tv [untitled] CSPAN June 30, 2009 5:30am-6:00am EDT
presentation, and if you have questions i would be happy to answer. >> thank you. >> it is a privilege to have this opportunity to be able to speak today on behalf of the united way and the 211 system. this is a line connecting people to existing community resources, like mortgage assistance and food and utility assistance. this plays a vital role in disaster response. trained specialists assist in times of crisis, providing real- time information on food and water and shelter locations and the evacuation routes. this disseminates accurate information about this, relieving the overworked 911
dispatchers making -- taking these phone calls. this was a bright spot during a difficult time in responding to the 2009 hurricanes. we had to close and the united way began to take all of the phone calls, that were directed from new orleans. overnight we expanded from a foreperson call center to a 65 person to 11. -- 211. 25 states sent people to our community and there were hundreds of volunteers who responded. we responded to more than 111,000 phone calls in two
months. at the highest this was 758, the day that hurricane rita landed. after 2005 we were prepared for 2008. we had a statewide disaster plan and the central database, and 24 hour coverage. we answered more than 117,000 phone calls between hurricane dean gustav -- hurricane gustav hitting and [unintelligible] this was indelible in expanding our capacity. when hurricane i came to the state of texas, in taxes they answered 150,000 phone calls.
in the aftermath, there was flooding, and wind damage through the midwest. in missouri and indiana, we played significant roles in the recovery. the 2009 preparation is underway and we have complete integrated telephony and we have an enhanced relationship with the louisiana state government. i am pleased to say that we have the red cross for months of planning that are under way. statewide, we have begun training response volunteers. but there are still the liabilities. we are beyond the current
capacity, we are in need of critical elements for disaster response. generators, remote control ability, telephone relations -- telephones and the gaps in service across the atlantic coast. we have to unify technology and standard operating procedure to ensure the best response. every resident must have access on cellular phones. these need a system of nat -- national opera ability. we are in desperate need of the help of the congress to make certain of a reliable response and everyday needs. hopefully we can cure this
during this session before the next problem occurs. we are grateful for your support of this legislation and your sponsorship of the bill and your ability to deliver on dedicated federal funding for louisiana this year. thank you for this opportunity. >> i really appreciate the content of your testimony, and the thoughtfulness going into this. i would like to start with a question about this chart, the national shelter system. this was probably in your testimony in detail, but can you explain -- these are the only official read cross shelters? would you describe this as school buildings or most of them as church buildings, or
places where people worship. how would you describe the shelters if someone said, describe the actual buildings that those stocks represent. >> most of them are public buildings, part of the criteria is that they have facilities to support a population, kitchens and bathrooms, schools and churches that fill this readily. most of these are not churches or schools. we have the shelters before hurricane katrina, but after this we put this into a database. we could see where they were at short notice. and when we have a disaster, the local chapter will report how many of the shelters are open
and the numbers of people inside. >> the school issue is interesting to me, because in a catastrophic disaster like we had, when people moved into schools for a long time, it is hard to operate the school. one of the central ingredients of recovery for parents with children is to get their children in school as soon as possible because the parents can go about all of the works that they have to do to rebuild their homes and businesses. how does the red cross -- red cross utilize the buildings that may suffer catastrophic flooding and destruction, do you have another plan using schools
in some areas -- this may not be the best in that circumstance. >> right now there is work being done, but this is a long way from a solution. what happens when you have a large number of people dislocated on a certain basis -- there is the past four -- task force that should be the natural connection, getting people in other housing. i know that looking at the evacuation as to the other people -- reaction -- evacuation to the other people, there are trials and tribulations with these numbers of people. as this is right now, in these communities they are -- when people go from one community to
another, and that community would like to get back to normal, this is something that until a solution comes up, for large numbers of people, we will be struggling with that. >> in the model on the sheltering program, do you have a framework of one week or three days, or 30 days, this is for long-term and not immediate. what is your definition of this? >> we look at the emergency shelter for about 30 days, but for some reason this may not be a good place for many people. unless there are no other available options, we would like for this to be within a 30 day time period. >> this is still what i would
identify has one of a dozen gaps across the board, do you have any comments about in the private sector solutions that any of these people would like to step forward on this issue? >> i have three things to say. part of what you have heard in his testimony is the idea of not getting to the finding an objective rather than the process. that is very critical and part of this is about connecting -- this is very much a community issue, the federal government supports this that -- in different ways but this is about partnering the private sector for innovative solutions, particularly during large-scale housing operations and fema is to be commended for
