USA

USA Hurricane Katrina: What government is doing 7 Sep 2005

President George W. Bush declared major disasters for areas impacted by Hurricane Katrina in Louisiana, Mississippi, Florida, and Alabama. The U.S. Department of Homeland Security is actively managing federal assistance to these affected communities to speed response and save lives.
What Government is Doing (as of September 7, 2005)

- Federal disaster declarations are covering 90,000 square miles of affected areas.

- National Response Plan mobilizes resources of the entire federal government to support response and recovery.

- 71,100 unified federal personnel have been deployed

- 47,089 lives have been saved and rescued

- 35,000 evacuations have been made from New Orleans

- Commodities delivered to date include:

* 11.6 million MREs

* 19.6 million liters of water

* 1.7 million pounds of ice

* 32 tons of basic first aid supplies

* More than 600 buses to transport evacuees

- 736 shelters with a population of 234,646. This number fluctuates daily.

- The United States Coast Guard saved more than 9,500 lives in the wake of Katrina, nearly double the total number of lives saved by the Coast Guard in all of 2003.

- More than 17,000 volunteer medical personnel have registered with Health and Human Services to assist in recovery.

- The American Red Cross, in coordination with the Southern Baptists, are preparing to serve nearly 500,000 hot meals each day.

- 43,000 National Guard are on the ground in three states.

- 200 Border Patrol agents, 200 additional law enforcement officers from other Louisiana jurisdictions and 2,000 officers from neighboring states are assisting in restoring order in the streets of New Orleans.

- Nearly 500 U.S. Corps of Engineers civilians and soldiers worked on the New Orleans levee breach and coordinating the transport of ice and water.

- All patients and staff from the 11 top priority hospitals in the New Orleans area have been fully evacuated. Three other hospitals in the area are fully functioning with fuel and power and have no need to evacuate.

- Disaster Recovery Centers open in Shreveport and Monroe, LA to gain assistance from recovery specialists of local, state, federal and volunteer agencies.

FEMA - FEMA deployed more than 61 National Disaster Medical System Teams and 28 urban search and rescue teams with nearly 7,000 personnel to save lives and render medical assistance. Teams have rescued more than 350 hurricane victims.

FEMA has moved millions of commodities of water, ice, and meals ready to eat (MRE). FEMA also supplied generators and thousands of cots and blankets.

FEMA established a Housing Area Command to oversee all temporary housing operations across the Hurricane Katrina impacted areas of Louisiana, Mississippi, and Alabama. Housing Strike Teams are being readied for deployment into each state to begin the process of quantifying temporary housing needs.

Individuals in declared counties can register online for disaster assistance at www.fema.gov or call FEMA's toll free registration line at 1-800-621-FEMA (3362).

Coast Guard - The Coast Guard's mission emphasis is saving lives and ensuring the safety of people in the areas impacted by Hurricane Katrina. Coast Guard, U.S. Marine Corps, and Air National Guard aircraft and crews are rescuing people day and night. People who are still in need of rescue or know of someone in need, can submit information at http://homeport.uscg.mil. People should also contact their state emergency operation centers are (225) 925-7707 or 7709 or 3511 or 7412.

The Coast Guard saved more than 9,500 lives in the wake of Katrina, nearly double the total number of lives saved by the Coast Guard in all of 2003.

Approximately 4,000 Coast Guardsmen are working in the affected areas on response and recovery efforts. This includes 15 Coast Guard cutters, 37 airplanes and rescue helicopters, 63 small boats, three maritime safety and security teams, and three oil and hazardous material response teams.

Only the Port of Gulfport, Miss., remains closed to all traffic. Pascagoula, Miss., is open to vessels with 12-foot draft or less. Mobile is open to barge traffic only. Pensacola, Fla., and Destin and Panama City, Fla., are open to vessels with a 31-foot draft or less.

The Lower Mississippi River has been opened to deep draft vessels with a 35-foot draft or less for one way daylight traffic only.

The Coast Guard is conducting port surveys and moving assets into these ports to restore buoys, lights, and aids-to-navigation, thus allowing maritime traffic to safely navigate.

National Guard - There are more than 43,000 National Guard members on state active duty in Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, and Florida. Guardsmen are trained professionals and bring great expertise and sensitivity to their mission in support of local law enforcement.

National Guard helicopters have evacuated hundreds of sick and injured persons out of the devastated greater New Orleans area.

Department of Defense - As directed by the Secretary of Defense and in accordance with the National Response Plan, U.S. Northern Command (NORTHCOM) is supporting the FEMA disaster relief efforts. NORTHCOM, the lead Department of Defense (DOD) organization for Hurricane Katrina response, is moving and/or mobilizing resources to support FEMA's response and recovery efforts.

