It is not July yet and the Gulf Coast had a minor scare late last week with the naming of Debby. While flooding may continue to cause problems, the storm never reached hurricane strength and the Gulf Coast can breathe a sigh of relief. Despite this, Debby serves as a reminder to everyone in hurricane prone areas to prepare and remain vigilant.
The next part in our series focuses on the core essentials of constructing a base camp utilizing tents and other mobile equipment. While individual components may be used to supplement existing infrastructure, a traditional base camp provides basic essentials and operates as standalone “city”. I will provide a summary of the essential infrastructure components along with some tips.
A base camp can be built to house anywhere from 20 people to 5,000. Despite this, the vast majority of the base camps mobilized after disasters are for 300 – 2,000 people. While providing for less than 300 is not uncommon, mobilizing a fully operational camp for less than 100 is very rare. When considering a complete camp for less than 100, it may be more practical to consider other alternatives (hotels, RVs, trailers, modular units, etc.).
Sleep Tents / Structures
Sleep tents/structures are an essential component of a standard base camp. For most camps, the type of tent (tension, frame, or clearspan) is not as important as in other applications. In most cases, a tension (pole) tent is a good option as they are common, can be installed quicker, and are economical. The only disadvantage in using a tension tent is the sidewall. In most tension tents, the sidewall is not secured at the bottom. A potential solution to this would be to secure the bottoms of the sidewalls to the flooring used in the tent. Frame and clearspan structures are also great choices. While they typically have higher wind ratings than tension tents, the ratings are not as important because any type of sleep tent should be evacuated when expecting or experiencing wind gusts up of 45 mph or greater.
In determining the amount of square footage needed for a sleep tent, multiply the number of occupants by 50. The resulting number is the minimum amount of square footage required. For example, a camp of 200 would require at least 10,000 square feet of tents. When calculating, always keep in mind the number of females and males. This will help determine the best way to size multiple tents and/or create partitions to separate sexes. This same concept would also apply in separating day and night shifts for workers or responders. Using the occupancy number of 200 with 140 males (minimum 7,000 sf) and 60 females (minimum 3,000 sf) and assuming an equal day and night shift split between sexes, we could use the following tent size configurations: 2 – 60 x 60 male sleep tents and 1 – 40 x 80 female sleep tent with a divider (creating two 40×40 areas). This is just one potential solution.
Sleep tents should have a raised flooring system to help protect the occupants or their belongings. Even if a tent is installed on asphalt of concrete, a raised floor is highly recommended. Typically, rental tents do not provide a seal around the perimeter and water can come inside depending on the site conditions. To overcome this issue, a variety of flooring systems can be used with most being made from wood or plastic. Either option will suffice depending on the site conditions. Plastic flooring is a good option if the surface is asphalt or concrete. For grass or even asphalt or concrete surfaces with drainage issues, a raised wood floor of at least 4” is the best option.
Sleep tents require climate control (HVAC) especially when used in response to a hurricane. Tents require significantly more tonnage than traditional construction. A good rule of thumb for HVAC tonnage in warm conditions is 1 ton per 100 square feet. Therefore, a 60×60 tent would need approximately 36 tons of HVAC. Rental HVAC units typically come in increments of 5-tons with units ranging from 5-tons to 30-tons. For the 60×60 tent, a common configuration would be two 20-ton units. In most cases, noticeably increasing or decreasing tonnage for sleep tents is not recommended. A noticeable reduction in tonnage would take longer to cool down from daytime peak temperatures and may cause those who sleep during the day to become uncomfortable. On the flip side, an increase in tonnage is generally not advisable as the standard tonnage will typically bring nighttime temperatures inside the tent below 70. Those who resourcefully pick spaces closest to the HVAC units typically regret their decision halfway through the night – unless they have lots of blankets!
To complete sleep tents, additional accessories include cots, lights, smoke/carbon monoxide alarms, power distribution (charging stations), and fire extinguishers.
Dining Facility (DFAC)
As with sleep tents, the type of tent used for a dining tent (DFAC) usually does not matter. To determine a size, generally allow 12 – 15 square foot per occupant. Additional square footage may be needed for buffets. For large camps (greater than 500), the amount of people that can be served within 30 minutes my limit the size requirements of the DFAC. Flooring becomes less of an issue in the DFAC and may only be required due to site conditions. HVAC, while recommended, is not necessary and could be very well be omitted if not serving lunch in the DFAC.
Restrooms can range from basic port-a-potties to deluxe trailers. Choosing between the two is typically a function of cost and/or availability. If using port-a-potties, a ratio or 1 unit per 10 occupants is recommended. Daily servicing is also highly recommended. With restroom trailers, pay close attention to water requirements and waste tank capacities if water and sewer is not available. For camps, large capacity external tanks are usually needed in order to keep services down to only once or twice a day.
Mobile shower units are specially configured trailers or containers. While sizes and configurations vary, the most common range between 8 – 16 heads. Units sometimes come with separate male and female sections. The number of heads required for a camp varies depending on the occupants and their work schedules. Ratios vary from 10 heads per person to as much as 25 heads per person. Generally the larger the camp and/or the more varied the work schedule, the higher the ratio. A ratio of 15-20 heads per person works well for most camps.
For most camps, power for all items is provided by generators. The amount of equipment used along with the layout of the site will determine the number of generators and the capacity. The power needs of the camp should be sized by a professional experienced with temporary power. Additionally, request sound attenuated or special event generators. This will reduce the amount of noise generated by the camp during sleep hours.
During operation, a camp needs a steady supply of water and fuel for generators. It is rare for a camp to be mobilized when and where both services are available. In most cases, the camp provider can procure these services.
The water needs of the camp will vary based on the usage requirements of the equipment (restrooms, showers, and a kitchen if catering is on-site). Typically, the provider will have water tankers to meet the needs of fresh and gray water to meet the varying needs of the camp. It is generally recommended to let the provider oversee these services as they will have a better understanding of the usage rates of their equipment along with maintaining a consistent schedule.
For fuel, once the total number of generators is determined along with total capacity, a fairly accurate fuel consumption rate can be determined. Unless external tanks are used, generators will need fueling every day. The result is a fairly consistent daily fuel requirement. Either the provider or the end user can arrange for fuel. In some cases, a fuel contractor may want to provide a single fuel drop and not fill individual generators. End users who are not experienced in procuring fuel services may want to leave this service to their provider.
Don’t forget the trash. A camp generates lots of trash; even more so if catering is on-site with a mobile kitchen. Make sure that enough dumpsters are provided to meet the trash needs of the camp
Since water, fuel, and dumpster requirements for the camp are difficult to project, providers typically supply these services at a fixed cost plus rate. This helps protect both the end user and the provider.
All camps require security to varying degrees depending on the location and configuration of the camp. For example, a fenced in area in a remote area may require minimal security while a large camp in a populated area without natural barriers may require a robust security team. In most cases, it is best for the end user to determine their security needs in conjunction with their head of security or an experienced security professional. To help ensure a safe camp, an adequate amount og light towers must be used to ensure adequate lighting at night.
Other units such as laundry, recreational tents (MWR), communication tents/trailers, first aid units, etc. can be added to a camp based on the needs of the occupants.