Jacksonville, Fl --
USACE’s New Orleans District announced September 1 that the roofing program, commonly known as Operation Blue Roof, would be activated for those impacted by Hurricane Laura. In response, Jacksonville District started setting up and operating a call center to assist impacted homeowners with applications and information on the program.
The call center provides disaster survivors another means to apply for the program and complete the right-of-entry form necessary for contractors to install to temporary roofing materials. Those interested can also apply online and at sign-up centers typically opened in the impacted area.
“This is the first time we’ve taken applications for the program by phone on such a wide scale,” said Jason Chapple, an asset manager in Jacksonville District’s Operations Division who is serving as the supervisor for the call center. “We were able to activate while the roofing team was still en route to the disaster site. We are trying to get as many people enrolled as quickly as possible so materials can be installed as soon as everything is in place”
Chapple’s involvement with the call center dates to 2017 when hurricanes Irma and Maria caused widespread damage to Florida and Puerto Rico. Jacksonville District stood up temporary roofing missions for both storms. The district operated a Blue Roof hotline at that time, but it was limited only to providing information on the physical locations of where people could sign up for the program.
Over time, USACE staff took a harder look at how to use the hotline to provide better service to those who sign up for assistance. First, efforts were made to provide a means to answer questions on the program. Over time, discussions took place on how to take applications over the phone.
“Jacksonville District has a lot of recent experience in Blue Roof operations,” said Lt. Col. Joe Sahl, deputy district commander. “Starting with Michael in 2018, we worked closely with the Temporary Roofing Program Manager to find ways to reach people who couldn’t make it to a physical location. The call center started transitioning from just answering questions on the program to a method to sign people up for the program.”
Chapple said being able to take applications by phone is especially helpful this year in a COVID-19 environment.
“With the pandemic going on, the call center option means people don’t necessarily have to sign up for the program in person,” said Chapple.
Employees from USACE offices across the nation deployed to support the effort. Sahl says there was no shortage of volunteers, even on a holiday weekend.
“We have a lot of great employees that desire to serve others,” said Sahl, “and it’s humbling to see them respond to the needs of people who are states away. The Blue Roof Mission is a tough task, and it’s especially rewarding to be a part of the continued effort to revolutionize how we serve the nation in times of crisis.”