JACKSONVILLE, Fla. (NNS) -- At a time when the United States was dealing with a new paradigm caused by the COVID-19 National Emergency, Naval Facilities Engineering Command (NAVFAC) Southeast Public Works Department (PWD) Panama City has not stopped providing construction and repair work at Naval Support Activity (NSA) Panama City to keep the Navy, Marine Corps and Department of Defense at the ready.
Working under these dynamic conditions is nothing new for the team at NSA Panama City. When the base was devastated by Hurricane Michael in October 2018, their experiences enhanced their ability to adapt to change, which proved to be an invaluable skill during the pandemic.
“One of the many projects affected by COVID-19 is the Mobile Office Complex,” said Ensign Zachary Farman, Construction Manager with PWD Panama City. “The project seeks to create an office complex for over 200 Naval Surface Warfare Center (NSWC) personnel to continue to work while their buildings undergo repair from Hurricane Michael.”
The project includes the installation of 15 doublewide office trailers, utility alterations and civil site work valued at over $5 million.
After the hurricane hit the base, communication within and between groups/commands was severely hindered. This led the team to be better prepared when a similar situation was created because of COVID-19.
“Initially when the instruction for maximized telework was sent out, issues arose with communicating with those who were out of the office,” said Farman. “Normally, several meetings are held throughout the week to discuss the project and with the restrictions set in place by the CDC, in-person meetings were rendered impossible.”
The rapid implementation of digital technologies by NMCI and the Navy alleviated a majority of the communication problems.
“After overcoming the initial learning curve with things like large telephone conferences and Microsoft Teams, we were able to reestablish trajectory for the project with our customer and our contractor partners,” said Farman.
One of the primary ways the team was able to accomplish this was through teleconferences.
“With this project there is constant communication with the customer, contractor and NAVFAC,” said Farman. “We were able to continue these meetings through WEBEX teleconferences/screen sharing to keep everyone up-to-date on schedules and deliverables.”
Another way the team found workarounds was to develop a schedule with the contractor. Taking into account the delays from COVID-19 and input from the customer, NAVFAC and the contractor spent several days over teleconferences to establish a schedule that put the project back on track.
Base access was another major component to construction projects was also affected by COVID-19. The restrictions established unfortunately caused delays with material deliveries and hampered the ability to bring specialized workers onboard the installation.
“Despite these issues, we were able to partner with the contractor to rework the schedule to work around the critical paths for the project,” said Farman. “Through close coordination and communication, the team has put new processes in place that will help elevate problems in the future and has taught us to be better communicators.”
NAVFAC Southeast’s ability to remain flexible and adapt to change is the main driver for their ability to accomplish their mission in spite of COVID-19. Lessons learned from this unprecedented event will undoubtedly influence future operations within NAVFAC and enable them to better provide the mission essential infrastructure necessary to keep our Navy, Marine Corps and Department of Defense team at the tip of the spear.