My Coast Guard
Commentary | Oct. 2, 2020

Collaborate in real time over hurricane lessons learned through CG_Ideas@Work

By Shana Brouder, MyCG Writer


Lessons learned from a hurricane response that would usually take weeks or even months to collect have found a real-time solution. CG_Ideas@Work makes it possible for members to connect and collaborate in real time – solving problems as they arise, matching the needs of the service to the speed of the mission.

Coast Guard Innovation, Unlocking the Power of Ideas

The 2020 hurricane season has been as challenging as it has been persistent. As of Sept. 24, 2020, more than 21 named tropical cyclones have occurred in the Atlantic basin this season, and NOAA is now naming storms from the Greek alphabet. As major storms continue to impact coastlines, CG_Ideas@Work is working hard to connect the Coast Guard workforce to one another and providing real time collaboration with the field that can prove vital during this rapidly evolving hurricane season.

Feedback from previously deployed members has had a direct influence on operational procedures in the past. Hurricane Harvey battered Texas and Louisiana in September 2017, causing deep flooding and extensive property damage. As land line connections failed and cell connectivity waned, residents trapped by the storm turned to social media to communicate emergency information. 

“During Hurricane Harvey, the public used social media applications to communicate emergency information to friends, family and responders,” explained Wendy Chaves, chief of the Coast Guard’s Office of Research, Development, Test & Evaluation and Innovation. “The Coast Guard adjusted to this new communications method and used operational lessons to refine social media policy.” 

Without the feedback from Coast Guard members on the ground seeing this switch to social media, it may have taken much longer to improve response protocols.

“Direct feedback from the field,” Chaves went on to explain, “can lead to changes in Coast Guard policy and concepts of operations.” 

Member feedback from Hurricane Harvey also led to asset improvements. After Harvey, the Coast Guard quickly deployed cloud computing-based case management software that provided planners with a common operating picture that decreased the time needed for identifying and tasking of Coast Guard boats and helicopters.. 

Auxiliarist Michael Kappas, foreground, and Auxiliarist Rusty Pumphrey, who are among about 60 Coast Guard Auxiliarists activated for service during Hurricane Harvey and its aftermath, work in the Houston incident command post Sept. 17, 2017. Both are contributing to an EPA-led oil and hazardous material recovery effort drawing on expertise from federal, state, local, and tribal partners. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Chief Petty Officer John Masson.

Auxiliarists Michael Kappas, foreground, and  Rusty Pumphrey, who are among about 60 Coast Guard Auxiliarists activated for service during Hurricane Harvey and its aftermath, work in the Houston incident command post Sept. 17, 2017. (U.S. Coast Guard photo by Chief Petty Officer John Masson.)

Removing the barriers to collaboration can help advance the organization much faster than traditional methods,” explains Chaves. “Utilizing CG_Ideas@Work, the Coast Guard is able to update our methods and tools in preparation of the next hurricane season and subsequently thereafter.”

The 2020 Hurricane Lessons Learned Challenge is currently underway through CG_Ideas@Work. The Coast Guard Innovation Program has opened the forum for the 2020 hurricane season in an effort to quickly capture this knowledge, improve Coast Guard mission execution. Additionally, the Coast Guard Office of Emergency Management and Disaster Response (CG-OEM) is partnering with the Innovation Program to actively review your ideas and may route them to program offices for review, comment or action.

If you have an idea of how contingency response operations could be improved,  visit the 2020 Hurricane Lessons Learned Challenge page on CG_Ideas@Work. If you do not yet have a CG_Ideas@Work account, you can easily register using your “.mil” email address to access the platform from any personal or Coast Guard device. If you are unable to access the idea submission form, please submit your idea via email to: innovation@uscg.mil including your idea title, a short summary and your contact information.