Hagerstown resident trains those who lend a hand

November 07, 2005|by JANET HEIM

Editor's note - There are a lot of people you see around town that you recognize, but don't know anything about. People like...

Debbie Evans

Age - 56.

Occupation - Training specialist for FEMA.

Hometown - Hagerstown.

Where would you see Evans? - Evans has been employed with the Federal Emergency Management Agency for more than four years. The Hagerstown native works out of the Emmitsburg, Md., office, but is sent to different locations when her expertise is needed.

"Whatever FEMA needs to be done, we step up to the plate and do it," Evans said.

In September, Evans spent almost three weeks at a FEMA unit in Orlando, Fla., Putting in 12-hour days, six days a week, Evans worked with FEMA employees who were receiving individual assistance training.


This enabled them to work with Hurricane Katrina evacuees who were seeking financial assistance for a variety of reasons, including temporary housing and to make repairs to their own homes.

"We were getting people prepared to go out and do the hard work," Evans said. "It's a massive operation. At the height of training, we were processing 300 people a day."

Evans most recently was deployed for 12 days to the Atlanta mobilization center where she trained community relations specialists who will go into the field to help the disaster victims.

Her first deployment was last year when she traveled to Florida to assist with community relations following Hurricane Frances.

Evans, who majored in art as an undergraduate at University of Maryland, College Park, earned master's degrees from Shippensburg University and Johns Hopkins University and has taken classes at Hagerstown Community College. She worked for 10 years for the Maryland state prison system, then seven years as a contractor with the Patent & Trademark Office in Crystal City, Va.

After Evans' mother died, she took the FEMA job because she wanted to work closer to home. Evans enjoys working for FEMA and values her contribution to helping others.

"I feel it's worthwhile," she said.

Hobbies - In addition to gardening and art, Evans loves her pets. She has a dog and many cats. When she travels for work, she boards her dog at the vet and her brother and sister-in-law take care of the cats.

All of the cats were adopted through The Humane Society of Washington County and most have imperfections that would make them unadoptable. Some first came to her home in need of foster care.

Evans is the unofficial Webmaster for the animal shelter and was helping with postings for cats that are available for adoption. She has since trained someone to do that and is concentrating on the shelter's Web site.

"My pets are family. I know if there was a hurricane or disaster that occurred, I'd be sleeping in my car with my pets," Evans said.

What does Evans like best about Washington County? -"It's a beautiful area of Maryland with wonderful parks and museums. I am sad, however, to see it being overdeveloped," Evans said.

If you know anyone in the community who might make an interesting Our Town feature, contact Janet Heim at 301-733-5131, ext. 2024 or e-mail

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