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    USACE liaison team syncs response efforts, reaches out to survivors

    USACE liaison team syncs response efforts, reaches out to survivors

    Photo By Patrick Loch | Jim Muilenburg, local government liaison for Task Force Michael, meets with a resident...... read more read more

    Jim Muilenburg sat in the driver’s seat of the SUV he insisted on having in the event he needed to spend the night on the road. He had just finished checking up on an elderly woman at her home in Beacon Hill, Florida – less than 500 feet from where Hurricane Michael made landfall.

    “You get used to seeing the debris in yards, but you don’t get used to seeing people deal with it,” he said.

    Muilenburg was making his last stops in Gulf County – his assigned area while supporting the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ Task Force Michael – the day before his mission here would end. As a local government liaison, or LGL, he was one-of-two field staff coordinating hurricane recovery efforts in the most impacted areas.

    “This is the best job – I was checking up on her based on a contact I made while visiting churches,” Muilenburg said, explaining that he heard through word of mouth that she was having issues with a recently-installed Blue Roof installed by a contractor on behalf of the Corps of Engineers.

    While he sat in the car, member of the contractor company came to take photos of the needed repair and mentioned a crew would be out shortly.

    “That’s why I do it, the interaction between the survivors and the planning and response teams,” Muilenburg said. “Whatever we can do to make everyone’s mission better.”

    And so describes the mission of the LGL with the Corps of Engineers, one slice of a coordinated emergency response involving all levels of government.

    “If they have a problem, I need to get it resolved,” said Dereck Wansing, the second Corps of Engineers field-level LGL helping out in nearby Bay County, Florida. “We keep working and talking with local officials to facilitate interagency operations.”

    For FEMA and the Corps of Engineers, the LGL plays a critical role in coordinating with leadership and residents of affected areas to include mayors, council members, emergency responders faith leaders and, of course, survivors. The point is to pass along information, notify people what assistance is available, facilitate recovery operations and sometimes, just listen.

    “As I’m talking to a gentlemen, he breaks down and cries,” Wansing said. “It’s a quick reminder as to why you’re here.”

    The two arrived Oct. 19, a little over a week after the storm. With a combined 10 disaster responses between Muilenburg and Wansing, they knew how to hit the ground running. Outreach activities include everything from walking the streets to conducting town hall events with FEMA, non-governmental organizations and the Small Business Administration.

    Preparation for these missions begins long before disaster strikes, with LGLs becoming qualified to hold the title after a week-long, scenario-based training session. Then, while planning for a specific disaster and awaiting a mission assignment from FEMA, LGLs do their best to anticipate what the incident looks like on the ground.

    “We all pack two suitcases … bring rubber boots and everything else you can think of,” Muilenburgh said. “You just don’t know what you’ll run into.”

    “I like to start by getting to any public event we can get to,” Wansing said. “Getting ourselves familiar at the ground level, we can help identify better locations for the Operation Blue Roof Rights-of-Entry collection centers. We can pass along information to get our mobile collection centers to the right place.”

    Right of Entry centers are the first stop for survivors seeking relief in the form of a temporary, professionally-installed reinforced plastic sheeting to protect property and allow residents to remain in their homes while recovering from the storm. Spreading the word of the free program’s availability is paramount for survivors needing immediate and credible assistance.

    Creativity is also part of the job description, evidenced by Muilenburg-dubbed outreach efforts Operation Hail Mary and Operation Coastal Sweep.

    “On a Saturday we got 4,000 flyers notifying people of a right of entry deadline extension,” Wansing said. “The next day we distributed them to congregations.”

    “Between the two of us, we hit 50 churches,” Muilenburg said of Operation Hail Mary.

    During Operation Coastal Sweep, Muilenburg organized a few folks from volunteer agencies in the area to help distribute flyers.

    “We’re always trying to figure out where to go, who to talk to,” Muilenburg said. “But you figure you talk to one person, they’re going to talk to five people ... and that’s how we hope to get the word out and help.”

    Wansing serves the Kansas City District as a surveyor technician. In addition to four deployments – including three to Puerto Rico last year – as a LGL, Wansing served in Iraq and multiple hurricane events in the early 2000s providing logistics support.

    Muilenburg, a senior power plant mechanic with the Omaha District, helped in more than six separate response efforts including tornado and flood events as well as Hurricanes Ike, Sandy, Maria and now Michael.



    Date Taken: 11.15.2018
    Date Posted: 11.19.2018 15:54
    Story ID: 300553
    Location: FL, US

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