Thursday, December 13, 2012

TSA Making an Impact with FEMA’s Hurricane Recovery Efforts in New York



 TSA Washington/Reagan Supervisor Lisa Caillet in Far Rockaway, NY
 TSA Washington/Reagan Supervisor Lisa Caillet in Far Rockaway, NY
Over  the past five weeks, thousands of New Yorkers have come in contact with more than 700 TSA officers, inspectors and administrative personnel from 200 airports across the country, men and women who have volunteered for a FEMA-led New York humanitarian recovery and assistance effort in the wake of Hurricane Sandy.  But odds are that they never knew it because these TSA employees literally traded in their blue security uniforms, black TSA inspector jackets and TSA badges for a FEMA badge to help residents recover from the devastation of Hurricane Sandy.


These TSA employees are wearing winter coats and wool caps as members of the FEMA Community Relations Teams, going door-to-door in neighborhoods affected by Hurricane Sandy, helping residents sign up for both FEMA and state assistance.  In many cases, these workers returned to check on the status of those applications, and returned again to make “wellness checks” along with members of the National Guard to offer water and food. 


TSA employees also are staffing many of FEMA’s Disaster Recover Centers (DRC) that have been set up in community and recreation centers, schools, and other locations.  At DRC’s, survivors are guided through the recovery process to ensure that they are getting needed aid .  They can also learn about available programs to get heat and electricity restored to their homes and shops – so that their homes can again become inhabitable, and their shops readied for a return to business.


TSA Atlantic City BDO James Weisbecker in Breezy Point, NY
TSA Atlantic City BDO James Weisbecker in Breezy Point, NY
Douglas Estridge, a Master Behavior Detection Officer from Chicago Midway International Airport (MDW), said he was making a follow-up visit to the home of a middle-aged couple and noticed that the husband was leaning awkwardly on the door frame. Shortly before the storm, the man had undergone double-knee surgery but because his car had been flooded,  he had been unable to get to his physical therapy sessions. Esteridge was able to contact his FEMA group leader, and together they arranged transportation for the man to get to his physical therapy appointments.


Mark Siepak, a TSA Officer from Piedmont Triad International Airport (GSO) in Greensboro, N.C.,  said that early in his FEMA deployment, he was speaking with a woman who was living with her elderly mother – with no heat or electricity.. The mother’s feet would turn blue from the cold and the daughter would rub her mother’s feet several times a day to warm them up. Siepak made what he refers to as “an urgent-need call” and while on the phone it was determined that the women were eligible for funds to cover the cost of housing and that the funds would be transferred the same day. 


TSA Charlotte TSO Dwayne Bishop in Staten Island, NY
TSA Charlotte TSO Dwayne Bishop in Staten Island, NY
“If we get one person registered for assistance, we know we are making a difference. We don’t want anybody to slip through the cracks,” explains Vicki Andrews, a TSA Officer from Gulfport-Biloxi International Airport (GPT) in Mississippi, a Hurricane Katrina survivor who knows personally the value of FEMA’s efforts. She was so appreciative of the assistance she and her family and community received post-Katrina that for this disaster, she made the decision to “pay it forward” and came north to help support FEMA’s efforts in New York.


These TSA employees put their lives on hold, packed a bag and waved goodbye to their families because they saw a need to help make a difference in the lives of complete strangers at a time when the need was greatest. They spent Thanksgiving away from loved ones. In the words of FEMA Administrator Craig Fugate – “duty called.”


TSA Amarillo Supervisor Sharon Buckley in Breezy Point, NY.
TSA Amarillo Supervisor Sharon Buckley in Breezy Point, NY.
Like other agencies that fall within the scope of the Department of Homeland Security, TSA employees can volunteer to be members of what is known as the Surge Capacity Force; these volunteers are willing to be deployed to a disaster location to help FEMA with response and recovery support.


Make no mistake, this work is no vacation. Surge Capacity Force members are putting in a minimum of 12- to 14-hour days living on maritime training vessels docked in the waterways of New York, to enable displaced residents to utilize the available hotel rooms. TSA employees are eating in a galley and sleeping in the hulls of ships in large, shared living quarters that feature triple-bunks. “But we are sleeping well knowing that the important work we are doing is making a difference” in improving the lives of their fellow countrymen, says Sharon Buckley, a Supervisory Transportation Security Officer from Rick Husband Amarillo International Airport (AMA).

