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NEWS | Aug. 26, 2023

Lights In the dark: Power Team swing shift keep lights on, water flowing

By Brannen Parrish

When the sun sets below the Pacific Ocean, the workday is less than halfway complete for Jon Runnels and Kenny Kwan. The pair are quality assurance representatives deployed with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ Temporary Emergency Power Team on Maui.

“We’re providing quality assurance; we're also providing government presence on site, and we’ll go around while contractors are working, which is one of our requirements,” said Runnels, who was born and raised in Mississippi. “So, we also do spot checks, which is what the quality assurance part is. We're just making sure that everything is going fine, and that we don't have any generators that go down. So that's the main point of Temporary Power - keep the power going.”

Kwan, is a project manager and Runnels is a civil engineer. Both are assigned to the Honolulu District. Both live on O‘ahu, and both are engineers but they never met until Aug. 16 when they arrived in Maui as part of the federal emergency response to the Hawaii Wildfires.

“We work in the same district, but I've never met him,” said Kwan, who grew up in Honolulu. “But it's good. It brings people with common cause together, right. We're here volunteering for the same reason: we want to help people, and that’s one of the joys of the Power Team.”

In response to the Hawai‘i Wildfires, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers deployed the Power Team under a Federal Emergency Management Agency Mission Assignment.

The team consists of USACE personnel trained to oversee operations of FEMA generators that provide power to critical facilities like municipal buildings, critical care facilities and water pump stations.

The Power Team installed the first generator Aug. 14, and it was at a water pump station.

“At this time of need we’re supplying generators at you know important places such as water wells and municipal buildings that need power to run. People need water everywhere, right so their access to water can continue.”

Working late into the night, the pair travel to generator sites, the day shift can’t get to before their shift is complete. These locations are often far from any town.

Some sites are so remote and devoid of light that Runnels and Kwan use the headlights of their vehicle and flashlights on their phones to complete the QA process but by working in the dark, the pair help keep the lights on and water flowing for first responders and those in need.