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WASHINGTON, D.C. -- As Hurricane Irene moves toward the East Coast of the United States, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) is urging all residents in East Coast states to take steps now to prepare their families and businesses for hurricanes and severe weather. Visit www.Ready.gov or www.Listo.gov for helpful tips on preparing for hurricanes, flash flooding and other disasters.

According to the National Weather Service, Hurricane Irene is now a category three hurricane and will move across the southeastern and central Bahamas today and over the northwestern Bahamas on Thursday. For more forecast information from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's (NOAA) National Hurricane Center, click here.

"FEMA, along with the entire federal family, continues to closely monitor Hurricane Irene," said FEMA Administrator Craig Fugate. "We remain in close contact and coordination with all of our state and territorial partners in the Caribbean and along the East Coast that have already or could possibly experience impacts from this storm. Hurricane Irene's future path is still uncertain, and I encourage everyone to visit Ready.gov and take steps now to keep their family safe and secure. The most important thing for people to do right now is to listen to and follow the instructions of their local officials. If you are told to evacuate, evacuate."

FEMA continues its support response efforts in Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands, and on August 22, President Obama signed an emergency declaration for Puerto Rico, making federal funding available to supplement commonwealth and local response efforts in the area. In Puerto Rico, federal personnel are joining commonwealth and local officials today to conduct joint preliminary damage assessments, as weather permits. These damage assessments are the first step in helping a governor determine whether the scope of the damages are beyond what the commonwealth is capable of handling, and if additional federal assistance is needed.

Additionally, this past weekend, FEMA proactively deployed regional Incident Management Assistance Teams to the Caribbean to coordinate with territory and local officials to identify needs and shortfalls impacting potential disaster response and recovery. While Hurricane Irene moves away from Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands, FEMA encourages those in the area to continue to monitor weather conditions and listen to the direction of commonwealth and territorial officials.

As Hurricane Irene approaches the East Coast, FEMA, through its regional offices in Boston, New York, Philadelphia, and Atlanta, continues to monitor the storm closely and is in close contact with their respective state emergency management agencies.

In advance preparation for the storm, FEMA has deployed National Incident Management Assistance Teams to staging areas in Georgia and Virginia, in anticipation of further deployment to potential impact areas along the east coast of the U.S. Additionally, at all times, FEMA maintains commodities, including millions of liters of water, millions of meals and hundreds of thousands of blankets, strategically located at distribution centers throughout the United States and its territories. In Atlanta, for instance, FEMA has more than two million liters of water, more than 1.3 million meals, and more than 16,000 cots and 56,000 blankets. These resources may be moved to Incident Support Bases, which are distribution centers located closer to the impacted areas, as needed and requested by state partners.

These commodities are meant to supplement state resources if needed, but it's critical that individuals and families that are able build their own emergency supply kits, so that in the event of a disaster, state and local resources can be focused on our most vulnerable citizens.

FEMA is coordinating across the federal government to ensure territorial and state officials have the support they need as they respond to or prepare for Irene. New actions as of today include, but are not limited to:

  • The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has started deploying members of the 249th Engineering Battalion (Prime Power) to Puerto Rico to assist with restoring power to the island.
  • The Federal Communications Center (FCC) has deployed two Roll Call Spectrum Scanning teams to the FEMA regional offices in Atlanta and Boston. These teams conduct post scans after landfall to determine which critical communications systems might have been impacted.
  • Health and Human Services (HHS) is prepared to provide public health and medical support to states along the east coast in response to Hurricane Irene. The HHS is also coordinating with public health and emergency management agencies in U.S. territories and states along the projected hurricane path to make information available on how people can protect their health as they prepare for and respond to hurricanes and other natural disasters.
  • The U.S. Northern Command (NORTHCOM) has activated a Defense Coordinating Officer to the FEMA Regional Response Coordination Center in Atlanta in preparation for support to civil authorities as Hurricane Irene approaches the East Coast of the United States.
  • The Department of Defense has designated Fort Bragg, North Carolina as an Incident Support Base to support FEMA operations to respond to Hurricane Irene.

Click here for the previous update on these activities.

FEMA encourages everyone, regardless of whether they live in a hurricane-prone area, to take steps to ensure their families, homes and businesses are prepared for a possible emergency. As a reminder, the month of September is designated as National Preparedness Month (NPM), an opportunity to encourage Americans to be prepared for disasters or emergencies in their homes, businesses, and communities. Individuals and families can learn about events and activities, and groups can register to become a NPM Coalition Member by visiting community.fema.gov. NPM is sponsored by the Ready Campaign in partnership with Citizen Corps and The Ad Council.

FEMA's support of disaster response activities in Puerto Rico, and its proactive support for East Coast storm preparations, does not diminish its focus from critical federal disaster response and recovery operations that continue, across the nation, including flooding in the Midwest and the ongoing recovery from the southeastern tornadoes. Every disaster is a reminder that they can happen anytime, anywhere. Now is the time to prepare--visit www.Ready.gov or www.Listo.gov for tips on creating your family emergency plan and putting together an emergency supply kit.

Follow FEMA online at blog.fema.govwww.twitter.com/femawww.facebook.com/fema, and www.youtube.com/fema. Also, follow FEMA Administrator Craig Fugate's activities at www.twitter.com/craigatfema.

The social media links provided are for reference only. FEMA does not endorse any non-government websites, companies or applications.

FEMA's mission is to support our citizens and first responders to ensure that as a nation we work together to build, sustain, and improve our capability to prepare for, protect against, respond to, recover from, and mitigate all hazards.

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