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 Home > News & Policies > October 2003

For Immediate Release
Federal Emergency Management Agency
October 30, 2003

Under Secretary Brown Returns To California As FEMA Ramps Up Response Capabilities; Assistance to Victims Already Being Distributed

The Under Secretary of Homeland Security for Emergency Preparedness and Response, Michael D. Brown, returned to California late yesterday to continue to oversee federal assistance to the state following President Bush's disaster declaration on Monday. The Department of Homeland Security's Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) is already distributing assistance authorized by the President to Californians even as the agency significantly ramps up federal response capabilities and recovery activities.

Yesterday, forty-eight hours after President Bush declared a federal disaster in California, FEMA distributed the first assistance checks to wildfire victims who had registered for assistance by calling 1-800-621-FEMA (3362) or TTY 1-800-462-7585. Checks will continue to go out as victims register and damage inspections are completed.

FEMA also has dispatched the Administrator for the U.S. Fire Administration, R. David Paulison, to California to advise and assist federal, state and local authorities. Paulison is a former Chief of the Miami-Dade (FL) Fire Rescue Department and the Director of FEMA's Preparedness Division.

Today, the following federal response and recovery activities will be coordinated by FEMA:

  • Another Department of Homeland Security component, the U.S. Coast Guard, has aircraft and helicopters on standby to support FEMA, state authorities, and respond to rescue cases. Earlier this week USCG aircraft delivered an emergency communications van and team of technicians to support the interagency coordination and response effort.

  • In addition to FEMA's Disaster Field Office and coordination facilities set up in California, FEMA has activated its Emergency Support Team in Washington, DC, to supplement planning and coordination efforts of housing and mass care requirements if the fires impact significantly populated areas. The Emergency Support Functions (ESF)/agencies activated are:

    • ESF-3 U.S. Army Corps of Engineers - Public Works and Engineering: Will assist with the development of a housing contingency plan. USACE also has mobilized debris technicians to assist the state.

    • ESF-4 U.S. Forest Service - Firefighting: A Washington, DC, coordination cell of the Forest Service has been activated to help monitor fire fighting efforts and resources needed. This is in addition to their significant involvement in the state of California.
    • ESF - 6 American Red Cross - Mass Care: In addition to the current mass care and sheltering activities in California, the American Red Cross cell was activated to help plan and coordinate potential mass care.
    • ESF - 11 U.S. Department of Agriculture - Food: A Washington, DC, coordination cell of the U.S. Department of Agriculture has been activated by FEMA to assess future food and feeding needs if the situation worsens in California.
  • All primary Federal Response Plan agencies will be participating in a national-level meeting today to discuss contingency plans if the fire spreads to highly populated areas.

  • FEMA Community Relations teams will be out in and near impacted areas today to answer questions and provide information about accessing federal assistance.
  • FEMA inspectors have been and will continue to do inspections in all four declared counties. This is a key step in the process of accepting, reviewing and compensating claims for federal assistance.

On March 1, 2003, FEMA became part of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. FEMA's continuing mission within the new department is to lead the effort to prepare the nation for all hazards and effectively manage federal response and recovery efforts following any national incident. FEMA also initiates proactive mitigation activities, trains first responders, and manages Citizen Corps, the National Flood Insurance Program and the U.S. Fire Administration.