Operation: Lone Star

Dallas AAR PDF

After Action Report

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY

On Tuesday, April 3rd 2012 a series of tornadoes swept through the greater Dallas/Fort Worth (DFW) area.  Initial reports reported that there were eight (8) tornadoes, but these reports were later updated to report a total of sixteen (16) had touched town.  The initial news coverage centered on a large parking lot where 18-wheeler semi trucks were being picked up into the air and twisted around before being dropped back to the ground, destroying them in the process.  This media sensation, although spectacular to watch, detracted attention from the towns of the area that were in need of serious assistance.

The towns in the DFW area that were most affected were: Arlington, Lancaster, Forney, and Kennendale.  These were identified early on from eyewitness accounts and news reporting coming out of the DFW area.   The towns had estimates of damage in the “hundreds of houses destroyed” range.  No deaths were reported as a result of the tornadoes, and there were few injuries.  Early reporting mitigated the amount of people who were caught outside in the storm system.

Team Rubicon decided to deploy a tornado response team from Eastern Texas.  This was done for many reasons, and despite the fact that no deaths were reported. While fatalities are an obvious objective sign that assistance is needed, the sheer destruction of the towns warranted a response.  Team Rubicon has recently expanded our domestic leadership positions and had a valuable and reliable asset living in the DFW area.  Klebe Brumble, a retired Air Force veteran and Operating Room Nurse, was able to gather supplies and personnel in the hours directly after the tornadoes left and that gave Team Rubicon an operational advantage to get a response team into the affected neighborhoods quickly.

Klebe initially assembled the team in a Methodist church in Duncanville, Texas.  The church was situated directly between Lancaster and Arlington, which made it a strategically ideal location for a Rally Point.  An email alert was sent out to everyone living in the eastern Texas area that we would be assembling at the Rally Point and to meet there.  Our volunteer database, OrgAction, was updated to reflect the new information and an event was created for spontaneous sign-ups.

Team Rubicon Headquarters in Los Angeles (TRHQ) decided to fly two key personnel to Texas the following morning.  These were Joshua Webster, who would act as the overall Team Leader, and Kirk Jackson who would act as Videographer.  They rallied Wednesday evening at the Methodist church in Duncanville and received the Situation Report (SITREP) from the acting team leader Shane Valverde.  The team repositioned at a nearby hotel and begun coordinating with local relief agencies to enter the cities the following day.  So far, Team Depot was the only organization that had been granted access through the police cordons in the affected cities.  Team Rubicon, through a carefully arranged relationship with the Home Depot Foundation, was able to secure a partnership and was confident that they could begin work the next day.

The relationship with Team Depot (and the Home Depot Foundation) proved to be the MOST reliable and functional relationship that Team Rubicon established while in Texas.  The relationship allowed access to Lancaster and Arlington the following 96 hours.  The Team worked in each of those cities and specifically they participated in the following activities under the specific guidelines that “partially destroyed homes” that were deemed “salvageable would be gotten to first.

Partially destroyed homes were first assessed for major damage.  If the homes were deemed “livable” and were given a stamp of approval form the city Fire Chief, then Team Rubicon volunteers would assist the homeowners with the following activities:

  • Clearing of rubble and debris
  • Patching holes in roofs with tarps, nails, and wood
  • Patching holes in walls with OSB board and tarps
  • General weather-proofing
  • Chainsawing and removing fallen trees

After the initial 96-hour period it became clear that bad weather was moving in for Sunday, April 8, 2012.  Given that it was Easter, it was expected that all volunteer organizations would be taking the day off and resuming work when the storm had passed.  The expected day of resumption of operations was Tuesday, April 10 2012.  This time delay caused the Team Leader, Joshua Webster, to end operations in the DFW area.  His decision was based on the following reasons:

  • The inclement weather would force the teams to shut down operations for 48-72 hours. This would add an undue expense of housing and feeding the team without “guaranteeing” them any future work.
  • The homes the team had worked on seemed to be well protected by their “emergency home repair”
  • General contractors and insurance adjusters were expected to return by Tuesday, April 10 to begin permanent rebuilding solutions.
  • The “work orders” from homeowners were slowing as more volunteer organizations began showing up on Saturday, April 7 2012.

