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Update from Operation Care and Recovery

Portrait photo of man in FS uniform
Allen Rowley, executive lead for Operation Care and Recovery

This year, the unprecedented impact of wildfires compounded the loss of health or livelihoods in communities affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. So have other kinds of natural disasters, including earthquakes in Puerto Rico, heavy rains and flooding from the Upper Midwest to the Southeast, and one of the busiest tornado seasons ever, along with devastating windstorms in the Upper Midwest. We also had one of the most active hurricane seasons ever, with disastrous storm surges and unprecedented flooding along the Gulf Coast.

Through it all, our own employees have been among the victims. Some have lost homes and all they owned; they have lost offices and work centers, and—worse by far—they have lost neighbors, friends and family. There are no words to describe all that 2020 has thrust upon us.

In response, the Chief and the Executive Leadership Team established Operation Care and Recovery in early September. Operation Care and Recovery now includes our COVID-19 pandemic response under a single executive. We are learning from the structures and successful protocols of the well-run COVID-19 response organization. Operation Care and Recovery also includes a second branch focused on employee care and our natural disaster response, including our Burned Area Emergency Response program.

Since September, we have taken the following actions to jumpstart support to affected employees:

  • Delayed accomplishment reporting for units affected by fires and hurricanes;  
  • Delayed the due dates for several required training sessions on various administrative procedures;
  • Widely disseminated information on how to grant weather and safety leave to employees needing more time to handle personal business, such as insurance claims for property lost or damaged by hurricanes or wildfires; and
  • Authorized subsistence payments for employees evacuated because of wildfires.

The work ahead will include expanding employee support as well as continuing the implementation of short-term recovery actions through the burned area emergency response program and resolving longer term resource management issues. In particular, we will help regions greatly affected by this year’s wildfires work through an enterprise solution that prioritizes the needed fire recovery work. 

Our job now is to care—to care for our own, for the people we serve and for the lands entrusted to our care. As a caring and responsive organization committed to our core values of service and interdependence, the Forest Service is deeply committed to Operation Care and Recovery. We are dedicated to supporting the regions, stations, Job Corp Centers and communities in desperate need of recovery from natural disasters in a pandemic.

Fore more information, please visit the Operation Care and Recovery Website.

Editor’s Note: To submit potential topics for consideration, email your suggestions to FS-Employee Feedback or over at the Leadership Corner Forum (internal link), where you can submit suggestions and share what you're doing to stay healthy and how you're working during the coronavirus. Keep up with the latest status updates about the coronavirus here on Inside the Forest Service or on our intranet site (internal link).