Disaster Response Operations
Fighting a natural disaster from the ground floor
Hurricane Ida Relief Case Study
Hurricane Ida, the second-most damaging hurricane to strike Louisiana, caused deadly and mass destruction to the coastal state in late August 2021. Louisiana, a state all too familiar with hurricane damage, needed immediate disaster response relief.
Due to the rise of hurricane landfalls, the need for swift and efficient emergency response is critical. In an effort to meet these needs, the U.S. Army and U.S. Marine Forces Command formed Task Force 51, a versatile, deployable command post that provides mission command options for routine and contingency operations.
Task 51 can rapidly deploy military ground personnel to support civil authorities and help interagency partners respond to hurricane disasters. This task force travels anywhere in the continental United States to respond to national disasters, provide assessments teams and establish command posts.
As Hurricane Ida formed outside the Gulf of Mexico, it quickly became a Category 4 hurricane, making landfall in Louisiana on August 29, 2021—the 16th anniversary of Hurricane Katrina.
The Federal Emergency Management Agency called on Task Force 51 to help Louisiana and the Louisiana National Guard respond to Hurricane Ida. Task Force 51 was ordered to be the first representatives of the Joint Force Land Component Command to establish a command-and-control headquarters on Fort Polk Berry Mission Training Complex (BMTC).
Fort Polk BMTC was chosen since it was not in the path of the hurricane and the training complex has the facilities to accommodate a large influx of soldiers. Its hard infrastructure, network equipment and logistical capabilities, such as hot showers and sleeping quarters, made it the ideal location to house Task 51 during their response efforts. The challenge was to ensure the task force would be operational quickly enough to provide disaster relief in the area needed.
A hurricane of this magnitude presents many challenges, such as communications and travel. High winds and flying debris damage cellphone towers and limit cell phone coverage leaving satellite communication as the primary form of exchanging critical information. Road access is also a challenge. Streets are often flooded or barricaded with debris and restrict travel.
Hurricane Ida made landfall on August 29. BMTC received word that Task Force 51 would arrive on its base in less than 24 hours to set up command and control. The BMTC facility would require crisis and surge support to deploy its tactical operations center, satellite communications systems and network connections.
CSA has supported BMTC with full spectrum, multi echelon, mission command training and support since 2019. CSA history with BMTC personnel and their familiarity with the facility well equipped them to prepare for Task Force 51’s arrival.
Upon receiving word of Task Force 51’s arrival, CSA immediately began preparing the facility. In order to accommodate their needs, BMTC and CSA needed Task Force 51’s input on how best to reconfigure the base to help facilitate their disaster relief efforts. To gain this critical information, CSA provided Task Force 51 with guided tours of the 200,000-acre military base and facilities, providing them with information on the base’s infrastructure and utilities. CSA expedited their requests and reconfigured spaces to meet Task Force 51’s exact requirements. Redundant communications were erected with hard landline telephones, power was routed from the tactical operations center to vehicles and commercial internet lines were run to communications vehicles to provide dedicated physical network connections.
Within 24 hours of notification, Task Force 51 was fully operational—its networks, facilities and personnel had all the necessary equipment and connections. Two bay command posts and multiple tactical operations center pads were erected and operational. Flawless setup and integration allowed Task Force 51 to start providing relief and immediate aid to the devastation-stricken area.
CSA's responsive setup efforts allowed Task Force 51 to assemble and deploy quickly and easily. During Task Force 51’s stay at BMTC, Capstone employees ensured the forces’ needs were met, ensuring their successful delivery of relief efforts.
In the days after the storm, CSA employees continued to volunteer their time to accomplish work orders from the volunteer Crises Cleanup Hotline to provide direct relief to citizens. On nights and weekends, CSA teammates are rebuilding roofs, fixing fences and cutting down fallen trees.