From NAVFAC SE Public Affairs


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

The team will meet up with another five-person team from the Public Works Department (PWD) at NAS Joint Reserve Base Fort Worth, Texas.

The CERT 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 that deploy to begin rapid damage assessments

"The CERTs 17 members are heading to NAS Corpus Christi to assist the base with damage assessments," said NAVFAC Southeast Disaster Preparedness Officer Lt. Cmdr. Ryan Thrun.

It is during this 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.

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

"As a civil engineer corps officer, I have a unique skill set, deployment experience and the ability 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, these teams deploy to assess hurricane or other storm damage to military installations. Recently, in February 2017 and October 2016, teams deployed to assist Marine Corps Logistics Base (MCLB) Albany, Georgia, when tornadoes devastated the base and the United States Navy's Atlantic Undersea Test and Evaluation Center (AUTEC), located on Andros Island in the Bahamas, after Hurricane Matthew impacted facilities there.

"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 that, "It is a good feeling to be able to help people feel safe returning home or to work when I can assure them a 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 at MCLB Albany, 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 that a tornado had picked up and deposited on the other side of a building in a crumbled up mess. 

"We deploy at a moments notice to help the installation as many of their personnel may have been evacuated tending to their family and their own property assessments immediately following the storm," said Patel.