The team learned many valuable lessons regarding the “handiness” and capabilities of individuals who had served in uniform.  The team members had certain “key” individuals who were subject matter experts (SME’s) in the areas of structure building, general construction, and heavy equipment use.  These individuals were leaned on heavily by the leadership to guide the actual work teams; while the leadership managed risk, found work requests, liaisoned with relief organizations and procured gear.  This system led to an overall effective model given the time constraints.

It is the impression of the team leader that Team Rubicon members were extremely effective at offering emergency home repair to homeowners whose homes had been partially destroyed. TR’s work was aimed at saving the property of those homes that would be repaired, while minimizing the amount of work on the homes that would later be demolished by a bulldozer.  By doing this Team Rubicon members aided in a “response” role that was critical AND time sensitive.  The team members arrived ready to work, and needed only a minimal safety brief before they began “self-starting” these projects on their own.  The leadership merely had to guide them to the proper work sites and make sure they had the tools they needed.

It is also the impression of the team leader that this type of work ethic motivated surrounding volunteer organizations to work harder and to facilitate getting Team Rubicon members to the sites with the most need.  This was pointed out throughout the week, as local organizations would repeatedly request Team Rubicon to tackle the most difficult tasks.  These tasks would always be approached with care, a will to succeed, and the ability to work as a team.

    Jake Wood William McNulty Joshua Webster Shane Valverde

    President, Team Rubicon           Vice President                Team Leader                 Assistant Team Leader

OPERATION OVERVIEW

OPERATION NAME:

Operation: Lone Star

DURATION:

6 days

DATES:

April 3, 2012 – April 8, 2012

LOCATION:

Dallas/Fort Worth, Texas

OPERATION DIRECTIVE:

Facilitate in Emergency Home Repair as the result of excessive tornado damage.

ELEMENTS:

1

TOTAL VOLUNTEERS:

18

     MILITARY VETERANS:

12

TOTAL CASH RAISED:

$12,433.00

     LESS: CREDIT CARD FEES:

($610.23)

NET:

$11,822.77

EXPENSES:

     TRANSPORTATION:

$2,539

     EQUIPMENT:

$629

     FOOD:

$528

     LODGING:

$447

     Other:

$67

TOTAL:

($4,211)

NET OPERATION GAIN/ (LOSS)

$7,611

OPERATION SUMMARY

PRE-DEPLOYMENT

The team for this mission was assembled from a general 100-mile radius around the disaster site.  Because of the widespread footage of the 18-wheeler semi truck video on the news there was an immediate explosion of requests from Texas from members who were willing to deploy into the DFW area.  It was the decision of TRHQ to quickly set up a Rally Point and assign a team leader.  Our local Regional Director, Klebe Brumble, was able to set up a Rally Point at the Duncanville Methodist Church, but work restrictions had him sidelined from volunteering during the daytime.

It was the decision from TRHQ to deploy Team Leader Joshua Webster due to the inability of Klebe to escape his work duties.  A team leader from TRHQ brings with it obvious advantage of having the purchasing ability of Team Rubicon, the former team leadership experience, as well as the strategic view of the operation (having spent all day coordinating assets.)  Flights to Dallas were approaching $1000 each way the night of the incident due to heavy hail damage to hundreds of planes in the DFW area.  The following morning Joshua and Team Rubicon videographer Kirk Jackson flew to Dallas on complimentary “green passes” that had been kindly donated by Southwest Airlines.  This eased the burden from the Team Rubicon checkbook considerably.

The team on the ground, lead by Shane Valverde, had done an initial recon of the cities of Lancaster and Forney, but were unable to break through the police cordon due to tightened restrictions on account of possible looting in the area.  Shane and his team had coordinated with some relief agencies while they were there, but it was the relationship with the Home Dept Foundation that proved to be the lynch pin that got the team access to Lancaster the following day.

DEPLOYMENT

Each day the team met with Team Depot representatives at the prescribed location for a daily brief and to be escorted into the disaster zones.  By day three Team Rubicon needed no escort and could enter Lancaster freely.  The Team Rubicon vehicle placards, t-shirts, hats, and prior work experience facilitated this abrupt policy change.

After the first hour the team recognized that there was no use helping to “clean up” the yards of houses that were totally destroyed.  Many of the homes were already scheduled to be bulldozed, and the local families had done their best to remove any valuable possession the day of the storm.  The work plan shifted to restoring and repairing the houses that needed to be protected from the incoming weather.  These houses needed help and general contractors were not available until AFTER Easter weekend.  It became the duty of Team Rubicon volunteers to make sure these homeowners, many of whom were still living in their houses, could survive another weekend storm.

