Buffy served as the Assistant External Affairs Officer for Planning and Products on her second stint for DR-1981. The continuity she was able to provide in this role was extremely beneficial to the overall External Affairs Operation. Buffy did an outstanding job managing a writing team that at times saw frequent turnover, yet managed to maintain a consistent voice in products and message. She did a superb job in mentoring new staff and was able to assign projects to writers in a manner that complemented their abilities and program knowledge. Buffy also got the most from the liaison team that we had in place on this event. Her considerable background allowed her to identify products that might be useful as the disaster moved on and her counsel and advice were beneficial to me as the External Affairs Officer. Products of special note were the newsletter for FEMA housing residents and the Temporary Housing Units technical briefing packets. Buffy’s performance was of high caliber.


FEMA supervisor for Minot flood 2011-12 (DR1981)

Mary “Buffy” Gilfoil did an outstanding job as Assistant External Affairs Officer for Planning & Products during her deployment in Indiana. She came in the first day and hit the ground running. By using her professional knowledge and past experience she developed a strategy to distribute the necessary press releases and advisories in a timely and accurate fashion. She was able to review incoming field reports from Community Relations, the Joint Information Center and other sources to determine the best message to develop and distribute. Her weekly plan helped guide External Affairs in its outreach efforts proving that planning is the key to a successful mission. She was flexible in her actions and worked well within her own group as well as other program areas in the Joint Field Office. She is a good manager and leads by example. She guided her writers and made every deadline placed on her and did so with a smile on her face.


FEMA supervisor, 2012 Indiana tornadoes (DR4085)

I highly recommend Buffy Gilfoil as a writer, reporter, and copy editor … She has written articles on any subject requested of her including historical descriptions of the CAFP, biographical pieces on award winners, topics of interest, and press releases on any topic.

Buffy’s writing sills and copy editing sills are excellent. She completes work in a very timely manner, and meets all deadlines. She is also always very pleasant to work with, and very accommodating of any writing request.

Raquel J. Rosen, MA, CAE

Colorado Academy of Family Physicians, chief executive officer

Buffy was a tremendous asset to the External Affairs team serving the Federal Disaster Recovery Coordination of New York. Because External Affairs support of FDRC is a new area, there were not set job titles or procedures. The skills of a fully qualified Assistant External Affairs Officer for Planning and Products were needed to support operations, and Buffy provided them with ease. She immediately familiarized herself with FDRC operations and objectives and, on her own initiative, developed a draft strategic communications plan for FDRC External Affairs that served as the framework for a final product. She exhibited leadership and coordination skills, introducing others to recovery coordination and helping to mentor a local hire assigned to the group. She also provided expert writing and style guidance to the FDRC planning staff and those assigned to draft the Recovery Support Strategy. Overall a tremendously valuable employee and I look forward to opportunities to work with her in the future.


FEMA supervisor, Hurricane Sandy in New York, 2013 (DR4085)

Buffy deployed to New York at the beginning of February and was assigned as an external affairs liaison to the Federal Disaster Recovery Coordinator. Her attention to detail and knowledge have been instrumental in shaping the reports and documents in the FDRC. She constantly thinks of ways to improve procedures, documents and the messaging strategies of both the FDRC and joint field office. For example, Buffy redesigned a weekly report in such a way that made it shorter and provided more substance. By using a chart in place of a narrative the report not only documented meetings attended by the Recovery Support Functions but also visually shows the collaboration of multiple federal agencies.


FEMA supervisor, Hurricane Sandy in New York, 2013 (DR4085)

Buffy served as program liaison to various recovery support functions and other elements within FDRC (Federal Disaster Recovery Coordination) and served as back-up liaison to FDRC overall. Most of her work involved writing and editing. Her strong writing and editing skills and knowledge of FEMA programs and FDRC made Buffy and asset to P&P (Planning and Products) and EA (External Affairs). She facilitated EA awareness, input and oversight of many products and initiatives for FDRC, including an extensive Recovery Support Strategy and numerous fact packs created for the state to provide to communities on the road to recovery, as well as many other routine FDRC products. She built and maintained good working relationships with her counterparts in FDRC.

Additionally, Buffy drafted an op-ed piece published under the bylines of the federal coordinating officer and federal disaster recovery coordinator. She also drafted a strategic communications plan for recovery in anticipation of the transition of the JFO to a recovery office.

