BATON ROUGE, La. – Dozens of AmeriCorps and FEMA Corps members are doing double duty in response to Hurricane Isaac— helping Louisiana survivors with their recovery efforts and assisting their communities plan for future disasters.
Along with scores of local voluntary agencies, some AmeriCorps teams were in Louisiana before Hurricane Isaac struck, and other members have arrived regularly in the eight weeks since the storm. The newest group is from FEMA Corps, a program in which young adults serve alongside FEMA’s existing workforce to perform a variety of disaster response, recovery and mitigation tasks.
“FEMA relies on volunteer-based organizations and the service groups like AmeriCorps and now FEMA Corps to provide critical help for survivors,” said Gerard M. Stolar, FEMA’s federal coordinating officer. “These folks are getting right into the communities affected by Isaac and helping them with their recovery effort.”
The FEMA Corps members are working with FEMA specialists in the Joint Field Office in Baton Rouge and across southern Louisiana. Some of them have been integrated into operations at Disaster Recovery Centers, where they have met with survivors and helped connect them to resources and information. Others are helping compile Project Worksheets, which document applicant costs for Public Assistance reimbursements.
FEMA Corps members also have been working in the southern parishes to learn how to assess homes for private property debris removal. Still others have joined Community Relations teams, going door-to-door to meet survivors and provide information about FEMA registration.
Meanwhile, some AmeriCorps members are in St. John Parish where they are managing local volunteers and assisting in setting up a long-term recovery group for the area. The teams also are helping the parish begin tracking volunteer hours which can be used to offset the local cost share required in some FEMA grants. In Plaquemines, St. John and St. Tammany, AmeriCorps has helped set up Volunteer Reception Centers (VRCs).
Other members are assisting the Louisiana Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster with a temporary roof repair pilot project in eight parishes. They are helping collect data about the efforts of voluntary agencies to provide temporary roof repairs and tarps to damaged homes.
“I think these projects can be very helpful tools for future disasters,” said AmeriCorps St. Louis Team Leader, Abby Simons, whose teams are working on the roofing pilot project and the VRCs. “Knowing that we’re helping increase the effectiveness of local community groups now – and maybe influencing others years down the road ¬– is worthwhile service.”
AmeriCorps is one of dozens of agencies FEMA has partnered with to prepare for, respond to and recover from disasters like Hurricane Isaac. A national service program, AmeriCorps offers real-world experience in public service in exchange for low pay, long hours, sparse lodging, student loan forgiveness and the rewards of helping people in need.
AmeriCorps, through its parent agency the Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS), has deployed more than 300 members to Hurricane Isaac-affected areas since the beginning of the storm.
Some 35 AmeriCorps members assisted with earlier evacuations from St. Charles Parish and supporting a call center to provide information to survivors. In New Orleans, AmeriCorps members have been at a call center, a shelter and in the neighborhoods helping with damage assessment, debris removal and home repair.
Others have been in Baton Rouge, assisting with shelter operations and the Louisiana 2-1-1 call center and yet another team was in Hahnville in St. Charles Parish helping collect and distribute donated items to survivors.
FEMA Corps is the result of a new, innovative partnership between FEMA and CNCS. The program aims to enhance the nation’s ability to assist disaster survivors while expanding career opportunities for young people.
For more information on Louisiana disaster recovery, click www.fema.gov/disaster/4080 or www.gohsep.la.gov. You can follow FEMA on Twitter at www.twitter.com/femaregion6 or on Facebook at www.facebook.com/FEMA. Also visit our blog at www.fema.gov/blog.