Engineered to Serve

February 23, 2018

We welcomed Dr. Nadarajah Ravichandran to the Glenn Department of Civil Engineering in 2008. Eight years later he became a US citizen.  Shortly after becoming a  citizen, Dr. Ravichandran (Dr. Ravi) wanted to  give back to his country by joining the military as part of the reserve corp, but they turned him down due to his age. He did not give up on the idea of serving in some type of capacity and received that opportunity when a CE alumni came back from industry to teach a class. When Kent Nilsson came to teach in his guard uniform while serving with the South Carolina State Guard (SCSG), an organization staffed entirely of volunteers, Dr. Ravi knew this was the opportunity he had been waiting for.

When they are not working and lecturing in the Glenn Department of Civil Engineering, Dr. Ravi Ravichandran and Kent Nilsson volunteer their professional expertise in the service of the Engineering Command of the SCSG.  Their contributions to the community are somewhat analogous to those provided by the volunteer firefighter – unpaid, but not unneeded. During a disaster, smaller counties that have limited resources are frequently overwhelmed.  Their resources have been particularly stretched in the past three hurricane seasons, and they have looked to assistance from the State Guard.

The SC State Guard is managed by the South Carolina Military Department, and operates under the jurisdiction of the Adjutant General, with the governor serving as its Commander-in-Chief. Its mission is to provide in-state support for the National Guard, law enforcement, and other state and local agencies in times of emergency. SCSG resources are mobilized to provide pre-disaster planning, emergency response, and disaster recovery.  The State Guard provides a distinct advantage over the National Guard due to the speed in which its resources can be deployed.

A recent call-out required the SCSG Engineering Command’s assistance in conducting structural safety inspections of dozens of homes damaged by a tornado that touched down in Newberry County. Along with other engineers and architects who serve in the State Guard, CPT Ravi and LTC Nilsson were sworn in as deputy building inspectors, assisting the Newberry County building department in evaluating homes for safety of occupancy. Using FEMA protocols, damaged structures were appropriately assessed and placarded regarding the building’s fitness for occupancy. Not insignificantly, part of the effort included providing a level of official, uniformed presence on the streets, and an implied assurance to the affected parties that things were under control and help was on the way.

In deploying to areas affected by natural disasters, Ravichandran and Nilsson share that they have been able to “give back” to the community in an immediate and tangible way.  The scenes of destruction have been shocking, and the stories of those affected have been heartbreaking, but they have found great personal satisfaction in using engineering skills to help relieve the suffering of their fellow beings.

Dr. Ravi also assisted FEMA with structural inspections in Houston after Hurricane Harvey.