By Eric McLaurin, P.E., REM | Ahtna Netiye’ Vice President, Business Development
As the coronavirus pandemic began to expand rapidly throughout the US in early spring, many businesses and agencies were still grappling with how their operations would be impacted. Many businesses were still allowing their employees to come into the office, as very few cities or states were imposing shelter-at-home requirements. It was during this time that Ahtna was called upon to support one of our key clients that was dealing with a workplace exposure to the virus.
On March 25, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) National Weather Service (NWS) main Weather Forecast Office building located in the Sand Lake area of Anchorage, Alaska (just south of the Ted Stevens International Airport) had to be urgently shut down due to one of their employees being diagnosed with COVID-19. NOAA contacted Ahtna that same evening inquiring if we could assist with deep cleaning services at this critical facility.
Ahtna, under the leadership of Bernie Wong, teamed up with a local qualified and certified cleaning subcontractor and submitted our proposal the next morning. NOAA issued us the notice to proceed early that afternoon, and by 4 o’clock the Ahtna team had mobilized to the site to commence deep cleaning activities.
The deep cleaning operations followed the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) COVID-19 response guidelines and utilized EPA-approved cleaning products. Specially trained technicians carried out the cleaning operations wearing full personal protective equipment (PPE). All contact areas were sprayed with the approved cleaning products, and high usage surfaces (e.g. door handles) were wiped down. The deep cleaning operations were completed in less than three hours, and all decontamination materials were collected and bagged for off-site disposal. The NWS on-site facility manager accepted the cleanup efforts before the crew left the site. This rapid response was accomplished within 8 hours of Ahtna receiving the notice to proceed from the client, demonstrating our extreme responsiveness to this urgent need.
Subsequently, Ahtna performed COVID-19 deep cleaning at another NOAA facility in Seattle, Washington, within 12 hours of receiving the request for proposal.
In addition to helping our clients such as NOAA respond to actual exposures, we also helped our clients prepare facilities to potentially receive patients for treatment. Our Ahtna-CDM Joint Venture, led by Craig O’Rourke, received a $2.6M urgent award under our United States Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) Omaha District Rapid Disaster Infrastructure (RDI) Contract to design and construct a 100-bed temporary alternate care facility to serve as a satellite ward at the Kalispell Regional Medical Center in Kalispell, Montana. This alternate care facility was required to provide basic healthcare functions with emphasis on patient care, infection control, fire protection, and life safety.
On May 5th we received the task order award, and by May 26th the project was completed—21 days from receipt of the award—to the tremendous satisfaction of USACE and the Federal Emergency Management Agency! While our joint venture partner, CDM, performed the site work, we benefited from the exposure and gained past performance for this type of work.
Here in Alaska, we responded to a request from the Alaska Department of Military and Veterans Affairs to provide pricing to mobilize and set up modular facilities in Anchorage, Fairbanks, Juneau, and Ketchikan to support potential COVID-19 patients. Submittals to the USACE Alaska District for remodeling hotel rooms to support COVID-19 patients in Alaska and Hawaii were completed and we are awaiting award decisions.
Although the past few months have been a trying time for us and our normal way of doing business, we have been able to leverage our experience and capabilities to expand into emergency and disaster response services. During this time, we were asked by our USACE Alaska client to take on an emergency pier repair project because we already had staff onsite performing other services. We are also receiving additional work from our USACE Omaha client in support of levee repair work from past flooding. While we have not generally supported emergency and disaster recovery projects in the past, we have the staff and capabilities to do so. As the coastal areas of the US enter hurricane season, Ahtna will be poised to help our clients respond to hurricanes, floods, and other disasters.