As a seasoned reservist, Buffy helped guide and mentor less experienced team members such as FEMA Corps and local hires. Buffy showed professionalism, attention to detail and accuracy in her work and maintained a good attitude in sometimes stressful situations that often come with working in a disaster recovery environment.


FEMA supervisor, Hurricane Sandy in New York, 2013 (DR4085)

Buffy is one of the best liaisons/writers/editors I have worked with. As liaison to the FDRC (Federal Disaster Recovery Coordination), she accepted an enormous workload of writing and re-writing, editing, and advising on numerous reports and products. Buffy completed all of the work quickly and expertly even when given little time. Her institutional knowledge is extensive and extremely valuable. She exhibited notable leadership and mentoring skills. She works independently with little oversight, is a pleasure to all who work with her, and was universally praised.


FEMA supervisor, Hurricane Sandy in New York, 2014 (DR4085)

Buffy Gilfoil was assigned as a field Public Affairs Officer during her tenure with DR-1603 and DR-1607. She performed all assigned tasks with a high degree of knowledge, skills and abilities. She particularly was effective at discerning response and recovery issues and working with the Joint Field Office Joint Information Center management team to work out strategies to resolve those issues. Ms. Gilfoil especially was valued for her work with the Strike Team concept as a quintessential team player. Ms. Gilfoil is a real asset to the FEMA Public Affairs cadre who added immeasurably to the success of the public affairs mission for DR-1603 and DR-1607.


FEMA supervisor, hurricanes Katrina and Rita in Louisiana, 2005

It’s always a plus to have a research/writing specialist who can serve as a liaison to a program area and is also well versed in the program details. Buffy has a lot of mitigation experience and uses that knowledge in her writing and editing responsibilities. From day one of her deployment, Buffy immersed herself in her liaison duties with the Mitigation unit, developing key relationships and ensuring needed media products were produced on a timely basis. She helped to produce key mitigation fact sheets, an array of mitigation best practices, mitigation outreach schedules, and Hazard Mitigation Grant Program talking points and flyers.


FEMA supervisor, Hurricane Ike in Texas, 2009

Buffy was brought on during the turmoil of DR-1829-ND. This was the biggest disaster to hit North Dakota since the Grand Forks flood and fire of 1997 (DR-1174-ND). With our state and local partners, Region VIII Mitigation had done multiple projects and activities in the Red River Basin and our desire was to convey these successes to the people of North Dakota, as well as other audiences. The idea was to how mitigation works and the return to society the mitigation investment makes.

Although Buffy is an External Affairs disaster assistance employee, because of her past history and involvement with Mitigation, we selected her for this assignment. Buffy did not disappoint us. She started in the Fargo office, researching leads, gathering photographs, working with a videographer. As the stories unfolded in the Red River Basin, Buffy was there to capture them. From drainage projects to large acquisitions, to flood insurance, Buffy gathered the information, contacts, and activities that went along with the largest recorded flood in Fargo’s history. Her notes turned into stories of achievement of the local communications and individuals who live there. Bringing to life how mitigation touched these individuals and their communities easing the recovery process and lessening the impacts to their lives.

Buffy’s writing captures the human side behind the event; the hometown pride that lives in us. This brings the reader in as part of the success story, and leaves them saying, “We could do this in my town.” Buffy did more than write stories; she pursued new avenues to present these Best Practices. With her assistance, Region VIII Best Practices are now on You Tube, Facebook and Twitter. She was also successful in getting several best practices published on FEMA websites, and one of her stories graced the front page.

She was instrumental in developing Region VIII procedures for Best Practices and presented at our bi-annual workshop to our state partners and regional staff. Buffy has moved our Best Practice activities forward from a standstill. Her research and development skills are outstanding. Mitigation projects are generally complicated and diverse, but Buffy was able to capture the essences of these projects in a manner that made them clear and interesting to the general populace. Her background in mitigation I’m sure was helpful, but the real strength lies with her journalistic skills.

We appreciate Buffy’s efforts and would highly recommend her for this type of activity in the future.


FEMA supervisor, DR-1829 North Dakota, 2010

You had good, crisp narrative: interesting anecdotes – good bordello and lobster stories – and lively tales that made me want to read more not less.

Comments by contest judge on “On the Trail of Calamity” | Article