WSP maintains a nationwide master contract with USACE to respond within 24 hours to provide emergency power at critical infrastructure impacted by a disaster. The firm’s key role in the tornado recovery effort was to provide temporary back up power to critical facilities and assist rescue efforts to prevent the loss of life. These facilities included hospitals, temporary shelters, power stations, water pumping stations and any other alternate care facilities identified by the state.
WSP provided oversight for the installation of a massive 455-kilowatt generator, providing power to a high school that became the central hub for all rescue efforts in the region. At the time of the installation, the school became an indispensable facility used for the distribution of blankets, clothing, bottled water and food to residents displaced by the tornados.
“Prior to the installation of the generator, the facility was partially powered by small portable generators that were only able to provide limited lighting in certain areas of the building to collect and distribute items and provide meals,” Jamison said. “Upon completion of the installed generator, the facility had enough power for lighting, running water and the HVAC system. This allowed the school to open its doors for human occupancy.”
Semonite recalled driving down a road for three miles shortly after the WSP team arrived, where every single power line had been blown over and rendered inoperable. But already, crews were mobilizing, and he saw more than 50 teams of utility workers placing new poles and stringing wire to get that part of the town back up on power.
“Communications in the field are always an issue,” he said. “Downed power lines meant limited cell services in most areas.”
The generator was installed on Dec. 14 and was providing power for the high school building that afternoon. Over 100 WSP and subcontractor personnel, led by Tom Oliver, project manager, and Shannon McKinney, incident commander, were onsite for a total of seven days, providing oversight until shortly after they were demobilized by the USACE on Dec. 17. The generator remained operational until Dec. 16, when the main power to the building was restored and deemed stable enough to permit disconnection of the temporary generator.