By Tamara Palmer
During the week of September 9, 2013, Colorado experienced torrential rainfall that led to some of the worst flooding in the history of the state. A large band of moist air from the southeast moved into position just over the eastern face of the Rocky Mountains. Trapped by the mountains and cold air from the north, rain poured over the Front Range of Colorado, affecting a stretch of more than 200 miles and dumping more rain in 12 hours than some places receive in an entire year. Colorado’s Front Range is home to 82% of the State’s population, according to 2010 U.S Census data. The State estimated that more than 22,000 residential and commercial properties were damaged or destroyed.
Even before President Obama declared a disaster in Colorado on September 15, 2013, FEMA’s Disaster Survivor Assistance (DSA) cadre was supporting the emergency. DSA crews arrived in Denver as early as September 13, with additional DSA Reservists and FEMA Corps teams immediately following. DSA crews moved into the field to support operations in three geographic branches. At peak staffing, DSA sent 29 crews with more than 200 personnel into the field, making this the largest DSA deployment since the cadre’s creation on April 8, 2013.
Early in the disaster, DSA specialists conducted the Assess, Inform, Report (AIR) mission to provide accurate and reliable information about critical and emerging issues to Operations. While handling the AIR mission, DSA Specialists met with disaster survivors, registering them for disaster assistance and informing individuals of other forms of assistance available in the community. DSA Specialists moved door to door throughout Colorado communities, helped staff Disaster Recovery Centers (DRC), and worked out of Mobile Communications Office Vehicles (MCOV). Some DSA Crews even boarded helicopters and flew into isolated communities, bringing FEMA disaster assistance into devastated and inaccessible areas.
To date, DSA Crews have taken more than 2,600 survivor registrations and performed an additional 2,000 case status updates and inquiries. They have provided nearly 3,000 referrals to Whole Community resources and have identified 203 rental resources available for survivors.
Colorado governor, John Hickenlooper stated, “FEMA has been an incredible partner throughout this unthinkable tragedy, and we look forward to continuing to work with them to ensure communities have the resources they need to rebuild.”