August 16th, 2007 09:40 EST
FIRSTeam Atlanta Heads for Puerto Rico to Meet Hurricane Dean
ATLANTA, Ga. -- Exemplifying the new FEMA leaning forward, five Atlanta-based FEMA specialists have ramped up to meet the storm in Puerto Rico.
While Dean was still Tropical Depression Number 4 Tuesday, the Federal Incident Response Support Team (FIRSTeam) based in Atlanta was already planning for the possibility of being deployed. That day, FEMA's National Response Coordination Center alerted the Region IV-based team to be ready to fly from Dobbins ARB to Puerto Rico no later than noon Friday.
As it turns out, the unit is going even sooner than that - by 24 hours. Before Dean even reached hurricane strength, FEMA decided to deploy the team by noon today. A Coast Guard C-130 aircraft is taking the team, a Ford Excursion with onboard satellite communications systems and a Ford E350 with other equipment to the island commonwealth.
The FIRSTeam's mission is to support state and local response by expediting life-saving Federal assistance. Equipment and staff will supplement existing capability to ensure strategic linkages are maintained. For example, the unit will provide video-teleconferencing capability to the people in charge of the response - the federal coordinating officer and local emergency managers on the island - and help make "real-time" assessments of damage.
FIRSTeam Atlanta will be ready to redeploy back into its home region, as required, if and as Hurricane Dean approaches the Gulf Coast.
The deployment is not only an example of leaning forward, but also of FEMA flexibility, since Puerto Rico is located in FEMA Region II rather than Region IV.
FEMA coordinates the federal government's role in preparing for, preventing, mitigating the effects of, responding to, and recovering from all domestic disasters, whether natural or man-made, including acts of terror.