OCTOBER 26, 2020 – When natural disasters strike installations, Air Force leadership immediately begins recovery operations to get missions up and running again as soon as possible.
Requirement validators, in concert with financial experts, at the Air Force Installation and Mission Support Center play an important role in that recovery.
Using the Storm Damage Tracker created by AFIMSC’s Resource Management, headquarters AFIMSC and the Air Force Civil Engineer Center work closely with installation civil engineer squadrons and financial experts to validate built infrastructure damage and get them funding or reimbursement as soon as possible for repairs or replacement.
“I feel for these installations when I see some of the damage they go through and how it impacts their missions,” said Dave Thomander, Facilities Sustainment, Repair and Modernization requirement validator in the AFCEC’s Planning and Integration Directorate. “I want to help out and get them back on their feet so they can get the mission going again.”
The process of getting needed funding into the hands of those who need it begins at the installation with comptroller and civil engineer squadrons.
“Comptrollers work hand-in-hand with civil engineer squadrons to get the right information and photos uploaded in the tracker so we can go in and validate damage,” Thomander said.
Information submitted includes statements or descriptions of work, independent government estimates and photos of the damage.
“Those products help us confirm the damage is storm related, the extent of damage and conveys immediacy of the need,” Thomander said.
For example, when it comes to FSRM and Air Force real property, Thomander is looking to determine if facilities or components were already at the end of their life, if the damage was related to maintenance issues, if it’s real property, if it’s occupied and if the damage is stopping a mission or presents an immediate need.
If information provided in the tracker isn’t sufficient, he goes back to installations so they know what needs to be added or changed.
“I’ve had to circle back,” Thomander said. “A description talks about damage to a roof but the photos don’t show it, for example. Or, numbers don’t match … why are flooring costs five times higher in this facility but not that one?”
“The biggest thing the installations can do to help us help them is to be specific in their justifications, and provide as much documentation as they can with the type and amount of damage and what the costs are to repair or replace,” said Barbara Stewart, Air Force Services Center services management analyst and validator. “That means having concise word justifications with photos that show the damage as well as providing quotes from more than one vendor, if possible, for the cost of the fix.
“Our role is to validate and do the due diligence to ensure the requirements being requested are authorized and the quotes or estimates provided are good,” Stewart said. “We also reach out to bases to help them understand what they’re authorized.”
When it comes to services, if power goes out, for example, and food items spoil in refrigerators or freezers, installations may not know they can ask for reimbursement, Stewart said.
Without the validation of Thomander, Stewart and their subject-matter counterparts in other areas like logistics readiness, communications and force protection, crucial storm-damage funding doesn’t get approved and pushed to installations by AFIMSC’s Resource Management team.
“We’re quick to respond to notification, normally on the same day, if not within a few hours,” Thomander said. “I make the tracker a high priority, especially during storm season.”
For example, September’s Hurricane Sally hit Hurlburt Field, Florida, and Shaw AFB, South Carolina, “pretty bad … torn-up roofs, water infiltration, flooded roads … and it was near the end of the fiscal year,” Thomander said. “We knew it was coming so we reached out to them to remind them about the (storm tracker) site and what they needed to include for expedited funding or reimbursement.”
However, every installation may not know about the Storm Damage Tracker and the possibility of reimbursement it provides, the civil engineer said.
“We work hard to let people know about the resource,” Thomander said, “but there are many installations who may not fully leverage this process … we want to ensure they understand the process and the benefits in the form of direct resourcing or reimbursement.
“My internal driver is to get to them quickly so we help in the process of resources flowing to those installations,” he added.
Because natural disasters can also be unexpected – like the earthquake at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, Alaska, and extensive flooding at Offutt AFB, Nebraska – AFIMSC validators reach out to installations as soon as they’re notified of “unnamed events” to find out the extent of damage and provide help as needed, Stewart said.
“Without the Storm Damage Tracker, I don’t know how Hurlburt Field would get reimbursed for storm damage,” said Maj. Anne Elstro, 1st Special Operations Civil Engineer Squadron commander. “It’s a relief to know that we don’t have to stop our regularly-scheduled projects to fix storm damage or make the tough choices between planned projects and storm-damage projects. Our only limitations now are manpower and time.”
“With Hurricane Sally, working under the 30-day limit to report potential storm-damage projects at the same time as the normal end of fiscal year was tricky,” Elstro said. “Our team rocked the end of year!”
Having recently experienced the wrath of Mother Nature at her installation, Elstro offered the following recommendations when it comes to dealing with damage:
- Prioritize a small team to focus on sorting through the damage assessment and get the projects started.
- Quickly decide which line items or damage your operations flight can fix in house and which need to become a project for the engineering flight.
- Shoot as many photos as possible early then label and store them for quick reference.
For more information on the storm tracker, including a user’s guide, visit the CAC-enabled CE Portal at https://cs2.eis.af.mil/sites/10041/Pages/default.aspx, and search Storm Tracker Dashboard.
By Debbie Aragon, Air Force Installation and Mission Control Center Public Affairs