How we helped Puerto Rico overcome the consequences of a natural disaster
Hurricane Maria (2017) was regarded as the worst natural disaster on record in the Dominican region causing over $91 billion in damage. With winds of 175mph, it hit Puerto Rico on September 20 causing catastrophic devastation and numerous fatalities. The hurricane also destroyed the island’s power grid, leaving essentially all 3.4 million residents without electricity.
FieldCore staff raised the bar on safety standards as they provided power in the wake of the catastrophic damage caused by Hurricane Maria. A team of 15 engineers flew to disaster-struck Puerto Rico to install and commission two GE TM2500 aeroderivative units, which would restore power to most major parts of the Island. Considering all the hazards they had to overcome, like water contamination, humidity and temperatures above 90 degrees Fahrenheit, the team did an amazing job delivering the units in a record of 12 days.
The main challenge FieldCore faced was the need to be extremely fast as the objective was to restore the power supply to 300,000 homes near San Juan. “As part of the Fast Power Group (team of fast responders) we are called to a lot of disaster areas where people need power,” explained Matthew Elwart, FieldCore Resource Manager, who oversaw the project. “When we got the notice to mobilize, we needed our guys to travel over the weekend to get there as quickly as possible. The situation was bad. We had to get an assessment done and then ship over the TM2500s. The team really came together to complete the job in record time.” – he stated. With large parts of the island needing more power, a third TM2500 unit was also deployed a few days later.
Even though there were numerous health challenges, FieldCore’s Global Security Manager, Travis Belleville, ensured the team was well aware of the disaster-area rules, including the restriction on drinking local water and ice. Meticulous check-ups were made to ensure that everyone was up to date with all required immunizations. Despite the high temperatures, the safety clothing standards were also closely adhered to including wearing of steel-toed boots, hard hats and reflective clothing. Also, along with maintaining a proper supply of clean drinking water and sunscreen, there were evacuation routes assessed in case of civil disturbances. Overall, the FieldCore fast power group was strongly supported by the Safety and Security teams throughout the preparation and implementation phases.
“The guys were amazing,” said Mr. Elwart. “They were definitely touched by the work they were doing and what it meant. I had to tell them to stop work at night, when they reached their hours. They would tell me: ‘I will carry on and don’t bill the job hour.’ I had to tell them to go home, that this would still be there in the morning and give them a pat on the back. That’s the kind of dedication these employees showed when the world needed them the most.”
Film crews from Fox News and CNN captured some of the FieldCore workers in action. But most importantly our guys returned home safely with zero injuries and safety incidents while providing a critical lifeline of electricity after the storm.