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Remarks During a Hurricane Preparedness Briefing at the National Hurricane Center in Miami, Florida

May 28, 2015

Well, I am here at the National Hurricane Center for our annual update on preparations for hurricane season, which begin on Monday. And I want to thank our NOAA Administrator Kathy Sullivan, FEMA Administrator Craig Fugate, and their teams for helping to lead this briefing.

Flooding in Texas and Oklahoma

Before we talk a little bit about the hurricane season, obviously, our thoughts and prayers are still with the families and the communities that have been devastated by the flooding in Texas and Oklahoma. Lives have been lost, and our condolences go out to the families that have been affected. But there's going to be a lot of work that has to be done for rebuilding.

Craig just informed me, gave me an update on the coordination that we're doing between Federal and State and local respondents. The coordination is good. They appear to have the assets they need at this stage to respond, but there's going to be a lot of rebuilding. And we as a nation are going to have to help the same way we do anytime that folks are affected by these natural disasters.

And so we will stay in close coordination with them to make sure that our response is quick, that we're cutting through bureaucracy, and that we're helping them recover. And there's still going to be some weather events over the next several days that will potentially make things a little tougher for folks, but I'm confident, obviously, that these communities will ultimately get back on their feet.

Hurricane Preparedness

It does remind us that it is never too early for disaster preparation. Today FEMA released our national preparedness report, summarizing new progress at a national level, along with submissions from across the country. We are in constant coordination with our State and local partners to make sure that their action plans are up to date.

We're joined today by our State partners who are critical in all this work, because they are the first responders, the people on the ground who are actually making a difference and taking a lot of the information that we get here and funneling that to local communities. So we've got partners from Florida, North Carolina, Virginia; they've done great work to prepare for hurricane season.

The truth is, we are better prepared than ever for the storms of today. The technology has improved, the forecasting has improved, the tools we have to model what may happen with something like storm surge has all gotten a lot better. And so not only do we have better information, but we have new mechanisms to disseminate it.

We're also focusing on making ourselves more resilient to the impacts of a changing climate that are having significant effects on both the pace and intensity of some of these storms. The best climate scientists in the world are telling us that extreme weather events like hurricanes are likely to become more powerful. When you combine stronger storms with rising seas, that's a recipe for more devastating floods. Climate change didn't cause Hurricane Sandy, but it might have made it stronger. The fact that the sea level in New York Harbor is about a foot higher than a century ago certainly made the storm surge worse. And that's why we are seeking to work with Congress to make sure that we are focused on resilience and the steps we can take to fortify our infrastructure in these communities. We're fortunate to have a couple of outstanding Members of Congress here on a bipartisan basis. Congressman Carlos Curbelo and Congressman Ted Deutch both represent Florida and obviously have a shared interest in making sure that we are building the kind of resilience that we may need.

Miami, for example, already has to spend hundreds of millions of dollars just to adapt its water system to the more frequent flooding that it's already experiencing from rising seas. That's why I put forward America's first climate action plan 2 years ago. I called for a climate resilience toolkit to help families and business owners in communities plan for the impacts of a changing climate, and that toolkit is now online at

Responding to a hurricane is a team effort. From the Federal to the local levels, we all have a role to play. So I encourage every American, no matter where you live, to check out——where you will find information on making plans for your family, building an emergency supply kit, knowing what to do when disaster strikes. This is something that Administrator Fugate has been like a broken record about every single year, but he's absolutely right that the best preparedness is the preparedness that's being taken by individual families, homeowners, business owners. If they have a plan, if they have ideas about how they will respond to warnings, and they're paying attention, then the collective effort obviously goes a lot more smoothly.

Finally, I just want to thank all the hard-working public servants who help America prepare for and respond to and recover from emergencies. Sometimes, we take for granted what our public servants do. Sometimes, we spend a lot of time griping about government, and we spend a lot of time complaining about folks that we're not seeing and bureaucrats and don't really appreciate that basic information, like what the weather is like, when storms come, how we're going to respond. That all involves our public servants at the Federal, State, and local levels. And they may be in the background until a disaster strikes, and suddenly, we realize how much we depend on them.

And so I think now is a good time for us to remind ourselves and make sure we're properly resourcing folks who, in dire straits, we really depend on to make sure we're safe, our families are safe, and that we can recover from really devastating attacks by Mother Nature.

And I also want to thank our military, our National Guard, for the work that they do. But our first responders and our folks at the local level, they've been doing some outstanding work.

I really want to lift up in particular some of the men and women who deploy on search and rescue, not just here domestically, but internationally. We've just had a couple of teams made up of expert, finely trained, local first responders who essentially volunteer. They just came back from Nepal, where they saved a couple of lives. In the past, they have saved lives in places like Haiti, after the devastating earthquake there. They've been working around the clock in Texas. They are always ready to do the selfless work that we should all be very, very proud of. So thank you so much for the outstanding work that you do.

All right, everybody, thank you.

NOTE: The President spoke at 12:09 p.m.

Barack Obama, Remarks During a Hurricane Preparedness Briefing at the National Hurricane Center in Miami, Florida Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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