By Sue Brink, NAVFAC Southeast Public Affairs Office
Jacksonville, Fl. (NNS) -- Naval Facilities Engineering Command (NAVFAC) Southeast dispatched the first of a 17 person Contingency Engineering Response Team (CERT) today to Naval Air Station (NAS) Key West from NAS Jacksonville. The rest of the team will fly down Wednesday, Sept. 13 on a separate flight.
The first team will arrive later this afternoon. They are on a direct military flight from NAS Jacksonville to NAS Key West.
"We are headed to Key West today to assess damage that has occurred at NAS Key West," said Lt. Cmdr. Sean Gorman CERT Officer in Charge and the incoming Public Works Office for NAS Key West. "We will be working first to set up an emergency operations center for the team and immediately deploying teams to assess critical facilities."
The CERT will evaluate facilities on base that received damage from Hurricane Irma as it passed through the Key West Sunday morning, Sept. 10.
There will be three Disaster Assessment Teams (DATs) on the CERT which consist of structural, electrical, and mechanical engineers, architects, roofing specialists, community planners and construction contract specialists that deploy to begin Rapid Damage Assessments.
"It is during this initial phase that damage is rapidly assessed 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," said NAVFAC Southeast Disaster Preparedness Officer Lt. Cmdr. Ryan Thrun.
First time DAT member Evan Echlin, NAVFAC Southeast GIS analyst stated, "Deploying with this team is a great opportunity. It is important that we ensure the team has the right maps for an operation like this because quick damage assessment is important. Every time we do this, we can learn from the experience and make improvements."
Some of the standard products produced by the GIS team include storm surge maps, flood maps, and facilities index maps so the teams will be able to see where every building on the base and what type of facility it is so they can go facility to facility to determine if there is anything of concern after the storm.
Ensign Derick Schmitz, PWD Jacksonville Construction Manager and Civil Engineer Corps Officer stated, "After deploying with my first CERT team two weeks ago to Corpus Christi, I am ready to help some of the new members on our team going to Key West. I learned a lot from Hurricane Harvey that will help us in Key West."
Sending engineers out to help after natural disasters is not new to NAVFAC.
"We provide continuous training to employees who are willing to volunteer to be on our CERTs so they are ready to go at a moment's notice," said Thrun.
Typically, these teams deploy to assess hurricane or other storm damage to military installations such as was the case most recently, two weeks ago, the team deployed to Kingsville and Corpus Christi, Texas for Hurricane Harvey, in February 2017 to assist the United States Marine Corps Logistics Base Albany, Georgia when tornadoes devastated the base and October 2016 when teams deployed to the United States Navy's Atlantic Undersea Test and Evaluation Center (AUTEC), located on Andros Island in the Bahamas after Hurricane Matthew impacted the facilities there.
"We were fortunate here in Jacksonville after Hurricane Irma that our employees were able to deploy to help with Key West even though many of our employees in northeast Florida and southeast Georgia are still without power," said Thrun. "Safety is always first and it is important that our employees are able to tend to their family and their property immediately following any storm.