials;

• Listen to local radio or TV stations for updated emergency information;

• Make sure you have a safe place to go in case severe weather approaches;

• Familiarize yourself with severe weather watch/warning terms:
Severe Thunderstorm Watch: Tells you when and where severe thunderstorms are likely to occur. Watch the sky and stay tuned to NOAA Weather Radio, commercial radio, or television for information.

Severe Thunderstorm Warning: Issued when severe weather has been reported by spotters or indicated by radar. Warnings indicate imminent danger to life and property to those in the path of the storm.

Tornado Watch: Tornadoes are possible. Remain alert for approaching storms. Watch the sky and stay tuned to NOAA Weather Radio, commercial radio, or television for information.

Tornado Warning: A tornado has been sighted or indicated by weather radar. Take shelter immediately.

For complete tips on getting prepared for a tornado, severe storm, or flooding, visit Ready.gov or FEMA’s mobile site (m.fema.gov).

FEMA’s mission is to support our citizens and first responders to ensure that as a nation we work together to build, sustain, and improve our capability to prepare for, protect against, respond to, recover from, and mitigate all hazards.