When disasters strike a community, even the most basic everyday actions that we often take for granted become extremely difficult. One such example is simply driving on a road to get to where you need to go. Debris blocking roads and sidewalks can prevent life-saving assistance from getting where it’s needed. Caterpillar’s robust involvement with the nonprofit First Response Team of America is a partnership in action that literally clears the way for people to get help, when they need it and where they need it.
Caterpillar helps First Response Team of America (FRTA) reach maximum effectiveness in its mission. In the wake of a natural disaster, FRTA enters disaster zones with the expertise and specialized equipment needed to clear the way for other disaster response agencies – making roads passable for local ambulances, law enforcement agencies, fire departments, and other disaster responders.
The FRTA crew can be on the road for 10 months of the year, responding all over the country at no cost to the local community. They never know exactly what equipment will be needed, but they can depend on local Caterpillar dealers to provide the equipment for the task at hand.
The Caterpillar Foundation’s relationship with FRTA began in 2008 with a $250,000 grant. FRTA has since received $285,000 in equipment from Caterpillar Inc. and $37,000 in equipment and rental fees from Caterpillar dealers. The unique alignment of FRTA’s mission and Caterpillar’s core business has won broad support across the company, from the Caterpillar Foundation Board of Directors’ unanimous approval to support FRTA to Caterpillar Inc. and Cat dealers’ decision to supply FRTA with equipment donations.
Using Caterpillar equipment, FRTA opens critical roadways blocked by debris; provides hospitals, nursing homes, shelters and command posts with electricity from Caterpillar generators; and helps locate victims in the critical hours immediately following a disaster.
FRTA Executive Director and founder Tad Agoglia,a longtime Caterpillar customer, began purchasing Cat equipment for his contracting business in 1999. When Agolia mobilized his operators to respond in disaster zones, he decided the need was so great that he began FRTA and ceased charging for his team’s disaster response services. By monitoring weather patterns, FRTA pre-positions its fleet near potential storm locations and can arrive to most any disaster within the first few critical hours.
What the Partnership Has Accomplished
Since 2007, FRTA has cleared the way for rescue and recovery operations at more than 40 disaster sites and helped provide emergency aid to thousands of victims.
With each response, FRTA measures response time, number of victims served, and the cost savings to the community. Tracking a recent tornado outbreak, FRTA deployed in West Liberty, Kentucky, a small community of 3,349 people. West Liberty was struck by an EF3 tornado, which destroyed many homes, businesses, and the town’s power grid. FRTA arrived within four hours and used a donated Caterpillar generator to power a 32,000 square-foot grocery store and gas station. FRTA also cleared the vital roadways leading in and out of West Liberty; roads that would have been closed for days without FRTA’s fleet of Caterpillar equipment.
In response to that disaster, FRTA helped 14,237 people and saved the community $126,191 over the course of five days. The grocery store’s general manager praised the response. “Because of this generator, our company was able to receive four, 53-foot trailer loads of food, water, and supplies to donate to the churches, schools, and volunteer fire departments.”
Why It Makes Sense
A major challenge for the team’s work is that each disaster is different and they never know exactly what kind of equipment is going to be needed. Once the FRTA arrives and assesses the destruction and needs, they can depend on local Caterpillar dealers to provide the necessary equipment for the task at hand. The partnership between FRTA and Caterpillar helps communities deal with the pressing issues that arise following a catastrophe, while also shining a spotlight on Caterpillar’s core business assets being put to the best use possible.