In addition to the 1,500 FEMA personnel along the East Coast, “28 teams comprised of 294 FEMA Corps members are pre-staged to support Sandy,” the statement said.
“Three federal urban search and rescue task forces are positioned in the Mid-Atlantic and ready to deploy as needed and requested. An additional four federal search and rescue task forces in the Mid-west have been placed on alert and are ready for deployment, as requested and needed. 14 Incident Management Assistance Teams and 12 liaison officers are positioned in potentially affected states along the East Coast to support preparedness activities and ensure there are no unmet needs. Mobile Emergency Response Support (MERS) personnel and teams have been deployed to support the states with secure and non-secure voice, video, and information services, operations, and logistics support to state response operations as well as with any potential requests for assistance. FEMA disability integration advisors are also deployed to advise emergency management on alert and warning, evacuation, and sheltering needs.”
Autrey went to Mississippi for 90 days following Katrina, leaving his daughter in the care of relatives. He worked as a community relations specialist rather than a number-cruncher in a 9-to-5 bureaucracy.
It was not easy.
“During that time it was hard to get a haircut,” he recalled. “We were working around the clock” with 12-, 14- and 16-hour days. Based in Jackson, Miss., Autrey often drove two hours each way to provide services in Hattiesburg, Miss. When he was working in Laurel, Miss., “I got to be known as the FEMA man,” he said.
Community relations specialists go into affected communities, “talking to the disaster survivors, house by house in that neighborhood, that’s how we do,” Autrey explained, “and finding out what type of needs in terms of federal assistance they are seeking.”
That’s the kind of work FEMA employees are doing today.
Previous columns by Joe Davidson are available at wapo.st/JoeDavidson.