CAROLINA, Puerto Rico – The Puerto Rico Air National Guard is now the proud owner of two Disaster Relief Beddown Systems, improving its ability to respond to disasters on the island.
After Hurricane Maria devastated Puerto Rico in September 2017, it took weeks for DRBS capabilities to arrive on the island and provide needed support to Airmen responding to the disaster. Each system is stored in approximately 30 large aluminum shipping containers and typically delivered on numerous airplane cargo loads.
"This is the first time we've had real disaster relief equipment," said Tech. Sgt. Carlos Guzman, a powered support systems technician with the 156th Civil Engineer Squadron. "Its primary function is to house responders or support personnel on a disaster relief response. Instead of days, maybe weeks, we may start packing as soon as conditions allow us to return to work."
A DRBS contains about 300,000 pounds of equipment to support response personnel during disaster relief. One system includes 16 tents that can house up to 150 people and provides bathrooms, showers and laundry machines. It also includes generators, lighting kits and air conditioning to ensure operations can be placed in the most austere locations.
Each DRBS also comes with a reverse osmosis water purification unit, which can produce 600 to 1,500 gallons per hour and up to 30,000 gallons of purified water each day.
"When a disaster occurs, a team will pack and deploy the DRBS to the affected area," said Guzman. "It requires specialized personnel to assemble and operate."
Most recently, DRBS kits from the Ohio Air National Guard were deployed to the southern part of the island early this year, to assist after earthquakes damaged multiple areas.
The 156th Civil Engineer Squadron at Muñiz Air National Guard Base will maintain the equipment. Set up and support to operate a DRBS requires Airmen skilled in structures, electrical, plumbing, HVAC, power production and heavy equipment operation.
"These assets will save lives in the event of a disaster. Having them prepositioned on the island will reduce the air traffic congestion, minimize the time required to set up the full beddown system and eliminate the costs associated with air transportation to and from the island," said Lt. Col. Charles Comfort, the 156th Civil Engineer Squadron commander.
Comfort said the assets would also enable the Puerto Rico National Guard to quickly assist other islands and countries in the Caribbean and Latin American regions.
"Building bridges to the Americas is what our unit does best, and this equipment enables our bilingual engineer force to provide critical assistance to devastated populations at the time when it's needed most," he said.
The units were transferred to the PRANG from the 145th Airlift Wing, North Carolina Air National Guard, and the 119th Fighter Wing, North Dakota Air National Guard. They are the only DRBS units permanently located on the island.
"Puerto Rico is in the hurricane route and vulnerable to any natural disaster. With this equipment, we can assure self-sufficient housing for our responders in any disaster scenario," said Guzman.