The top priority of the federal government as we work to support state and local authorities in response to Hurricanes Harvey and Irma is protecting the life and safety of those in impacted areas.
The U.S. General Services Administration is responding swiftly to a variety of needs as part of the federal government’s response to recent hurricanes in the Caribbean and Gulf Coast states and territories.
GSA provides assistance to federal employees, vendors, and the public in response to disasters – all with the aim of reducing the impact of disasters. In the wake of Hurricanes Harvey and Irma, GSA employees are focused on effectively managing these responsibilities and supporting other agencies as they carry out their critical missions.
Helping federal employees and managing federal facilities
A top priority for GSA leaders was to account for all GSA employees in the affected areas. Using phone and email verification, GSA’s Office of Mission Assurance contacted employees to ensure they were safe and did not need assistance. Another top priority for GSA is to ensure the safety of federal employees and contractors working in GSA-owned and leased facilities.
In Texas, the Caribbean and the southeast, GSA worked with its partners to assess building damage and determine the status of over 1,000 owned and leased facilities. Before the storms hit, facilities were closed to protect employees and visitors.
Some GSA employees volunteered to stay at GSA buildings during the storms to assess impacts and restore service as quickly as possible after the storms cleared. Facilities that had no or minor damage were re-opened as soon as they were safe and operational. For facilities expected to be closed for an extended period of time because of damages, GSA will work with tenant agencies to lease appropriate temporary space for them.
Supporting FEMA in Emergency Support Function 7
GSA also serves as a primary agency in support of the National Response Framework’s Emergency Support Function #7. ESF-7 is responsible for logistics management and resource support, such as emergency relief supplies, facility space, office equipment and supplies, contracting support, transportation, and telecommunications and information technology.
The Federal Emergency Management Agency has issued nearly 50 mission assignments to GSA for assistance with efforts such as leasing operational space for use in the recovery phase, leasing vehicles from GSA’s fleet of over 200,000, and the potential need for facilities to support mass care of evacuees and to store commodities.
One mission assignment GSA received was to deliver 23 vehicles to St. Thomas in the U.S. Virgin Islands. After determining that a ship with relief commodities, the SS Wright, was bound for St. Thomas, GSA employees located the needed vehicles at a facility in Conshohocken, Pennsylvania, close to the port where the ship would depart.
Because it was not practical or cost effective to get the vehicles back from the island when they were no longer needed, vehicles that were approaching the end of their useful life were selected, so they could be sold at auction when the leases end and save transport costs. GSA identified a car carrier to transport them to the port over the weekend to be loaded on Sept. 11 for a Sept. 12 ship departure.
As the situations evolved and needs arose, GSA banded together with the rest of the federal family to provide a swift, coordinated, effective response to the impacted areas. Agencies identified needs and others offered up capabilities. GSA raised certain minimum thresholds to help our federal partners quickly gain access to the resources they need in their relief efforts.
Employees across multiple agencies helped each other be more effective by sharing information, connecting points of contact, and even offering a ride or working cell phone. From the highest levels to the lowest, the federal family continues to come together to make progress quickly toward returning the devastated areas back to normal.
The compassion of the American people is already evident in their response to the destruction the storms have caused. People can help by visiting www.nvoad.org to donate or volunteer with the national organization member of their choice, many of which are already in the impacted areas supporting survivors.