PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) – Volunteers in Portland are helping ensure survivors of Hurricane Ian in Florida have temporary roofs over their head while they wait for permanent repairs to their homes.
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Portland District has about 30 volunteers accepting phone calls for the Operation Blue Roof mission. The operation, which the Corps of Engineers manages on behalf of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, provides a free installation of fiber-reinforced sheeting to cover hurricane-damaged roofs.
The Portland call center went live and began taking calls from Hurricane Ian victims at 2 p.m. Monday. Since then, they’ve received more than 20,000 calls.
While many callers decided to continue the process online, the call center has processed more than 1,300 requests.
So far, more than 11,000 applications for the temporary roofs have been submitted; 12.6% of them were processed through the call center. The others were either made in-person at designated locations or online.
“We’ve connected a lot of people to assistance,” Chris Gaylord, the public affairs specialist for the Portland District of the Corps of Engineers said. “That’s what this is really all about: doing what we can to help the American people, especially in such a critical time of need.”
The center is currently assisting Charlotte, Lee, Sarasota and Collier counties.
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ Portland District headquarters are located in downtown Portland. This is the new, permanent home for the Operation Blue Roof call center. Previously, the call centers were established in the same state where a disaster had been declared.
However, officials determined this wasn’t the best thing to do because out-of-state volunteers were using critical resources like hotel rooms and rental cars in the affected areas. The call center has since been re-homed to avoid this.
The call center usually operates for about 30 days after a natural disaster.
Sam Lynch, who works for the channels and harbors section in the Portland District, volunteered to work in the call center.
“I’m from Florida, so I was interested in helping out,” she said. “It’s a way to be involved without needing to travel.”
The Corps of Engineers works with local contractors to install the temporary roofs, which protect property, reduce temporary housing costs and allow residents to remain in their homes after a storm.
As of Thursday, Gaylord said the Corps of Engineers is not providing Operation Blue Roof services to the victims of Hurricane Fiona. He said governors have to first request assistance and after that, FEMA will give the Corps of Engineers an official assignment.
The Corps of Engineers does have teams on the ground in Puerto Rico helping victims of Hurricane Fiona with temporary power restoration.