With Hurricane Irma expected to his coastal Georgia, FEMA is getting ready.
On Wednesday, we spoke exclusively with FEMA Region 4 Response Division Director Gwen Keenan, based in metro Atlanta, who is coordinating the massive federal response to the storm.
"It’s a huge storm; it’s a very serious storm," she stressed.
Fifteen federal agencies represented in the response center are propositioning people in Florida, Georgia and throughout the southeast. FEMA’s staff is also mobilizing resources from urban search crews, to food and fuel supplies, to disaster medical teams.
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“It’s all about flexibility and preparation. We try to stage things as close to the theater of impact, but not in the theater of impact,” Keenan said.
At the state level, Georgia Governor Nathan Deal declared a state of emergency for coastal counties and for Georgia emergency management leaders.
“We’ve been ramped up for multiple days now. The minute that we saw the Irma was out there, we were planning for it, making sure that we were talking with our local, state, private partners getting resources in place,” said Catherine Howden, GEMA Chief of Staff.
These critical communications tools will be some of the first to deploy. It’s a nod to lessons learned from last year’s Hurricane Matthew.
“Every time we have a disaster, we learn something from it, we improve the way that we function,” Howden said.
The main message from the state and the feds is wherever and whenever Irma hits they’ll be as prepared as possible.
“We’re here for the survivors, so we’re moving in to get ready for the fight to support them as the storm moves through,” Keenan said.
The category 5 storm is one of the most powerful Atlantic hurricanes ever with 185 mph winds.
The FEMA office is already prepared to send crews to Florida to help when the storm hits there.
"We're anticipating that we could have a storm that moves into the Gulf of Mexico of comes up through the state of Florida, perhaps up the eastern seaboard so we're planning for every contingency," said Mary Hudak, FEMA spokesperson for the southeast region.
The Response Coordination Center for FEMA Region 14 was activated Tuesday morning. They cover the east and southeastern states and sent an emergency management staff to Tallahassee.
Cox Media Group