GUAYNABO, Puerto Rico – With billions of federal dollars being allocated for Hurricane María recovery, FEMA officials are reassuring the government of Puerto Rico and its mayors that the island is better prepared to withstand any new storm.
Alejandro De La Campa, FEMA’s Capacity Building sector chief, told mayors attending the Preparedness and Disaster Management Conference that FEMA is providing training exercises and technical assistance to both the Puerto Rico Emergency Management Agency (PREMA) and the island’s 78 municipalities.
“We are conducting full-scale training exercises with PREMA and offering certification courses to municipal emergency managers,” De La Campa said. “We are also taking the lessons learned from last year to better prepare for the 2018 season.”
Omar J. Marrero, executive director of Puerto Rico’s Central Office of Recovery, Reconstruction and Resiliency that was created to coordinate all sources of federal funding approved for Hurricane María recovery, said the reconstruction process is estimated to take 10 years. The initial focus will be on rebuilding housing and the rebuilding of infrastructure in the worst-impacted areas. To date, more than $25 billion in combined federal assistance has been approved for Hurricane María recovery.
Marrero said a required action plan for reconstruction is due in August, with the municipalities being asked to contribute to the overall plan. He added that 74 of the 78 municipalities thus far have developed their own individual recovery plans.
“We have a golden opportunity to rebuild a stronger Puerto Rico,” Marrero said.
De La Campa told the mayors FEMA has stockpiled massive amounts of water, food, tarps and other necessities to prepare for any storm that reaches Puerto Rico this season. FEMA also will conduct additional exercises with PREMA later this month, including one where water and meals will be delivered to municipalities to have ready to distribute to residents.
FEMA will coordinate with PREMA to pre-stage about 630 generators in various locations that can quickly be transferred to municipalities to keep hospitals and other critical services operating during a power outage. Puerto Rico’s power grid was 80 percent destroyed by Hurricane María. Electricity has now been restored to 99 percent of residents.
De La Campa also pointed to another resource not available during the 2017 hurricane season. There are still more than 3,000 federal employees in Puerto Rico ready to temporarily suspend Hurricane María recovery work to respond to a new disaster.
For more information on Hurricane María recovery, visit fema.gov/disaster/4339.
Disaster recovery assistance is available without regard to race, color, religion, nationality, sex, age, disability, English proficiency or economic status. If you or someone you know has been discriminated against, call FEMA toll-free at 800-621-FEMA (3362) 711/VRS - Video Relay Service). Multilingual operators are available. (Press 2 for Spanish). TTY call 800-462-7585.
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