WASHINGTON July 8, 1996 - In anticipation that Hurricane Bertha would pass over the U.S. Virgin Islands around noon today (EDT), Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) personnel and equipment and resources from other federal agencies have been moving into position near the expected path of the storm.
At 8:00 a.m. this morning, FEMA activated an Emergency Support Team at its Washington, D.C. headquarters to coordinate the federal government's disaster response and placed its Urban Search and Rescue task force in Dade Co., Fla., on full alert.
For the first time, FEMA has also assigned liaison personnel to work with forecasters at the National Hurricane Center in Miami, an action that will be standard practice in all future hurricanes.
To date, deployments of federal disaster resources already completed or currently underway include:
FEMA's Field Assessment Team (FAsT) was scheduled to leave Carswell Air Force Base in Texas for St. Thomas at noon today, accompanied by Mobile Emergency Response Support (MERS) personnel and equipment. MERS specialists have been deployed to San Juan, Puerto Rico.
A FEMA Mobile Air-Transportable Telecommunications Support unit will arrive in St.Thomas today. FEMA communications personnel from its special facility near Berryville, Va., have already been deployed, two to San Juan and two to St.Thomas.
Yesterday (Sunday, July 7), advance elements of the interagency Emergency Response Team, led by FEMA, arrived in St. Thomas from New York City.
They included specialists in transportation, public works and engineering, health and hazardous materials. The remaining members of the team have been assembled in New York City and are ready to deploy to the Virgin Islands when conditions permit.
U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) officials and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers personnel were also deployed to St. Thomas yesterday. DoD instructed all subordinate commands to support FEMA.
The U.S. Public Health Service has designated four Disaster Medical Assistance Teams and one Medical Support Unit to respond as required.
Disaster supplies prepositioned in the threatened area include: 5,660 rolls of plastic sheeting in Puerto Rico and 700 rolls in the Virgin Islands; seventeen 1,500-gallon water tanks in the Virgin Islands; 150 generators in the Virgin Islands and 126 in Puerto Rico; 5,760 cases of Meals, Ready-to-Eat in Puerto Rico and 2,496 cases in the Virgin Islands.
Yesterday, Virgin Islands Governor Roy Schneider declared a State of Emergency and activated National Guard units on St. Thomas, St. Croix and St. John. As of 3:00 a.m. this morning, Emergency Operations Centers had been activated on all three islands and ten emergency shelters were open.
Puerto Rico Governor Pedro Rossello has also activated the National Guard and an Emergency Operations Center on that island.
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