Guest Blogger Lisa Farbstein 
TSA Public Affairs Spokesperson, New York/New Jersey

If you have a travel related issue or question that needs an immediate answer, you can contact us by clicking here.

33 comments:

RB said...

If TSA has so many excess people that they are not needed at airports for TSA's screening mission seems TSA should be passing out pink slips instead of finding busy work for them.


Anonymous said...

Uh, Lisa? This is just a slight reworking of your December 13 Rockland Times essay: http://www.rocklandtimes.com/2012/12/13/another-side-of-tsa/

How many times are you going to toot your own horn? Can't you just be proud of what you did without constantly trying to get praise and kudos?

Humility is a virtue.

Anonymous said...

Are these TSA employees truly "volunteers", or are they collecting full pay plus travel per diem for this work?

Curtis said...

Great! Let them stay there. In fact, any time you can get any "officers" out of my airport, I fully support it.

Anonymous said...

My wish is for ALL the TSA to be permanently transferred to FEMA!
(or the unemployment line)

Sandra said...

Trying to negate all the recent bad press, Lisa?

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Laura Monteros said...

This is a really nice story. Thanks for sharing it with us. Sometimes, in my annoyance with all TSA regulations, I forget that so many TSA employees are caring folks who give of their time and talents to help those in need.

Anonymous said...

Our very own Jim Weisbecker! Good job Jim! Keep up the good work!

Anonymous said...

Better helping with Sandy recovery than detaining passengers in Dallas.

http://www.myfoxdfw.com/story/20341065/tsa-claims-sick-girl-tests-positive-for-bomb-residue

Anonymous said...

So the thing I take away from this is that TSA has so many surplus employees that they can detach them from doing actual transportation security jobs, farm them out as temps to other government agencies, and nobody flying on a plane will notice their absence.

Seems like a great reason to fire them instead. If these employees are so nonessential to TSA functions, why is the taxpayer still funding their positions?

Anonymous said...

I see the TSA harrassed another sick child in a wheelchair in Dallas. Her hands tested positive for explosives, but there were no explosives present.

As far as I know none of the tests that say explosives are present have ever lead to actual explosives being found. They all seem to falsely identify soap and hand lotions as explosives. Why does the TSA continue to use a test that generates so many false positives? I'm sure it could detect someone carrying on a bomb, but all it seems to be doing is leading to more harrassment of innocent passengers.

Anonymous said...

Another fluff piece, and no mantion of the TSA making a little girl in a wheelchair cry and then letting her go?

http://www.myfoxdfw.com/story/20341065/tsa-claims-sick-girl-tests-positive-for-bomb-residue

She supposedly tested positive for bomb residue, but then was let go with no explanation. Another False positive?

The TSA response? " We are sensitive to the concerns of passengers who were not satisfied with their screening experience and we invite those individuals to provide feedback to TSA through a variety of channels."

Well, I for one AM NOT SATISFIED, and, as a member of the public who pays your salaries through taxes, demand an explanation.

Lydia said...

Although the TSA is a wasteful organization that does very disgusting and offensive things, this is really nice. Thank you.

Anonymous said...

Pull the other one: http://www.myfoxdfw.com/story/20341065/tsa-claims-sick-girl-tests-positive-for-bomb-residue

RB said...

Maybe they should have gone to Dallas so they could have joined in on the abuse of a 12 year old girl.

tsa-claims-sick-girl-tests-positive-for-bomb-residue


If this ETD testing is finding things that aren't dangerous then what good are they?

Seems to be another TSA foul up!

Real First-Responder said...

OK, Lisa, let's set the record straight. My comments come from the perspective of someone very close to the severe weather recovery sector. I'm certain you know all of what I'm about to write. In the interests of transparency, I will attempt to get these facts past you, David, and the other TSA censors.

As you are aware, FEMA, under Craig Fugate, instituted an augmentee program both internally and throughout the massive DHS, of which the TSA is but one agency. Everyone in FEMA, from Craig on down, is subject to deployment. In the rest of DHS, employees can volunteer to augment FEMA in roles formerly given to part-time FEMA employees or state government first responders. I have a sister-in-law who was one such part-time volunteer. This program failed miserably because the part-timers were ill-trained or simply didn't show up. All of this came to a head during Katrina.

