News Story Archive

When Disaster Strikes, We’ll Bring the Ice!

Public Affairs
Published April 1, 2011
Every year the Charleston and Albuquerque districts trade off the lead of the Corps’ National Ice Team. This year, the lead transferred to the District March 31 during a ceremony where ice was handed from Charleston to Albuquerque symbolically via video teleconference.

Every year the Charleston and Albuquerque districts trade off the lead of the Corps’ National Ice Team. This year, the lead transferred to the District March 31 during a ceremony where ice was handed from Charleston to Albuquerque symbolically via video teleconference.

In the event a disaster such as a hurricane hits the U.S. this year, Albuquerque District will ensure that ice is purchased and delivered to the affected area, when requested.

In disaster affected areas, especially those without electricity, ice provides life-sustaining functions. Ice keeps perishable food from quickly going bad and also serves essential medical-related uses, such as medication refrigeration.

As a commodity, ice presents many unique challenges. It must be kept frozen while in transport, creating a challenge as there are limited numbers of immediately available trucks with refrigerated trailers, also known as “reefers.” Reefers require refueling and must run their cooling units at all times because ice just dropped off and left at a staging area will melt rapidly.

Additionally, there are only a few big ice plants in the country capable of handling orders for several tons of ice. Not the only agency providing ice, the Corps competes with state and local governments and non-governmental relief agencies, such as the Red Cross, for reefers and ice contracts.

The government’s emergency response starts with the local government and goes higher when an incident overwhelms abilities. It’s up to the state’s governor to ask the federal government for assistance.

The Corps executes emergency response activities under two authorities, the Stafford Act and the Flood Control and Coastal Emergency Act. The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) has the responsibility of coordinating government-wide relief efforts. FEMA uses the National Response Framework (NRF) to provide a unified national response to disasters and emergencies.

Under the NRF, there are 15 Emergency Support Functions with listed protocols. ESF #3, Public Works and Engineering, covers the Corps’ emergency response, and one of the activities is to provide ice. District Commander Lt. Col. William’s reaffirmed that the Ice mission is a “joint team-effort” between the two districts, while Charleston’s Lt. Col. Jason Kirk said that they would backup and support Albuquerque.

The District’s team is composed of three cells that work together to contract for ice delivery and ensure that it’s delivered according to the contract. The first cell is the mission manager, mission specialist and contractor specialist who work out of Albuquerque.

The commodities site manager, data specialist and up to 12 quality assurance specialists comprise the second cell.

The action officers are the third cell and work out of FEMA headquarters in Washington. They coordinate among the District, the affected area and FEMA.

Stephanie (Whatley) Parra is the team’s Contract Specialist and has been on the team for four years. She works with the Mission Manager and Mission Specialist “to determine what should be ordered and when.” She then coordinates the orders with the contractor and assists the team in ensuring that contract requirements are met.

A standard truckload of ice equals 40,000 pounds and, based on eight pounds of ice per person per day, can serve 5,000 people per day. The general idea is that one truckload supplies one Point of Distribution (POD) for one day. The POD is where the ice ultimately ends up to be distributed to those needing it.

Emergency Management Specialist Craig Lykins has more than 15 years experience on the ice team. He said that while ice team members may not get to see the end results of their efforts, what they are doing behind the scenes does have a very positive impact on those affected by the disaster.

This is why civil engineer Curtis McFadden joined the team this past year. He lived in the Houston area and said he wants to help people affected by hurricanes.

Usually an ice team deployment lasts around two weeks. Program Analysts Christine Redick and Doug Bailey are two team members who have deployed. Redick deployed to Houston for 17 days after Hurricane Ike in 2008. Bailey was busy in 2005 with three deployments: Alabama, after Hurricane Dennis; Texas, after Hurricane Rita; and Florida, after Hurricane Wilma.

The past two hurricane seasons produced no significant storms to hit the U.S. and no other major disasters required the activation of the ice team.

While the team hasn’t deployed recently, they are on alert and ready to go if the need should arise.

“Everyone’s plan is to deploy at some point,” said action officer Capt. Bundy.

To apply for a position on the National Ice Team, talk to your supervisor and then contact Tom Ryan, Craig Lykins or anyone in RCO. They will provide the required paperwork and medical clearance needed and also help you start the online training.

Being on the team requires a commitment. According to Lykins, those on the ice team can’t deploy on other Corps disaster response teams like the blue roof team or a debris removal team.

“It’s a chance to do a short-term deployment, get out of the office, make a little extra money, meet different people from throughout the Corps and participate in something meaningful,” Parra said.