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  • Writer's pictureJamie Leeper

Sprint and Hurricane Maria

Updated: Aug 12, 2019

While the challenges Royal has faced and their expert method of handling them has become common practice, nothing could have prepared them for the fallout of Hurricane Maria in 2017.

Although Royal is based in the Kansas City metro, a couple thousand miles from where the major damage took place, they were called to Puerto Rico for a unique request from a client. Due to the impact of Maria, Sprint’s network in Puerto Rico came off-line. A warehouse space next to Sprint’s switch station in Bayamon was leased, but much work was needed to make it functional. Royal was called in to repair the building and make it water and air-tight. They were also tasked with making rooms to house the team of engineers working on Sprint’s network, and eventually the Army National Guard that was deployed to the area.

There were many unique challenges that Royal faced while working on this project, including but not limited to:

  1. Coordinating delivery and installation of four portable room AC units

  2. Blocking up working rooms to help contain conditioned air by shoring up damaged walls and windows, cleaning and sanitizing floors, as well as wall repairs.

  3. Relocating and connecting existing 30kW generator to temporary electrical stations. This was responsible for powering the temporary office in the leased space and was used by Sprint engineers on-site.

  4. Procuring and installing five water tanks for the reserved water system. Royal also procured and delivered bi-weekly potable water supplies to fill the tanks for 12 weeks until the city water was resumed.

  5. Procuring and installing large catering tents to contain HVAC. Royal converted these tents to sleeping quarters for the Sprint engineers flown to the island, as well as for Military personnel.

  6. Procuring and installing gas lines, water lines and external electrical power, as well as additional showers, washer and dryer and a propane-enabled stove with oven for cooking meals.

The project overall created some unique challenges for Royal, as there was no electricity on the island. Due to the street lights being out the entire island was under a dusk-to-dawn curfew, which made travel to and from work quite challenging. Tradesmen were required to stay on-site for multiple days at a time due to the power outages, as well as bridges being out and doubling their drive-time to and from the site. A two-hour journey had now become four.

Another challenge was encountered with the delivery of generators from the mainland US to Puerto Rico. The original plan was to have them shipped via FedEx, but unfortunately criminal looters were putting the drivers in danger, so a new plan had to be established. Royal overcame this challenge by negotiating for a military escort from our site to the port, where they collected the generators before delivering them to the intended site. This is certainly not something you would learn about in a Project Management class, but Royal’s out of the box thinking ensured the problem was solved and the goal was achieved. Thanks to Royal’s incredible team of critical thinkers, electricity was provided to the area, businesses could get back up and running and people were able to get in contact with their loved ones during this terrifying time.

The success of this project was highly dependent on effective communication between Royal HQ and their partners on the ground in Puerto Rico. Chris Salva, director of the projects and technology team at Royal, spearheaded the strategic planning and logistics, as well as communication with the client. Royal’s local Site Superintendent, Ivan Sotomayor and his teams from Puerto Rico, provided all the technical and trade specific work and knowledge base.

Communications were hampered since there was extremely limited cellular coverage and many times it would go down due to overload. To overcome this, and in anticipation of a communication blackout, Royal and Ivan had downloaded and used “WhatsApp” as a mode of communication prior to the Hurricane making landfall. Salva explains the primary benefit of the app was that “it only required single-side-band networks so very little wattage was used to upload or download”. Communications times were based on “windows” so from 6:00am to 9:00am EST was clear and then again 7:00pm to 10:00pm. It was during those windows which tasks from Royal were communicated, updates on news, revised strategies and then Ivan used it to provide photos of updates, deliverables, required materials to be shipped out and status reports.

Chris Salva has been with Royal for over a decade. Chris brings a wealth of experience to the Royal team from his unique work history which includes time with the United States Air Force, a local police department and a private security company amongst other things. This variety of positions has required Chris to constantly think on the spot in unique situations. He lists his areas of expertise as nationwide project management sources, government liaison, high-level negotiations, security consulting, intelligence debrief and facility risk assessments. Thanks to Chris’s many skills and his amazing team by his side, Royal’s clients can rest assured that no stone will be left unturned when it comes to solving their facility challenges.

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