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Total Force Manning Emergency Coordination Center During Hurricane Response

Navy NewsStand

Story Number: NNS051004-10
Release Date: 10/4/2005 11:13:00 AM

By Journalist Seaman Chris M. Hwang, Navy Personnel Command Communications

MILLINGTON, Tenn. (NNS) -- Navy officers and enlisted members, as well as civilian contractors, formed a team to man Navy Personnel Command’s Emergency Coordination Center (ECC) here to support the victims of Hurricane Katrina Aug. 30, a day after the hurricane devastated the Gulf Coast.

Soon after the initial start-up, the ECC moved into NPC’s Customer Service Center (CSC) and joined civilian customer service agents to provide support to Navy evacuees, their families and extended family members searching for Navy personnel.

“The ECC was moved to the call center for a variety of reasons,” said Center for Career Development Director Capt. Mark D. Klatt. “The call center agents are trained to talk to the public and recognize their needs. We were able to take advantage of trained and experienced customer service representatives to help and gather information.”

Additional telephones, computers and experienced phone agents were needed for the high volume of calls coming in. In total, approximately 20,000 calls from Sailors, Navy civilians and dependents have been fielded by the ECC since it was activated.

The Customer Relationship Management System (CRMS) allows reports to be run and enables the agents to recognize trends and gather desired information for future callers.

Muster information for Navy personnel affected by Katrina was a top priority, initially. Once the members were accounted for, their circumstances were evaluated and ECC agents referred members to other Navy, government and private agencies for specific needs, often with a ‘live hand-off’ to the follow-on agency. Primarily, Sailors and their families called to find out about information on safe havens, military pay and other “what now?” questions.

Under normal, pre-hurricane conditions, the call agents would answer routine questions like, “did my board package arrive?” and, “how do I apply for Perform to Serve?” In the initial phase of ECC operations, however, the questions were much more emotional.

“Evacuees would call - they had no money, their banks were gone and they didn’t know how to get money. In the beginning, calls about financial matters were referred to the Navy/Marine Corps Relief Society," said NPC data analyst Danica Leger. "Now, they are eligible for advanced pay and other benefits, so they can get back to some sort of normalcy, so we direct them to PSD Atlantic or a local PSD. We also refer people to DFAS to change their deposit information so they can receive pay,” she said.

Many callers struggled with insecurities and uncertainties. When the ECC agents provided specific answers or contact numbers, the callers were very relieved.

Many non-profit organizations as well as Navy support groups provided assistance to get the evacuees’ needs met. However, some obstacles still lingered.

Klatt said that the biggest challenge overall was contact with personnel and commands located in the impacted area of the hurricane. The vast majority of commands’ contact information - commercial and DSN lines as well as NMCI computers - were unavailable to the users.

“It feels like you are going through whatever the caller is going through," said Leger. "I couldn’t tell them where their child or spouse was. I felt most helpless when civilians called looking for other civilians. They were desperate and calling every number they could find.”

A few changes to the CSC have allowed service members and civilian employees to become an information team. Their efforts will continue as long as the evacuees of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita need help.

 



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