By Ms. Debra Valine (USACE)April 23, 2013
Six members of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Engineering and Support Center Huntsville's Housing Planning and Response Team recently completed Level 2 Certification training, making them eligible to support the Federal Emergency Management Agency in response to a disaster.
Garry Runyans, Engineering Directorate; Blaine Guidry, ED; Jason Adams, Installation Support and Programs Management Directorate; Larry McIntosh, ED; Raul Alonso, Chemical Demilitarization Directorate; and Ric Hines, Environmental and Munitions Center of Expertise traveled to Suffolk, Va., for the four-day course April 2-5.
The training included classroom training as well as field exercises at multiple locations that the State of Virginia is considering for development of temporary community sites to have prepared prior to a major event occurring.
"This training enhances Goal #1 of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Campaign Plan and ensures that USACE has a professionally credentialed contingency work force that is trained and ready to plan and execute all specified contingency missions to the highest performance standards both domestically and overseas," said Jeffrey Davis, Huntsville Center's HPRT coordinator.
The Huntsville team is one of six in USACE trained to support FEMA with temporary housing and/or critical public facilities following a natural disaster. Other USACE organizations with an HPRT are Huntington District, St. Paul District, New York District, Jacksonville District and Los Angeles District.
Huntsville's team responded in September 2011 to support flood recovery in Pennsylvania when the Susquehanna River overflowed following Tropical Storm Lee. The team refurbished an existing mobile home park near Scranton, Pa., and extended existing mobile home parks near Bloomsburg, Pa., by constructing multiple new temporary housing unit placement pads at the Stony Brook and Country Terrace mobile home parks.
"The training helps the team gain better insight into what is expected of them in each of the critical positions on the Housing PRT," said Adams, who has deployed multiple times: to New Orleans in 2006 following Hurricane Katrina; in 2011 to Birmingham, Ala., following the tornado outbreak April 27; and later in 2011 to Pennsylvania following Tropical Storm Lee.
Of the team members attending the training, Adams isn't the only one with multiple deployments under his belt. Hines, Runyans and Alonso deployed to support Hurricane Katrina; Runyans and Alonso supported Alabama tornado recovery; Alonso also supported Tropical Storm Lee; and Hines supported Hurricane Ike in Austin and Galveston, Texas. McIntosh has also deployed several times.
"The training helped identify some strengths and weaknesses on the team and will help us improve our ability to respond to future missions when we are called upon," Adams said. "For the ones that have never deployed on a housing mission, the training provided them an opportunity to start seeing some of the requirements that they have to keep in mind during the early steps of the mission. Each mission is different, and you have to pull in the knowledge of previous deployments and other teams to help you respond quickly to the needs and requirements that FEMA may place on the team. The time frames for responding to the requirements are typically very short and require strategic thinking and knowledge of residential requirements for temporary housing."
The training brought together experts supporting USACE district PRTs, subject matter experts, temporary housing/critical public facilities specialists, FEMA and other agencies, as required, in an on-site collaborative environment for an exchange of lessons learned and processes for improvement to disaster planning, response and recovery relating to the temporary housing and critical public facilities missions.
"Boots on the ground is the only true way to learn/develop for these types of missions," Hines said. "Each event differs considerably, but they all are very rewarding, while helping those affected."
The HPRT provides temporary housing for disaster victims and/or temporary facilities for critical public facilities as directed by FEMA. The core team comprises 16 positions. Missions may consist of any or all of the following:
a. Temporary housing unit placement at individual sites
b. Temporary housing unit placement at commercial parks
c. Emergency group sites
d. Design/build temporary housing group sites.
e. Technical assistance to FEMA Individual Assistance Technical Assistance Contracts
f. Critical public facilities
"To me the emergency operation teams are the true face of the Corps," Adams said. "These teams routinely interact with the public and individuals that have been affected by these events. It's very rewarding as a Corps employee to see these missions help those in need."
Davis, who also coordinates overseas deployments and the Family Readiness Network, is actively recruiting new team members in all positions: action officer, mission manager, mission specialist, sanitary engineer, electrical engineer, contract specialist, quality assurance supervisor, quality assurance inspector, cost estimator, resident engineer, database manager, National Environment Policy Act compliance specialist, site engineer, area engineer, administrative assistant and a graphic information specialist/computer-aided design and drafting specialist.