As you glorify the screeners in this article, I believe it's important for the American people to understand that they volunteered like every other DHS employee could have volunteered, including you (and Bob and West, for that matter). Why would someone volunteer? Here are some motivations:

1. To get some time off from a boring and miserable day job;

2. To travel at taxpayers' expense;

3. To earn hazard pay and overtime.

I would also note that the screeners' supervisors would have to approve the request. All augmentees are under close and direct supervision of FEMA professionals. Augmentees are given jobs that are administrative in nature and which have no direct contact with first-response professionals. You have obviously put a very different spin on this.

The real recovery after Sandy will take years. I know this will fall on deaf ears, but I will write it anyway: Don't mislead the American public by spinning a story that the TSA workforce is anything special when a few of them took advantage of a program available to any DHS employee -- even you. Perhaps you and Bob will tell us why you DIDN'T volunteer?



Anonymous said...

Come on Bob, please provide some explaination/justification as to why TSA had to be so insensitive to Shelbi Walser as she and her Mother traveled through DFW. Every time I read about another abuse by TSA it seems TSA has fallen to yet another low in human deciency. I wonder just how low TSA can stope in their quest to humiliate the flying public. When are your employees going to learn some common sense and show the appititude to apply that common sense when dealing the citizens of this great county?

Susan Richart said...

Thank you, Real First Responder, for telling the truth and not letting the TSA get away with its usual obfuscation.

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Anonymous said...

Wow! do we have some bitter negative public! Thank you TSA volunteers, and all volunteers that are assisting in Sandy. No, these are not "extra" TSA people, their airports work overtime to cover the volunteers' hours, and at only a few per airport it is do-able. Negative posters, I don't seem to see you out there.

RB said...

Anonymous said...
Wow! do we have some bitter negative public! Thank you TSA volunteers, and all volunteers that are assisting in Sandy. No, these are not "extra" TSA people, their airports work overtime to cover the volunteers' hours, and at only a few per airport it is do-able. Negative posters, I don't seem to see you out there.

December 15, 2012 12:38 PM

..........................
Internal TSA reports have shown that TSA employees have been found standing around and not doing their jobs, engaged in pesonal activities, or other non job related activities. Pretty clear that TSA is overstaffed.

If overstaffing is not the reason these people can be tasked elsewhere then as you tell us others are taking up the slack and the taxpayers are paying for overtime pay when it is not needed.

Either way something is wrong with this use of manpower.

Anonymous said...

Interesting to note that when these people are working for the TSA they can hide their SIDA badges but when it serves your purpose you can post their names, their pictures and identify the airport where they work.

If I were one of them, I'd sure be worried about now being harassed by unhappy passengers.

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Anonymous said...

Thank you Real First Responder for your eye-opening comment!

Having said that, I still think this is a much better use of TSA employees. At least they are not harassing 12-year old disabled girls at the checkpoint, making us all less safe.

Anonymous said...

Real First Responder, thank you for exposing the truth behind Curtis Burns' dishonest spin.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous said...

"Wow! do we have some bitter negative public! Thank you TSA volunteers, and all volunteers that are assisting in Sandy. No, these are not "extra" TSA people, their airports work overtime to cover the volunteers' hours, and at only a few per airport it is do-able. Negative posters, I don't seem to see you out there.

December 15, 2012 12:38 PM"


You "didn't seem to see [us] out there" because we didn't have a government employee spamming Twitter and an official government website with a long, unnecessary post about how incredibly awesome we are.

Real volunteers don't need unending public praise - and usually aren't paid their usual wage plus a per diem on the taxpayer's dime. A warm thanks and maybe a short written mention is a kindess, but not expected.

Mike Toreno said...

"Wow! do we have some bitter negative public! Thank you TSA volunteers, and all volunteers that are assisting in Sandy."

You're not volunteers, you're being paid. And, given the laziness, slovenliness, and general incompetence that prevails among TSA clerks, you're doing nothing but getting in the way and thus obstructing relief efforts.

Instead of going on a junket and collecting per diem to pretend to do a job, why not learn to do your real job so that you allow people traveling to do Sandy relief efforts to get to their destinations without inconvenience?

TSORon said...

Anonymous said...
[[Are these TSA employees truly "volunteers", or are they collecting full pay plus travel per diem for this work?]]

An interesting question there Anonymous. But before I give you an answer lets discuss some background on the concepts involved.

