U.S. Army Soldiers from the 249th Engineering Battalion, a power generation battalion assigned to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, and electric contractors take a ferry to the island of Vieques and install a generator for a hospital, Centro de Diagnostico y Tratamiento de Vieques, Oct. 8th, 2017, Puerto Rico. It will take time to get power restored to many areas, but work is underway between the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Department of Energy, local power authorities, and the private sector to get power restored in Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands. (US Air Force video by Airman 1st Class Franklin Harris)
Story by Staff Sgt. Elizabeth Tarr
Responding expediently to provide temporary power to critical live-saving and life-sustaining facilities, during a natural disaster, isn’t an easy task and requires a dedicated team to accomplish the mission.
Soldiers assigned to the 249th Engineer Battalion (Prime Power), along with civilian U.S. Army Corps of Engineer responders, are working with the Federal Emergency Management Agency to provide power generators to support disaster relief emergency operations throughout Puerto Rico.
According to B.J. Parkey, subject matter expert on temporary emergency power for the Army Corps of Engineers, FEMA is working hand-in-hand with top government officials in Puerto Rico to determine the priority of generator placement throughout the island.
“Once the critical areas are determined, teams from the 249th Engineer Battalion conduct an electrical assessment of the facility, which consist of ensuring there is terrain access to the facility, and the facility is capable to structurally obtain temporary power,” said Parkey.
After the facility is approved for installation, contractors from local companies install the generator and perform routine maintenance until full power is restored.
“The ability to provide people with access to facilities where they can receive care is critical,” said Derrick Favor, construction engineer and technician assigned to 249th EB. “The people here are relying on us and we are here for them throughout the process of rebuilding the island.”
More than 270 generators have been installed throughout the island and according to Parkey, hundreds more are being barged and flown over from the mainland to support the need for temporary power to Puerto Rico and Virgin Islands.
“Ideally, we shoot for 25 generator installs per day,” said Parkey. Realistically, if we can get between 15 and 20 installations per day, we’re doing well.”
Significant progress is being made in the response to hurricane Maria relief efforts, and the top priority of the Department of Defense, working together with FEMA, is to provide support to the affected areas.
“At the end of the day, when you’re able to provide temporary power to a hospital, or a dialysis center, it makes you feel good because you’re able to provide that assistance,” said Parkey. “It encourages you to push more generators to help more people.”