getting the task force found on housing, but we have to talk about what we will do if we have 200,000 homeless americans again. the solutions that we have will not solve this, and my colleague from the red cross says you cannot leave them in school indefinitely. and the corporate sponsors have engaged in a very active way. prevastar has shown itself caught -- has shown itself able to not be depending on condition of government resources but private-sector scope -- tools to provide this to local the final comment is that we have been using a model of
disaster preparedness for the last 25 years that is not good for a catastrophic event. when you have heard from the testimony, and when you hear from the colleagues -- is 21st century thinking for disaster response and recovery. we cannot put this all on the back of government to be everything to everybody. let's take a community approach to a community problem. >> thank you very much. i agree with what you said but i would stress that this is important for the federal government to be able to function efficiently and well. when it does not, the other sectors, have that much more of a difficult time. the focus of this is if the nation is ready, not just fema
or homeland security. it is important for the federal infrastructure, to be clear and the vision that the administrator -- i agree with you with the quality of the people in these positions and if anyone can get this done, they can with our support and the input of other people. let me ask you this about the red cross. i know that congress appropriated a significant amount of money for the red cross, which is not unprecedented but this is not usual. can you comment about the financial stability of your organization and the resources that you have to address this hurricane season?
>> we didn't receive an appropriation from the federal government as we drew funding from the federal emergency management, -- >> how much was this? >> $100 million, and we are in the process of drawing from this, and this continues until the end of this fiscal year. we took a number of activities to be within the budget, and part of that is, restructuring the organization, at the national headquarters. this was to reduce costs. with an aggressive fund-raising campaign, to get people out during this time of economic instability, to be able to raise
funding when we have these major disasters, we believe the combination of cutting back, and restructuring the organization, reducing the expenses, and the use of the appropriation, we should balance the organization. we project this for next year, we will have a balanced budget. >> what is your operating budget? >> counting the medical services, this is a little over $2 billion. >> can you comment about the bill that we are moving through congress, and what the most important parts of this legislation are for supporting a national network, basically of volunteers in large measure, led
by staff but leverage by the volunteers, to provide the communication that is so essential in a disaster of any size, a small disaster -- and your roof is gone, this is not a small problem. tell us about the specifics of what you can see, in a fitting this legislation. >> this is critical and the first thing is that only 80% of the country has access. there are 23 states with 100% coverage in louisiana. there is a map showing this. >> the full coverage --
>> this is in green. >> the red states -- >> this is when this is in development. it is particularly concerning that there are gaps along the gulf coast, going all the way to delaware. these are some of the areas where there are camps, this is of significance. another fact is that the authorization bill -- the telephony capacity to be connected -- we are very blessed that people gave after hurricane katrina, to give us the opportunity to flip a switch and move this around. this is absolutely incredible. but the capacity. technology is just critical.
>> if you can take this down for a moment and leave the state issue -- uic that new york has some serious problems in the highly urbanized area? new york and new jersey? is that pennsylvania? and is that kentucky -- is this west virginia? >> this is delaware. >> further out -- >> this is the western states. the reason i raise this issue is because the predictions is that the feeling about this season, because the storms have been so intense, there is a feeling that this is the time of the eastern coast, and i want to reinforce that i know that people in the
northeast have not had a storm in a long time but there are significant studies, showing what will happen if there is. this is not a pretty picture. in 1938 there was a major storm on long island, think about what the population was back then, and what this is today. 80 years later. i am asking you, you testified that in this area, that there is virtually no communication of people outside of 911, if you want to report an emergency. in terms of where to go for a shelter or a meal for your child, this is the service that
you provide. >> this speaks to the urgency of this act that you are supporting, and we know that this was never more vividly described were illustrated than after 9/11, the state of new york did not have this by seven conn did have this and the difference in the response in the urban region of the country, this was very vivid and 211 was very successful. it is well documented that -- the concerns in new york after 9/11. >> in 1938 a category 4 hurricane destroyed 75,000 buildings in long island, displacing thousands of residents. the question is, for these densely populated areas, if
there is no number to dial for information, if the electricity is severely compromised and you do not have the right shelter, and if the only housing plan -- if this is still what it is today, trailers, we are in for a serious situation, and that is why this committee continues to work. this is just a matter of time. i do not know how much more i can do to impress upon people how insufficient some of -- how will some of these problems are, and what catastrophe is ahead, if a hurricane five or four, or a powerful free come into these densely populated urban areas, along the coast.
