JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - - A team of engineers and one of their new favorite tools just returned to Jacksonville after assisting Naval Air Station Joint Reserve Base New Orleans recover from Hurricane Isaac.
The group from Naval Facilities Engineering Command (NAVFAC) took their new mobile command center on the road for the first time, though they have had the tool since 2009. Onboard, the team has everything they need to be self-sufficient in a disaster zone.
"Having the mobile command post really makes a lot of difference because you never know what you're going to lose during a hurricane, so you never know what you're going to need," explained Project Manager Bill Bankhead. "So, being prepared, having a bus like this that we have all of our equipment in. That's the biggest key."
The mobile unit includes internet access, radios and cell service from multiple companies, in case one cellular signal provider loses coverage after a storm.
Once on base in New Orleans, NAVFAC engineers went from building to building assessing the damage so that crews could come in and immediately get them repaired.
"When a natural disaster occurs and the base is shut down for four or five days because of no power, it's critical to get them back up and running," said Bankhead.
According to Lieutenant Commander Ken Vargas, it is also important to fix damaged roofs, walls and windows quickly to avoid long term problems like water damage and mold from a hurricane.
After the storm, the NAVFAC awarded a contract for $7.4 million to a construction company to repair the affected buildings, but Vargas said it could have been much worse without the team's quick response.
"We had to get the folks in there fast to minimize that damage," explained Vargas.
The mobile command vehicle did not cost NAVFAC any money because it was no longer needed at another unit.