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FEMA Prepares For Hurricane Dorian As Storm Threatens Florida's Coast

ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:

Now let's bring in Jeff Byard. He is a senior official at FEMA and joins us from FEMA headquarters here in Washington.

Welcome to ALL THINGS CONSIDERED.

JEFF BYARD: Thank you. Thank you for having me.

SHAPIRO: What is at the top of your to-do list right now today?

BYARD: Right now, we continue to monitor Dorian. As you well know, you know, we continue to go up our East Coast. We're positioned to support all four states. Florida is looking fairly good right now, however, they still have some impacts.

But we really don't want our citizens to, you know, fall asleep on this storm. Georgia, South Carolina, North Carolina, they're going to feel the blunt of Hurricane Dorian - a lot of rain, a lot of surge and a lot of wind primarily down on the coast. But, you know, these things can that create weather hazards well inland, so - and they're doing a great job of being prepared for that. So we're focused on supporting our states, supporting our locals.

SHAPIRO: Four states is a long stretch of coastline. This storm is so big. How does that affect your preparations?

BYARD: You know, if you look at - I always try to look at positives with any situation. What Dorian has allowed us to do - it's given us time. As you know, it really stalled and really stopped there for a little bit. So we were able to position critical resources, such as water, MREs, those gap measures and staff all the way from North Carolina down to Florida. So we have a good logistics lay-down, and we're well positioned to support any impact.

SHAPIRO: Can you give us a sense of the scale of this mobilization? Are there any numbers you can share with us that would give us an idea of the size of the operation that FEMA is undertaking right now?

BYARD: Right, so I think the - you know, one of the most important numbers is the fact is that we've got four basic logistic bases that we established - for example, you know, Fort A.P. Hill in Virginia, Fort Bragg in North Carolina. We've got Maxwell Air Force Base in Montgomery. And then we have Northfield there in South Carolina.

So what we do is we then will fill those locations up with water, MREs, infant-toddler kits, shelter support kits such as cots, blankets. And then from there, we either sign those over to the state, or we'll move them even closure. So we try to surround - what I call surround and drown. We're trying to surround the impact area and then drown them with resources.

SHAPIRO: I don't know if you've got this number at your fingertips, but just to give us an idea, I mean, like, how many meals ready-to-eat do you have ready to deploy across the length of this potential hurricane impact zone?

BYARD: You know, I can't get you the exact number, but what I can tell you is we have adequate. We have millions of meals and millions of liters of water.

SHAPIRO: Millions of meals.

BYARD: Millions of meals, millions of liters of water, you know, throughout the operational area. And it's also important to note that, you know, that's what we have on hand. We have the ability to do rapid contracting. And most importantly - and this gets lost when we activate and when the government activates - the most capability and capacity we have is in our private sector. So working with that supply chain and understanding that, you know, how do we get a grocery store or help a grocery store get up and running...

SHAPIRO: You're talking about the Home Depots, the Walmarts, the Waffle Houses, all those.

BYARD: All those.

SHAPIRO: Yeah.

BYARD: That's right. You know, if we can have a store open or a restaurant open, that's a lot better than MREs.

SHAPIRO: You have been urging people who are in the path of the storm to take action now - stock up on food, refuel their cars, evacuate if appropriate. Do you have a sense of whether people are following that guidance?

BYARD: You know, we - we're in constant communication with our states. I know South Carolina has done - and all the states, for that matter - but South Carolina, they've done a very proactive job. North Carolina is really going to amp up the messaging on evacuations. Florida has, and Georgia. So, you know, we will be able to tell what those evacuation rates are, obviously working with our state. The states and the locals are the ones that actually call for those evacuations.

Right now, it seems to be going well, but it always could go better. You know, if you're in a danger or hazard area, you know, I ask you to take those warnings seriously, and evacuate and protect yourself and your family.

SHAPIRO: Jeff Byard of FEMA, thanks for speaking with us today.

BYARD: Thank you so much. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.