Severe storms struck the eastern U.S. beginning on Friday. Winds pummelled down trees resulting in the deaths of at least 13 people and power outages for approximately three million residents. Maryland, Virginia, Ohio, West Virginia and the District of Columbia were declared states of emergency. As of July 1st, estimates for power repairs could take up to a week, leaving millions without air conditioning during a domineering heat wave.
According to the University of Florida Cooperative Extension Service, “The extent or the impact of a natural or man-made event can qualify a region of a state to be declared a disaster. The President makes this declaration, and once made, it initiates the efforts of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, known as FEMA”. President Barack Obama did just that for the state of Ohio. According to FEMA in this current case, it was “authorized to identify, mobilize, and provide at its discretion, equipment and resources necessary to alleviate the impacts of the emergency”. FEMA also sent an incident management team to West Virginia to assist its regional homeland security office there.
Generally speaking, FEMA (federal assistance) is called in when a natural disaster, such as a hurricane, flood, earthquake, tornado or a fire, is so severe that its destruction and aftermath exceeds available local and state resources. FEMA has approximately 2,600 personnel that work out of central headquarters (in Washington D.C.) or at the twelve regional or area offices located across the country. An additional 4,000 employees work for FEMA on standby and called into action in the event of a major disaster.
The roles of FEMA focus on response and recovery, but also there is a huge emphasis on planning for future emergencies and even developing procedures to mitigate disasters. The federal agency supplies numerous resources including basic need supplies, technical assistance and in some cases federal grants. The University of Florida Cooperative Extension Service adds, “Response involves mobilizing and positioning emergency equipment; getting people out of danger; providing needed food, water, shelter and medical services; and bringing damaged services and systems back on line”.
A bulk of FEMA’s response and recovery actions are dependent on its disaster assistance employees. According to its career website, these particular individuals should be extremely motivated, work under extreme physical and mental conditions, have the endurance to work long hours and be able to pick sometimes with only 24 hours notice. Working as a disaster assistance employee may help open up the door to a full time position with FEMA, including jobs in security, logistics, mitigation, law, equal rights, planning or public affairs.