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Hurricane Irma had a devastating impact, and those who serve at the Department of Energy (DOE) have been responding, and are continuing to work closely with the federal community, state and local governments and industry partners in restoration and rebuilding efforts.

Members of the DOE Emergency Response Organization at DOE HQ continue to work to coordinate restoration and rebuilding efforts. And in the field, the Department’s emergency responders have been supporting response, restoration and rebuilding efforts in Florida, Georgia, Alabama and Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands.  

Three DOE emergency responders deployed at the FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Agency) Regional Response Coordination Center in Atlanta. They sheltered with their colleagues as the storm passed, with food and water and cots. In the immediate aftermath of the storm, they provided 24/7 support to energy sector needs, including fuel disruptions and power outages.

Additional DOE responders deployed to the state emergency operations centers of Florida, Georgia and Alabama. There they actively worked with their counterparts in the state governments to identify any information or resource gaps and inform DOE’s efforts with industry and interagency partners to best meet the needs of each state.

Three DOE emergency responders also forward deployed with FEMA’s Region II Incident Management Assistance Team (IMAT) to the US Virgin Islands (USVI) ahead of Hurricane Irma. Response members joined other agencies staged on the islands of St. Croix, St. Thomas, and Puerto Rico. 

One of them was Ron Alexander, a volunteer responder from the DOE’s Bonneville Power Administration, who deployed to St. Thomas in the Virgin Islands. The island took a major hit from Irma, and lost many of its essential services including all the power from its grid. Ron and the rest of the team sheltered in the Emergency Operation Center as the worst of the storm passed over the island. 

After landfall, Ron and the IMAT team sprang into action to support the USVI’s Water and Power Authority to assess the damage and create a plan to reenergize critical infrastructure, including the airport, hospital, and water plant. These efforts were instrumental to create the conditions to enable the long-term work of restoration and rebuilding.

Like the locals, the IMAT team endured the hardships of Irma’s aftermath. Beyond the heat and reeking conditions, the team was without domestic water and power.

Despite those challenges, all of the DOE responders deployed in the field are proud of the work they are doing. They also speak highly of the IMAT team, the interagency collaborative effort with the local governments, and the utility providers in the affected areas. And no matter how hard the conditions, the service was worth it.  As Ron wrote in a note, “I wouldn’t want to be anywhere else right now and I am glad you asked me to help.”

That’s true for the responders – and all who serve – at DOE. That’s true for all of our partners too – together we’ll continue to do all we can do.

For more information about DOE’s response and restoration efforts, please go to https://www.energy.gov/articles/working-together-restore-power-after-hurricane-irma. And for situation reports on the restoration efforts, please go here.

Hurricane Irma damage in the Virgin Islands
Hurricane Irma Damage in the Virgin Islands | Photo courtesy of Ron Alexander