Team Depot agreed to take a member of Team Rubicon to Home Depot in order to purchase the necessary materials needed to conduct this mission.  Thomas Hudson was chosen because of his knowledge of the mission and his general construction knowledge.  He returned an hour later with the following construction materials that the team used for the next 96 hours: tarps, OSB board, roofing nails, hammers, cement screws, plywood beams, and rakes.

Living accommodations were changed from the Duncanville Methodist Church to a local Motel 6 for the first 2 nights of the mission.  The team was offered lodging in Dallas at the retreat house of Tyler Street United Methodist Church.  This retreat house was very nice and allowed for the team to operate without financial burden or physical strain.

After the 3rd day of operations the team leader decided to break the team from the disaster zone.  It was Saturday, April 7th and Easter was the following day.  Rain and thunderstorms were expected to roll in that night, making volunteer roof repair too risky to accomplish.  The storm was expected to break on Tuesday, and by that time contractors were scheduled to arrive for a more permanent solution for the homeowners.  The team finished a final job (that required the entire group’s efforts) and said their goodbyes.  All the gear was accounted for, and any extra gear was given to Klebe Brumle for safekeeping and potential follow-on mission in Eastern Texas.  The Team Leader and Videographer from Los Angeles hopped on the last flight of the day leaving Dallas and the rest of the team headed home.

AREAS OF ANALYSIS

  1. 1. Transportation
  2. 2. Staging Area
  3. 3. Volunteers
  4. 4. EOC Coordination
  5. 5. Mission Objectives
  6. 6. Equipment
  7. 7. Media

ANALYSIS

TRANSPORTATION

SUMMARY

Team Rubicon members drove into the disaster area and as such there were no plane ticket expenses.  Team Leader Joshua Webster and Videographer Kirk Jackson flew in using Southwest “Green Passes” that had been donated, and there was no expense there either.  The team utilized trucks of local volunteers as well as the trailers from two key personnel throughout the mission as a way to transport out supplies and gear from location to location.  Trailers, both covered and exposed, were used extensively to haul gear.

RECOMMENDATION

When Thomas Hudson departed with his trailer, the team was left with the open trailer belonging to Tim Trostel as their sole means of transporting gear.  The idea was brought up, and has been brought up since, that Team Rubicon should strategically station “equipment trailers” throughout the country.   These trailers need to be bought, equipped, and maintained by volunteers, and as such certain “issues” arise concerning: cost, storage, equipping, and maintenance.

STAGING AREA

SUMMARY

Klebe Brumble quickly identified a Rally Point at the Duncanville Methodist Church, which was strategically located between the towns of Lancaster and Arlington.  This proved a suitable place for people to meet up, but didn’t support extended operations due to its lack of bedding and showers.  The team moved into a hotel while a new site was identified for use, one that was offered by the Tyler Street United Methodist Church.  It was there that they were approached by volunteers who were kind enough to donate dinner to the team.  This type of help was greatly appreciated.

RECOMMENDATION

Teams in the field could use a way to communicate with people who want to volunteer a place for members to stay.  We currently solicit offers from Facebook, our “contact form” on the website, and direct phone calls.  These are working currently, and will be used in the future.  Perhaps the team could use an interconnected social media site that aggregates all of these offers.

VOLUNTEERS

SUMMARY

For this mission Team Rubicon alerted volunteers in a 100-mile radius from the disaster site.  A few members drove in from further locations, but most of them either were from the area or were coming into the DFW area as a re-route before they headed home again.  Nonetheless, it is important for the development of our “Regional model” to empower the Regions with enough resources and funds to prosecute the mission themselves.  This will aid in the establishment of regional solidarity, regional preparedness, and regional development.

RECOMMENDATION

An initial email and facebook post alerted residents of Region VI and VII that volunteers would be called upon from the nearby areas.  That aside, an actual “radius map” of volunteers would be a helpful tool in deciding who falls inside of that disaster area.  In addition a “stand down” message should be initiated to keep members from “self-deploying” from too far away.

