Friday, August 24, 2012

Big Important FEMA Corps Information Dump

So remember when I said I was moving to Mississippi, but followed it up with “and I’m going to be moving around the South for most of the rest of the time at random”? That part is truer than I thought. Basically,  I’m going to be in Mississippi until September 13th or immediately thereafter. That’s when we pack up and move to Anniston, Alabama, for 15 days of intense training at FEMA’s Center for Domestic Preparedness. After that, we’ll be out on spike anywhere in our 11-state area, wherever we’re needed. (NCCC jargon—“on spike” = “on a project site for an extended period of time”.) Our spikes can be anywhere in Louisiana, the Virginias, the Carolinas, the Gulf Coast (inc. Florida), Kentucky or Tennessee.

Right now, I have no idea where we’ll be going. That’s up to the whims of powerful storms and, no less importantly, our FEMA overlords. By the way, this is still a topic of debate around here, but according to my team leader (TL) we are not FEMA employees, exactly. We are members of Americorps NCCC who happen to be working exclusively for FEMA. But our food money, living stipend, education award, clothes, training, housing, etc. are arranged through NCCC (although we’ll be housed through nonprofits when on spike). In other words, “FEMA Corps” is members of NCCC working for FEMA, not a new entity unto itself. Once we hit dirt, though, we’re FEMA minions through and through.

As FEMA employees, we’re going to be assigned to one of several specialist roles on this coming Wednesday. Us members can state our preferences to a certain extent, but it’s up to the TLs and their evaluations to put you in what they think is your ideal place. Also, all of these positions have acronyms attached to them, because a) the government in general loves acronyms, and b) apparently most of the high-level FEMA officials are ex-military, and DOD is particularly obsessed with ‘em. Beware and prepare.

I've got my eye on a few specialist roles, starting with the Community Relations Specialist (CRS). These guys are the “scouts”, the “boots on the ground” after a disaster; they are the first to visit a recently disastered area and report on the damage to the town and the needs of the disaster-stricken residents. The Voluntary Agency Liason (VAL) works with volunteer and nonprofit organizations, getting them all to work together after disasters (which I would also enjoy). The Individual Assistance Application Services Specialist (IAASS; can you say unfortunate?) is responsible for processing survivors’ legal and personal claims and needs and getting them aid. They’re also involved in responding to Congressional inquiries (there are worse things, and apparently those happen often). Those are the ones I’m really interested in.

Probably next on my personal preference list is the Public Assistance Project Specialist. PAPSes assess infrastructure; is this bridge damaged too badly to be used, can this power plant produce power, etc. They’re also the ones who have to know the law and know what culture- or environment-related laws have to be accounted for during the rescue efforts; nobody wants to run spotted owls over with a forklift if it can be avoided. It’s interesting stuff, and I’d probably be more excited about it if I had any kind of a suitable background (they’re looking for construction, architecture, public administration and so forth). A lot of people here want to be Mass Care Specialists (MCS) because they do the most hands-on work with disaster survivors; this includes medical aid, getting them food and water and reuniting split families, which has to be the most rewarding thing there is. Unfortunately, there’s only one team of those (more on that in a sec) so a lot of people are going to be sad in a few days. Logistics Specialists (LS) set up FEMA offices in disaster areas and are responsible for getting things to the right place and on time; it’s supremely important but doesn’t excite me. Ditto for Logistics Systems Specialists (LSS), which is like the LS but with more time spent punching numbers into computers. Finally, the Reports Specialist is a full-time office job, which sounds profoundly unrewarding.

The catch is that not all these positions are created equal. According to the info I have, we’ll have five teams of CRSes (teams have 8-12 members), five teams of IAASSes, seven PAPSes and one team each of MCS, VAL, LS and LSS. Reports Specialists get only four individuals, so there’s little danger of that assignment (knock on wood). Those 21 teams will be made up of the pieces of our temporary teams, which we’ve been in since getting here. 

There also exist a bunch of NCCC Specialty Roles, not to be confused with FEMA Specialist Roles, because that was the least confusing thing to call both of them. I’ll do a post on those sometime tomorrow. Every FEMA Corps-er will have a minimum of one Specialty and one Specialist role for the duration of the year.

Friends and family—thanks for reading, I’m trying to keep you updated as best I can, but it’s been a crazy week on a number of fronts. If you’ve got comments or questions, leave ‘em below or send me an email or a Facebook comment or something and I’ll address them soon’s I’m able. And in the area of shameless plugs, if you know people who might enjoy the sort of stuff I’m posting or benefit from knowledge of FEMA Corps, please do pass it along. Pageviews boost my ego. *is half kidding*

Until next time!


courtney-2006 said...

Thank you for the information! I'm going to Vinton, IA for FEMACorps and it's nice to read information from Vicksburg members, since we're so in the dark on pretty much everything.

Andy said...

No problem--thanks for reading! I'll do my best to keep being informative.

Anonymous said...

I would also like to thank you for your enjoyably informative post! I've been contemplating FEMA corps and it's nice to hear there is a medical section (I'm an EMT and hoping to pursue a medical career) albeit a small one.

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