In the days following Hurricane Maria’s landfall on the island of Puerto Rico, the Federal Emergency Management Agency assigned the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers the mission to evaluate critical public facilities, but since then the mission has evolved from evaluation to construction.
“The purpose of the Critical Public Facility mission is to maintain the life and sustainability functions for the residents of Puerto Rico by evaluating structures for safety and estimate repairs to maintain the operation of critical facilities,” said Craig Carrington, USACE CPF Mission Manager.
The infrastructure assessment portion of the mission was complete with 1,131 schools and 197 police stations inspected. It took the team about 35 days to complete inspections of the police stations and 41 days to assess the schools. The last school inspection was conducted on November 27.
Once the assessment team completed their mission, the focus then shifted to getting these critical facilities back online, aiding in the returning the island back to normalcy.
After FEMA approved 100 facilities for temporary repairs, two of the facility owners initiated self-help projects and no longer require repairs, leaving 98 facilities in the mission portfolio.
“The facilities on which we are executing temporary repairs include a variety of local government buildings, police and fire stations, and medical facilities,” said John Schreiner, USACE CPF Project Manager. “Temporary repairs vary, but mainly focus on making the structure water tight, eliminating hazards, and removing interior finished surfaces damaged by water intrusion.”
Without waterproofing the structure and removing the water damage inside the building would continue to sustain damage, and there is potential that mold would grow inside the building. The worst-case scenario is that a building critically important to a community would be damaged to the point where it is no longer usable.
“The Corps of Engineers has many options for repairs for these buildings. On the roofs we can apply an elastomeric membrane that seals rips or tears in the flat roof systems. Around windows, we apply caulk to the outside of the frame. Inside we have the options to remove dry wall, ceiling tiles, and wet insulation,” said Schreiner.
In total the Corps of Engineers has awarded 75 contracts, and has completed repairs to 10 facilities.
“I remember walking into Centro Medico, San Juan, to conduct the site inspection,” said Schreiner. “Technicians were working in the lab surrounded by buckets to catch the water from the leaking roof. In the weeks following award the roof has been sealed, ceiling tiles have been replaced, and the walls have been repaired. The temporary repairs have returned the medical center back to normal operation.”
Getting facilities back open is the primary goal of the Critical Public Facility team.
“It is rewarding working on this mission,” said Schreiner. “I have driven around the island and have seen the devastation the people of Puerto Rico have endured. The work the Corps of Engineers team is doing provides people of the island security, safety, and puts them on the quickest road to recovery.”