PEOPLE HELPING PEOPLE
The Federal Emergency Management Agency has always attracted dedicated employees who exemplify the agency’s mission of helping people before, during, and after disasters. The spirit of neighbors helping neighbors is also common in the CNMI and, when you combine the two, you find a long-time Saipan resident and FEMA employee like Karen Buettner.
A 22-year resident of Saipan who was hired last summer as the Situation Unit Leader for FEMA’s COVID-19 response, Buettner’s work was already busy. Her role involves collecting, interpreting, and verifying information about the COVID-19 work being accomplished and needs that require additional effort. Buettner also serves as the planning specialist for FEMA’s COVID-19 team in Guam.
With an ample supply of COVID-19 vaccine and residents interested in being vaccinated, Buettner saw a way to use her skills as a licensed nurse and help accelerate the CNMI’s vaccination efforts. She worked previously for a fertilization clinic and, most recently, at the Commonwealth Healthcare Corp. on Saipan.
Although she was already enrolled in a critical week-long course that is taught on mainland time, Buettner was determined and prepared to take on an additional mission: vaccination duty.
Between juggling planning duties for the CNMI and Guam, delivering a situation report, and fulfilling the day’s training requirements, Buettner has made herself available to vaccinate homebound seniors. Since April 7, she has completed five shifts and vaccinated 22 residents.
“The seniors I have helped were so grateful. One wheelchair-bound gentleman lost his home to [Super] Typhoon Yutu and his temporary home didn’t have a proper ramp. Another senior I visited was confused when I first arrived. With the help of her caregiver, I was able to earn her trust and vaccinate the two of them. Earning trust is a big part of the job and I look forward to my next assignments.” said Buettner.
Buettner has made herself available for up to 20 hours a week, which includes mandatory observation periods following each vaccination.
Buettner is not alone. She is one of dozens of frontline workers filling multiple roles to meet needs and demonstrate the mission of people helping people in the Northern Marianas.
Vaccination efforts in the CNMI continue, with about half of residents 65 or older and 22% of the whole population fully vaccinated. FEMA and federal partners will continue to support the CNMI’s efforts to battle COVID-19.
“We encourage all CNMI residents to get the vaccine and follow measures that keep everyone even safer: watching our distance, including wearing a mask and washing our hands frequently,” reminds Buettner. (PR)