Storm surge in Fort Myers Beach, FL. Hurricane Ian, a Category 4 and potentially Category 5, closing in on landfall in southwest Florida. Credit: Screenshot, The Weather Channel.
In a Washington, D.C. meeting Wednesday, FEMA Director Deanne Criswell said search and rescue operations are the top priority for her organization immediately after Hurricane Ian passes through Florida.
Search and rescue organizations teams are currently staged in Miami and encompass members of FEMA’s own search and rescue program, as well as members from the Coast Guard, the U.S. Defense Department, the U.S. Department of the Interior and teams from the state of Florida.
“These teams will coordinate search and rescue by land, air and sea,” she said at a press conference at FEMA headquarters in the nation’s capital.
FEMA also has 128,000 gallons of fuel that “remain ready for rapid deployment,” she said, adding generators have been brought down to Florida, and that 300 members from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers also are in place to conduct power and fuel assessments once the storm passes.
Criswell also said that there are currently 3.7 million meals and 3.5 liters of water staged in Alabama, with “multiple volunteer agencies that are staged and prepared to perform feeding operations as soon as it is safe to do so.”
FEMA has supplied Florida with 300 ambulances and federal medical teams as well.
“These are the same brave responders that we used to help communities during COVID-19,” she said.
Joining Criswell at the press conference was Gail McGovern, the president and CEO of the American Red Cross.
“We have nearly 500 Red Cross responders and shelter supplies for 60,000 people,” she said.
McGovern said those teams have been responding to the requests from local governments to equip and open evacuation centers, and said that by this weekend there will be 2,500 Red Cross responders that will be deployed to Florida and other affected states.
“We’ll work with our government and nonprofit partners to provide food, shelter, emergency supplies, care, comfort and hope to the tens of thousands of people in the path of the hurricane.”
She says that those who want to volunteer or find safe shelters can go to redcross.org.
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