Message from the PSC Director
With the devastation and destruction caused by three major hurricanes, it’s been a challenging and demanding year for so many, including responding federal agencies. We’ve been proud to also answer the call for help with support from the very beginning and ongoing today with a wide range of services to assist with relief and recovery efforts.
In working closely with our partner agencies, we support federal staff helping citizens seeking to rebuild their lives. Our service teams have also been working in partnership and coordination with customer agencies. Everything from environmental health and safety, to grants, vaccines and medical supplies, contracting, clinical health, behavioral health crisis support, and transportation — there’s quite a range. Program Support Center (PSC) staff has worked tirelessly in dedication to support these efforts. You can learn more in this edition about the amazing range and impact of service and support.
PSC is dedicated to providing support that helps federal agencies focus on their vital missions to the American people. We are honored and privileged to partner with organizations such as yours to achieve success, and be your business partner. We’ve continued a multi-year tradition of keeping our rates low and providing great value. Be sure to review our suite of solutions on psc.gov.
Please let us know how we can best serve you to support your mission. We are customer-focused and solution-oriented rather than simply a service provider.
I would like to send you my warmest wishes for a safe and healthy holiday season and may you have a happy, healthful, and prosperous new year!
Director, Program Support Center
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PSC Supports Relief, Recovery Efforts for Hurricanes
PSC Leadership Team Visits Hurricane Response Center
From left are Louisa White, Johanna Robbins, Al Sample, Brenda Faiber, Bill McCabe, CDR Tomas Bonome, CDR Rob Gibbs, Jamie Bryant, and LCDR Colleen Kerr.
A Program Support Center (PSC) leadership team visited Orlando, Florida to learn more about the hurricane relief response and recovery activites and meet with partner agencies for whom PSC is providing support.
PSC leadership visited the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) Joint Field Office which is the multiagency coordination site where federal and state counterparts work together to coordinate the disaster response and recovery efforts in those areas affected by disaster. A visit was also made to a nearby Disaster Recovery Center which is a readily accessible facility where the public may go for information about FEMA or other disaster assistance programs.
The visiting PSC team included: Al Sample, Director, PSC; CDR Tomas Bonome, Director, Occupational Health Portfolio; Bill McCabe, Director, Financial Management and Procurement Portfolio; CDR Robert Gibbs, Acting Director, Environmental Health and Safety Services; and Jamie Bryant, Associate Director (West), Environmental Health and Safety Services.
“Taking care of people is what drives us,“ said CDR Bonome. “Knowing our teams are making a difference supporting federal staff who in turn are helping our fellow citizens put their lives back together touches the very core of our mission.”
The team met with PSC staff as well as senior FEMA staff including FEMA Federal Coordinating Officer Willie Nunn, who is in charge of the entire FEMA response in Florida, and Chief of Staff Domenic Piso.
PSC Nurse Johanna Robbins was credited with identifying a serious heart issue for a FEMA safety officer. Her action was credited with saving his life.
PSC has been providing various services to support hurricane relief efforts for the devastation caused by Hurricanes Harvey, Irma, and Maria. Our service teams have been working together and with our partner agencies such as FEMA and the General Services Administration (GSA).
“Taking care of people is what drives us. Knowing our teams are making a difference supporting federal staff who in turn are helping our fellow citizens put their lives back together touches the very core of our mission.”
― CDR Tomas Bonome, Director, Occupational Health Portfolio
Acquisitions - PSC’s acquisitions team has been busy providing contractual support for various requests for our services. Led by Debbie Hope in Salt Lake City, the team has been modifying contracts as needed.
PSC has a number of standing contracts for environmental health services, clinical health services with nurse staffing to different sites, and behavioral health services that include stress counselors. The relief efforts have required us to expand the scope of some of those contracts and start new ones.
Environmental Health and Safety - The environmental health and safety services team continues to support FEMA disaster safety operations in Texas, Florida, and Puerto Rico. To date, the team had conducted over 300 initial safety inspections and re-inspections of joint field offices, branch offices, disaster recovery centers, base camp operations, and temporary vessel (large boat) housing.
The staff has dedicated over 10,000 hours of support service, assisting FEMA safety leads at the various field offices and branch locations in the areas receiving disaster declarations. In addition, professional sanitarians and industrial hygienists have evaluated FEMA office locations, disaster recovery centers, and housing responder sites including vessels for indoor air quality issues, food and general sanitation, and asbestos concerns.
