Transcript: Press briefing remarks by Secretary Janet Napolitano on Hurricane Sandy

Edited by Jenny Jiang
Transcript of remarks by Department of Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano on Hurricane Sandy at a press briefing on Oct. 31, 2012:

As Dr. Knabb said, this has obviously been one of the largest and most serious storms ever to affect the United States with very broad and significant impacts in a number of areas.

President Obama came down to FEMA this morning – the National Response Coordination Center – along with several members of the Cabinet – myself, Secretary Ray LaHood, [Kathleen] Sebelius, [Steven] Chu, and [Shaun] Donovan as well as John Brennan and Craig Fugate and other senior officials.

His message to us was clear and consistent, whether it’s message over the past few days: Get resources where they are needed as fast as possible without excuses or delay. And that’s what we are committed to doing.

Everyone is moving forward to support the states and communities and tribes in their response.

We’ve engaged the entire emergency management apparatus of the country. That also includes the private sector, the faith-based community, and many, many volunteers. So I’d like to thank all of these partners for their hard work over the last few days.

But rest-assured, we are not resting. We know there’s a lot of work left to do and we are committed to working around the clock to get it done.

Yesterday, the President declared state of disasters for Connecticut, New York, and New Jersey, which makes disaster assistance available to those in the heaviest hit areas. Individuals and business owners in the designated counties in those states can begin applying for assistance by registering online at or by mobile device at or calling 1-800-621-3362.

The President has also added New Hampshire, Virginia, and West Virginia to the list of states that already have emergency declarations and that allows FEMA to provide resources directly to those states and localities engaged in life-saving and life-sustaining activities.

In terms of rescue operations, 9 federal search and rescue teams continue to support state and local efforts. A combined 700 rescues have been performed since yesterday.

The Army Corps of Engineers and the Department of Energy are actively engaging with states to restore power and particularly also with the power companies. We know that is a key challenge in many of the areas affected by Sandy.

As a temporary measure, the federal government has created an incident support base to serve as the staging area for the distribution of generators and to assess energy requirements for public facilities in the impacted states and areas. In other words, through that support base, we are able to consolidate where the generators are going and to prioritize where the generators are going so that they go first to the places of greatest need.

We also continue to support shelter operations in partnership with the Red Cross and other organizations. As of yesterday, more than 258 shelters were opened across 16 states and supported over 11,000 residents. FEMA is supporting the provision of meals, water, and other critical supplies to the affected states.

In all, we have more than 22,000 personnel positioned along the East Coast and the National Guard has deployed more than 7,400 forces on duty to support response and recovery.

We understand that people are anxious to return home. We also know, however, that given the scope of the damage, it’s going to take some time to get power back on, roads cleared, transportation systems up and running again. There are still many hazards out there, including downed power lines, un-passable roads and bridges, and traffic lights not yet working. So we don’t want people in harm’s way.

We continue to advise people to pay attention to their local officials who can tell them whether an evacuated area is now safe to return to.

So we’re asking everyone to be patient as we work with all speed we can to receive guidance from local officials and to work to restore the basic necessities of life in the areas affected by this storm.


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