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tv   [untitled]  CSPAN  June 5, 2009 8:00am-8:30am EDT

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>> for disaster over the next several months. since hurricane katrina in part as a result of sever -- several after action reports, the red cross has focused more resources on coordination with the federal, state, and local government. with the support from fema, we currently bought full-time representatives into ten of the fema regional offices, and we also have two additional staff
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working at the fema national headquarters. we have also tasked a staff member to work with the national disaster housing task force. during the last year we've been working with governments, state governments in improving planning. for example, the red cross in the state of louisiana working towards a single unified sheltering plan. discussions are continuing with the state department of social services and the governor's offices of homeland security emergency preparedness about mutual logistics and sheltering for people with critical transportation needs. we recently participated in the state of florida in a major disaster exercise and with fema with a tabletop exercise category four hurricane affecting savannah, georgia. we also participated recently in a cabinet-level exercise that dealt with a category three making landfall near new york city. identifying new and
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strengthening existing partnerships continues to be a strong priority of my organization. on the local level, chapters partner with local community, faith-based and vividdic organizations. we have also stepped up efforts to insure that community two on one organizations have current disaster information. i would like to acknowledge ms. sternun. in addition we've cultivated and strengthened partnerships with such groups as hope nationwide, the national association of colored people, the legal services corporation, and the buddhist foundation. in addition, we work closely with the national association of judicial interpreters, translators, the national virtual translation center, national counsel of la raza, national disability rights network and save the children. we've also worked with pet
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rights groups such as the u.s. humane society. seeing that my time is short, i'll just move on to say that the red cross is also involved in continuing to improve our disaster response in a cost-effective way. the economic turndown and needs of the most vulnerable are magnified by disasters at the same time that the nation's charitable organizations are decreasing. like many non-profit organizations that depend be on the general rossi of donors, we are faced with financial challenges. the major disaster of 2008 such as the wildfires in california, flooding in the midwest and hurricanes gustav and ike -- >> you could try to wrap up, if you could, i'm sorry. >> -- and expenses. with that i'll conclude my presentation, and if you have questions, i'd be happy to answer them. >> thank you very much. >> thank you, chairman landrieu.
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it's an honor and a privilege to have this opportunity to be able to speak today on behalf of the united way and the 211 system across america. as you're aware, 211 is an information referral line that connects people to existing community resources like rent and mortgage assistance as well as food and utility assistance. however, 211 plays a vital role in disaster response and recovery. trained specialists assist callers in times of natural disaster and crisis providing realtime information on shelter locations, food and water distribute sites -- distribution sites and all-important evacuation routes. 211 disseminates accurate information about the crisis, and it relieves the very overworked 911 sis patchers -- dispatchers who are also taking those calls.
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as you're aware, 211 was a bright spot in responding to the 2005 hurricanes katrina and rita. prior to landfall of katrina, the 211 in new orleans had to close. our united way, the united way of northeast louisiana and monroe, began taking all the 211 calls that were directed from new orleans. overnight we expanded from a four-person call center there in monroe to a 65-person 211. we had additional support that was outstanding from 211 call specialists around america. twenty-five states sent people to our community, and there were hundreds of local volunteers that responded. as a result of that in monroe, 211 responded to more than 111,000 calls in two monts. the call volume peaked at 7,358 the day that rita hit. after 2005 we were even better
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prepared for 2008. going into the hurricane season in 2008, we had a partially-integrated telephony, a statewide disaster plan, a centralized disaster database and 24 hour a day, 7 day a week coverage. 211 louisiana answered more than 117,000 calls between gustav hitting on august 31st and september 16th of 2008. in the peak of that, we were assisted by the 211 system in california which was invaluable in expanding our capacity. in an eight-day window when ike hit texas in september, the texas 211 answered 157,000 calls, an absolutely incredible response. inland the aftermath of hurricane ike caused unprecedented flooding, as you're well aware, and wind damage throughout the midwest.