The team also performed building inspections for GSA, Social Security Administration (SSA), and the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) to assist the agencies’ health and safety programs in ensuring the buildings were safe for re-occupancy.
For example, LCDR William Bird recently travelled to St. Thomas and St. Croix in the U.S. Virgin Islands to assess airborne mold concentrations and perform a visual health and safety assessment of two international airports. Additionally, LCDR Bird presented “Indoor Air Quality: Mold and Moisture Control” to approximately 70 TSA agents, educating them on mold, potential health effects, and moisture control. In total, over 120 building inspections were performed for GSA, TSA, and SSA in Texas, Florida, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands.
Grants Management - PSC has been managing essential grants through the Payment Management System. “Our role in the payment management is assisting FEMA in loading their disaster recovery funds and disbursing it through either the insurance companies or the state government,” said Dan Long, Director, Payment Management Service.
”We have the controls in place to ensure the funds go out securely and quickly, especially in a time like this. It’s usually the same day that FEMA is loading the funds that they are available. We’re supporting FEMA’s mission and making sure the funds get where they’re supposed to go as quickly and securely as possible.”
The total grant funding awarded/obligated to date is $10.29 billion and total grant funding disbursed so far has been $8.72 billion. The monies are spread across insurance companies in Texas and Florida, as well as the state government of Texas for Hurricanes Harvey and Irma. At this time, the state government of Florida has received direct funding for Hurricane Irma. In addition, the government of Puerto Rico is also receiving funding related to recovering from Hurricane Maria.
Behavioral Health - The behavioral health services team continues to provide 24/7 crisis support for numerous federal agencies in the wake of Hurricanes Harvey, Irma, and Maria. Examples of the services provided by the team include individual and management consultations; psychological first aid; orientations; presentations; and crisis support to impacted employees.
Agencies served include: the U.S. Courts, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, Transportation Security Administration, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, U.S. Forest Service, Food and Nutrition Service, Defense Contract Audit Agency, U.S. Army, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, U.S. Department of State, and Financial Crimes Enforcement Network.
The team continues to provide stress counseling services for FEMA at their joint field offices and branch offices in Texas, Florida, and Puerto Rico, as well as at the National Processing Service Centers in California, Maryland; Nevada, Texas, Virginia, Puerto Rico, and Washington, D.C. In total, the counselors have provided over 4,000 consultations to FEMA managers and employees who are experiencing stress related to their work supporting the survivors of Hurricanes Harvey, Irma, and Maria.
The primary challenge has been to provide services in communities that have suffered complete devastation, including no electricity or potable water, and limited means of communication. Some of our counselors are also local survivors of the hurricanes, but they have willingly set aside their individual challenges to provide services to impacted federal employees.
There have been many success stories; one example was when the team was able to provide grief support in the Virgin Islands, after the death of a FEMA employee, within 48 hours of the request. These services were provided when there was almost no electricity, potable water, or telephone service, and limited transportation on the island.
Clinical Health - Our clinical health staff has been setting up health clinics in various affected areas. The National Capitol Region staff provided 24/7 nursing services due to Hurricane Harvey devastating Texas and continued to operate there after Hurricane Irma affected Florida, Georgia, and South Carolina and when Hurricane Maria destroyed the U.S. Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico. Staffing was immediately provided and throughout the aftermath.
Our clinical staff provided 24/7 nursing coverage to support FEMA personnel, first responders and various federal agencies providing emergency management coordination, planning, resource deployment, and collected and distributed disaster information to maintain situational awareness at the national level. Various health conditions were seen in the clinic related to emergency critical incidental stress. Pre-deployment vaccinations and seasonal influenza vaccines were also provided to FEMA staff and participating agencies volunteering to deploy to Puerto Rico. The FEMA National Response Coordination Center has never operated for this lengthy period of time, but due to complexity and multiple hurricanes occurring, operations needed to remain open to provide support.
Hurricane Maria destroyed the island of Puerto Rico, leaving inhabitants without shelter, running water or electricity for weeks. The clinics saw on average 50-plus patients per day. Some patients required advanced care related to incidental stress, trauma, cardiac issues, and many had respiratory issues related to stagnant water, mold, and dust.
