Public Affairs Office
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has been using and providing communities with sandbags for more than 100 years, but building sandbags is labor-intensive.
As a results of recent flooding in Oklahoma and Texas, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers provided a hydraulic sandbag filling machine, on loan from the Corps’ Kansas District, to help Oklahoma and Texas Communities with the bag-building process.
The hydraulic filler and its two-man crew spent one day in Grove, Oklahoma, and two days in Durant, Texas, before being sent to Wagoner, Oklahoma.
The Oklahoma Department of Emergency Management determined Wagoner would be the central sandbag distribution center.
In the first 50 minutes of operation the machine and community volunteers built 500 sandbags.
“We had volunteers come from all over the county,” said Heath Underwood, emergency manager for Wagoner County.
“We had the Coweta football team come in,” added Underwood, “We asked for volunteers and they all just started coming in.”
Those volunteers, said Gary Cain, one of two sandbag machine operators sent from Kansas City to set up the hydraulic filler, are as important as the machine itself.
“You need the volunteers to tie and stack the bags” said Gary Cain, a crane operator with the Kansas City District, who works with the sandbag filling machine during emergency operations. “The more volunteers you have the more you can put the bags out, the easier it is.”
The Wagoner County Emergency Management Office now has 8,000 sandbags. Some will be placed into storage for future use, while the rest will be picked up by the Oklahoma Department of Transportation and delivered to sites around the region.
The machine and crew were able to return to Kansas City, June 1.
“It really helped my guys out and relieved the pressure on us. The people came in, pulled together and helped us out,” said Underwood.
In addition to sandbags, the Tulsa District U.S. Army Corps of Engineers managed water releases from more than 50 reservoirs in Texas, Oklahoma and Kansas during the May rain event.
“We believe we’ve been able to save lives and infrastructure with our system of reservoirs,” said Lt. Col. Daniel Young, Deputy Commander, Tulsa District. “The people who operate, manage and maintain our structures worked long hours to safely guide us through this event.”
GALVESTON, Texas – The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Galveston District won two prestigious Silver Anvil awards and one Award of Excellence from the Public Relations Society of America. The Silver Anvil, which recognizes outstanding achievement in strategic public relations planning and implementation, was presented during the Silver Anvil Awards Ceremony last night in New York City.
“We are honored to be recognized for our efforts to educate the public about these structures while we worked diligently to address structural issues and implement measures to reduce the risk to public safety,” said Col. Richard Pannell, commanding officer of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Galveston District. “Staff sought new and innovative ways to communicate with Houstonians following the classification process that identified necessary structural work to bolster these critical dams so that they could continue to provide flood damage protection for 1.2 million residents and potentially avoid $8 billion in losses in the event of a major flood.”
The USACE Galveston District received a Silver Anvil Award and an Award of Excellence for its communication efforts concerning its Dam Safety Program in the Community Relations and Integrated Communications categories. The public announcement of the USACE Dam Safety Program’s reclassification of the Addicks and Barker dams to “Extremely High Risk,” presented staff with the challenge of communicating the findings to inform 1.2 million residents in the nation’s fourth largest city of risks associated with living downstream of the dams, the $6.8 million short-term interim risk reduction measures in store and the $75-$100 million long-term construction plan to reinforce the nearly 70-year-old structures while maintaining the Corps’ reputation and relevancy as an organization that makes public safety a top priority.
“The PRSA Silver Anvil awards recognize the nation’s best public relations campaigns and are often referred to as the ‘Oscars’ of our industry,” said Isidro Reyna, deputy chief of public affairs for the USACE Galveston District. “We are incredibly humbled to be honored by our peers for our aggressive communications efforts in the greater Houston area, which ultimately instilled confidence in both internal and external audiences and supported the U.S. Army’s goals and objectives.”
Sandra Arnold, chief of the USACE Galveston District Public Affairs Office, says the Galveston District’s team put forth a genuine effort to keep residents apprised of the status of the aging infrastructure and that these efforts were reflected in the award selection results.
“Staff understood the importance of keeping the community informed throughout this entire repair and modification process and worked to engage residents in discussions regarding findings, recommended plans and future construction,” said Arnold. “The five-year community relations plan’s success hinged on open, two-way exchange of information about the dams’ hazards and risks as well as implementing feedback as we continued to discuss the Corps’ capabilities and responsibilities related to sustaining this critical infrastructure.”
Arnold stated that staff will remain committed in its efforts to communicate the risks associated with living in proximity to these structures and will work to maintain local relationships as well as promote transparency and understanding of the district’s Dam Safety Program.
“Most importantly, we will continue to keep Houstonians in the forefront when moving forward with construction this fall.”
The district was also recognized with a 2015 PRSA Silver Anvil Award in the Multicultural Public Relations category for its Corps in the Classroom program to discuss the Corps’ mission with students and highlight the district’s contributions to the community, state and nation. Additionally, the PRSA Houston Chapter recognized the district’s communication efforts regarding its Dam Safety Program and named USACE Galveston District as a finalist for the Grand Excalibur Award, the top award bestowed in the chapter for public relations excellence. The award will be presented in mid June.
The Silver Anvil Awards program has grown in scope and stature since its inception in 1946, and awards are now given in 16 categories and over 60 sub-categories. In the 60-plus-year history of the Silver Anvils, many organizations have been recognized, including solo practitioners, agencies of all sizes, large and small businesses, top corporations, nonprofits, associations and government agencies. Entries are judged on their research, planning, execution and evaluation, while also taking factors such as creativity, ethics and budget into consideration.
For more information about the Addicks and Barker reservoirs and dams visit www.addicksandbarker.info or learn more about dam safety at http://www.damsafety.org/. For news and information, visit www.swg.usace.army.mil. Find us on Facebook, www.facebook.com/GalvestonDistrict, or follow us on Twitter, www.twitter.com/USACEGalveston.