District steps up for disaster duty in Baton Rouge

Published April 20, 2017
In August 2016, record rainfall saturated Southeast Louisiana. Some areas of the region experienced more than two feet of rain and 11 river gages saw record crests. The president declared a major disaster for Louisiana two days later. The Memphis District Emergency Operations Center, received a mission assignment to FEMA Region VI’s Regional Response Coordination Center. 

Six Louisville District employees stepped up to deploy in support of the disaster response, which included a total of 11 assignments in support of the overarching temporary housing mission.

Patty Germano, construction division, was the ENGLink Specialist for the Regional Activation of the Incident Management Assistance Team at FEMA’s Joint Field Office in Baton Rouge for approximately two months.  Sgt. 1st Class Portia Hall, contracting division, served at the Joint Field Office for two months and one month at the Memphis District.

A debris mission assignment was issued that required a USACE Debris Technical Assistance team to provide oversight of state and local entities’ debris operations, provide progress reports, and offer other information required by FEMA. Eric Cheng, engineering division, served as the debris subject matter expert for this team for 13 days.  By the end of the mission on Nov. 4, FEMA reported that there had been 3.7 million cubic yards of debris removed.  

Additionally, the Infrastructure Assessment Recovery Support Function team was called in to provide subject- matter expertise for the collection of contractor assessment data and upward reporting to address infrastructure and mitigation solutions, impacts, and opportunities for sustainability. Once the mission declined, many of the engineers transitioned into the Multi-Family Lease and Repair assignment to conduct dwelling assessments and cost estimates for required repairs on components of the units to make them habitable and obtain a Use and Occupancy permit for housing survivor applicants. The mission was completed in November and resulted in the assessment of 29 multi-unit properties. 

There were two primary mission assignments that fed into the Temporary Housing mission. Residents whose homes were damaged in the flooding signed up with FEMA for temporary housing, for approximately 18 months, to give them time to make repairs on their homes. Once approved, site inspections were completed by contractors or government employee inspectors. If feasible, a manufactured housing unit was hauled to their property, installed on site, and inspected prior to occupancy. If sites were found infeasible, homeowners had alternative options. They could move into a manufactured home in a pre-constructed mobile home park or on a USACE-constructed group housing site. 

The highest concentration of affected residents was in the East Baton Rouge, Livingston, Tangipahoa, and Ascension areas. The group housing mission began with inspections on 50 sites. Only one site—Victoria, in East Baton Rouge Parish—made it to construction. The Victoria site has a capacity of—and currently houses—30 manufactured homes. FEMA began licensing occupants in January. 

Duane Pfouts, engineering division, and Mark Beville, construction division were quality assurance inspectors assigned to the Haul and Install mission for a month each.  USACE was tasked with taking FEMA issued work orders and assigning sites to their contractors. The contractors hauled corresponding manufactured homes from the staging area to applicants’ properties where they would block and skirt the unit and install the proper utilities. USACE inspectors would then go through the unit and point out any items the contractor needed to repair or replace. Once the manufactured home was found satisfactory, a USACE assigned FEMA technical monitor would inspect the site to ensure the unit was up to FEMA’s standards.  Then the unit was approved as ready for occupancy, and FEMA began licensing in survivors. Andrew Fleming, emergency operations, was an inspector on this team for approximately a month.  

By the end of the mission in January, FEMA had licensed-in 3,919 survivor applicants into 3,988 manufactured homes and 1,652 units were ready for occupancy.