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FEMA responds to coronavirus pandemic, prepares for hurricane season

We spoke to FEMA about how it’s responding to the coronavirus pandemic while also gearing up for hurricane season.

“FEMA’s mission is to help people before, during and after disasters regardless of what is going on at the present,” said Robert Samaan, the deputy regional administrator for FEMA. “We’re here for the people of Southwest Florida.”

For the first time in history, there’s a declared disaster in all 50 states and Washington D.C. because of the coronavirus pandemic.

So what does that mean for FEMA’s ability to respond after a hurricane?

Despite the complications of operating in the COVID-19 environment, FEMA has to prepare for hurricane season.

“We’re no strangers having to respond to multiple disasters at one time,” Samaan said.

And during the pandemic, FEMA is adapting in real time like many others.

“Our goal is to not let the mission suffer for anything,” Samaan said. “That’s always our goal.”

Samaan told WINK News FEMA is taking a number of steps to perform its duties while enhancing its mission during a time such as this.

“We are instituting telework, the employees that need to come in here to our regional response coordination center or the employees that are going out to the state EOCs,” Samaan said. “We’re issuing masks, instituting social distancing.”

Still, FEMA needs to get ready for hurricane season, and that means coordination and logistics, from regular planning calls to state emergency centers, to assuring the regional logistics warehouses are fully stocked with food, water and lifesaving supplies.

“People that are working hard day and night to get the right resources to the right places at the right time,” Samaan said.

And FEMA stresses, while it’s preparing, people should too.

“Make sure you are financially prepared by checking your insurance coverage and making sure if you live in a flood zone that you have flood insurance,” Samaan said. “Looking at Ready.gov to prepare a family readiness plan, getting a kit, those kind of things.”

FEMA stresses, if a big storm were to hit, it has the ability to pool resources from all around the country to respond appropriately. FEMA says responding to COVID-19 is its biggest operation ever, with all 10 FEMA regions involved.

“At the end of the day, the preparedness message is the preparedness message that we preach every year,” Samaan said.

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Reporter:Rich Kolko
Writer:Jack Lowenstein
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