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September-October 2011

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On the Job: Bruce Holly

Disaster Assistance Employee

Bruce Holly has been a Disaster Assistance Employee (DAE) with FEMA for six years. During that time, he has been on the ground working in disaster recovery efforts across the United States. We caught up with him in early June while he was on deployment in Poplar Bluff, Missouri.

How did you get involved in this work?

I came home one day after Hurricane Ivan had hit the northwest coast of Florida, and [my wife] told me that there was an ad on the radio—FEMA was hiring people. So, I went in and got hired as a temporary employee.

That first deployment was a real eye opener. I had never been in a disaster, thank goodness, and I had never really experienced the scope of damage you can have. When I showed up in Pensacola, Florida, the first thing I saw from the air was the blue tarps on the roofs for a long way. When we got on the ground, there was so little power available, and so many hotels and motels had been damaged that we ended up living in [forest service trailers] for the first couple of weeks. We were working 12-hour days for seven days a week for quite a while. That made an impression on me pretty quick. But that's typical at the beginning of a disaster—you get used to it.

KIMBRA CUTLIP is a freelance writer and former assistant editor for Weatherwise.

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