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Federal Response Continues to Focus on Saving and Sustaining Lives

Release date: 
September 25, 2017
Release Number: 
HQ-17-140

WASHINGTON – As the response to Hurricane Maria continues, and the recovery begins, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), and the entire federal family remain focused on life-saving and life-sustaining measures to ensure the safety of residents in Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands (USVI). 

Today, FEMA Administrator Brock Long is meeting with FEMA personnel and the governors of the USVI and Puerto Rico to get an update on the current situation and each governor’s priorities and assess the progress of response and recovery efforts underway. 

The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has more than 300 staff on the ground, including a National Disaster Medical System Disaster Medical Assistance Teams (DMAT), with more on the way. A DMAT is a federalized workforce of doctors, nurses, paramedics, emergency management technicians, safety specialists, and others who provide medical care during natural disaster relief efforts. HHS is working around the clock with staff from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) to re-open hospitals around Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands.

Additionally, an Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Critical Water Assessment Team arrived yesterday to address drinking water needs and conduct wastewater assessments at facilities that service hospitals.

Making sure that residents have access to health and emergency services is a top priority of the federal and territorial governments, and hospitals have been a priority focus for fuel delivery and power restoration.

two men pack up shipments of medical supplies

Disaster Medical Assistance Team members secure a cargo net around a pallet of
medical supplies on the flight line at Dobbins Air Reserve Base, Ga. Sept. 21, 2017.

In Puerto Rico, power is restored to the following hospitals:

  • Centro Médico Hospital in San Juan, also serving as the HHS Disaster Medical Assistance Team Base of Operations for critical and acute care services
  • San Pablo Hospital in Bayamón

As areas become accessible, more fuel is able to be delivered to critical facilities.  Puerto Rico hospital fuel needs are prioritized for those serving patients with critical needs.. The Governor Juan F. Luis Hospital in St. Croix and the Schneider Regional Medical Center Emergency Room in St. Thomas were re-energized and re-established as mobile hospitals over the weekend by HHS and Department of Defense (DoD).

HHS and DoD are conducting medical evacuations; so far they’ve evacuated more than 150 patients from the U.S. Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico to locations in the continental United States. In the U.S. Virgin Islands, FEMA and the American Red Cross are providing hotel lodging and support for the remaining patients until additional movement can be coordinated. More than half of the dialysis centers in the U.S. Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico are now operational.

four medical staff members in uniform carry an individual on a stretcher down a ramp

A woman in a white lab coat rests her hands on a patient's head. Other medical staff are in the background.
(Images above) As part of the National Disaster Medical System, Atlanta VA Medical Center staff provided much need medical support to hurricane evacuees at Dobbins Air Reserve Base over the weekend. In support of the Atlanta VA’s Federal Coordinating Center mission, staff received, assessed and placed hurricane survivors in appropriate medical facilities in the surrounding communities. (Lisa Pessin, Atlanta VAMC)

HHS Liaisons and a Health and Medical Task Force (HMTF) arrived to St. Croix today; additional Liaisons are on the ground in St. John and St. Thomas. These liaisons and teams join the teams and equipment already on the ground serving the residents of the U.S. Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico.

Nine FEMA Urban Search and Rescue (US&R) teams working in coordination with the U.S. Coast Guard, U.S. Customs and Border Protection, and others continue to conduct search and rescue operations in Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands. Together, these teams have saved or assisted 530 individuals so far.

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FEMA's mission is to support our citizens and first responders to ensure that as a nation we work together to build, sustain and improve our capability to prepare for, protect against, respond to, recover from and mitigate all hazards.

Follow FEMA online at www.fema.gov/blog, www.twitter.com/fema, www.twitter.com/femaspox, www.facebook.com/fema and www.youtube.com/fema.  Also, follow Administrator Brock Long’s activities at www.twitter.com/fema_brock.

The social media links provided are for reference only. FEMA does not endorse any non-government websites, companies or applications.

Last Updated: 
January 3, 2018 - 11:59