JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Naval Facilities Engineering Command (NAVFAC) Southeast is forming Contingency Engineering Response Teams (CERTs) in preparation of any damage to Naval facilities in the path of Hurricane Irma.
"Teams returned last week from Naval Air Station (NAS) Kingsville and NAS Corpus Christi after performing damage assessments after Hurricane Harvey made landfall in Texas," said Integrated Product Team Gulf Coast Assistant Operations Officer Cmdr. Anant Patel who is the CERT Officer in Charge.
Just one week later, Patel is preparing several CERTs to be prepared after Hurricane Irma passes through Florida and moves up the east coast of the United States.
"We need to be ready to move out early next week depending on where there may be damage on Naval installations," said Patel. "Organizing the teams this week is a little more challenging as the storm will also come through Jacksonville so we must ensure our volunteers have taken care of their family first before heading out to help others."
The CERTs have Disaster Assessment Teams (DATs) made up of volunteers which consist of structural, electrical, and mechanical engineers, architects, building envelope specialists, and geospatial specialists that deploy to begin Rapid Damage Assessments on board Naval installations after a hurricane of other natural disaster occurs.
"Today, we are putting together several teams to pretty much cover the Florida peninsula, south Georgia and the Bahamas, as we have a small contingency at Andros Island," said Patel.
NAVFAC Southeast is preparing several teams to cover Northern Florida, Southern Florida and the Bahamas. The teams will come from members at the Jacksonville office, as well as PWDs across the southeast region and potentially NAVFAC Southwest and NAVFAC Northwest.
"It is important that we have teams that can deploy at a moments notice and not have the weather impede their ability," said Patel. "That is why we have multiple teams ready from locations outside the Jacksonville area this time with Hurricane Irma heading our way."
Patel explained that after the storm passes, requests for assistance will come in through NAVFAC Southeast Emergency Operations Center and the teams will deploy when and where needed.
The DATs mission is to rapidly assess the base facilities to support restoration of basic functions such as debris removal and reopening roadways, expedient roof repairs, and resumption of sanitation, water, electricity and communications services for the affected installation.
"Our team that just returned from Texas was able to assess all of the facilities on board NAS Corpus Christi within five days," said Patel. "The teams work extremely well together and are no stranger to working in the conditions at the bases after the storm."
Sending engineers around the world is not new to NAVFAC.
Each team member has a unique skill set, deployment experience and ability to be able to respond to emergency situations. NAVFAC and the Seabees are not new to deploying after natural disasters and have a proud tradition of answering the call when disasters happen.
"We always have a trained CERT ready to go at a moment’s notice," said Patel.
Previous CERTs have seen widespread devastation from hurricane damage to locations in Texas after Hurricane Harvey, tornadoes at Marine Corps Logistics Base Albany, Georgia, the earthquake in Haiti and during Hurricanes Katrina, Gustav, and Isaac along the U.S. gulf coast region.
"We deploy at a moments notice to help the installation return to full operations as many of their personnel may have been evacuated or tending to their family and their own property assessments immediately following the storm," said Patel.