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the 211s in missouri, iowa, indiana, and ohio played significant roles in their recovery efforts. the 2009 preparation is well underway, and i'm pleased to report to you that we have complete inte dpraited telephoneny throughout the state of louisiana. most importantly, we have an extended and enhanced relationship with the louisiana state government. i'm pleased to tell you that we've had both the red cross, 211 and national guard embedded for months of planning that have been underway, and third we have recruited and begun training response volunteers if called upon. however, there remain enormous absolutely nicialts, and i'd like to address those. the current economic crisis has surged the call volume beyond the current capacity of our system in many locations around america. most 211s are still in need. for example, generators,
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remote-controlled calling ability, telephone service priority arrangements with telephone companies, and of significant concern to all of us are the gaps in services along the u.s./atlantic coast. to properly respond to disaster, 211s across america need to unify technology and standard operating procedure to insure best responsiveness. every resident must have 211 says on any kind of telecommunications device, particularly cell phones. 211s need a system of national interoperability with each other and other three-digit numbers. senator landrieu, we are in desperate need of congress' help to insure reliable response to disaster and everyday needs. fortunately, congress can cure this vulnerability during this session by passing the calling for 211 act before the next event occurs. senator landrieu, we are extremely grateful to you for
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your steadfast support of this legislation, for your co-sponsorship of this bill, and your ability to deliver on dedicated federal funding to louisiana 211 this year. thank you for this opportunity, and i welcome the opportunity to answer questions. >> thank you very much. i really appreciate the content of all of your testimony and the thoughtfulness that went into it. i'd like to start, mr. mascelli, with the questions here to you about this chart. the national shelter system. i know that this was probably in your testimony in some detail, but could you take a minute to explain, these are all the -- and the only -- official red cross shelters, and would you describe most of them as school buildings or most of them churches or places where people worship? how would you describe the shelters if someone look at that
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map and said describe the dwawl buildings that those dots represent. >> yes, senator. you're right in the sense that most of them are public buildings. part of the criteria when we look at buildings along with safety construction, etc., is they have facilities there that could support a population, kitchens, bathrooms, etc. schools and chumps fill that bill quite readily, so most of them are either churches or schools throughout the u.s. we had the shelters before katrina, but after katrina we actually put those into a database, so the first time in a computer database we could see where they were at short notice, what might be available, and also when we actually have a disaster, our local chapters will report back to us how many shelters are open, numbers of people in the shelters, etc. >> okay. and the school issue is interesting to me because you
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obviously in a catastrophic disaster that we had and others have had when people move into schools for a long period of time, it's hard to actually operate the school. and one of the essential ingredients of recovery for parents with children is to get their children back in school as soon as possible because then at least when the children are in school, the parents can go about all the work that they need to do to rebuild their home, their business, etc. how does the red cross mesh the use of school buildings in areas that could potentially suffer catastrophic flooding and destruction, and do you have a back-up plan in the event that using schools in some areas might not be the best in that circumstance? >> yeah. there is right now work being done, but there's a long way
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from a solution regarding -- and you're absolutely right, that applies to catastrophic disaster. what happens when you have large numbers of people that are dislocated on a sudden isen basis for long periods of time? there's the housing task force that fema has that really should be the national connection from getting people in shelters to some other type of housing. i know that looking at evacuations of people to other areas that's a possibility, but that has its own trials and tribulations in terms of moving large, dislocating large numbers of people to other communities. so as it stands right now, the options are kind of limited and those pressed communities we feel it quite a bit particularly when people have evacuated from one community to another community and that community would like to get back to normal again. so it's something that until a solution comes up, a ready
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solution comes up for interim housing for large numbers of people, we'll still be struggling with that. >> and in the red cross' model right now on the sheltering program, do you have a framework of one week or two weeks or three days or 30 days, your sheltering plan is, i know, for immediate not long term, so what is your definition today of that? >> right. we look at emergency shelter for about a 30-day period. we think after that for a variety of reasons that may not be a good environment for a lot of folks, so unless it's absolutely no other option is available, we would like the sheltering to be within a 30-day period. >> and mr. foresman, given that this is still what i would identify as one of dozens of gaps that i see across the board, this is one of them, do you have any comments about any private sector solution that some of your members might be
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willing to step forward on this particular issue? >> well, senator, i do. i've got three points that i'd make. first, i think that part of what you heard in administrator fugate's testimony is this whole idea about defining the objective rather than defining the process, and i think that's really critical, and you said it in your opening statement that part of it is about how do we link -- because disaster housing is very much a community issue. the federal government is a supporter in a lot of different ways. but it's about being able to partner those private sector entities with those local governments not only in the context of crisis preparedness for the first 72 hours, but what are the innovative solutions to particularly doing large-scale housing operations? i and i think fema's to be commended for having gotten the task force out on housing, but what are we going to do if, god forbid, we have 200,000
