FEMA Corps and the Future of Emergency Management

By Dr. Audrey Heffron Casserleigh

FEMA Corps member Melissa Ridder helps sort donations made to the survivors of Hurricane Sandy in Union Beach, NJ on Nov. 3, 2012. FEMA Corps teams were deployed to aid the state and residents in the recovery process. (FEMA photo by Liz Roll)

AmeriCorps members are finding careers, bringing new energy to disaster services 

When looking at the emotional phases of a disaster there is an attempt to understand what individual survivors and communities are going through after an event. Time and again we see the greatness of humanity post impact with heroic moments both great and small. 

During the heroic phase we see people opening their homes, helping out neighbors, and performing infinite small kindnesses.  It is during the heroic and honeymoon phases that survivors feel they are not alone, and they have hope for the future.  Unfortunately the realization of the long haul ahead along with the truth of the months or years it will take to recover often leads to disillusionment, and sometimes the loss of that very hope that was so strongly present just days or weeks before.

One of the greatest effects of the FEMA and AmeriCorps partnership is to remind survivors and impacted communities that they are never alone while they rebuild their lives.

One of the greatest effects of the FEMA and AmeriCorps partnership is to remind survivors and impacted communities that they are never alone while they rebuild their lives.  FEMA Corps has harnessed the dedication and enthusiasm of young Americans, training them to work in communities before a disaster hits, and staying long after responder vehicles have left.   

Beyond FEMA Corps training and technical expertise is the symbolism of who FEMA Corps members are. These young adults have chosen to give their time in service to their fellow Americans. They have chosen to be part of a program that is dedicated to making all our lives better.  They have chosen to help communities be stronger both before and after disasters which together create greater resistance to future events. FEMA Corps members bring with them this promise and a tangible reminder that hope is not lost, and what is rebuilt can be better than it was before.

Through this partnership, FEMA and the emergency management field are gaining the attention of young adults as they plan their careers. Many FEMA Corps members have become FEMA employees or have gone to work in other disaster service organizations like the American Red Cross. Some FEMA Corps members have focused their education on emergency and risk management because of their experience in FEMA Corps. FEMA Corps is bringing energy, experience, and helping to build the next generation of emergency management.

Dr. Audrey Heffron Casserleigh is the Director of the Center for Disaster Risk Policy at Florida State University.

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