By Denise Everhart
On June 29, at 6:30 am, Bryan Toman, Incident Support Base “Blue” Team Manager received a phone call – he and his team were being activated to Charleston, West Virginia in the wake of a storm that caused extensive damage to power lines and equipment. A massive derecho – a straight-line wind storm- had just traveled almost 700 miles across ten states in only ten hours. Weather analysts said the force of the storm was 70 miles per hour in some places - similar to that of a hurricane – and came without advanced warning. .
At peak, more than 600,000 of the state's homes and businesses were without power. Huge metal transmission towers were crumpled and dozens of twisting, narrow, secondary roads were closed. West Virginia’s Department of Homeland Security and Emergency Management opened the emergency operations center and The Governor declared a state of emergency for all 55 counties.
West Virginia had worked with FEMA Region III to pre-designate the Air National Guard Base as the Federal Staging Area in case of a commodities mission. They designated the secondary staging area in Morgantown.
By the time Toman arrived the next day, 25 trucks of water were ready to be distributed. Toman formulated his plan for commodities distribution. He needed to start the paperwork chain that would ensure full accountability for all commodities. The teams took the bills of lading from the truck and attached a tracker, which would enable them to keep “eyes in the sky” on all of the trucks. Coordination with Bill Hines, FEMA state liaison officer, was key to everyone being in the information loop on requests, what was shipped and what was still available.
The process started to evolve. Commodities distribution was split into three teams.
The first team was water. Toman started receiving the paperwork to start the distribution process. To ensure accountability, the information was entered into their computer system, printed out and a folder was started for each truckload.
The second team was meals. The requests from the state for meals went to Matt Blackwood, who works for the West Virginia Department of Agriculture. The State Police supported the Department of Agriculture with shuttling the meals, using Department of Corrections vehicles.
The final team was generators. West Virginia’s Department of Homeland Security and Emergency Management decided to use the National Guard for the power mission. The state filled out an Action Request Form and FEMA started moving generators to West Virginia. Toman’s team just needed to log the bar codes in order to transfer that property to the state. The National Guard handled everything else.
At that point in time, things became what Toman calls “an accountability show.”
Three weeks later, the mission was wrapping up. 40s [FEMA forms used for requisition and commitment for services and supplies] were being cut to start the payment process. Toman was asked to provide numbers on all of the commodities delivered to the Farm Service Agency, distributed and ready to send back to FEMA. Toman had his computer system printout, boxes of files and an excel spreadsheet to give to the comptroller.
“I am completely confident in our system that we know exactly how many trucks, what went out to the state and how many are left over,” Toman stated. “This mission was a success and it is due to the people on the ground. Everyone from the National Guard, to the shuttle drivers, to my team worked together and we got the job done.”
At final count, more than 2.8 million liters of water, 530,000 meals and more than 95 generators were distributed to West Virginia.