ALBANY, N.Y. -- Regina Parker has been involved in public service work for years. “It’s just my background,” she said. She has been a city council member in Halfmoon, her hometown, for nine years, and she has done volunteer work. “When we had the floods in the Southern Tier, after all the news about Hurricanes Katrina and Rita, I just wanted to get involved,” said Parker.
In July of 2006, she saw a Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) ad for personnel and applied. She was accepted, and after her basic training, began to work as a caseworker in human services, where she worked one on one with people who applied to FEMA for assistance. In October, she put in her application to become a disaster assistance employee (DAE), part of the core group of trained reserve employees who can be called on by FEMA for any event. They are the backbone of the organization, and can be assigned nationwide. Her DAE acceptance came through, and she worked steadily from then to the time she was sent to Texas for additional training.
Mary Beth McGowan started in much the same way. In July 2006, the Rexford resident who has worked extensively with the elderly, homeless and youth populations in distress was looking for a new job and saw FEMA’s ad in the paper. “I was looking for some kind of job which involved helping people, and FEMA really seemed right up my alley,” she said. “It had purpose and there was a need, and helping is something I have always done.”
She started with the travel trailer program, doing pre-placement interviews, and assigning trailers. When that program moved to Binghamton, McGowan stayed on at the Joint Field Office in Albany working in other human services programs until she had to opportunity to get some additional FEMA training.
FEMA Federal Coordinating Officer (FCO) Marianne C. Jackson made that happen when she arranged for McGowan and Parker to go to Denton, Texas for three weeks of extensive training at the FEMA National Processing Service Center. “Working at the center gives them a broad base of experience for the human services work that they will do,” said Jackson.
McGowan agrees with that. “We worked in all different areas of human services,” she said. “It was very helpful.” That experience, along with their months of on-the-job training will serve them well in their future assignments with FEMA.
For now, though, both are taking a little time off, catching up with friends, seeing their families and getting their affairs back in order. They both are planning to take on another FEMA assignment soon, and are eagerly awaiting the telephone call that will send them off on their next opportunity to help people. As Parker said, “I just want to get involved.”
FEMA manages federal response and recovery efforts following any national incident, initiates mitigation activities and manages the National Flood Insurance Program. FEMA works closely with state and local emergency managers, law enforcement personnel, firefighters and other first responders. FEMA became part of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security on March 1, 2003.