Thursday, April 11, 2013

First Week At The NPSC

(Nipsy? Nipsee? Whatever.)

It's the National Processing Service Center either way, dear readers, and Summit 5 (along with Bayou 6 and Summit 6 and some other team I haven't seen yet) is working in it. I've started describing the NPSC to people as the last line of defense for FEMA's version of customer service. If I don't know the answer in the field, I tell you to call the helpline. If an Individual Assistance person doesn't know the answer, go straight to the helpline: 1-800-621-3362. As far as I was concerned for the past eight months, those calls went straight into the luminous aether and were answered by helpful and oddly specific spirits. Now I know better. Like all good myths, this one has a boring real-life explanation: they're answered at one of the three NPSCs around the country (Maryland, Virginia, Texas). That's our home for our last project round unless a disaster intervenes.

There appear to be two main types of calls for us to take: helpline calls, which are what they sound like, and registrations, when a survivor is calling to register with FEMA. The former are more difficult, since they require knowledge of the National Emergency Management Information System (which we've only been trying to gain access to since November) and can be anything from a simple question about FEMA policy to, God forbid, someone who's lost everything in a disaster and wants to end their own life. We're starting on the registration lines because that's quite a bit easier; you really just have to walk through the same form a survivor would fill out on the website and ask them a bunch of questions about it. In fact, almost everyone in our training class (three teams) has already done the equivalent of this at some point, except that was talking to a survivor in person. 

That's our gig for the next couple of months, pending some kind of weather-induced skullduggery elsewhere in the land. Honestly, I've been assuming since Sandy that spring would be the busy season for disasters; tornadoes happen, hurricanes happen, the West wakes up and stretches its shoulders and then catches on fire again, there are freak blizzards and ice jams and who knows what else, so we can dream of being called out to respond to something in our final project round. For now, it's the phones for us (and a commute that starts out in Maryland, passes through West Virginia and ends up in Virginia--it's actually not that long, which is one of the weird things about the Northeast). Accommodations are good at the Extended Stay, food is well-prepared by team chefs, and yeah. I'm headed back to Ohio over the weekend for the third time this spring, this time for an interview in Columbus. Spending today doing R^3 (rest, relaxation and research), then I'm heading out tonight!


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