EOC COORDINATION

SUMMARY

Team Rubicon initially worked to coordinate with the Red Cross and the local VOAD’s in order to gain access to the disaster areas within Lancaster, Arlington, and Kennendale.  TRHQ staff was involved in the Wednesday Morning (April 4th) phone call with all Texas VOAD’s, but opted instead to follow up on a lead with the Home Depot Foundation.  The Home Depot Foundation expressed that they had been allowed into Lancaster, and as such were the most reliable asset for gaining that access again.  As such, Team Rubicon worked with strategic members of the Home Depot Foundation, and operational leaders (the Team Depot Store Managers in the DFW area) to link up and be escorted into the disaster areas.

RECOMMENDATION

If it were not for the connection with the Home Depot Foundation it is possible that Team Rubicon would not had been allowed into the disaster areas.  Team Depot had the credibility and the prior arrangements to bypass the police cordons in Lancaster and Arlington.

MISSION OBJECTIVES

SUMMARY

The mission criteria changed once the team was able to accurately distinguish between homes that were “salvageable” and those that were going to be demolished.  Mission objectives remained the same throughout though: Emergency home repair, debris removal, tree removal.

RECOMMENDATION

Establish a template for domestic tornado response for each Team Leader to read before stepping into the disaster zone.  This needs to be a short “down and dirty” lessons learned from previous missions that will advise leadership and members about the most likely course of action.

EQUIPMENT

SUMMARY

Team Rubicon members relied on the equipment that they personally owned.  A few chainsaws were rented from Home Depot, and some members bought nails/screws for the emergency home repair work.  All of these costs were paid back to the volunteers, but a cache of equipment for the team to use would have been helpful

RECOMMENDATION

Proper equipment should be available to teams in the field.  How this is executed is open for discussion, but at a minimum the equipment needs to be readily available.  Team members should also realize the need for impromptu classes on heavy equipment for other members of the team who don’t regularly use: chainsaws, chop saws, or skill saws.  This can be accomplished on scene or beforehand.

MEDIA

SUMMARY

Media is a constant concern for Team Rubicon leadership.  Our ability to raise donations is a direct reflection of our ability to properly alert our supporters to ongoing missions.  During this mission the Team Leader made sure to task someone every night to write a veteran reflection that could be posted on the website.  The Team Leader led by example and wrote the first reflection.  Also, by bringing in a Videographer from TRHQ the task of downloading pictures to facebook and the website didn’t also depend on the Team Leader.

RECOMMENDATION

Writing the veteran reflection, downloading pictures to Facebook and the website, and writing a daily SITREP NEEDS to get done every day.  These are the main ways we alert our supporters and are also the ways we raise money.  The Team Leader should have his/her ATL conduct all duties pertaining to: developing a roster, securing lodging, and monitoring safety at night to allow for this to happen.

KEY LESSONS LEARNED

  1. 1. Reliable and recognizable heavy equipment is much better than a bunch of chainsaws that nobody knows how to use.
  2. 2. An equipment trailer may make or break a mission that depends on having “Emergency Home Repair” as its main focus.
  3. 3. Rosters need to get made, reflections need to get written, and SITREPS need to get published.  If these happen then EVERYBODY can help from TRHQ the next day without asking too many questions.
  4. 4. Mission Objectives may be he same for every tornado response. Lets learn from our prior mission and be ready to rock-and-roll.
  5. 5. Staging Areas and Rally Points will shift as the mission shifts.  Team Leaders should let the team know they should be prepared to move if lodging becomes available somewhere better.
  6. 6. Work every connection at TRHQ.  It may be the 15th phone call of the day, but that could be the call that gets the team “into” the disaster zone.
  7. 7. Its not always money that volunteers want to donate, local volunteers might just want to cook the team dinner, and money saved is money we use for the next mission.

KEY ACTIONS

  1. 1. Identify “Equipment Trailer” specifics and begin planning the purchase, equipping, storage, and maintenance of the prototype.
  2. 2. Utilize SUMAZI website for next mission in order to solicit from volunteers who want to donate “goods and services” instead of money (i.e. dinner)
  3. 3. Build out “map function” for OrgAction so that we can deploy volunteers in a geographical radius.
  4. 4. Write “hip pocket” manual for on-the-spot heavy equipment training on: Chainsaws, cut-saws, front-end loaders, and anything else we have used.
  5. 5. Amend Team Leader and Assistant Team Leader duties to specify who looks for lodging and who is writing the daily SITREP.