Thursday, April 12, 2012

Thursday Travels ~ Tent City

     This is one of  a few posts that will share my Dad's life and work.  This one is taken from an article he didn't write, but was about a project that he was very active in designing and building. 

     What strikes me about this article is the fact that these men [these civil engineers] could have [should have] written guidelines for FEMA to use so many years later when Hurricane Katrina hit.  If they had, life would have been so much better for those who were made homeless in the aftermath of that storm.

     As the 2012 hurricane season quickly approaches... FEMA might want to take notes and pay attention  .... [emphasis below is mine]

Transition to a New Life
by Maj P.A. Peckham, PE, Capt P.G. Arnold and Capt J.L. Davis, EIT
Published August 1975 in the Engineering & Services Quarterly

     Word was received on 27 April 1975 that Eglin AFB, Florida ... had been selected as a possible site for processing refugees from Southeast Asia.  A thorough comparison of available facilities versus mission requirements made it clear from the beginning that although Eglin AFB had ample land area, it completely lacked housing for even a few hundred refugees.  Several abandoned auxiliary fields were considered.  All had been constructed during World War II and were inactive. ... The Armament Development Test Center (ADTC) dictated the use of Auxiliary Field #2 which is located five miles north of the city of Niceville on State Route 285 and approximately 10 miles north of "Eglin Main."
     Auxiliary Field #2 was constructed in 1942 and had been used briefly during the early days of the Vietnamese action for training Red Horse personnel prior to their deployment to Southeast Asia.  It had been evacuated in November 1973 at which time all vertical structures, including electrical poles and wiring, were leveled. ...
     The initial guidance provided by Headquarters US Air Force was to plan for housing up to 20,000 refugees.  Although this number was later cut back to 2,500 and subsequently expanded to 5,000, it was obvious that we were in a race against time as the first refugees were due to arrive within five days.

     ... [lots and lots of technical engineering information ~ blah blah blah yadda yadda yadda ~ if you really want to know, send me a comment and I'll scan the article and send it to you via email]

     The camp was laid out in increments corresponding to the planned arrival sequence of the refugees.  Each tent would house a maximum of 12 people.  An increment would contain approximately 70 tents and would contain sufficient shower tents, laundry/ironing tents and latrine tents to support the planned population of that increment.  
Image Source
     The "Tent City" was completed on 23 May 1975.  From the beginning of the Project New Arrivals, Air Force Civil Engineering personnel were faced with a monumental task.  With a minimum of notification, forces were joined to construct a city for approximately 5,000 refugees.  In addition to providing living facilities, other facilities were erected for processing, feeding, medical, religious, educational and recreational purposes.  The first increment with a capacity for 2,500 was almost complete when the first refugees arrived on 4 May 1975.  This was only five days after the project "GO" signal was received.
     This accomplishment came about only because of the concerted civil engineering team effort which had excellent support not only from local agencies such as Supply, Procurement and Transportation, but also from local merchants.  All of the work was completed in an expeditious, professional manner, in spite of long working hours and conditions which were far from ideal.  Through the efforts of this team, and with the outstanding logistical support that it received, the Refugees Processing Center at Eglin Auxiliary Field #2 was completed ahead of schedule, enabling the new residents to begin their transition to a new life.
     This entire article could have been used so many times around the world as a 'blueprint' of sorts during natural disasters ~ floods, tornadoes, earthquakes, tsunamis.  Rather than wasting time and money securing trailers which later just sat toxic and empty, can you imagine the relief some of the evacuees from Hurricane Katrina might have felt if FEMA and the government had just taken things a step down to basics and put together a "Tent City" in days to house them temporarily?  Or really anywhere that people need shelter quickly?


  1. fantastic stuff! i work in emergency management and public safety...

    i would be very interested in having a copy of the full article... would be a nice addition to my library :)

    thanks so much for sharing this! i was a supervisor in a comm center here in central Texas during the big evacuation of 2005... it was horrid! horrid! and now i'm responsible for sheltering plans, etc in the Austin area stuff...

    1. Thank you! On the way to you now...

    2. thanks so much! just got it.... great stuff... and you are so right... in my opinion, this would be a much more efficient way to provide shelter and basic life needs for evacuees. it would save time and money and in the long run, i would be that it would motivate evacuees to take a more active role in getting rebuilt, or settled into new housing. as it is these days, with FEMA vouchers and the like, there are still some living in hotels and other temporary housing while receiving FEMA checks to cover the cost of said shelter.... shameful!

  2. Cindi,

    It is now August and I believe I got your request about your Dad at least two months ago. Sorry I did not get back with you. I did look through my notes but did not find anything on your Dad.

    Have enjoyed reading your blog and wish you well.


    The blonde lady on the tent city photo is my wife.


Thank you for reading my escaped words! I would love to hear from you, but all comments are moderated since I am not paid to advertise for sewers in Riyadh, Dubai, Saudi Arabia.