MOSES News

MOSES DEP Members Lend Expertise to Hurricane Relief Efforts

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Widespread natural disasters, including Hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria, as well as torrential rainfall throughout the Northwest and wild fires in California, elevated the need for trained emergency response volunteers across the country. Without skipping a beat, MOSES members from MassDEP stepped up to help victims of these devastating disasters.
                     
Joe Dorant, president, Massachusetts Organization of State Engineers & Scientists, shares, “MassDEP plays a key role during emergencies in our own state, but providing our skilled scientists and engineers to deal with immediate and long-term impacts of natural disasters like hurricanes or wild fires occurring in other states is new to the agency. It doesn’t surprise me that our members stepped right up to help.”
 
Meet MOSES member Tom Mahin, an environmental engineer with MassDEP’s Northeast Regional Office Drinking Water division. He has long volunteered and provided skilled advice for organizations such as Americares, the international collaborative non-profit delivering, among many things, emergency programs and services in times of disaster. Mahin, who also volunteered in Puerto Rico last year, was recently in Texas – six months after Hurricane Harvey touched down – meeting and evaluating plans with local emergency workers as they follow-up with collecting samples from the area’s 1,800 flooded home wells. He explains, “The rural towns between Houston and the Gulf were hard hit. Many bayous and rivers flooded, including local parts of the 800-mile-long Brazos River, spreading contamination throughout the area.” Using his MassDEP skills and knowledge, Mahin is a perfect example of the long-term recovery efforts Americares provides to disaster devastated communities. 
 
Upon Governor Baker’s speedy authorization to send emergency workers to assist with response and recovery in all disaster areas, two assistance mechanisms kicked in: the Emergency Management Assistance Compact (EMAC) and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) Surge.
 
EMAC is a program between states to share resources during a crisis as part of that state’s emergency management agency (EMA). When a state EMA is in the midst of an emergency and has exhausted their own resources (people, equipment, etc.), they put out a request for the type of help they need to other state emergency management agencies.
 
As part of the EMAC program, MOSES members Amy Finch, from MassDEP’s Central Regional Office Water Supply group, and Ray Reimold, of MassDEP’s Southeast Regional Office Emergency Response team, went down for a 15-day deployment to support the Florida Emergency Management Agency. 
 
Both were deployed to the Florida State Emergency Operations Center (SEOC) in Tallahassee. Reimold explains, “I served as the Deputy Infrastructure Branch Director. Working the overnight between 6:00 p.m. to 7:00 a.m., we were tasked with coordinating emergency infrastructure support functions for communications (i.e., cell phones, 2-way emergency radios and telephones for police and fire); transportation (roads, highways and ships/ports); energy (getting gasoline and diesel supplies to gas stations, as wells as setting up temporary fuel stations for emergency personnel); and electricity (including all necessary logistics to maintain generators to keep traffic lights on, hospitals open and pumps to wastewater systems operational).”
 
Finch, also deployed to the Florida SEOC in the same capacity as Reimold, shares, “It was such a rewarding experience to be able to help the people of Florida. Ray and I shared similar titles, but my duties focused on tasking and prioritizing mission requests from impacted counties; solving issues with missions that may arise; fielding questions from the Emergency Support Functions personnel; writing required daily reports; coordinating generator requests; and updating the Incident Action Plan.” 
 
Nationally, FEMA uses a tiered process to request support from other states during a disaster. Tier 1 sees FEMA reaching out to its own FEMA region for assistance. Tier 2 reaches out to all FEMA for help. Tier 3 is FEMA asking Dept. of Homeland Security (parent agency) for additional support. Tier 4 is FEMA asking all sister federal agencies for aid. And Tier 5 is FEMA asking state, tribal and locals for reinforcement. The three serious hurricanes, plus the California fires, on top of a busy emergency year, resulted in FEMA elevating its status to Tier 5.
 
MOSES member Nick Child, MassDEP’s chief emergency planning and preparedness officer, along with volunteers from MEMA, MassDPH and the Marion Fire Department were selected to deploy as Tier 5 FEMA support from Massachusetts. 
 
Child landed on the western coast of Puerto Rico, working in the communities of Mayaguez and Aguadilla after Hurricane Maria ripped the US territory to shreds. Tasks performed included doing damage assessments to roads, bridges and critical infrastructure; helping to get generators to public drinking water supply stations; tracking and targeting emergency food and bottled water shipments to isolated communities; coordinating resource requests from the Puerto Rican Emergency Management Agency (PREMA); and trouble-shooting problems as they arose. Child observes, “Although there was terrible destruction and stories of tragedy, I was continuously impressed with the warmth and perseverance of the Puerto Rican people. In their own words, ‘Puerto Rico se levanta (Puerto Rico will rise again).’”
 
The Massachusetts Organization of State Engineers & Scientists is a group of 3,300 science and engineering professionals. Their work each day keeps the Commonwealth’s citizens, their air, water & food supplies, the energy that they depend on, the environment that they live and recreate in and the infrastructure that they travel on, safe. For more information, visit www.MOSES-MA.org.
 
(MassDEP contributed to this story.)
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