Jefferson City, Mo. – There are fresh faces out in the field with FEMA this fall. They arrived in 15 passenger vans, wearing boots and cargo pants. Out of high school, college, or part way between, these young people are in Missouri to “Get Things Done,” true to their AmeriCorps pledge.
FEMA Corps, a partnership between AmeriCorps and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), is a national service program for young adults ages 18-24 that is focused on disaster preparedness, mitigation, response, and recovery work.
Through classroom and on-site training, specialized teams are equipped to support and carry out the FEMA mission in the following programs: Public Assistance, which provides disaster assistance grants to state and local governments as well as private non-profit organizations; Individual Assistance, which provides assistance and grants to eligible individuals, households, and businesses; Disaster Survivor Assistance which provides survivor centric outreach; and Logistics.
Seven months into their ten-month service commitment, three Public Assistance FEMA Corps teams have put boots on the ground in 15 Missouri counties in support of Missouri’s two federal disaster declarations signed by President Obama in July and September of this year. In a program that sees its Corps members evolve from shy freshmen to disaster-tested upperclassmen, FEMA Blue 3, Silver 4, and Green 3, as the teams are known, are becoming seasoned veterans and eager to get out in the field. The teams are based out of the Area Field Offices in St. Charles and Hannibal, and the Joint Field Office in Jefferson City.
The Federal Coordinating Officer for the operations, Mike Parker, believes that FEMA Corps teams are a great asset to FEMA.
“The FEMA Corps members are playing an important role in the disaster recovery process for Missouri,” he said. “We are pushing the limits of the program and they are embracing the opportunity to get out in the field, proving their ability to get the work done while building life skills that will serve them long after their service term is complete.”
This deployment is exciting, particularly for Silver 4, who, prior to this deployment, worked out of the FEMA Region VII office in Kansas City, where they verified financial transactions for Public Assistance projects across the country. The project was informational and office based. Now the team is in the field making site visits, attending Kickoff Meetings, and creating project documentation, called Project Worksheets, in nine different counties.
Green 3’s Holly Gerring welcomes the more detailed look at the PA process that field experience provides. “My favorite part of working in the field is hearing the story of how an applicant responded to a disaster,” said Gerring. “Quite complex problems arise when a disaster hits a large public facility and hearing the problem-solving process is fascinating.”
In their previous deployment to Long Island, N.Y., Green 3 provided support to the FEMA employees who wrote up Project Worksheets; in Missouri, Green 3 Corps members are utilizing their experience to create their own worksheets for projects in four of the 15 counties where the members are serving.
Project Worksheets can be very complex and Green 3’s Jessie Madden enjoys the challenge they present. “I like the process of developing a Project Worksheet,” said the Wisconsin native. “It’s like a jigsaw puzzle that you put together as you get more information.”
In addition to learning from the experience and skillsets of their fellow FEMA employees and supervisors who guide them in the field and in the offices, Corps members offer a fresh perspective on the Public Assistance program including innovative ways to augment the Project Worksheet process.
Jeffers worked with his supervisors in Region II to create maps that correlate damage on a site to GPS tagged pictures. The maps are a way of augmenting situational awareness to, as Jeffers explains, “clarify any confusion about the site damage and to give more perspective to what occurred there.”
With just a few weeks left before graduation, FEMA Corps members are starting to make plans for their life after the program. Some, like Silver 4’s Jessica Kankovsky, are interested in pursuing a career in Emergency Management. Kankovsky is looking into jobs with the American Red Cross or FEMA as a Reports and Communications Specialist. She is also waiting to hear if she has been accepted for a FEMA Corps Team Leader position.
Kankovsky’s teammate, Brian Stephens, wasn’t quite sure what to do after college. While working out of the New Jersey Joint Field Office earlier this year, Stephens met the American Red Cross lead. The Colorado native realized that while a career in Emergency Management might not be for him, he does want to volunteer with his hometown’s Red Cross chapter.
Brendan Dillon of Green 3 had the opportunity to work in the Disaster Field Training Office during his first deployment, creating and conducting trainings. “I was interested in teaching, but did not have the motivation to pursue it,” said Dillon. “FEMA Corps showed me how rewarding it is to help people, giving me the motivation I needed.”
Since FEMA Corps is a new program, the teams take pride in the fact that they have laid a foundation for future FEMA Corps members. Whatever path each member takes upon graduation, the past ten months have brought growth and new experiences that will play an important role in their future career endeavors.
The AmeriCorps National Civilian Community Corps (NCCC) and its FEMA Corps units engage 2,800 young Americans in a full-time, 10-month commitment to service each year. Those interested in applying can go to www.nationalservice.gov/nccc. AmeriCorps NCCC members address critical needs related to natural and other disasters, infrastructure improvement, environmental stewardship and conservation, and urban and rural development; FEMA Corps members are solely dedicated to disaster preparedness, mitigation, response and recovery work. The programs are administered by the Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS). CNCS is the federal agency that engages more than five million Americans in service through its AmeriCorps, Senior Corps, Social Innovation Fund, and Volunteer Generation Fund programs, and leads President's national call to service initiative, United We Serve. For more information, visit NationalService.gov.
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.
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