Dealing with Disaster - FEMA Hardships Described

1 decade 10 months 2 weeks ago November 10, 2005 Nov 10, 2005 Thursday, November 10 2005 Thursday, November 10, 2005 8:47:31 AM CST in News

The focus is on FEMA, the federal agency that was criticized for moving too slowly in New Orleans. Surprisingly, there could be a FEMA employee living in your neighborhood, and you wouldn't even know it.

Maybe you'll recognize a name or two?

There's no other way to describe New Orleans; it's hot it's humid and it's not a whole lot of fun. I think it's a genuine desire to help people to feel like you're part of the solution.

There's a mechanic from Hallsville...

There's a musician and artist from Rocheport...

There's a Columbia firefighter and a mom...

"I'm a mom and  I have 3 children what do they think of mom? They think she's awesome. Awesome and collecting a federal paycheck," commented Cathy Schiltz of the Missouri Task Force. "It's not the paycheck. We do so much training and this is the only time we get paid when we get deployed most of us would do it for nothing."

Doug Westhoff the Missouri Task Force leader in charge of the rescue team said, "We are temporary federal workers. Ultimately my job is to get them down here allow them to get in the work process."

There's an old saying don't quit your day job it's meant to be funny but in a situation like this it's far from it when it comes to the rescue workers who came here from Missouri their backgrounds might surprise you.

Yea when we get deployed we're a federal employee and in mid-Missouri

"No I'm not a federal employee I'm a company owner," said Ted Kettlewell of the Missouri Task Force.

But on this day, Ted Kettlewell is going door to door in a flooded New Orleans neighborhood.

"These uniforms get absolutely filthy they have to go through a complete decontamination cycle it's not glamorous," said Kettlewell.

Glamorous or not, Kettlewell is a group leader of this urban and search rescue team, also known as the Missouri Task Force-One.

Everything is a task force these days a lot of people hear it so much they don't know what they are and what they do. They don't fight crime.

"There are drug task forces and meth task force and we have nothing to do with that," said Missouri Task Forcer Keith Keller of Hallsville.

They're just everyday Mid-Missourians.

"I talked to my wife last night in Missouri some life moments but this is worth it; this is what we're trained for," said Mark Montgomery of Columbia.

Training one weekend a month, and not getting paid.

Walt Goodman of Rocheport said, "I do this as a volunteer; I guess they're paying us but I'd do it in a heartbeat."

And they went to New Orleans in a heartbeat.

Eric Jenkins is a FEMA boss in Kansas City. He says hiring temporary workers for emergencies makes sense..

"It's not rocket science a lot of it is just using common sense," said Jenkins

Each morning they get bandages for their blisters.

Paul Harris of Columbia said, "These guys and these boots and the working conditions; the muck they're working or just sweat intense labor these guys are working in it drains down in their boots. They're good boots but they only protect you from so much."

So much devastation. This is what temporary FEMA employees are trained to do. A lot of times people ask how can you do that you don't think about it you don't think how bad it is.

FEMA pays $25 an hour or more to the task force members. The Boone County Fire Protection District founded the task force back in 1996. It's made-up of 186 members. The group has been deployed six times.

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