Virtual flood fight training held for USACE office, field office flood teams

USACE Chicago District
Published Aug. 18, 2021

Twenty-six USACE Chicago District team members participated virtually, in the office, and out in the field for flood fight training that took place this month. Topics covered included the field reporting process, and flood fighting techniques. Day one covered the Upper Wabash in Indiana, and day two covered the Fox River basin in Wisconsin.

“Our intent today is to go through our flood team training and make sure that, if and when a flood event happens, that we’re all on the same page,” Bob Paluch, emergency manager, said on day one in the Emergency Operations Center (EOC). “We want to make sure that all things are aligned, and we work together to make sure that everything goes smoothly.”

Those participating in the downtown Chicago office reported to the EOC conference room, and those in the area and field offices participated virtually for presentations and Q&As. At the beginning of this practice event, the EOC was at Level II, or full activation, in which a disaster declaration was signed; major flooding was happening in the Wisconsin Fox River Basin; two separate flood teams were sent to the field to record data; and requests for assistance were received from the state and county level.

Then, in the afternoon, area and field office team members practiced collecting data in the field near their areas of responsibility using a GIS app called “ESRI Survey123.” The office team also helped coordinate and compile data for end-of-day presentations to senior leaders in the EOC conference room.

According to Michelle Kozak, emergency planner, the district has six flood fight teams that cover six tributaries. And the teams are made up of engineers, GIS, and field personnel. Those out in the field reported to the EOC over the phone and in writing via situation reports, Survey123 data, and daily reports that summarize events from each day.

“The flood fight teams covered the Fox River basin in Wisconsin, and the Upper Wabash locations in Indiana over the two days of flood fight team training,” she said. “This practice allows the teams in those particular locations to practice communication with each other and the EOC office team, and enables everyone to improve upon the Survey123 tool while in the field.”

The Fox-Wolf watershed in Wisconsin covers 6,430 square miles and includes Wolf River; Upper Fox River; Lakes Winnebago, Butte des Morts, Poygan, and Winneconne; and 13 dams and 17 locks on the lower Fox River.

"The virtual training provided a much-needed introduction between the staff on the ground and the district,” Chad Shaw, chief, Fox River Operations, said. “In the event of a real flood fight, we are now better prepared."

The Upper Wabash includes the J.E. Roush Dam, Mississinewa Dam, and the Salamoni Dam.

“In 2015 the Upper Wabash Project received unprecedented precipitation across the watershed setting record pool levels at two lakes and putting the third within inches of its record,” Jared Mobley, operations manager, Upper Wabash Project Office, said. “All three lakes were staffed around the clock for six weeks. This training provided the team with valuable tools to ensure we perform and communicate effectively during the next event.”