NORTHCOM established Joint Task Force (JTF) Katrina to act as the military's on-scene command in support of FEMA. Lt. Gen. Russel Honore, commander of the First Army in Fort Gillem, Ga., is the JTF-Commander. JTF Katrina will be based out of Camp Shelby, Miss.

The Department of Defense will make available a fleet of approximately 50 helicopters to support FEMA's operations. Eight civilian swift water rescue teams have been transferred from California to assist with recovery operations.

DOD anticipates providing a 500-bed hospital and is considering deploying as many as 800 personnel to assist the American Red Cross with shelter support.

DOD is moving to the area approximately eight ships to provide medical support, humanitarian relief, and transportation.

DOD also anticipates moving the hospital ship USNS Comfort from Baltimore, Maryland to the Gulf region.

DOD is prepared to provide over 20 million pre-packaged Meals-Ready-To-Eat (MRE) to augment current food supplies

Department of Justice - The U.S. Department of Justice is working with the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC) to set up a national hotline to locate missing hurricane victims at 1-888-544-5475.

Environmental Protection Agency - The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has temporarily waived standards for gasoline and diesel fuels in Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, and Florida under the Clean Air Act. Waivers have also been sent to the Governors of the 46 remaining states and territories providing temporary relief from volatility and sulfur standards.

These waivers will ensure that fuel is available throughout the country to address public health issues and emergency vehicle supply needs. They will be effective through September 15 and only apply to volatility standards - the rate at which fuel evaporates - and the amount of sulfur in fuel.

EPA estimates that 1,223 drinking water systems have been affected by the hurricane; 72 in Alabama, 683 in Louisiana and 468 in Mississippi. Systems running on generators continue to need additional fuel to stay operational.

EPA emergency and response personnel are helping assess the damage and prepare to support cleanup in Mississippi, Alabama, and Louisiana. Teams are traveling to affected areas and conducting aerial assessments.

Department of Health and Human Services - Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Mike Leavitt declared a public health emergency for Louisiana, Mississippi, Florida, and Alabama. This action allows the Department to waive certain Medicare, Medicaid, State Child Health Insurance Program, and HIPAA requirements as well as make grants and enter into contracts more expeditiously during this emergency.

The Office of The Surgeon General and the Office of Public Health Emergency Preparedness are in the process of mobilizing and identifying healthcare professionals and relief personnel to assist in Hurricane Katrina relief efforts. They have registered more than 17,000 medical volunteers to assist in recovery measures.

HHS is establishing a network of up to 40 medical shelters, staffed by 4,000 medical personnel and with the collective capacity of 10,000 beds. The first shelters are in place in Baton Rouge and currently treating patients. More shelters will be opened within hours.

HHS identified 2,600 beds in hospitals in the immediate area and 40,000 beds nationwide should they be needed.

HHS continues to ship pallets of basic first aid materials and supplies to the area, and the Centers for Disease Control and Food and Drug Administration are assembling public health teams.

Department of Energy - Department of Energy (DOE)Secretary Samuel Bodman has authorized the release of oil from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve. DOE has also expanded their gas gouging reporting system to include a 1-800 telephone number of 1-800-244-3301or online at http://gaswatch.energy.gov/.

Department of Transportation - The Department of Transportation (DOT) is working closely with state and local authorities, federal partners, and private sector transportation service providers to assess damage to transportation infrastructure and assist in immediate recovery efforts.

The Department has secured more than 1,639 trucks to support the delivery of more than 3,731 truckloads of goods, including more than 25 million MREs (meals ready to eat), more than 31 million liters of water, 56,400 tarps, more than 19 million pounds of ice and 215,000 blankets.

DOT has also deployed teams from the Federal Highway Administration, Federal Aviation Administration and Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration to help clear roads and inspect bridges, establish communications and increase operations at major airports, and to move generators to pipeline pumping stations to restore the flow of petroleum products to the southeast.

Department of Agriculture - The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) is sending experienced emergency response personnel to assist in incident response coordination. To date, the Forest Service has assigned 13 management and logistical teams and 35 crews of 20 people each to the affected areas and host communities. These resources are intended to assist in setting up logistics staging areas, the distribution of food products, and debris removal.

USDA's Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) is providing food at shelters and mass feeding sites, issuing emergency food stamps and infant formula, and distributing food packages directly to needy households. 80,000 pounds of USDA-donated commodities which consist of mixed meats, cheese, peanut butter, and pudding, arrived in Baton Rouge, La. today. Additionally, four trucks of baby food products were ordered for immediate shipment. One truck of infant formula will arrive in Baton Rouge today. The other three trucks of baby food products are on the way.

USDA has also authorized states to pre-load electronic food benefit cards with $50 to immediately purchase food even before application s have been processed to receive complete benefits. These cards can be used by displaced residents as they move from shelters to temporary housing.

USDA Rural Development will provide a six-month moratorium on payments for 50,000 low-income residents in the affected areas. USDA will also be taking an inventory of vacant USDA housing to help accommodate displaced residents.

