During one of the world’s largest natural disasters – Hurricane Katrina – thousands of people were displaced from their homes in Mississippi and surrounding states. The event required aid from the U.S. government’s Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to shelter the people left homeless following the hurricane.
FEMA officials contacted Bechtel on August 29, 2005, the day the hurricane struck, to partner in the massive effort to provide shelters to those in need. Bechtel teams were on the ground within days, and by September 8, the first mobile housing units had been installed.
As part of a wide-ranging program for FEMA, Bechtel delivered and readied for occupancy more than 35,000 temporary housing units, providing shelter to nearly 100,000 people in Mississippi. Bechtel also worked with local officials to identify open space for group housing, and to construct the infrastructure for the group housing locations.
The housing operation was the fastest in FEMA's history.
A long history of emergency response
When disasters strike, Bechtel is there to partner with government entities to deliver aid. Bechtel has played key roles in many recovery and relief efforts, such as
- Ensuring the safety of recovery efforts following the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center
- Building a camp for 20,000 Kosovar refugees in Albania
- Extinguishing Kuwait’s oil fires and restoring production of hydrocarbons after the Gulf War in 1991
Rebuilding the region and communities
In the aftermath of the hurricane, the Mississippi economy was struggling, and many residences were not able to work. Bechtel partnered with many local contractors and made every effort to engage the services of minority- and women-owned firms. We also participated in state-sponsored conferences throughout Mississippi to provide local businesses with information about federal government contracting and opportunities. Bechtel awarded (by dollar volume) 54 percent of its subcontracts to firms in Mississippi, 67 percent to firms in the Gulf region, and 84 percent to small businesses. We also employed 2,600 people at peak, mostly from Mississippi and other Gulf states.
Providing shelter and skills
As part of the Gulf Coast Workforce Development Initiative, Bechtel joined other companies, community colleges, labor organizations, and government agencies in a program to recruit and train up to 20,000 new craft workers needed for the rebuilding effort in the wake of Katrina.
The initiative began in August 2006 with the launch of a targeted campaign called Gulf Rebuild: Education, Advancement and Training (GREAT) to encourage qualified candidates to sign up.
Contractors worked with GREAT to ensure trainees’ new skills matched the needs of the rebuilding effort. Participants received training in entry-level construction skills and basic safety at community colleges in Louisiana and Mississippi. Many contractors, including Bechtel, hired program graduates.