Despite Threats of Shutdown, Pay Freeze, Feds Continue to Save Lives

Categories: USDA, DoD, DHS, EPA, Labor, The Insider

As Hurricane Florence barreled toward the Carolina coast, more than 4,000 federal employees were mobilized to help communities prepare for the storm.  

Responding to natural disasters is a core function of government that most people forget until their lives are at risk. Our union is proud to represent the women and men whose mission is to protect and save lives. Here are some highlights of their great work right before the storm hit. Stay tuned for an update.  

FEMA sent 800,000 liters of water and 500,000 meals out of its warehouse in Fort Worth to pre-stage for Hurricane Florence, one of the strongest storms on the East Coast in decades. The agency mobilized more than 1,000 employees and set up so-called National Incident Support Bases near the projected impact location to quickly move needed supplies to affected areas. Most of its Mobile Communication Vehicles were pre-staged as well. It has mobilized national search and rescue teams. It continues to keep the public informed on things they need to do to stay safe before and after the hurricane.  

Steve Reaves, president of AFGE Local 4060 representing FEMA employees across the country., said FEMA’s union members are actively dealing with Super Cyclone Mangkhut in Guam and Saipan, Tropical Storm Olivia in Hawaii, a volcano and flooding in Hawaii, and preparation for Hurricane Florence. 

The EPA is monitoring drinking and waste water sites and chemical storage sites that may be in the path of the hurricane. The agency is coordinating with states and federal partners and is prepared to assist and respond to spills of oil and other hazardous substances on land.  

Health and Human Services has mobilized 230 medical personnel from the National Disaster Medical System and activated the U.S. Public Health Commissioned Corps’ Rapid Deployment Force. Emergency coordinators are staffing operations centers in affected areas. It has made additional ambulances available to evacuate hospitals and nursing homes if needed. More staff is on standby to help. It has also declared public health emergencies in North Carolina and South Carolina, allowing HHS’s Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services beneficiaries and their healthcare providers and suppliers greater flexibility.  

The U.S. Coast Guard has mobilized its crews from Miami to Savannah to be in position for Hurricane Florence before the storm hit.  

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has mobilized more than 200 people to help plan for debris removal and temporary power support. It is also monitoring dams in Virginia and North Carolina.  

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration tracks the storm’s path and keep partner agencies and communities updated on where the hurricane is headed and how strong it is. 

NASA works with NOAA to keep tabs on the storm with a fleet of weather satellites. NASA astronauts also photograph the storm from the International Space Station.  

USDA is staffing the Regional Response Coordination Center in FEMA’s Region 5. It is providing 24-hour staffing to the FEMA National Response Coordination Center and is pre-staging in North Carolina to help with public safety and security efforts. It has launched to help producers recover after a natural disaster. It also provides food safety tips for those in the hurricane’s path.  

The Transportation Department is coordinating with local authorities regarding evacuation routes. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration has made emergency declarations and exemptions, providing emergency regulatory relief to drivers and carriers in the affected states. It also helps with emergency relief efforts transporting supplies, fuel, equipment, and people into and from the affected areas.  

The FAA reports flight cancellations, coordinates with affected airlines, and provides airport status info here. It has also deployed a drone subject matter expert to support FEMA. 

The Energy Department has deployed employees to emergency operations centers and is monitoring the refineries and nuclear power plants and the impact of the storm on utility customers. 

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