Des Moines, Iowa -- The State of Iowa and Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) Joint Field Office in Urbandale became the Iowa Recovery Center (IRC) Monday, August 31. What does that mean for the people of Iowa?
"It will mean FEMA will remain focused on those affected by the floods and severe storms of 2008 and continue to work closely with our State partners in the recovery process," said Kay Phillips, who was named Director of the Iowa Recovery Center. "Simply put, FEMA will still be here for the people of Iowa."
Normally, FEMA officials close a JFO when most of its work is completed. The federal work is then transitioned to a regional FEMA office - in this case Kansas City, Mo. FEMA officials would work closely with State personnel to close out major projects over the next few years.
Because of the magnitude of this disaster - designated as DR 1763 by FEMA after a presidential declaration was made - the IRC will stay in Des Moines to continue the recovery mission. The IRC will also have an office in Cedar Rapids, and a staging area in Dike for demobilized mobile homes.
In addition, the IRC will work on five other existing presidential declared Iowa disasters, providing better continuity to recovery efforts. The five existing Iowa disasters are DR 1518 (severe storms, tornados and flooding in 2004), DR 1688 (severe winter and ice storm of 2007), DR 1705 (severe storms, tornados and flooding in 2007), DR 1727 (severe storms, high winds and flooding in 2007) and DR 1737 (severe ice storm in 2008).
"The transition to the Iowa Recovery Center will mean continued collaboration with our FEMA partners," said Iowa's State Coordinating Officer Patrick J. Hall. "Through our efforts at the Joint Field Office, we've made substantial progress and expect that progress to continue in the Iowa Recovery Center."
At this stage of DR 1763, much of the emphasis is on the Public Assistance (PA) program. To date, FEMA, through its PA program, has obligated $725,438,425 in assistance to the state, local governments and eligible non-profit agencies. Many of the projects involve the reconstruction of public buildings, roads and bridges.
FEMA has also obligated - through its Individual Assistance (IA) program - $122,237,734 in Housing Assistance and another $16,314,680 in Other Needs Assistance to Iowans. During the peak of the disaster, FEMA also provided temporary housing for 564 families and individuals. There are only 179 Iowa families still living in FEMA-provided temporary housing units.
Also, a major Iowa Homeland Security and Emergency Management Division (HSEMD) and FEMA policy goal is to mitigate when restoring damaged infrastructure when it is cost effective so the repaired facility is better able to withstand future disaster damages. So far, HSEMD and FEMA officials have identified 1,628 projects where mitigation efforts would be prudent.
This marks a return to FEMA for Phillips, who left the agency in 1994 to join the Ohio Emergency Management Agency (OH EMA). Before being named IRC Director, Phillips served as Chief of the Disaster Recovery Branch OH EMA where she coordinated federal, state and local disaster recovery efforts.
While employed with FEMA and its predecessor agencies, Phillips was assigned to over 55 presidential declared disasters operations and has been associated with federal, state, local and non-governmental organization disaster assistance programs for over 35 years.
FEMA's mission is to support our citizens and first responders to ensure that as a nation we work together to build, sustain, and improve our capability to prepare for, protect against, respond to, recover from, and mitigate all hazards.