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americans that are homeless again? because the solutions we currently have on the table will not solve that for us, and as my colleague from the red cross has correctly pointed out, you can't leave them in schools indefinitely. the second point, we've seen through a lot lot of our corpore sponsors pref star. pref star has provided technology about identifying resources on a more ready scale, for instance, in a community. not being dependent on the government location, but private sector tools that allow the private sector to put those resources and make those variable to local officials, to the nonprofit community, and the final comment is this, senator. you know, we have been wrestling with a model of disaster preparedness and recovery in this country for the past 25 years that apparently is not good for catastrophic events. what you heard in the last hour
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with add administrator fugate's testimony is 21st century thinking for disaster response and recovery. that's what the ready communities initiative is about. let's don't put it all on the back of government to try to be everything to everybody in the midst of a crisis. let's truly take a community approach to a community problem to deal with a crisis event. >> thank you very much, and i want you to know that i agree 100 percent with what you said, but i also would stress that it is important for the federal government to be able to function and to function efficiently and well pause when it doesn't -- because when it wasn't, the other parties have that much more of a difficult time. so you're correct, the focus of this is is the nation ready, not just is fema ready or homeland security ready or the federal government ready, is the nation ready, but it is important for
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at least the federal infrastructure to be clear. and i think the vision that administrator fugate -- and i happen to agree with you about the quality of people now in these positions. if any team could get it done, this is the team that can with our support and, of course, a lot of other people's input. mr. mascelli, let me ask you this about the red cross. i understand that -- i don't understand, i know congress just appropriated a significant amount of money for the red cross which maybe is not unprecedented, but it's not usual. can you comment about the financial stability right now of your organization and what resources you have to address this pending hurricane season? >> yes. in addition -- we did receive an appropriation from the federal government. we're in the process of drawing funds through the federal
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emergency management which is the executor of the grant -- >> and how much was that? >> $100 million total. and we're in the process of drawing from that reimbursement for ec pences -- expenses for the last hurricane season, and it continues until the end of this fiscal year, federal fiscal year. in addition to that, we've taken a number of activities to basically come within budget and in looking at our finance and part of that is we've restructured our organization fairly substantially. our national headquarters, and then our chapter structure to reduce costs, and we're still in the middle of that at this point. in addition to that an aggressive fund raising campaign to get out even in this time of economic instability to be able to raise funds when we have these big disasters on an ongoing basis. so we believe that the combination of cutting back and
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restructuring the organization, reducing expenses, aggressive fund raising and then use of the appropriation that we should balance our organization. we do project for our next fiscal year which begins the 1st of july that we'll have a balanced budget, and we'll proceed on that basis. >> thank you. and what is your operating budget? >> i'd have to get back to you. it's about, it's -- counting the biomedical services, the blood services, it's a little over $3 billion. >> okay. ms. durden, can you comment about the bill we're moving through congress and, again, just hit the two or three most important parts of that legislation are for supporting a national network, basically of volunteers in large measure. it's led by staff but leveraged by volunteers that would provide the, not only the operations, but the training necessary to
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provide that back-up communications so essential in disaster really of any size, for a small disaster and as mr. fugate said, if it's your roof that's gone, it's not a small problem, you know, for you. but tell us again about the specifics of what you see benefit anything that legislation. >> the calling for 211 act, senator, is critical, and i think the first point is that only 90 percent of our -- 80 percent of our country has access to 211. there are 23 states in america that have 100 percent coverage as we are in louisiana -- 25 counting, including puerto rico. i think there's a map that shows that. >> if the map could be put up there. so the full coverage -- >> the full coverage is in green, and the 80 percent is dark blue. >> and then the red states are? >> the red states are where 211
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is in development, and i think it's particularly concerning that there are gaps along our gulf coars coast all the way up to delaware. delaware, long island, new york, rural georgia, north carolina and the panhandle of florida are some of those areas where there are gaps, and that is of significance. another factor that this authorization bill would allow us is the telephony capacity to be connected. we are very blessed in louisiana that there was donors that gave after katrina that enabled us to have voiceover ip, and that gives us the opportunity with the flipping of a switch to move it around, and that is an absolutely incredible opportunity. but that is very rare in our country, and so the capacity through technology is just critical. >> okay. if you could put, take that down, if you would just a moment, and leave the state issue. >> the map. >> the map. am i seeing that new york has
