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Center Snapshot: Jose Caraballo
Jose Caraballo. Image above: As NASA Langley's safety manager, Jose Caraballo serves as the officer for the emergency preparedness team. Photo credit: NASA/Sean Smith

By: Denise Lineberry

Whether the weather calls for snow or a hurricane is threatening the Hampton Roads area, Jose Caraballo has one thing on his mind -- safety.

As the snow fell steadily early Thursday afternoon, Caraballo stood at the main gate and directed employees as they exited the center during an early closure.

And back in October when Hurricane Earl was predicted to hit the Virginia coast, Caraballo sat at the head of the table in the fire department’s conference room along with Langley’s emergency preparedness team.

As the preparedness officer, he looks at maps from National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the Weather Channel, the local forecast and Google Earth and keeps communication with our Air Force neighbors and city officials when making decisions with his team. The hodgepodge of information is received and assessed, and then Caraballo must make a forecast of his own, as well as deal with the "emergency" from beginning to end if it does affect the center.

For four years, Caraballo has served as Langley's safety manager. For him, it's more than his field of study and work, but a way of life.

Before coming to Langley, he worked with the safety department at NASA's Kennedy Space Center.

And before that, he was a safety engineer for the U.S. Army. "The Army was hiring engineers out of college," Caraballo said. "And I saw it as an opportunity."

He joined the Army in 1986. He was given engineering program options and Caraballo chose safety.

His interest in safety dates back to his childhood in Puerto Rico. While growing up there, Caraballo remembers his uncle talking to him about his safety career at the San Juan International Airport. Caraballo was always interested in what his uncle had to say and, even as a child, he thought safety would be a good career path.

"He used to tell me about his work and how strict the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) was with enforcing the safety and repairs of the airplanes," Caraballo said of his uncle. "He also mentioned the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) and how they were protecting him and the workers in the airport."

Caraballo was born in Ponce, and he lived in the town of Yauco for 26 years. His memories are fond ones of playing basketball with friends until dark and close-knit neighborhoods.

"Because I was born in Puerto Rico, I was able to experience the Hispanic culture and see how the U.S. was influencing it," he said. "It made it easy for me to adjust when I moved to the US."

Each year, he tries to return to Puerto Rico to visit his family. He now has his own stories from his career in safety to share with his nieces and nephews.

And when he leaves NASA Langley and returns home, he still considers safety his job.

"I love what I do because it is important," Caraballo said. "Not only at work and not only during emergencies, but every day and everywhere."

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