Every fire and flood the Red Cross is on the scene. The President lauds their work. My United Way contribution goes to them every year.
PRESIDENT: First of all, I want to thank Gail and Charlie who are on
the scene doing work every time we have a disaster here in the United
States of America. But obviously, the Red Cross is doing outstanding
so we want to thank them for their outstanding work.
A few things that I want to
emphasize to the public at the top. This storm is not yet over. We’ve
gotten briefings from the National Hurricane Center. It is still moving
north. There are still communities that could be affected.
And so I want to emphasize there are still risks of flooding, there are
still risks of down power lines, risks of high winds. And so it is
very important for the public to continue to monitor the situation in
your local community, listen to your state and
local officials, follow instructions. The more you follow
instructions, the easier it is for our first responders to make sure
that they are dealing with true emergency situations. So the better
prepared individual families are for the situation, the easier
it is going to be for us to deal with it.
Next, obviously, I want to talk
about the extraordinary hardship that we’ve seen over the last 48
hours. Our thoughts and prayers go out to all the families who have
lost loved ones. Unfortunately, there have been fatalities as a
consequence of Hurricane Sandy, and it’s not clear that we’ve counted
up all the fatalities at this point. And obviously, this is something
that is heartbreaking for the entire nation. And we certainly feel
profoundly for all the families whose lives have
been upended and are going to be going through some very tough times
over the next several days and perhaps several weeks and months.
The most important message I have
for them is that America is with you. We are standing behind you, and
we are going to do everything we can to help you get back on your feet.
Earlier today I had a
conversation with the governors and many of the mayors in the affected
areas, including Governor Christie, Governor Cuomo, and Mayor
Bloomberg. I want to praise them for the extraordinary work that they
done. Sadly, we are getting more experience with these kinds of big
impact storms along the East Coast, and the preparation shows. Were it
not for the outstanding work that they and their teams have already done
and will continue to do in the affected regions,
we could have seen more deaths and more property damage. So they have
done extraordinary work working around the clock. The coordination
between the state, local, and federal governments has been outstanding.
Obviously, we’re now moving into
the recovery phase in a lot of the most severely affected areas. New
Jersey, New York in particular have been pounded by this storm.
Connecticut has taken a big hit. Because of some of the work that
had been done ahead of time, we’ve been able to get over a thousand
FEMA officials in place, pre-positioned. We’ve been able to get
supplies, food, medicine, water, emergency generators to ensure that
hospitals and law enforcement offices are able to stay
up and running as they are out there responding.
We are going
to continue to push as hard as we can to make sure that power is up
throughout the region. And obviously, this is mostly a local
responsibility, and the private utilities are going to have to lean
forward, but we are doing everything we can to provide them additional
resources so that we can expedite getting power up and running in many
of these communities.
places like Newark, New Jersey, for example, where you’ve got 80, 90
percent of the people without power. We can't have a situation where
that lasts for days on end. And so my instructions to the federal
agency has been, do not figure out why we can't do something; I want
you to figure out how we do something. I want you to cut through red
tape. I want you to cut through bureaucracy. There’s no excuse for
inaction at this point. I want every agency to
lean forward and to make sure that we are getting the resources where
they need -- where they're needed as quickly as possible.
So I want to
repeat -- my message to the federal government: No bureaucracy, no red
tape. Get resources where they're needed as fast as possible, as hard
as possible, and for the duration, because the recovery
process obviously in a place like New Jersey is going to take a
significant amount of time. The recovery process in a lower Manhattan
is going to take a lot of time.
And part of
what we’re trying to do here is also to see where are some resources
that can be brought to bear that maybe traditionally are not used in
these kind of disaster situations. For example, there may be
military assets that allow us to help move equipment to ensure that
pumping and getting the flooding out of New York subway systems can
proceed more quickly. There may be resources that we can bring to bear
to help some of the private utilities get their
personnel and their equipment in place more swiftly so that we can get
power up and running as soon as possible.
message to the governors and the mayors and, through them, to the
communities that have been hit so hard is that we are going to do
everything we can to get resources to you and make sure that any unmet
that is identified, we are responding to it as quickly as possible.
And I told the mayors and the governors if they're getting no for an
answer somewhere in the federal government, they can call me personally
at the White House.
obviously, the state, local, federal response is important, but what we
do as a community, what we do as neighbors and as fellow citizens is
equally important. So a couple of things that I want the public
to know they can do.
all, because our local law enforcement, our first responders are being
swamped, to the extent that everybody can be out there looking out for
their neighbors, especially older folks, I think that's really
important. If you’ve got a neighbor nearby, you’re not sure how
they're handling a power outage, flooding, et cetera, go over, visit
them, knock on their door, make sure that they're doing okay. That can
make a big difference. The public can be the eyes
and ears in terms of identifying unmet needs.
thing, the reason we’re here is because the Red Cross knows what it’s
doing when it comes to emergency response. And so for people all across
the country who have not been affected, now is the time to show
the kind of generosity that makes America the greatest nation on
Earth. And a good place to express that generosity is by contributing
to the Red Cross.
you can go on their website. The Red Cross knows what they're doing.
They're in close contact with federal, state, and local officials. They
will make sure that we get the resources to those families
as swiftly as possible. And again, I want to thank everybody here who
is doing such a great job when it comes to the disaster response.
message I’d just say is during the darkness of the storm, I think we
also saw what’s brightest in America. I think all of us obviously have
been shocked by the force of Mother Nature as we watch it on
television. At the same time, we’ve also seen nurses at NYU Hospital
carrying fragile newborns to safety. We’ve seen incredibly brave
firefighters in Queens, waist-deep in water, battling infernos and
rescuing people in boats.
One of my
favorite stories is down in North Carolina, the Coast Guard going out to
save a sinking ship. They sent a rescue swimmer out, and the rescue
swimmer said, “Hi, I’m Dan. I understand you guys need a ride.”
That kind of spirit of resilience and strength, but most importantly
looking out for one another, that's why we always bounce back from these
kinds of disasters.
This is a
tough time for a lot of people -- millions of folks all across the
Eastern Seaboard. But America is tougher, and we’re tougher because we
pull together. We leave nobody behind. We make sure that we
respond as a nation and remind ourselves that whenever an American is
in need, all of us stand together to make sure that we’re providing the
help that's necessary.
So I just
want to thank the incredible response that we’ve already seen, but I do
want to remind people this is going to take some time. It is not going
to be easy for a lot of these communities to recovery swiftly,
and so it’s going to be important that we sustain that spirit of
resilience, that we continue to be good neighbors for the duration until
everybody is back on their feet.
Thank you very much, everybody. Thank you, Red Cross. (Applause.)