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some serious gaps in that very highly-urbanized area there? you're shaking your head. new york, new jersey, is that pennsylvania? >> that is correct. >> pennsylvania. and then is that kentucky or -- kentucky, west virginia? >> delaware. >> no, no -- >> oh, further out? kentucky, south dakota, arizona, wyoming. >> okay, the western states but on the eastern sea board, and the reason i raised this issue at this hearing in the beginning of the season is that the predictions that i've seen or the feeling about this season because the storms have been so intense in the gulf coast -- >> that's correct. >> -- there's some sense that this is the east coast's time. and i just need to reinforce that i know that people in the northeast have not had a storm in a long time, but there are some significant studies that show what will happen if there
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is. and it is not a pretty picture. and in 1938 there was a major storm that hit long island, and you can just understand and think about what the population was then but what it is today. you know, 80 years plus later. and i'm asking you or you're testifying that actually in that part of that highly-urbanized area that there virtually is no communication of people outside of your 911 if you want to report an emergency, but in terms of where you could go get a shelter, where you could get a voucher for a house, where you could get a meal for your child, that is basically the service that you provide. >> that is correct. and you're absolutely right. i think it speaks to the urgency of this calling for 211 act that you're supporting, and i have to tell you that we know that that
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was never more vividly described or illustrated than after 9/11. the state of new york did not have it, the state of connecticut did. and the documented difference in the response in that very urbanized region of our country was vivid, and 211 was very successful in their response in the state of connecticut. and it's well documented, the concerns that occurred in new york following 9/11. >> and i just want for the record in 1938 a category four hurricane struck long island. it destroyed 75,000 buildings and displaced thousands of residents. so the question is for these highly densely-populated areas, if you don't have a number to dial to get information, if your electricity is severely compromised, if you don't have the right sheltering plans, and
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if the only fema housing plan or still what it is today, fema trailers, we are in for a very serious situation here. and that is why this committee continues to work. and we will continue to work, but it is just a matter of time. and i don't know how much more i can do personally to impress upon people how insufficient some of these, i mean, how real some of these gaps are and what catastrophe lies ahead. should a hurricane five or four or very powerful three slam into one of these urban very densely-populated urban and low-lying areas along this coast. so having said that, i don't know if we've got just a short amount of time, if there's anything that you all want to add, i've got probably one or two more questions. is there anything, mr. mascelli,
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you'd like to add about how you're going to shelter several million people? >> yes, ma'am. i'd just like to reinforce about what you says about the major metropolitan areas and the level of capacity and preparedness in the area. it really, these catastrophic disasters are an animal unto themselves. it's something that, fortunately, we haven't experienced until recently, and there is a great deal of work that needs to be done particularly in those areas. we seem to do okay on the recurring disasters at a certain level, and that's -- and those happen on a regular basis. but when we get to these catastrophic events, large populations affected, large dislocation, it affects the whole country. the economy of the country, the people, the psyche of the country, etc. so it's something that keeps us concerned on a consistent basis. >> okay. and just for comparison not to really beat a dead horse here, but it's been something that as
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a senator from louisiana and the lead spokesperson for the gulf coast on this issue, i have to say that with the terrorist attack in new york which was just a horrible and a totally different kind of event, but there were a confined number of buildings that were destroyed. and a very confined space. and while it was a disaster that rocked the world, 99.9.9 percent of the people on that night were home in their own homes. and there was a small percentage of people led by rudy giuliani and all the rest of a very small group that were focused on this people thing, i mean, hands on. the whole world watched. but that night, you know, in new york and new jersey and
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connecticut, i mean, almost everyone was in their own bed. that is the difference between what happened there and what happened in katrina where that night of the storm 2 million people were somewhere other than their own bedroom. and i don't think the country understands what is going to happen if this happens in new york or new jersey or connecticut or pennsylvania, virginia, i mean, any place. and i think that people think that they're not going to be impacted by a category five hurricane. i think that they think they've built buildings strong enough to withstand them, but i beg to differ. so i will continue to, you know, make my voice heard to the president and to the leadership and hope that we get through this storm season without facing a category three, four, or five
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in a major metropolitan area. not that new orleans is not a major metropolitan area or galveston or houston, but a northeast metropolitan area has a lot more density than even we do along the gulf coast. because the numbers are just staggering. and i don't know, ms.-- janet, if you want -- >> i do want to, first of all, thank you for your sense of urgency, and i want to give you an update regarding this critical issue of the urban parts of the northeast. new york city has excellent coverage of 211, but because of the economic condition of many of our states, specifically new york state has had to cut their funding of 211, so you're absolutely on point as you talk about that urgency in those metropolitan areas. the other comment i would make and you know this so vividly, but while you did an outstanding chart that shows the 73


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