Sister Michael Marie is a FEMA reservist with a small traditional order of the Missionaries of the Sacred Heart of Ohio.

“What did you do before you came to FEMA?”

My answer to this question isn’t as exciting as many of the ones I’ve heard over the nearly four years I’ve been associated with FEMA in some capacity.

I’ve asked that question countless times and I’ve received a vast variety of answers: the film industry, music, other emergency management agencies… The list goes on for what feels like forever. In fact, the nun in the photo above is one of our reservists.

As for me, my pre-FEMA time was spent as a humble college student studying French and international politics. I’d only ever had one actual job, scooping ice cream and selling lottery tickets at my hometown’s hub of activity: the local convenience-store-slash-gas-station-slash-ice-cream-shop.

How do so many diverse people all end up coming together here at FEMA? Something that might help explain it: our reservist program.

Our reservists make up a team of on-call employees who deploy to disasters when called upon to serve. Reservists are often the first employees we call to staff newly opened field offices. These offices open in both big cities and small communities as disasters do not distinguish by the size and scope of populated areas. These staff are deployed for a varied amount of time, commonly 30, 60, or 90 days.

Many of our reservists come to us for various reasons, including but not limited to: a willingness to serve their country, a desire to help disaster survivors, and a new and exciting way to use their existing skills. Some reservists are even disaster survivors themselves, looking to pay forward the kindness and assistance they were given in their own time of need.

Reservists are hired to fill a range of positions. They work with state counterparts to complete damage assessments in communities, putting their fingers on the pulse of what exactly these communities need in order to move forward. They travel door-to-door to register disaster survivors, ensuring that our information and assistance reaches those who may need it. They also conduct interviews with the media, making sure that not only the impacted communities know we are providing assistance, but the general public as well—helping ensure our commitment to transparency and openness.

If that wasn’t enticing enough, the program can help people gain new skills and use their existing ones in new and exciting ways. Some of the reservists I’ve met over my time here started in traditional media, covering topics vastly different from disasters. Working with FEMA provides them a whole new topic, a whole new world to discover.

Some reservists are also hired later as full-time employees here at the agency; it’s a good opportunity to potentially enter into federal service. (The FEMA Corps program also is a good way to do this.)

And I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the best part: being considered a “good-deed-doer.” This was something that I wanted to be from a young age; someone who does things in order to help people. “Philanthropist” is the real term, but like many, I prefer “good-deed-doer.” (I think it’s the alliteration.)

Above all, the passion for our mission is what brings people in and what makes them stay. Helping disaster survivors get through some of the most difficult times in their lives is something that cannot be traded for even the most money in the world. It’s something bigger than yourself, and something that’s worth every hard hour of work.

This program is rewarding, worthwhile, and if you’re looking for a committed team to join, it just might be for you.


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