Even as the Coast Guard prepares for the 2019 hurricane season to get started, it’s still trying to recover from two years ago. Hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria did severe damage to the East and Gulf coasts, including some Coast Guard bases.
“We still have damage to many of our facilities in Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands and Florida and Texas, Georgia, South Carolina, North Carolina,” said Vice Admiral Scott Buschman, Atlantic area commander for the U.S. Coast Guard. “So we have some temporary facilities, some temporary repairs to them. I’ll tell you, we’re very fortunate that there have been two different disaster supplementals that provided us the resources not only to repair these facilities, but in many cases, rebuild them in resilient states that are capable of surviving future storms.”
Making these bases more resilient can include raising them up to avoid flood waters, or hardening the structures to make them capable of withstanding storm impacts.
“We are looking at making sure that wherever we rebuild a facility that we can rebuild the resiliency standard so they can survive future storm that might impact that area,” Buschman said.
Those aren’t the only investments the Coast Guard is making to improve its ability to respond to future hurricanes. It’s also investing in technologies, including recapitalizing its IT infrastructure, embracing mobile technologies and incorporating unmanned aerial systems in its disaster response.
“We’ve actually used some small UAS incorporated with some of our teams that go out there and do flood response in a land environment that may be flooded, where they’re going out through neighborhoods in shallow water boats,” Buschman said. “And cooperating UAS technology, small UAS technology allows them to kind of go ahead and see what’s ahead of them or where people may be in need of assistance and have a better situational awareness of the area they’re working in.”
And that’s especially important during a hurricane response where the Coast Guard has to mobilize extra workforce. Many times, these teams doing flood response come from different areas, so they aren’t familiar with the landscape.
Buschman said the Coast Guard is also looking to improve the way it mobilizes that extra workforce for a disaster response. For example, it’s looking into how those personnel are trained for these operations, and how it ensures its personnel are qualified for the tasks they’re being mobilized for.
Buschman also said the Coast Guard is looking into how it can be more efficient in the way it recalls its reserve forces in disaster response situations.