By Sue Brink, Naval Facilities Engineering Command Southeast Public Affairs Office
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. (NNS) -- Members of the Naval Facilities Engineering Command (NAVFAC) Southeast Regional Call Center (RCC) returned home Oct. 9, after spending four days at Naval Air Station (NAS) Pensacola, Florida.
The team relocated to keep the center operational as Hurricane Matthew was expected to impact the Jacksonville, Florida area.
The RCC is a 24-hour-a-day, 7-day-a-week operation that supports over 16 naval installations located throughout the southeastern United States centralizing the unplanned facilities maintenance work reception process. It also provides after-hours service for Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam, Hawaii.
"We can't just shut down due to weather, even when a hurricane is bearing down on our primary operating location aboard NAS Jacksonville, Florida," said NAVFAC Southeast RCC Supervisor and Program Manager Kevin Dow.
When posed with the question of whether to move the operation, that is exactly what NAVFAC Southeast did. Personnel relocated the RCC and enough staff to man the operation due to Hurricane Matthew's threat to the Jacksonville area.
Approximately 48 hours before Hurricane Matthew was projected to impact NAS Jacksonville as a Category 3 storm, the decision was made to execute the RCC's Continuity of Operations (COOP) plan. That plan entailed relocating the RCC to NAS Pensacola.
"The RCC's COOP plan was established in 2012 when we initially stood up the RCC as a centralized operation," explained Dow, who deployed with the team. "The COOP calls for the RCC to relocate full operations to NAS Pensacola during emergency events that prevent the RCC from maintaining continuous operations aboard NAS Jacksonville."
Dow explained NAS Pensacola was considered to be a prime location to relocate the RCC because there are existing facilities available, it's within a reasonable driving distance from Jacksonville, and it is not likely for a single weather event to impact NAS Pensacola and NAS Jacksonville at the same time.
"We started the initial planning to relocate operations about four days before Hurricane Matthew was forecasted to hit Jacksonville," said Dow. "Initial planning included picking the team that would deploy, communicating with the PWD (Public Works Department) Pensacola support personnel, submitting travel orders and modifying the RCC shift work schedule. Wednesday afternoon, October 5, we made the decision to relocate the RCC."
By Thursday morning, Oct. 6, 11 RCC team members headed to NAS Pensacola while 12 team members stayed back in Jacksonville to maintain call center coverage and support during the transition of the phone lines to and from Pensacola.
Upon the team's arrival, the deployed RCC team and NAS Pensacola PWD personnel went right to work. They hooked up laptops, gained access to the network, and tested the phone lines.
"When the COOP plan was designed, PWD Pensacola designated a temporary space set-up with eight workstations and telephone hook-ups," said Dow. "So everything was in place for the team when we arrived."
"The transition was absolutely seamless," said RCC Senior Call Center Agent Mark Riffle. "The Pensacola team was very hospitable and showed a sense of urgency to assist us in getting the space setup and operational. They were a remarkable group of professionals."
By 5 p.m., the decision was made to route all calls through the temporary call center in Pensacola, and for the first time since the stand-up in 2012 the RCC was not operating out of NAS Jacksonville.
For the next 48 hours, the 11 deployed RCC team members worked tirelessly to provide continuous coverage and support for all 16 installations, working incredibly long hours. The team processed more than 60 emergency facility maintenance calls and countless routine emails from the temporary RCC location.
"Our RCC team members could not have performed better," said Dow. "They put their best foot forward and showed what lengths they will go to support our customers."
Saturday morning, Oct. 8, after the hurricane passed by Jacksonville, the RCC was given the all-clear to relocate back to NAS Jacksonville and the transition back to Jacksonville began.
"The RCC team members who stayed in Jacksonville were on standby, ready to jump into action at a moment's notice," said Dow. "By 11 a.m. Saturday, five RCC team members arrived aboard NAS Jacksonville to take back RCC operations, and by 1 p.m. the RCC phone line was routed back to NAS Jacksonville and COOP operations in Pensacola ended."
"The RCC relocation and operation in NAS Pensacola was a huge success; this was a well thought out plan," said Riffle about the COOP. "It was a full team effort with many critical components including the RCC team that deployed to Pensacola, the PWD Pensacola team that provided support, and the RCC team that stayed back in Jacksonville."
"Operationally, the RCC shutdown in Jacksonville and restart processes were executed exceptionally well by the team that remained on site during Hurricane Matthew," said RCC Lead Program Analyst Mary Duckworth, who remained in Jacksonville to manage the transfer of phone lines to Pensacola and then back to Jacksonville. "It could not have gone better."
The COOP relocation was a first for the team.
"We had never actually executed the COOP," said RCC Management Assistant Jimi Smith. "The entire team, at Jacksonville and Pensacola, assembled together and it worked beautifully. The PWD Pensacola personnel jumped in and could not have made us feel more welcome, and in doing so allowed us to operate effortlessly. Without the combined efforts our customers would have suffered. It is times like this where we all get to see the best in humanity."