It was a “beautiful day” in Littleton, CO on Thursday, June 22, 2023, according to Brent Hartsfield, ESSCA Teammate Principal and Lead System Engineer – Mars Ascent Vehicle, who was attending program planning meetings at an offsite location, along with teammates from Huntsville.
But suddenly, “the weather turned south rapidly,” said Brent.
The National Weather Service termed the tornado as an EF-1. An EF-1 tornado has winds from 86 to 110 mph and may cause moderate damage. The tornado swept through a 6-mile area surrounding Highland Ranch and Lone Tree, two of Colorado’s most densely populated neighborhoods.
It also “touched down in the parking lot of the building we were meeting in,” said Brent.
Fortunately, Brent immediately assessed the situation and assumed control to ensure the approximately 40 employees in his meeting and more than 70 on the floor were safe from harm’s way.
For his efforts, Brent was honored with a quartet of Safety honors:
NASA Caring in Action - Individual Recipient
NASA Caring in Action - Monthly Recipient
Jacobs Safety Star Award
Jacobs Beyond Zero Monthly Award
“The local team didn’t have an emergency evacuation plan in place nor good training on what to do in such a situation,” said Brent. “Pulling from my training and experience, I led the team and others in the building to the stair-wells, lobbies, and bathrooms for shelter, also taking the lead on determining the all clear following the tornado passing.”
No injuries or deaths were reported and there was minimal damage to a fire station and elementary school in the area. There were also several reports of hailstones, some up to the size of tennis balls.
“Thanks to the agency and contract safety posture, training, and practice, I was able to recognize the severity of the situation and respond with a specific and organized plan,” said Brent. “Working with other MSFC members of our team, we quickly moved the teams into safety. I’m happy I was able to use my knowledge and experience to keep my teammates safe.
“It is a testament to the safety programs we encourage across our contracts and way of life, both at home and outside the workplace.”