By AndrewA KornackiAugust 17, 2018
We were four hours into a 12-hour work day, driving through the winding mountain back roads of Puerto Rico. My knuckles were white and I wondered if I would lose the cup of coffee and quesito I ate when we set out that morning.
As a public affairs officer with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Task Force Recovery, the best part of my job is experiencing all of the Corps of Engineers recovery missions on the island. But the day spent with a Temporary Emergency Power Quality Assurance (QA) specialist inspecting generators tested my mental fortitude.
The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) assigned the Corps of Engineers the Temporary Emergency Power Mission in response to hurricanes Irma and Maria about one year ago. Since then, Temporary Emergency Power Planning and Response Teams have assisted with assessments, maintenance, and generator installations at critical facilities, including, but not limited to: hospitals, wastewater treatment plants, water purification facilities, fire and police stations.
These teams installed generators at more than 1,300 critical facilities, in addition to the installation of nine small power plants, or micro grids, providing temporary power to communities while grid power is restored. Previously, the most generators installed occurred during Hurricane Katrina (approximately 310). Corps of Engineers employees from Pittsburgh, Tulsa, Memphis, Walla Walla, Honolulu, Albuquerque, and Savannah districts completed 45-day rotations during this monumental effort.
On this particular day, I had the pleasure of shadowing Pittsburgh District QA Specialist Michael Caldwell. He was responsible for driving to and inspecting 26 of the approximately 130 remaining installed generators, and ensuring they were properly serviced. A task I thought was simple, but proved to be very challenging.
The single-lane roads through the mountains took more twists and turns than a maze. The long 12-hour day seemed to never end. Amazingly, the QAs on this mission conduct these routes seven days a week, ensuring the generators continue to operate for the people of Puerto Rico, and they have done an amazing job.
Later that night, while sipping water and recovering from my rollercoaster of a ride, I tried to wrap my mind around the massive effort that this mission has taken. From the stories I heard in the car that day, I could only surmise that Michael's resolve and commitment are core values of all the Temporary Power Team members; and I am sure are the underlying values that have led to such a successful mission.
With only about 130 generators still installed, and three micro grids remaining in operation: Arecibo, Culebra and Vieques, the Temporary Power team continues to accomplish the mission and FINISH STRONG!