How 4,000 Federal Employees Are Assisting in Hurricane Florence Response

Water surrounds a home in Swansboro N.C., as Hurricane Florence hits. Water surrounds a home in Swansboro N.C., as Hurricane Florence hits. Tom Copeland / AP

Nearly 4,000 federal employees are currently working on the response to Hurricane Florence, the White House said Friday, as the storm continued to bring heavy winds and rain to North and South Carolina.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency is coordinating the effort, deploying more than 1,000 of its workers to the impacted area. FEMA has sent six Incident Management Assistance Teams to operations centers in the Carolinas, Virginia and Washington, D.C. The agency is working with the Coast Guard in deploying 14 search and rescue teams, with more in Virginia ready to go. It has four medical teams on the ground, with more awaiting deployment if necessary, and Mobile Emergency Response Support units in the area for communications.

Here’s a look at how other federal agencies are assisting with the response effort:

  • Defense Department: Defense has 7,000 service members, including National Guard members, “standing by and ready to assist” areas devastated by the storm. The Pentagon is “leaning forward to help civilian agencies,” the department said. It already evacuated and took other preparations at bases in the area prior to the storm's impact. Those bases have made dozens of helicopters and high-wheel vehicles available for search and rescue operations. The Army Corps of Engineers has deployed 85 personnel to assist with communications and its teams are on the ground to provide temporary power, debris removal services, infrastructure assessments, water assessments and temporary roofing.
  • Health and Human Services Department: HHS has activated 500 medical personnel from the U.S. Public Health Service Commissioned Corps, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and other divisions and sent them to the impacted region. They are providing medical care to residents who evacuated to shelters in Virginia and are ready to quickly deploy where needed to “help state and local authorities respond to communities’ medical needs,” officials said.
  • Homeland Security Department: In addition to FEMA, several DHS components are participating in the response effort. The Coast Guard has deployed 58 personnel for Florence response, including boat and incident management assistance teams. Border Patrol has agents from Laredo, Texas, deployed to North Carolina to assist with law enforcement and search and rescue. Customs and Border Protection’s Air and Marine Operations Black Hawk crews are ready to fly into affected areas for rescue missions. The National Protection and Programs Directorate has deployed a Crisis Action Team to support state and local governments facing cyber and critical infrastructure issues.
  • Corporation for National and Community Service: CNCS has activated 500 members from its AmeriCorps Disaster Response team to support staging bases, survivor assistance, shelter operations and other functions. Another 180 AmeriCorps members are staged in Mississippi awaiting deployment.
  • Energy Department: Energy has worked with 17 states to mobilize 40,000 workers to support restoration efforts.
  • Interior Department: The Fish and Wildlife Service has employees available for rescue operations in the communities they serve in the impacted area, as well as law enforcement personnel to assist once it is safe for them to do so. The U.S. Geological Service is providing data to FEMA, the National Weather Service and other agencies to assist in response efforts.
  • Transportation Department: Transportation has established a “routing assistance hotline” to help federal, state and local agencies move equipment, people and goods as required. The Federal Aviation Administration has sent a team to South Carolina to help manage the airspace.

Several other agencies, such as the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and Environmental Protection Agency, have teams ready to deploy or are currently monitoring assets for potential damage. Other agencies took steps prior to the storm to close offices, secure facilities and evacuate employees. As Florence is still battering the Carolinas and other areas, many agencies are waiting to assess the fallout and determine how they can assist.

“We won’t be able to fix the broken infrastructure while the storm is under way,” FEMA Administrator Brock Long said. “But we are going to be there to support all those who need us. Our job is to pre-deploy our assets and teams to help the heroes at the state and local level do their jobs and backfill their capabilities.” He added that search and rescue missions are FEMA’s biggest priority right now.

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