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MasterofDisaster's blog: "Life"

created on 06/30/2007  |  http://fubar.com/life/b97183
Hi, Jim - Thanks for your cooperation. Good luck this year. Here is the story, in raw text: Bluffs man plays role in disaster relief TIM JOHNSON Staff Writer "It's nice getting an award and that, but I think the biggest thing is when someone walks up to you in the corner grocery store and thanks you for being there. You know you're helping people." That's the conclusion of James Janicek of Council Bluffs after helping with relief efforts following 12 disasters and receiving a Commander Award for Civilian Service last November. Janicek, a project coordinator/as-built technical manager for the Army Corps of Engineers, Northwest Division, Omaha District, volunteers periodically in response to disasters throughout the country and enjoys the work. He has been part of relief efforts in the wake of floods in California, West Virginia and the Midwest; wildfires in California; and hurricanes in the South and Southeast. "Hurricane Andrew was my first one, and I got kind of hooked," he said. "You get a rush when you're working seven days a week, 10 to 12 hours a day. I spent four months assisting. I thought that volunteering would look good on my record. I was surprised when I found out I really enjoyed helping people and working on disaster duty." Last year, he spent 93 days in Louisiana following Hurricane Katrina. He was one of 120 to 130 Corps members deployed from the Omaha District. That left a lot of extra work for personnel who stayed behind, Janicek noted. "They actually kick in and help, too, when disaster hits," he said. Janicek spent the first 63 days in Slidell, La., just east of New Orleans, and the last 30 days in Lake Charles in the western part of the state. "I have served in many capacities while deployed - everything from quality assurance inspector for debris removal to quality assurance team leader for demolition, " he said. "During my latest assignment, I was a QA supervisor handling over 150 QA inspectors for the blue roof program." The Federal Emergency Management Agency provides the blue roof program through the Corps, Janicek said. The Corps installs plastic sheeting over damaged areas of a home to prevent further damage. "We're teamed with FEMA to do the roofing, water, ice and power deliveries," he said. Quality assurance supervisors help oversee repair and reconstruction work, Janicek said. "We sit down and have meetings with contractors to make sure they're on the same page we are," he said. Workers see some heart-wrenching situations, Janicek said. "Down in Louisiana, one of my inspectors ran across a needy family whose daughter had undergone open-heart surgery, with numerous operations to follow," he said. "Hurricane Katrina badly damaged their home." The girl was on a heart monitor, breathing tube, feeding tube and other medical equipment, Janicek said. "They were in a camper; and, when they turned on all that medical equipment, it blew a fuse," he said. From a relief standpoint, there were complications, Janicek said. "The problem was, the house had a metal roof," he said. "The blue roof program excludes metal roofs. As we pondered a way to help, we secured them a motel room. I called the contractor and told him that I could not in any capacity, except as one human being to another, ask him to put up the blue roof. He did it, however, knowing he would not be paid." The Corps also went beyond its professional responsibilities to help the family, Janicek said. "I and five other Corps personnel took up a collection for the family," he said. "Then, we had a cookout for them at their motel. We took up another collection at Thanksgiving to make sure they had a good one. A few of us even gave them gifts at Christmas. "We still keep track of the family. The little girl just had a brain shunt put in. She got through that. In May, she underwent her second open-heart surgery. Through it all, we were able to get a new FEMA trailer for them. I will always treasure the thank-you card the family gave me afterwards." Janicek is preparing to take on new responsibilities and recently completed a week of training in Mobile, Ala. The Corps wants QA supervisors to also serve as liaisons with local government agencies and explain relief services available through the Corps, he said. As a liaison, he will be deployed more often. "We'll pre-deploy to that county or city EEOC and will ride out the storm at EEOC," he said. "Then we can get to know them and they'll think 'hey, they went through the same thing we did.'" Relief workers must be ready to go within six hours of notification, Janicek said. "In training for these (local government liaisons), they told us they're going to stick to that six-hour rule," he said. "That's why we have our bags packed all the time." Janicek hopes this year's hurricane season is calmer. "My fourth grandchild was born on June 1," the first day of the hurricane season, he said. Still, Janicek is not nervous about it. "I don't want there to be a disaster; but, if there is, I'll be ready to go."
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