LOS ANGELES -- During times of disasters, many families, emergency responders and offices find themselves displaced with no place to hang their hats and the Federal Emergency Management Agency works with U.S. Army Corps of Engineers housing teams to shelter them.
The District’s Emergency Management office here hosted the biannual training for six USACE Temporary Housing Planning and Response Teams from March 8 to March 12. The teams that shared in the training came from Huntsville, Saint Paul, Huntington, Jacksonville, New York and the Los Angeles Districts.
The training site changes with instruction every other year all over the U.S. This year, the Los Angeles District hosted about 35 USACE members using the facilities in the 915 Wilshire Avenue building.
“It was an honor to host this training here,” said Anne Hutton, Emergency Management chief for the District. “We must be prepared for any kind of contingency or natural disaster here in California.”
Following a natural disaster or emergency, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers can manage the installation of temporary housing for FEMA as part of the federal government’s unified national response.
When an event has left large numbers of existing homes uninhabitable, FEMA can assign a temporary housing mission to the Corps of Engineers.
Temporary housing missions can be wide ranging and may include technical assistance to FEMA and, or, their contractors, placing pre-fabricated units on private property or existing mobile home parks, as well as design and construction of new group mobile home sites, to include the necessary infrastructure and placement of units.
The City of Los Angeles has pre-identified several locations for temporary housing areas prior to this training coming to the District.
“The teams went and looked at a site on Wednesday morning, worked up a design on how they would lay out the units (mobile homes) and then presented the designs Thursday morning,” said Bonnie Greenleaf, Housing Team expert from the Saint Paul District. “After the group’s presentation, the LA District team showed the plan they had envisioned and it led the six teams to collaborate a solution.”
The teams have to be ready to respond to any area in the United States. They are assigned regions when the prediction of damaging weather or imminent disaster exists.
“We will normally deploy and touch base with FEMA and they tell us to go and assess sites,” said Chris Klein, Temporary Housing and Critical Public Facilities program manager for USACE South Atlantic Division working out of Savannah, Georgia. “After we evaluate the sites, then we make a recommendation to FEMA. They will then determine how they want to contract for the temporary facilities.”
The housing and critical facilities teams design and contract places for survival where structures have been destroyed.
“The missions for the teams can be anywhere from haul and install (singular mobile home), building mobile home parks, critical public facilities or be technical monitors for FEMA, being their eyes and ears,” said Klein. “This training went very well; we got new people on the teams up to speed, those who haven’t been on missions before, trained on the vast complexities of the many missions we conduct.”
FEMA has been using contracts to lean on the expertise of the teams to assist in the design of individual assistance and FEMA has been working more of the logistics, Klein explained.
“There is nothing better than putting a displaced family from a shelter into a home,” said Hutton. “It’s a wonderful feeling to help victims of a disaster.”