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Everyone Needs To Take Dorian Very Seriously, FEMA Official Says

RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

We're going to turn now to David Bibo of the Federal Emergency Management Agency. He is coordinating response and recovery with local officials in the states that are getting ready for Hurricane Dorian. He joins us from FEMA headquarters here in Washington. Thanks so much for being with us this morning.

DAVID BIBO: Thank you.

MARTIN: What have your conversations been like with people like the mayor we just heard from?

BIBO: Well, the mayor is exactly right. She and mayors throughout the affected area are doing the right thing. And that's - that's taking a look at the National Hurricane Center forecast, thinking about what it means for their community and taking action. And so as you heard from the mayor, there mandatory evacuations underway where she is as well as in other places - in Florida, Georgia and South Carolina.

And that - our message is very similar to the mayor's this morning, and that is to please continue to take Dorian very seriously. Regardless of where the exact track ends up, there are potentially life-threatening storm surge and hurricane-force winds expected along the east coast of Florida, Georgia and South Carolina. And so that means the time for folks to take action and protect themselves and their family is now.

MARTIN: I imagine this is so difficult, though, because of the unpredictable nature of this storm. It's hard enough for people to pay attention to evacuation orders and to actually take all the precautions when you know where it's going to hit. Right? And this is so ambiguous, it seems.

BIBO: Well, the waiting is certainly difficult. And what has - what has been the slowdown of the storm, which has been devastating for the Bahamas, has been an opportunity for those in Florida, the Carolinas and Georgia to get ready, and that is an important part of this. For all of the things that government will do at the state, local and federal level, it's the steps that individuals take to prepare themselves and their family and - and their neighbors that really, really matter in the end. That's why we encourage folks to download the FEMA app and follow the tips there or at ready.gov to get themselves and their families ready.

MARTIN: We hear about the exceptional nature of this storm. Does that mean your preparedness as FEMA has been exceptional, as well? What are you doing differently?

BIBO: Well, I think it's important to recognize we have, right now, a Category 3 - it was a Category 5 - storm just about a hundred miles off the coast of Florida from a very populated area. And so we have been taking this storm seriously not just since it came up the - towards the southeast United States but since it was potentially going to affect U.S. Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico. That means moving personnel, equipment, supplies - things like ambulances, food, water and medical support - strategically throughout the area of impact so that we can support the governors with those lifesaving and life-sustaining missions that may become necessary.

MARTIN: So you've had to deploy all of that to all those states?

BIBO: Absolutely. And that's - that's - that's what we do, you know? We look at the National Hurricane Center forecasts. We work with the governors in the affected states about what their capabilities are. And we get ready to backstop them and support them to support the American people.

MARTIN: And now you wait?

BIBO: Now we wait. But we're not - we're not just sitting idly by. We take a look at the forecasts. We make sure that our resources are deployed to the right places so that we're not late to need. And we do things like this, which is to remind folks not to get complacent, remain vigilant, take action now to protect yourself and your family and heed those local official warnings. If they tell you to evacuate, get out.

MARTIN: David Bibo, one of the people directing response and recovery at FEMA for Hurricane Dorian, thank you. We appreciate your time.

BIBO: Thank you, Rachel. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.