Department of Labor - The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) continues to coordinate with the interagency community in providing support as outlined in the National Response Plan.

OSHA Region VI has deployed its eight member Emergency Response Team to Baton Rouge to assess the situation and provide technical assistance to recovery workers and utility employers engaged in power restoration.

In addition, OSHA is contacting major power companies in the affected areas to provide safety briefings to employees at power restoration staging areas.

OSHA is releasing public service announcements to inform workers about hazards related to restoration and cleanup.

The Department of Labor is working with state and local governments in disaster areas and relief sites to issue unemployment insurance and disaster unemployment assistance. For more information, call 1-866-4-USA-DOL (1-866-487-2365) or visit America's Service Locator.

Department of State - The Department of State advises concerned family members of foreign nationals residing or traveling in areas affected by Hurricane Katrina to try to reach their family members by phone, email, or other available means.

If family member cannot be reached, the State Department recommends they contact their embassy in Washington, D.C. for assistance. Reports from the region indicate that some phone lines are working but experiencing heavy call volume, so family members are encouraged to keep trying if lines are busy.

Office of Personnel Management - The Office of Personnel Management (OPM) will establish an emergency leave transfer program to assist federal employees affected by Hurricane Katrina. OPM has also implemented expedited procedures for replacing monthly retirement annuity checks not received.

Department of Treasury - The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) announced special relief for taxpayers in the Presidential Disaster Areas struck by the hurricane. These taxpayers generally will have until October 31 to file tax returns and submit tax payments. The IRS will stop interest and any late filing or late payment penalties that would otherwise apply. This relief includes the September 15 due date for estimated taxes and for calendar-year corporate returns with automatic extensions.

Department of Veterans Affairs - The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) has successfully evacuated the most critically ill patients from the VA medical center in New Orleans . V A officials are establishing procedures for family members to locate inpatients evacuated from the affected facilities. Officials are also finalizing procedures for veterans from the hurricane area to receive benefits checks and prescription drugs, and to ensure that VA employees continue to be paid.

Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation - The Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) is working cooperatively with all of the state and federal banking agencies and other organizations to determine the status of the financial institutions located in the affected areas.

General Services Administration - The U.S. General Services Administration (GSA) has updated links to Web sites with useful information for victims of the hurricane and interested citizens on the federal government's official portal, www.FirstGov.gov and its Spanish-language counterpart, FirstGov.gov en Espanol .

Customs and Border Protection - U.S. Customs and Border Protection(CBP) trucks will arrive at the Houston Astrodome to distribute roughly 100,000 counterfeit articles of clothing seized by CBP officers for violations of U.S. copyright laws. The shipment includes men's, women's and children's slacks, blouses, jeans, shorts, and jackets.

Small Business Administration - The Small Business Administration (SBA) will position loan officers in federal and state disaster recovery centers. SBA is also prepared to provide help in other states in the eastern half of the country where the storm may also lead to disaster area declarations.

American Red Cross - Shelters more than 250 American Red Cross shelters are open in nine states: Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana, Texas, Tennessee, Arkansas, Florida and Georgia, with more on standby.

More than 142,000 evacuees are being sheltered, not including the operation to transition evacuees from the Superdome in New Orleans to the Astrodome in Houston.

More than 485 Red Cross shelters have been opened in 18 states -- including Ala., Ark., Fla., Ga., Ky., La., Md., Mo., Miss., N.C., Okla., SC., Texas, Tenn, Utah, Va. and W.Va. -- with more on standby.

The Red Cross, with the worldwide Red Cross Movement, has launched a Web site and hotline to help reunite loved ones. Call toll-free 1-877-LOVED-1S (1-877-568-3317) or online at www.familylinks.icrc.org.

More than 5,640 Red Cross staff and volunteers across the country and from every part of the organization have deployed to the affected area are working around the clock to serve the public need.

More than 3.3 hot million meals and more than 3.9 million snacks have been served to-date by the Red Cross in coordination with the Southern Baptist Convention, the Adventists and Second Harvest. The Red Cross served more than 500,000 meals working closely with several partners, including the Southern Baptist Convention, the Adventists and Second Harvest to provide emergency food to survivors and responders. In coordination with the Southern Baptists, preparations are underway to serve nearly 500,000 hot meals each day.

Houston Astrodome Shelter -- The Red Cross is supporting government officials in the relocation of more than 23,000 hurricane survivors from the Superdome in New Orleans to the Astrodome in Houston. The organization is mobilizing to provide blankets, cots and food for the evacuees.

The Red Cross relies on donations of the American people to do its work. Citizens can help by calling 1-800-HELP-NOW (1-800-435-7669) or by making an online contribution to the Disaster Relief Fund at www.redcross.org.

Because of logistical issues, the Red Cross cannot accept donations of food or clothing.