The United States Military boasts that it is an all volunteer force. In other words, every single Soldier, Sailor, Airman, and Marine, lifted their right hand and spoke their oaths. They volunteered. Yet every 2 weeks they also receive a paycheck, COLA, HOLA, and a host of other pay enhancements depending on their current assignment. If I were to follow your reasoning they should not be considered volunteers, right?

The TSA personnel that responded to the call for volunteers for the Sandy storm also raised their hands, spoke the same oath, and then again raised their hands to tell the government that they were willing to leave their homes, kith and kin, so go where they were needed in a time of crisis to assist American Citizens in whatever way they could. And yes, every 2 weeks they also received a paycheck. They worked 16 hour days, lived on board a cargo ship, and like those very same Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen, and Marine’s, they left their families behind to serve the greater good. So yes, they were volunteers in every sense of the word. The lone exception seems to be your understanding of the term.

Wintermute said...

TSORon said...

"The United States Military boasts that it is an all volunteer force. In other words, every single Soldier, Sailor, Airman, and Marine, lifted their right hand and spoke their oaths. They volunteered. Yet every 2 weeks they also receive a paycheck, COLA, HOLA, and a host of other pay enhancements depending on their current assignment."

Not to nitpick (ok... yes, it is a nitpick. I'll admit it...) but has this changed in the past 20 years? When I was in, it was a monthly paycheck. Or you could opt for a bi-monthly... A 2-week paycheck was not an option, though.

Anonymous said...

TSORon,

I have no idea where you're coming from. I, too, served in the all-volunteer military. I made the decision to join the military voluntarily, just like may of my other college classmates volunteered to work for Lockheed, Boeing, or go attend grad school.

As the real first-responder noted in an earlier post, these TSA people signed up for exactly the same augmentee program available to every other DHS employee. Yes, they lived on a ship moored off-shore because the local infrastructure could not support hotels. Every DHS employee was paid per diem in addition to their regular salary.

In contrast, I "volunteered" to travel to the Gulf Coast following Katrina to help rebuild houses. I (and tens of thousands like me) paid my own way and had to take annual leave in order to "volunteer."

So, don't glorify your fellow TSA employees for escaping from their day jobs to make a little more money.

By the way, did YOU volunteer? If not, please tell us why.

Anonymous said...

TSORon, the military receive their pay on the 1st and the 15th of the month, not every two weeks.

TSORon said...

Anonymous said...
TSORon,
[[As the real first-responder noted in an earlier post, these TSA people signed up for exactly the same augmentee program available to every other DHS employee. Yes, they lived on a ship moored off-shore because the local infrastructure could not support hotels. Every DHS employee was paid per diem in addition to their regular salary.]]

Actually Anon, many of them were not a regular part of the Surge Capacity Force. They volunteered for a single deployment for a specific need and specific disaster. True, there are many officers who volunteered for the SCF long before Sandy hit the eastern sea shore, but the larger part of those who went were not previously a part of the SCF. Officers also went to the Katrina disaster area, its where the TSA got the idea for the SCF. No matter the reasons, each officer had their own reason I am sure, each one of them left their families with little notice, assisted a sister federal agency, and assisted their fellow citizens. People, just like you and I. So give them a little respect, they did what so many couldn’t.


[[In contrast, I "volunteered" to travel to the Gulf Coast following Katrina to help rebuild houses. I (and tens of thousands like me) paid my own way and had to take annual leave in order to "volunteer."]]

Congratulations. Are you a better man/woman for it? I have no idea how many TSO’s were down there with you, but I do personally know two of them. You were in good company.

[[So, don't glorify your fellow TSA employees for escaping from their day jobs to make a little more money.

By the way, did YOU volunteer? If not, please tell us why.]]

You assume that more money is the only reason they did it. And you could not be more wrong, their reasons are different for each TSO that went. They deserve all the glory we can give them, most of all because they were citizens helping fellow citizens who needed help. As for if I went, that is really none of your business.

Wintermute said...

TSORon said...

"As for if I went, that is really none of your business. "

Actually, since you're on the government payroll, it is not.

Anonymous said...

No per diem.. however receiving full pay plus overtime.

Anonymous said...

Several TSA officers were deployed by FEMA by mistake as TSA SCF management didn't bother performing a training or "mock" deployment prior to Sandy. FEMA employees called and deployed TSA officers assuming they'd been permission to travel because the officers were listed available in FEMA 's database which in turn forced a last minute change to TSA's database reporting procedure ... which came too late.. leading to officers having to pay for their travel expenses.