Friday, April 16, 2010

Mass. Guard photographers play key role in securing federal disaster relief funds

LITTLETON, Mass. - Industrial pumps transfer thousands of gallons of water per minute from spectacle pond to the opposite side of Route 119 here to alleviate flooding concerns while Massachusetts Department of Transportation employees work to repair damage from a collapsed culvert, April 8, 2010. Littleton emergency response officials borrowed several of the pumps from as far as Michigan and Pennsylvania to supplement the Massachusetts equipment on hand. (U.S. Army photo by Sgt. 1st Class Don Veitch, 65th Press Camp Headquarters)

Story by Army Sgt. 1st Class Don Veitch, 65th Press Camp Headquarters
MILFORD, Mass. – Massachusetts National Guard photographers working with state and federal disaster response officials provided invaluable supporting documentation for the Commonwealth’s formal request for federal emergency funding during the recent flooding in Massachusetts.
Soldiers from the 65th Press Camp Headquarters, 1st Civil Support Team and the Joint Force Headquarters – Public Affairs Office accompanied representatives from the Federal Emergency Management Agency and the Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency during preliminary damage assessment missions and provided photographic documentation of flood damage throughout the hardest hit communities in the Commonwealth.
The photos are intended be used to backup written assessments, said Bill Winn, a project specialist with FEMA. The photos could also be used for planning purposes during repair and mitigation projects, said Winn.
The Soldiers were among the more than 1200 Massachusetts National Guard Soldiers and Airmen called to state-active-duty to help combat the widespread flooding in eastern Massachusetts.
The public affairs Soldiers were assigned an initial task of publicizing the efforts of the units directly involved in the assistance effort. When the waters receded and the majority of Soldiers were deactivated their assignment changed to the preliminary damage assessment missions.
A Mass. Guard photographer accompanied each of the seven damage assessment teams from locations in Tewksbury and Framingham. The teams, led to the hardest hit areas by local emergency response officials, documented the flood damage with written assessments and photographs.
The Massachusetts National Guard also dispatched UH-60 Blackhawk helicopters to conduct aerial reconnaissance and collect damage assessment video as part of the documentation process.
“I have been all over the state surveying flood damage through a lens,” said Pvt. Errold Corbin, of Brockton, a broadcast journalist with the 65th PCH. “It really hits home when it’s going on in your own backyard.”
Corbin and Sgt. 1st Class Steven Tedeschi, of Hull, a public affairs noncommissioned officer with JFHQ-PA, provided the aerial video footage that was presented to President Barrack Obama during his visit to the MEMA headquarters in Framingham, April 1, 2010.
“Having my work viewed by the president on my first mission as a Guardsman really shows the magnitude of our military obligation,” said Corbin. “The reward is to see your work taken seriously by the public and the fellow Soldiers around you.”
“My role was to provide photo and video support for FEMA and MEMA,” said Tedeschi. “These agencies could then submit reports on the disaster stricken communities with a visual documentation of the damages. It gave me a new perspective on what these agencies do to help communities during a disaster and how important they are to our American way of life.”
The president declared Massachusetts a Federal Disaster Area at the request of State officials supported by documentation collected since the beginning of heavy rains, March 12, 2010.
“These Soldiers have, once again, proven the strength of the Massachusetts National Guard lies in the diversity of our units and their unique capabilities,” said Maj. Gen. Joseph C. Carter, The Adjutant General, Massachusetts National Guard. “Our ability to provide mission flexibility under very dynamic circumstances as well as readily available units to respond to the needs of the Commonwealth is possible, in large part, due to these strengths.”
The disaster declaration means individuals and business owners who sustained losses after March 12 as a result of the flooding can begin applying for assistance by contacting FEMA at 1-800-621-3362.
Analysis on damage estimates for a public damage declaration which will enable civic project compensation is expected to be ongoing.