That’s the answer Tamra “Tammy” Kloehn gave when asked what she liked most about her job with the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) in Minot. Tammy knows what it is like to need assistance after a disaster, because her household was affected by last year’s flood and was an applicant for FEMA disaster assistance.
When the Federal Emergency Management Agency arrives to render aid following a declared disaster, survivors are often curious about the people who represent the agency. While it is usually true that the initial group of workers who arrive on the scene come from across the country, those impacted by disasters may be surprised to learn that many new FEMA employees are their family, friends and fellow disaster survivors. In “FEMA-speak” these folks are known as local hires.
Local hires are employees drawn from the local, disaster-affected area. Their willingness to train and work as FEMA employees, along with the wealth of local knowledge they bring, make them an integral part of helping communities recover.
Tammy has lived in Minot all of her life, working in various fields such as restaurant management, assisted living care and accounting. When she saw a job posting for FEMA last December and read the description, she applied, “It sounded interesting and it was working with people.”
As a Recertification Advisor, Tammy visits individuals and families living in FEMA housing units throughout Minot to work with them on their housing plan and help them return to a more permanent living arrangement. She provides those who were previously renting with lists of available rentals and offers assistance to homeowners that are repairing their damaged dwellings.
Christopher Geck was also born in Minot, but has lived the past 22 years in Mandan. In 2009 he was working as a security officer in the FEMA Bismarck Joint Field Office that was set up to help in recovery from the Red River flooding that year. Chris applied for a reservist position that was open in the Finance and Admin section and was hired as a Human Resources Specialist.
Reservists are FEMA employees who travel the country assisting in recovery efforts of all 50 states following disaster declarations. Chris finds it especially satisfying to be assigned to work in the city he was born in 28 years ago and where his own family was affected by the flood last year. He now serves as the HR supervisor in the Minot FEMA Housing Management Office, handling deployments of fellow employees who arrive from other parts of the country to assist in flood recovery, overseeing payroll and interviewing and processing new local hires.
When you look into the eyes of Laura Grueneberg, you can see the care and concern she carries for disaster survivors. In her position as a Voluntary Agency Liaison (VAL) that is appropriate, but even more so knowing her own home was substantially damaged during the flood in Minot last year. Living with her husband and 4 children in a hotel room for almost 4 months and then in a FEMA housing unit for another 5 months, Laura knows intimately what many disaster survivors are living through today.
“A way to make a difference in the lives of people” is what prompted Laura to apply for the position she saw posted online in November. As a VAL, Laura is FEMA's link to local volunteer organizations. She also works hand-in-hand with FEMA Recertification Advisors to help applicants who have needs that cannot be met by FEMA programs, but that voluntary agencies may be able to assist.
“I am grateful for the opportunity FEMA has given me. Working in a field where I am able to help others is incredibly rewarding and working outside of the home has helped my family get back on our feet.”
FEMA is also grateful for the area residents serving in its ranks who have helped the Souris Valley in the disaster recovery.