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Operation Care & Recovery is here to support you

Portrait: Tina Terrell.
Associate Deputy Chief Tina Terrell, National Forest System

This year has been another incredibly difficult year. We are a year-and-a-half into the COVID-19 pandemic that has seen some employees working in isolation while others have navigated the demands of in-person, customer-facing work in conjunction with increased attention to safety needs. We also hit preparedness level 5 at the national level this year the earliest we have in decades. Extreme heat, drought and climate change have strained our firefighting resources to their limits. In August, Hurricane Ida hit Louisiana and worked its way up the coast.

Our wildland firefighters and response personnel have done a fantastic job protecting hundreds of thousands of lives and homes and countless communities. In many areas, however, evacuation has been our only recourse. Extreme fire behavior overwhelmed entire neighborhoods, destroying homes and workplaces and taking dozens of lives.

Many of you offered your time to vaccination efforts throughout the nation, while others continued offering excellent, in-person service to the American people—in visitor centers and district offices, building trails and providing interpretive programs.

We have a legacy of emergency response second to none. In 2005, when Hurricane Katrina devastated the Gulf Coast, we sprang into action, helping people meet their most basic needs for food, water and shelter. In 2021, when they asked for volunteers to staff vaccination sites nationwide, many of you answered the call.

Our job continues to be providing care—not just for the people we serve and the lands we manage, but for the people we serve. Safety is at the heart of everything we do, and it’s one of our highest values, which is why I am reminding you of Operation Care and Recovery: a system-wide approach to supporting the Washington Office, regions, stations, Job Corp Centers and communities in care and recovery from all-hazard events, including fires, hurricanes and the pandemic.

Although Operation Care and Recovery was founded specifically to address the events of 2020, it continues to remain in place to support you. In the summer of 2021, the Chief re-engaged the Operation Care and Recovery Team to assist employees and units in managing thru wildfires and hurricanes in 2021. You can find information about this initiative on our employee resource page.

The Operation Care and Recovery, Natural Disaster Team focuses on:

  • Helping our displaced employees recover by delivering food and shelter and by assisting with personal stress, crisis management and recovery from property loss.
  • Helping our administrative units recover; for example, by restoring a safe work environment, by recovering lost facilities, and by giving advice on a changed program of work.
  • Helping the communities we serve recover; for example, by offering the national forests as a place of refuge or escape from social or personal pressures.
  • Coping with shorter term natural resource impacts; for example, through Burned Area Emergency Response.
  • Meeting needs for longer term recovery through reforestation efforts, changes to forest plans and programs of work, and by laying out a new future for facility locations, management area descriptions and so forth.

The Pandemic Response Team focuses on:

  • Assisting the agency in managing a unified and consistent response to the COVID-19 pandemic, identifying and responding to novel issues as the pandemic evolves.
  • Providing a high level of communication and coordination with the department, the Washington Office, and with regions and stations to ensure timely response to requests for information.
  • Tracking status of COVID response in the agency, including employee COVID cases and facilities status and trends across the nation, advising agency leadership based on those trends and data.
  • Leveraging a focused and deliberate use of agency resources to help maintain operations and mission delivery throughout the course of the pandemic.

As always, our core values will guide our work. Operation Care and Recovery provides an opportunity to showcase who we are, both as individuals and as an organization. We continue to learn together and adjust our organization and approach as situations evolve.

Our agency is made up of the most amazing people who are committed to service, people who shine especially bright in times of extreme adversity. Thank you for everything you do. We are here for you as you are there for others during these trying times.