From NAVFAC Southeast Public Affairs
Jacksonville, Florida (NNS) -- Naval Facilities Engineering Command (NAVFAC) Southeast dispatched one military member and 11 civilian personnel to Naval Support Activity Panama City, Florida, from Naval Air Station Jacksonville Oct. 11, as part of a Contingency Engineering Response Team (CERT) after Hurricane Michael made landfall there.
NAVFAC Southeast Commanding Officer Capt. Mike Monreal spoke with the team before they left for Panama City today and thanked them as they left their families to help others.
"Take your time, be safe. Don't take any unnecessary risks," said Monreal. "Know that the things you are doing are very important for our mission and for our military family in Panama City. Thank you for volunteering to do this and know that you have my full support."
CERT members will work directly with the staff on the ground at the installation to perform assessments to help get the base back to normal operations as soon as possible.
"This is the first deployment of the 2018 hurricane season for the team," said NAVFAC Southeast Production Officer and Disaster Preparedness Officer Lt. Cmdr. Ryan Thrun. "The team is experienced in responding to storms. They require little preparation time as they are ready to go at a moments notice.
Our continuous planning for contingencies like this makes deployment of the CERT after disasters very smooth."
In conjunction with the installation Public Works Department staff, the team will prioritize the review of each facility/infrastructure on the base. To accomplish this, the team will also deploy Disaster Assessment Teams (DATs) to identify and quantify damage caused by the storm. They will then record the damage to a sufficient degree to develop cost estimates for repairs.
The CERT has DATs which consist of structural, electrical, and mechanical engineers, architects, roofing specialists, community planners, environmental specialists and construction contract specialists that deploy to begin Rapid Damage Assessments. It is during this phase that debris is removed and basic functions are restored such as opening roadways, sanitation, water, electricity and communications.
"This will be the third CERT I have been on," said CERT Team Lead Lt. j.g. Derek Schmitz. "Being a part of a CERT is an exciting experience as it is fast-paced and demands long hours. Being able to coordinate a group of people with various engineering disciplines to safely assess damages of every structure on a base after a devastating event is challenging and rewarding."
The entire team is comprised of volunteers. Every year before the hurricane season begins, a request goes out asking for volunteers so that teams are ready and established in advance of an event.
When a disaster occurs, a multi-disciplinary team is brought together and is placed on stand-by. The CERT is ready to deploy as soon as it is safe to travel. Typically within 24 hours of the storm making landfall.
"It is important to make sure the teams get what they need to accomplish the mission," said Schmitz. "Our goal is to get there and get working as soon as possible so that we can provide the base a record of each building and structure with details of the damages, percentages lost and the urgency of certain repairs."
Sending engineers in to devastated areas is not new to NAVFAC.
"We train for circumstances just like this. Our team is always ready to go," said Thrun.
Typically, these teams are deployed to assess hurricane or other storm damage to military installations such as was the case last year with Hurricane Harvey at NAS Corpus Christi and then Hurricane Irma at NAS Key West, in October 2016 when teams deployed to the Bahamas and Cuba after Hurricane Maria went through the Caribbean, in April 2014 when teams deployed to NAS Pensacola after heavy storms rolled through the area and again in August 2012 when teams deployed to Gulfport, Miss. and New Orleans in response to Hurricane Isaac. They are also called upon to deploy for humanitarian efforts such as a tsunami or the earthquake in Haiti in 2010.