NAVFAC Southeast CERT Deploys to NAS Kingsville after Hurricane Harvey Makes Texas Landfall

By Sue Brink, Naval Facilities Engineering Command Southeast Public Affairs

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. –┬áNaval Facilities Engineering Command (NAVFAC) Southeast dispatched a 12-person Contingency Engineering Response Team (CERT) to Naval Air Stations Kingsville and Corpus Christi, Texas from NAS Jacksonville, Aug. 27.

Aug. 25, A GOES-13 satellite image from the Naval Research Laboratory taken at 3:07 p.m. EST shows Hurricane Harvey approaching the Texas coast moving north-northwest at 10 mph. The National Hurricane Center has upgraded the storm to a Category 3 storm with maximum sustained winds reaching than 120 mph. Forecasters expect up to 36 inches of rain in some areas as the storm makes landfall along the southern coast of Texas Friday evening. (U.S. Navy photo)

The CERT will meet up with another five-person team from Public Works Department Fort Worth out of NAS Joint Reserve Base Fort Worth, Texas. The team will evaluate facilities on base that may have received damage from Hurricane Harvey as it passed through the Corpus Christi area.

The CERT has disaster assessment teams (DATs) which consist of structural, electrical, and mechanical engineers, architects, roofing specialists, community planners and construction contract specialists who deploy to begin rapid damage assessments.

“The CERTs’ 17 members are heading to NAS Kingsville and then on to NAS Corpus Christi,” said NAVFAC Southeast Disaster Preparedness Officer, Lt. Cmdr. Ryan Thrun. “They plan to arrive tomorrow, August 28, to assist in the base with damage assessments. Two teams are out of Jacksonville and one is out of Fort Worth.”

It is during this phase they rapidly assess damage 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.

Integrated Product Team Gulf Coast Assistant Operations Officer, Cmdr. Anant Patel, is the CERT officer in charge and each DAT has a team lead.

“As a civil engineer corps officer, I have a unique skill set, deployment experience and ability to be able to respond to emergency situations,” said Patel. “NAVFAC and the Seabees have a proud tradition of answering the call when disasters happen, and I am honored to volunteer to carry on this tradition and coordinate our efforts in Texas.”

DAT Team Lead Ensign Derick Schmitz, PWD Jacksonville Construction Manager and Civil Engineer Corps Officer stated, “I hope to learn a lot about logistics, planning, team management and leadership. This experience will bring me together with engineers of different disciplines, and I am excited to help get the base back to normal operations as soon as possible.”

Sending engineers around the world is not new to NAVFAC.

“We always have a trained CERT ready to go at a moment’s notice,” said Thrun.

Typically, the teams deploy to assess hurricane or other storm damage to military installations, such as most recently in February 2017 and October 2016 when teams deployed to assist the Marine Corps Logistics Base Albany, Georgia when tornadoes devastated the base; and the Navy’s Atlantic Undersea Test and Evaluation Center (AUTEC), located on Andros Island in the Bahamas after Hurricane Matthew impacted facilities.

“I served as a structural engineer on a DAT to AUTEC and am on the team going to Texas today,” said Pam Cowden, NAVFAC Southeast structural engineer. “As a team, we tour the facilities on base and provide a rapid assessment of the damages. We document the damage to start the process for repairs. We also document and mark any facilities that we feel will be unsafe due to damage, so that safety hazards can be avoided and mitigated.”

Cowden also shared, “It is a good feeling to be able to help people feel safe returning home or to work when I can assure them that the building is safe. When buildings are found to be unsafe, sometimes I can help to make it safe temporarily until final repairs can be made by recommending shoring, removal or bracing of damaged building elements. Putting my book of knowledge into practice is very gratifying.”

Previous CERTs have seen widespread devastation from tornado damage not only on Albany MCLB, but also in the surrounding community when they were in Georgia. There was extensive damage to pre-engineered metal buildings that had been reduced to a pile of twisted metal and debris.

“We deploy at a moment’s notice to help the installation, 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.

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