having said this, we just have a short amount of time. if there is anything tad, i have a few more questions. is there anything about how you will shelter people? >> i want to reinforce what you have said about the level of capacity and prepared this in major metropolitan areas. these disasters are an animal onto themselves. we have not seen this until recently, and there is a great deal of work that needs to be done in these areas. we seem to be doing ok on a certain level and this is happening on a regular basis. when we get to the large populations that are affected, this is affecting the whole country. the economy and the country and the people, this is something
that is keeping us concerned, on a consistent basis. >> not to be a dead horse, but this is something that as a senator from louisiana and the gulf coast on this issue, i have to say that with the terrorist attack in new york, this was a different kind of event but there were a confined number of buildings destroyed in a confined space. this was a disaster that rocked the world, 99.9% of the people on that night, where are eight -- were in their own homes and there was a small percentage of people, led by the rest of a small group, that were focused
on this particular thing, the whole world was watching. but that night in new york, everyone was in their own bed. that is the difference between what happened there and in hurricane katrina. 2 million people were somewhere other than their own bedroom. i do not think the country understands what will happen if this happens in new york or new jersey, were connected or pennsylvania or virginia, any place. people think that they are not going to be impacted by category five hurricane. they say they have built buildings strong enough to withstand this, i do not think so.
i will continue to make my voice heard to the president and hope that we can get through this storm system without facing a category 3 storm in a major metropolitan area. not at galveston or houston or new orleans are not metropolitan, but these areas have more density. the numbers are staggering. -- >> i want to thank you for your sense of urgency and i want to tell you more about this critical issue. new york city has excellent coverage but because of the economic conditions of these states, new york state has had to cut funding. as you talk about the urgency in
this metropolitan areas, the other comment that i would make -- you have an outstanding chard showing the growth in call volume, the public needs to understand that these are people, and during hurricane katrina, those were people whose lives were being saved by the volunteers. we had rooftop rescue, connecting people to the appropriate government entity, the most vivid example was joe thomas's wife. she took a phone call from a man who found his mother's body. there was no one else to call. your urgency to continue this funding speaks to the need of the american people and i want to thank you for that.
>> is there any closing comment? >> having spent a few years doing this, i understand that there is not a lot of advocacy -- consistent advocacy on the disaster -- on disaster response. one thing that we have seen as i know that you are focused on hurricanes, that is your geography and that is a big threat, but over the last 60 days there was an earthquake in the los angeles area and a pandemic. let's make this about the need for better capability to deal with catastrophic of events, because as the illinois senator told us, he is more concerned about tornadoes, these days. we have to make certain that we
resonate the argument. >> what i will do is, i want to support what you have said. i will call a hearing on earthquakes, and i want to show what will happen when an earthquake, a major earthquake is in california or memphis, and i will use the risk assessment that has been done, to show the disaster is based on scientific information. this is what the government and the scientists and the leaders believe is probable, to happen. what this committee is going to do is to try continuously to show the probability and the gap to respond to what we are predicting is going to happen.
i understand that there are other priorities of the government and this is not the only priority, but having represented people who have survived through a catastrophic disaster, it is hard to tell them that there is another priority. if that is what is going to happen. for the 4 million people or 20 million people who are in this storm, this is very difficult to tell people that there is a high priority -- a higher priority than giving them a meal or shelter for a place to return, and this becomes a very significant issue, for any country, whether this is china or india or other countries that we have seen going through terrible catastrophic disasters. this is just a matter of time until some of these