MAXWELL AIR FORCE BASE, Ala. – “I don’t think we’ve ever had a mission like this one,” said Lt. Col. Dave Roberts of the door-to-door ground team sorties Civil Air Patrol is performing for the Federal Emergency Management Agency. The mission, which began on Wednesday, is to photography up to 12,000 home sites damaged by the Oklahoma tornadoes.
“We’ve had boots on the ground and have been right in the middle of it from day one,” said Roberts, CAP’s incident commander on Friday, of the organization’s role in providing photographic assessment of every house damaged by the tornadoes.
Half of the members conducting the ground team mission are CAP cadets 12-20 years old, Roberts noted. To date more than 100 members from the Oklahoma, Texas, Kansas and Arkansas wings have contributed to CAP’s air and ground missions following the tornadoes. “We’ve got some really sharp people working and they are doing a great job,” he said.
The system for working the ground team mission is ingenious. CAP’s aerial photo tracks taken for FEMA and the Oklahoma Division of Emergency Management, which documented the depth and width of the damage, were added to Google Earth images from Moore and Oklahoma City to determine where streets had been located and where houses were supposed to be, creating a grid to guide CAP’s pilots. On the ground, GPS trackers are being used to locate housing sites within 30 feet of their location, allowing CAP to photograph each home site.
CAP is taking an average of 500 photos per day, but is planning to triple that number beginning today with the addition of more volunteers and more cameras.
“It really drives home what I’ve seen on the news the last couple of days,” said Capt. Brian Summers of the Oklahoma Wing, a ground team leader for the door-to-door photography. “I feel bad for the people affected by the storms and am amazed at the positive attitude of homeowners. All have said thank you for our support.
“CAP is happy to be able to provide the pictures to allow everybody to see how severe the damage was and to assist FEMA and others in planning for the future and to support the people affected.”
“CAP gets the job done. We don’t have to worry,” said Linda Pryor, emergency management officer with ODEM, which is using the images “to compare which houses were there and which weren’t so FEMA can get recovery money to the homeowners.”
“I am honored to work with such am amazing team,” said Chris Vaughn of FEMA. “Thank you for everything you do. You are really making a difference in the way that we support survivors.”
Civil Air Patrol (CAP), the official auxiliary of the U.S. Air Force, is a nonprofit organization chartered by Congress in 1941 with a 501(c)3 designation and pre-dates the Air Force. CAP consists of 61,000 unpaid professional members nationwide, and operates a fleet of 550 aircraft. CAP, in its Air Force auxiliary role, performs 90 percent of continental U.S. inland search and rescue missions as tasked by the Air Force Rescue Coordination Center (AFRCC) and is credited by the AFRCC with saving an average of 80 lives annually. Its unpaid professionals also perform homeland security, disaster relief and drug interdiction missions at the request of federal, state and local agencies. The members play a leading role in aerospace education and serve as mentors to more than 26,000 young people currently participating in the CAP cadet programs. CAP is a force multiplier to the Air Force CAP received the World Peace Prize in 2011 and has been performing missions for America for 71 years. CAP also participates in Wreaths Across America, an initiative to remember, honor and teach about the sacrifices of U.S. military veterans.