In late June 2016, West Virginia experienced a train of storms that brought record rainfall, resulting in the flooding of many of its businesses and communities. When a federal disaster declaration was signed by President Barack Obama, the Federal Emergency Management Agency deployed personnel to assist the affected communities in their recovery.
At the request of FEMA, the Corps of Engineers sent debris subject matter experts (SMEs) Kevin Jasper, Great Lakes and Ohio River Division, and Tracey Keel, Stan Akin, and Eric Cheng, Louisville District, to assist with the debris recovery mission in West Virginia. These debris SMEs are a part of a national multi-district cadre dedicated to providing FEMA and state and local governments with technical assistance during recovery missions for disasters such as flooding, tornadoes, hurricanes and wildfires.
In past disaster recovery missions, Debris SMEs have helped to ensure state and local governments properly plan, implement and document their recovery activities to facilitate the provision of much-needed federal funding assistance. The personnel, circumstances and execution of each disaster recovery mission can vary widely, so it is essential that Debris SMEs are capable of utilizing their skills, knowledge, and experience to perform a broad range of tasks while remaining flexible to the conditions. Such tasks commonly include advising on mission planning, preparing scopes of work for contracts, conducting field reconnaissance and assessments, monitoring debris collection and hauling operations, and training staff.
Throughout the first three weeks of July, the Debris SMEs deployed to the West Virginia storm debris recovery mission in support of FEMA. During this time, the SMEs assessed disaster-related debris and helped to monitor debris management activities conducted by the affected counties and their respective contractors.
The SMEs also conducted debris monitoring training for West Virginia Army National Guard personnel and provided training and mentoring to FEMA debris specialists.
Recovery operations in West Virginia are ongoing, and USACE is poised to provide further assistance to FEMA as the debris recovery mission continues.