Rapid reaction to a devastating natural disaster

A massive effort by Bechtel and the U.S. government provided shelter to tens of thousands of people in Mississippi left homeless following Hurricane Katrina. Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) officials contacted Bechtel on August 29, 2005, the day the hurricane struck. Bechtel teams were on the ground within days, and by September 8, the first mobile housing units had been installed. 

Bechtel provided shelter to nearly 100,000 people in the fastest housing operation in FEMA’s history. 

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.

This is a team effort in the truest sense of the word, with thousands of people and many organizations working together to house people at record rates.

Andy Phelps, Bechtel National, Inc. project manager

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A long history of emergency response

Bechtel was chosen in part because of its experience responding to national emergencies. The company 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

The company used as many local contractors and suppliers as possible. Bechtel made every effort to engage the services of minority- and women-owned firms, and we 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 with 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. 

Participants received training in entry-level construction skills and basic safety at community colleges in Louisiana and Mississippi. Contractors worked with GREAT to ensure that the trainees’ new skills matched the needs of the rebuilding effort. Many contractors, including Bechtel, hired program graduates.

Gulf Coast Workforce development program

Twenty thousand workers across the region were trained for entry-level construction jobs as part of this initiative. Based on a model that Bechtel uses ion projects worldwide, this private-public partnership helped overcome a shortage of construction labor in the Gulf Coast area and provided new skills and opportunities for men and women of the region—during the aftermath of hurricanes Katrina and Rita, and beyond.