MONTGOMERY, Ala – Within two weeks in early May, Federal Emergency Management Agency’s Disaster Survivor Assistance Teams knocked on 3,000 doors in Alabama’s hardest hit areas to assess survivor needs after the April 28 to May 5 severe storms, tornadoes, straight-line winds and flooding.
In one instance, they were told about a woman with special needs who was unable to register with FEMA. The team visited her residence and registered her on the spot using their government-issued tablet computer.
These teams, totaling 67 FEMA specialists, are tasked with helping survivors by being the eyes and ears on the ground. They assess, inform and report issues to the proper authorities; assist survivors in their own homes or neighborhoods to apply for FEMA grants; guide survivors in the registration process, follow-up on pre- or post-survivor needs; and coordinate with local, tribal and state governments and other partners.
“They have the ability to help people on the spot,” said Albie Lewis, FEMA Federal Coordinating Officer for Alabama. “They serve as a walking Disaster Recovery Center going door-to-door and people have been very receptive to the service.”
FEMA DSA teams are made up of disaster specialists as well as FEMA Corp members, 18- to 24-year olds who for 10 months volunteer their time to FEMA and the emergency management field.
The teams currently are canvassing eight counties that sustained some of the worst damage. They visit homes, businesses, organizations and high-traffic areas providing survivor support and coordinating with officials. The counties include Baldwin, Blunt, DeKalb, Etowah Jefferson, Limestone, Mobile and Tuscaloosa.
DSA specialists, who travel in pairs, are easy to spot – they wear FEMA badges as well as navy blue shirts, jackets and/or hats that say FEMA.