Ten members of FEMA Corps Summit 5 just completed their tour of service at the Center for Domestic Preparedness (CDP), a first for the team members and for the CDP staff.
“We hosted the FEMA Corps Academy in 2012 and FEMA Corps members supported the [Incident Management Assistance Team] Academy that was held here last year, but this is the first time we’ve actually had FEMA Corps members working as part of the CDP team,” said Rick Dickson, director of Mission Readiness Integration. “I worked with FEMA Corps teams in New York following Hurricane Sandy, so I already knew they were a great asset.”
The team deployed to the CDP for 50 days as the last assignment in their 10-month tour. The team immediately jumped in to support CDP staff in nearly every area of the center’s mission.
“The support we received from [FEMA Corps members] Ashanti Gillespie, Rachael Hoxsie and Arisa Salvino was exactly what we needed when we needed it, said CDP IT project manager, George Smitherman. When the team came on board, the FEMA Student ID Help Desk was receiving a substantial increase in calls and emails requesting assistance. Help Desk specialist Shayla Simmons spent a few hours training Gillespie, Hoxsie and Salvino. “They were a great asset and blessing to me,” Simmons said. “They never complained and they were one step ahead of me sometimes.” Because of their assistance, the Help Desk saw an immediate improvement in their response time and backlog. “They definitely made a positive impact on our help desk operations…to the point I wish their assignment lasted longer,” Smitherman added.
Other team members were as helpful in other directorates. FEMA Corps members Faith Palmreuter and Emily Davis helped develop and execute the scenario for one of the CDP’s multi-course Integrated Capstone Events (ICE). They also helped to compile and edit the after action reviews for five of the ICEs. In fact, the entire team got involved in the ICE events as role players, taking on the parts of survivors, family members of survivors, reporters and even suspected criminals, according to Mallory Lowe, ICE developer.
In the CDP External Affairs Office, FEMA Corps member Marcos Martinez quickly became a jack of all trades. Among the many projects Martinez took on in the EA office, Martinez scanned in and documented more than 5,000 photos to build the CDP’s photo archive. He also updated the CDP’s extensive media list and built a news story database that archives and documents every external news story about the CDP from print publications. In doing so, he took the External Affairs a step closer to a paperless office and created a searchable database for the EA team.
“The Peace Corps is two years. This is one year and it’s domestic,” said Martinez, age 25. “So, I figured it’s the best way to give back to communities within the states.”
Martinez, a native of Edinburg, Texas, is majoring in Communications and plans to continue his studies in order to teach English as a second language. But Martinez has decided to continue his public service career at least for another year as a part of another AmeriCorps program, Vista. “I’ve discovered a Vista program that deals with poverty in the area where I’m from. To continue doing something like this would make me feel fulfilled,” Martinez said.
“Marcos was such a help to us in External Affairs,” said Wendi Feazell, the CDP protocol officer. “He jumped right in and when he finished one project, he’d go looking for another project to work on. We really wish he didn’t have to leave.”
In CDP Asset Management, FEMA Corps member, Jeanne Kelley helped with inventory and issuing equipment. But, her major achievement, the legacy she leaves behind is the Excel spreadsheet she developed. The spreadsheet comes complete with pivot tables and drop-down menus that will automatically keep an up-to-date total of property disposal transactions, government purchase card transactions and information on the CDP’s government vehicles.
“Jeanne did a great job for us,” said Dave Grooms, lead for CDP Asset Management. “The spreadsheet she developed helped us to streamline a lot of processes and information. Now, whenever we get a data call, we can just go right to that spreadsheet and instantly access that information.”
Working at the CDP gave the FEMA Corps team an opportunity to see a different aspect of the FEMA mission, Dickson said. “At the CDP, we are training state, local and tribal emergency responders to make their communities more resilient. Our training is very hands-on. All of the Summit 5 team members jumped right in. Not only did they get to see the training, they supported the training and got to be a part of the training.
“All of the CDP staff was so impressed with the team. Here are young people who have committed to public service,” Dickson said. “I really appreciate their energy and the new perspective they bring to projects.”
During their 10-month tour, Summit 5 worked at FEMA Headquarters in Washington D.C. and at FEMA Region IV in Atlanta before deploying to Anniston to work at the CDP. While in Anniston, the team joined the CDP staff for the Family Day cookout, attended festivals in Anniston and a couple of the members even took in a NASCAR race at the nearby Talladega Superspeedway.
“The 10-month commitment is pretty hard, but it’s definitely worth it in the end,” said Kelley, a native of Pierre, S.D. Kelley said that the college money she earned while working with FEMA Corps is a nice bonus. And, as a result of her experience with FEMA Corps, the 19-year-old is now considering a career in emergency management. “[Through FEMA Corps] you get a great travel experience and it’s a great way to see what your options are.”