Medical Supply Fulfillment- The medical supply fulfillment service in Perry Point, Maryland, has been preparing and sending medications and vaccinations for diseases such as hepatitis A and B, tetanus, typhoid, and flu.
The team has also been assembling and sending Go Pack 3 supply kits for nurses to take care of patients. The kits include six pages of items such as hot and cold packs, tongue depressors, pharmaceuticals, gauze, gloves, and a flashlight. Some items are hazardous for flight like oxygen tanks and must be driven. Vaccine requests were not immediate since the majority of vaccines are refrigerated and most areas that were severely affected by the hurricanes did not have electricity.
“We’re prepared to respond and fulfill the requests,” said Annette Quinones, chief of quality assurance/pharmacy services, PSC, who is leading this support effort. She noted that PSC has plenty of experience from past large storms such as Hurricane Katrina. “One of the lessons I learned is when you’re working in groups, everyone needs to know what is going on,” said Quinones. “It helps because when it’s only one or two people doing it, they don’t know what’s happening on the other side. When you have a nice group and everybody knows what is going on, I can say, ‘OK I’ll ship items to Denton, Texas,’ but they might say, ‘Well, wait a minute, that site is closing.’
“So, when you work in a group like that it’s good, making sure we don’t have things that get damaged because they’ve been sent to the wrong place — and that place was closed, or it wasn’t open yet. Also if you have any issues with a shipment, let’s address it and see how we can make it better and that’s what we did with Katrina.”
Building Operations - Food banks continue to receive donations from the PSC regional offices. The Region 6 support team is assisting in an effort to collect donations for those impacted by the hurricanes. Large boxes were placed on each of the HHS floors for collections.
PSC is coordinating the communication to Region 6 employees for this effort. Donations will be transported to the collection center by the regional area manager since there is no pickup from the building. PSC blocked off a conference room in HHS’s Humphrey Building (Washington, D.C.) for exclusive use of the Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response (ASPR) to conduct hurricane activities.
Parking - The PSC parking services staff and Real Estate, Logistics, and Operations Office of the Director coordinated emergency parking requests between the HHS Security Operations Center, Physical Security, and ASPR for parking accommodation for the emergency response employees to meet their mission requirement for Hurricanes Harvey, Irma, and Maria.
Parking staff maintained continuous communication with the operating and staff divisions to ensure parking access 24/7 for the emergency responders to complete their mission. Since this situation was unprecedented in length of stay, the parking office has since created an emergency parking plan that will be used in concert to provide an immediate response from all parties involved. This new plan will ensure that the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services will be able to provide the United States the assistance it requires in a timely manner in times of crisis.
Transportation - Our transportation services team has provided travel and fleet support guidance to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) regarding procurement of rental vehicles to transport seized property from locations affected by the hurricanes. PSC also performed merchant category code overrides for PSC-supported purchase cards.
The team delivered daily traveler location (Duty of Care) reports for areas impacted by the hurricanes to the HHS Secretary’s Operations Center (SOC) and all other HHS Emergency Operations Centers (EOCs) to ensure all operating divisions could account for the safety of their staff in travel status.
The team provided 24/7 support to the Administration for Children and Families (ACF)/Office of Refugee Resettlement for repatriation of U.S. citizens from hurricane-impacted Caribbean islands. This included coordination with the contracted Travel Management Center (TMC) for securing commercial flights, and with JPMorgan Chase for emergency management of available credit lines on the HHS travel Centrally Billed Account (CBA). Transportation services also partnered with the PSC accounting services team in assisting the ACF Repatriation Team in managing the financial impacts of the repatriation project with other supporting agencies and government entities.
Transportation services provided guidance to HHS travel subject-matter experts and senior travel officials on support for FEMA surge capacity volunteers. When FEMA announced this rare opportunity for HHS federal staff to volunteer in direct support of the FEMA disaster response teams, the transportation services team coordinated advance communications on how to use the travel management system and TMC vendor services to expedite the processing of new travelers as they were chosen by FEMA for rapid training and deployment.
Staff from transportation services and PSC Office of the Director coordinated a call between CDC/EOC, HHS/SOC, and ASPR regarding shipping options for CDC to send federal medical station equipment and supplies to Puerto Rico. Their normal shipping vendor was unable to meet their mission requirement. The coordination by PSC enabled the HHS EOC components to come to a rapid solution to the issue.
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Wishing You a Happy New Year