FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE                    

Contact:  Heather Handyside

April 4,  2014

(907) 350-4846

Begich to FEMA:  Alaska’s Disaster Response Efforts Need to Consider the Extremes
Emergency Response Saves Lives 

U.S. Senator Mark Begich today chaired a hearing in Alaska attended by top emergency response official Craig Fugate, administrator of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), and witnesses from around Alaska to discuss emergency response planning and preparedness in case of disaster.  Earthquakes, volcanoes, tsunamis, flooding—all are among issues that Alaskans know too well.  The question is, does FEMA? 

Begich is the Chairman of the Subcommittee on Emergency Management that oversees FEMA.  At Begich’s request, Administrator Fugate made his first trip to Alaska to attend the field hearing. During the visit Begich pointed out to him the threats Alaska faces every day – whether it be earthquake, flood, or riverine erosion- that require well thought out emergency response plans.

“When people think of Alaska, they really need to consider that one-size fits all doesn’t go anywhere when planning for emergencies,” said Begich. “I take every opportunity to inform and educate others about Alaska and its diverse and dramatic climates, peoples and natural wonders.  Ours is a magnificent state, and also one that can be dangerous.  Emergency management practices in Alaska aren’t just an idea, they can save lives.”

During Fugate’s visit he accompanied Begich to a mapping discussion with local officials in the Mat-Su Valley, met with Alaska Native officials to discuss FEMA’s tribal outreach, and took a tour of the the Palmer Fire and Rescue.

Witnesses at the hearing included representatives from Homeland Security, Emergency Medical Services Physicians, Valdez Fire Department, and Tanana Chiefs Conference.  The spirited and informative discussion revolved around coordinated efforts of all involved. The details of cooperative efforts need to be planned and understood as part of an overall effort to assure citizens that in the event of disaster, we are ready. 

In his first trip to Alaska, and at the request of Begich, Administrator Fugate’s visit coincides with the state’s largest military/civilian exercise for first responders. 

Called Operation “Arctic Shield,” hundreds of people gathered in Anchorage this week to address Alaska’s unique environment and challenges in the event of an array of potential disasters.

Attendees included:



Federal Emergency Management Agency

U.S. Department of Homeland Security



Alaska Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Management

Alaska Department of Military and Veterans Affairs


Fire Chief

Valdez Fire Department


Chair, Rural Committee

National Association of Emergency Medical Services Physicians


President and Chairman

Tanana Chiefs Conference