In the aftermath of the 2013 Colorado floods, FEMA and other agencies brought in personnel from all over the country to assist. At the other end of the spectrum were 54 local residents that FEMA hired to support response and recovery efforts. Following a disaster declaration, FEMA frequently hires local residents to work in various positions, augmenting existing staff. By hiring locals, the agency gets a unique perspective and critical local knowledge. Madison Taylor, Philip Holmes and Colleen Cunningham are three such local hires that were hired for the Colorado floods late last year.
Holmes was hired in December 2013 as a Recovery Support Function (RSF) Specialist, assisting in the Community Planning and Capability Building (CPCB) RSF. In short, he helps support and build recovery capacities and coordinates community planning resources of local, county and state governments affected by the last year’s floods. Where there is a recovery need identified or gap in resources, CPCB finds a group, person or organization to help fill that gap or address that need.
“I was part of a team that helped the State connect with organizations such as AmeriCorps, a national volunteer organization who provides assistance to communities in need, to assist Colorado businesses who needed help in writing grants,” said Holmes.
When Holmes and other members of CPCB along with Colorado’s Department of Local Affairs determined that many small business owners needed help in writing grants to get some funding for their business, his team supported the State in putting together a funding workshop to link volunteers, non-profits and other organizations to assist with grant writing and submission. The AmeriCorps volunteers addressed these issues and came to their aid.
“I work to assist with preparedness efforts of the State of Colorado and communities for disaster recovery before a disaster, as well as tools and resources for planning, managing and implementing recovery post-disaster,” said Holmes, who has lived in Colorado Springs for six years. He is a retired Army military police officer with more than 20 years of service and drives to Denver every day to work at FEMA’s Colorado Recovery Coordination Center, based in Lakewood.
Taylor was hired in November 2013 as a Public Assistance Reports Specialist. Some may describe this job as mind numbing, but she loves what she does, based on her bachelor’s degree in statistics. “I am in charge of tracking all the grants/projects and pull together any information (e.g. numbers) that may be needed for reports on the Public Assistance Program,” said Taylor.
Currently, she is tracking the status of an estimated 1,200 grants for the September2013 Colorado floods. The status of grants is continually tracked throughout the disaster for management and budgetary purposes. Taylor started with FEMA about 18 months ago when she signed up to participate in FEMA Corps, a program supported through AmeriCorps National Civilian Community Corps, which recruits young adults 18-24 to assist FEMA during disasters with recovery efforts. After completing her 10-months with FEMA Corp, Madison was hired on as a local hire because of her knowledge in the field of Public Assistance and her experience with FEMA Corps.
Cunningham holds a position that is integral to the rebuilding of communities after disasters. She works as an Environmental and Historical Prevention Specialist, where she works hand-in-hand with the cities, counties and states to make sure they are aware of any environmental impacts to the ecosystem in that area when rebuilding or building at new sites.
“I make sure that FEMA, the State of Colorado and the applicant comply with federal regulations to protect the fish, wildlife and vegetation during the disaster recovery process,” said Cunningham. “There are other local staff members that monitor the regulations for historical buildings and land.” She has lived in Golden/Denver for three and has worked in the field of environmental protection for 13 years.
By hiring locals, this is one of many ways that FEMA gives back to the communities where there has been destruction, and for FEMA to follow through on its commitment to support citizens in need.