Monday, October 1, 2012

First Impressions From Atlanta!

There were some teams that went to Virginia, a two-day trip from Anniston, AL. Some went to Pennsylvania, others to Mississippi, others on still longer and more exhausting road trips. And then there's my team, Summit 5, along with Summit 4 and Ocean 7. We were placed in Atlanta, an easy-peasy two-hour drive from northeastern Alabama. Cue the victory dances. 
Of course, we're going to pay for our insubordinately short journey in daily traffic costs; Atlanta traffic is apparently some of the worst in the U.S., and it shows. A commute that lasted an hour and a half on the way to work this morning took maybe twenty minutes on the return journey (we left well ahead of rush hour). 

Anyway, as I should have begun this post, we've arrived! FEMA Corps is currently lodged in an extended stay motel in Atlanta outskirt Suwanee, GA. We're five to a room and two to a bed. This has inspired some wacky behavior from my new suitemates, which shall remain unblogged-about (hello FEMA overlords!). Food is being bought, rudimentary meals cooked and far-too-early alarms set. A rather severe rainstorm and tornado watch inspired John and I to scout out potential tornado shelters--our best bet is the rather nicer hotel next door--but it appears to have literally blown over. (The foul weather, not the hotel.) The storm did provide some magnificent views, though; he nice thing about motels with doors on the outside of the building is that the walkway between rooms is essentially a gigantic front porch. It also was sheltered (mostly) from the rain, which was gusting so heavily it looked like it was snowing.

Moving on. Today was also the first day of work at the Region 4 Regional Coordination Center (RRCC), where Summits 4 and 5 will be for the foreseeable future. Both Community Relations (S4, S5) and Individual Assistance (O7) are designed to go into action immediately or pretty soon after a disaster; if there are no disasters out there, work is scarce. We can't go to work in the aftermath of Hurricane Isaac like several Public Assistance teams are doing, because that was a month ago and there's nothing for us to do. So until something happens, the two CR teams will be working in CR's parent branch, External Affairs (which I've dubbed "XF"). 

Specific jobs have yet to be handed out, but the options include liaising with state and local governments, liaising with Indian tribes, working with the media and handling Congressional inquiries. Needless to say, all of those options sound ABSOLUTELY FANTASTIC to me and if I end up with one of them I will be overjoyed. (There are really no bad options, but those ones happen to line up with my interests, so yeah.) Also, one of the Public Affairs Specialists is a terrible punster after my own heart; he punned "Seminole" with "seminal" in a staff meeting today and my heart fluttered like a trapped bird.

We haven't had much of a chance to explore the RRCC, but it looks appropriately official and governmental. I had several good conversations with FEMA permanent staff throughout the day, including a discussion on FEMA's contingency plans for nuclear accidents, another about Native American tribal sovereignty in Region 4 and a random encounter in the breakroom with a Geographic Information Systems specialist. I also ran into the Department of Defense liaison in the elevator (recognized him from the organization chart from earlier in the day) and had a brief conversation with him; apparently he's an Army colonel. The staff are friendly, my immediate boss seems nice and everyone's willing to talk. I think I'm going to like it here.


nelsoncooper said...

I'm a former TL for the Pacific Region Class XVI and just spent the last 1.5 hours reading over all your FEMA corps related posts. You make me want to sign back up and join you in the field. Keep up the good work and I look forward to future updates.

Andy said...

Thanks for the kind words, and for reading as well (didn't mean to keep you up late)! It's been busy around here of late, this being our first work week, but I should have a FEMA Corps-related post up tomorrow or the next day.

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