Downed trees. Pulverized drywall, waterlogged couches. Across the New York area, about 12 million cubic yards of debris needed to be cleared. Hurricane Sandy left disaster in its wake, and a huge need for qualified people to help clean up.
Enter BEST Academy graduates. Over 20 BEST graduates are currently employed on post-Sandy clean-up projects through Resource Options Inc. (ROI), a staffing agency involved in environmental issues.
Some of the training that BEST Academy trainees receive proves very useful in disaster relief. Both our B4B and BECO graduates obtain the following certifications as part of their training: the 40-hour OSHA Hazardous Waste and Emergency Response (HAZWOPER) certification and the 10-hour OSHA Confined Space certification. These certifications provide specialized training for dealing with the hazardous materials found in a storm’s aftermath and for entering damaged homes and other buildings.
“I started reaching out to everyone we’d worked with in the past to see if they needed help,” says Migdalia Taveras, one of SSBx’s terrific Business Account Managers. “This company had hired our graduates for the Gulf clean-up after the BP explosion, and they needed a large labor force now. I also reached out to our BEST grads to see who was interested.”
SSBx’s B4B Field Manager, Jerome Barner, taught a class that enabled interested grads to renew their certifications and therefore be eligible for employment with ROI.
BEST grads soon began working throughout the New York region. “We worked at a parking garage that had flooded at 17 Battery Park,” says Yolanda Regis, a B4B 2012 graduate who had served as a crew leader over the summer as BEST grads worked on the NYC CoolRoofs initiative. “We were in a stairwell loaded with oil and water. We skimmed oil off the water with a hose. You put the hose just on top of the water and it sucks the oil off the water. You actually see the water coming clear. That was amazing to see.”
Trevonne Baker, another BEST Academy 2012 graduate, worked in Queens. “We moved trash from Breezy Point to Jacob Riis Park with a boom truck, which is like a big garbage truck with a boom on it,” says Baker. “My favorite part was riding on the boom truck. It was like those fifty-cent game machines where you try to pick up the teddy bear with the claw. We picked up everything you can imagine that came out of people’s houses. Drywall, washing machines, beds, dressers. It felt cool to actually be a part of the clean-up.”
For Pierre Moore, a 2012 BEST graduate who also worked in Battery Park, the experience highlighted the importance of what he’d learned. “I felt like I made a difference,” says Moore. “This is the second hurricane in two years that came up the East Coast. It is related to climate change. It shows how relevant our training really is.”