CBP Relying on Deployed Volunteers to Recover from Hurricane Irene Damage
Hurricane Irene struck most of the East Coast Saturday and it will continue to impact the Northeast U.S. through Sunday. More than 3 million homes and businesses reportedly suffered power outages.
Some U.S. Customs and Border Protection employees too remained without power or suffered extensive flooding in their homes in the New York area.
CBP learned lessons from previous storms. Chief among those lessons: the need to return local CBP employees back to their ports and stations to resume business operations as quickly as possible.
CBP does that by soliciting employee volunteers from around the country to travel into impacted zones and help with debris removal, setting up generators, patching rooftops and other needed tasks.
These assignments are prioritized based on need. Some examples include returning port facilities to operational status, mitigating flooded basements in the Bronx, N.Y., and providing medical attention to a CBP officer.
Essentially, the outside volunteers allow local employees to tend to family needs so they can get back on their feet quicker.
"The officers on these deploying teams are conducting recovery missions so that their fellow CBP officers can get through this crisis, as well as their families safely, and be able to report back to work," said Robert E. Perez, CBP lead field coordinator for FEMA Region II, and director of field operations in New York.
CBP employees deployed from Houston, Miami and New Orleans and trucked in convoys to New York and New England with relief supplies and tools.
One unique aspect is that those officers from Houston, Miami and New Orleans have experienced natural disasters, and they were thankful of the volunteer support they received then. And as they say, it's now their turn to payback that gesture.
"I went through Hurricane Andrew in 1992 and I lost my home, and my family and I were devastated. But my fellow Customs officers came to my aid and helped me and my family out in our time of need," said Supervisory CBP Officer Jimmy Rodriguez of the Port of Miami. "I am more then glad to repay the favor in helping out my fellow officers who have been affected by Hurricane Irene. I am glad to do it."
Irene isn't yet done. CBP's Region I lead field coordinator is still monitoring the storm as it moves from Boston to the northern New England states and continues to work with the incident command posts to satisfy emergency response needs. The LFC also continues to support local, state, tribal and federal partners in New England.
"Even though some states have cancelled their evacuations, Region I continues to be effected by Tropical Storm Irene," said Region I LFC and Boston Director of Field Operations Kevin Weeks. "We will continue to work with ICP North [in Houlton, Maine] and ICP South [in Manchester, N.H.] on any personnel and/or assets they need in preparation, response and recovery as this storm continues to move into their area."
CBP expects to resume operations at many of its air and sea ports of entry on Monday.
U.S. Customs and Border Protection is the unified border agency within the Department of Homeland Security charged with the management, control and protection of our nation's borders at and between the official ports of entry. CBP is charged with keeping terrorists and terrorist weapons out of the country while enforcing hundreds of U.S. laws.