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NEWS | March 14, 2012

Bringing the power back: Hospital, telephone lines in business after joint effort

By Airman 1st Class Tom Brading Joint Base Charleston Public Affairs

From taking care of patients to restoring power and communications, a united Team Charleston, utilizing multiple sets of skills, worked together in order to bring the power and phone lines back after a severe storm knocked out service March 1 at several locations on and around Joint Base Charleston.

During the storm Naval Health Clinic Charleston and the Goose Creek Department of Veterans Affairs hospital lost electricity. The telephone lines at JB Charleston - Air Base also went silent as a result of the storm's impact.

"When we initially lost power due to the storms, we made a promise to keep our patients the top priority," said Navy Capt. Steve Brasington, Naval Health Clinic Charleston executive officer. "It was important that the patients and their dependents continued to receive the excellent care they have come to expect."

Through the use of social media and the help of local medical facilities including the 628th Medical Group at JB Charleston - Air Base, patients were still able to receive medical care with minimal interruption.

The 628th MDG saw an increase in their workload at NHCC in the wake of the power outage. The pharmacy processed more than 100 more prescriptions than they would during a normal work day. Referral management had a 25 percent increase in their workload and the laboratory saw an additional 100 patients than they did in the four days prior to the power outage.

"The 628th MDG went the extra mile with their efforts to assist Navy patients," said Brasington. "The medical professionals stayed later hours in their facilities and adjusted their schedules accordingly for multiple days until power was restored to the naval clinic."

Meanwhile, at NHCC, repairs were already underway. Bob Hood, 628th Contracting Squadron Chief of Construction Acquisition Flight, went to NHCC after the initial power outage. Hood is in charge of all contracting repairs, modernizations and maintenance on JB Charleston buildings.

"By the time I arrived, repairs had already started," said Hood. "The teamwork couldn't have been better. The 628th Civil Engineer Squadron was very helpful in accessing the damage and providing information for me to give to the company we contracted the repairs to."

Hood credits the quick response from the 628TH Comptroller Squadron for providing proper funding as well as 628TH CES for providing accurate information, so he could do his job and contact the proper contractors.

"The joint efforts continued tirelessly throughout the days and nights," said James Barry, JB Charleston - Weapons Station electrical superintendent. "A lot of us sacrificed our weekend to ensure power was brought back to the hospital. There was a lot of overtime, everyone worked great together and responded very well to the situation."

Barry credits the dedication and joint partnership of everyone involved in restoring power before March 8. He also believes experiences like this makes JB Charleston more mission ready for the upcoming 2012 Hurricane Season.

"We can apply this experience to future events," said Barry. "It is always difficult to plan for an emergency, especially when you are balancing countless variables. However, the experience of working with so many people is always helpful."

While the damages at NHCC were being repaired, the cyber warriors of the 628TH Communications Squadron were working on damages at the JB Charleston - Air Base.

"Lightning struck a communications tower holding many antennas for the communications squadron," said Chief Master Sgt. Michael Gibson, 628th Communications Squadron cyber operations superintendent. "Within minutes, technicians went to their respective work centers to ensure critical communications were not affected."

Unfortunately, they were. The storm had damaged the base's telephone switch and affected land mobile radios and the Giant Voice system.

"Communicators immediately began troubleshooting the telephone switch to identify initial damage," said Gibson. "After working all night and throughout the weekend, technicians had to replace 75 of 100 controller cards to restore services back to 100 percent."

In addition, in an adjacent work center, communication technicians worked feverishly with senior engineers to troubleshoot the land mobile radio network that controlled the Joint Base's handheld radios and Giant Voice services.

Although the repairs required many different units and skill sets, they all shared one common goal; get the power and communications back on. Everyone involved credits the success of the quick response and repairs to the joint efforts of every individual involved.

"Our beneficiaries were so patient throughout the power outage," said Brasington. "It's important to thank them for being so understanding and it was gratifying to see the great unity from JB Charleston that made restoring the power at the clinic successful."

Patients who may receive an Urgent Care bill for care rendered as a result of the power outage can go to either TRICARE Service Center (628th MDG or NHCC) with the bill and their staffs will assist them in remedying the situation.