FEMA Moves In
By Jill Draper
It’s move-in time for the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s Region VII as more than 200 employees begin work at their new headquarters—the former DeVry University building on Holmes Road just south of the Red Bridge Shopping Center.
Staff members are arriving on a staggered schedule throughout the week of Jan. 8. They will occupy both the first and second floors of the 56,000-square-foot building, but a portion of the first floor, about 10,000 square feet, remains vacant, says Michael Cappannari, external affairs director for FEMA’s Region VII. He was unsure whether the building’s owner, Kessinger/Hunter & Co., had other plans for the space.
“We’re excited to be part of the community and look forward to exploring all the places within walking distance,” Cappannari says. “Our folks will be checking out all the restaurants in the area.”
The staff has been telecommuting for the last three weeks and that has worked out well, since many took extra time off during the holidays, he says. But even when they’re settled, not everyone will be in the office at the same time. Some will continue to telecommute on certain days and others will be assisting with disaster recovery in Region VII and beyond.
“At one point this fall we had 198 out of 231 staff working in places like Texas, Florida, California and Puerto Rico. The peak season for disasters is usually in October, but this much activity was unusual. It was a complete all-hands-on-deck approach, not just for FEMA, but for other federal agencies, too,” he says.
FEMA operates within the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, and Region VII is one of 10 divisions throughout the nation. It serves the states of Iowa, Kansas, Missouri and Nebraska. To emphasize its Midwestern focus, landscapers placed limestone fence posts made at a quarry in Russell, Kansas, at the front of the building along with native grasses from Kansas and Missouri.
Region VII staff formerly worked at an office building on Ward Parkway above the administrative wing of a hospice center. “We’re happy to be in a new space,” Cappannari says. “You can imagine some of the jokes we heard.”