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FEMA and other Federal Agencies Supporting Earthquake Response in Puerto Rico

Release date: 
January 12, 2020
Release Number: 
HQ-20-004
  • There has been significant progress in power restoration, PREPA is managing power restoration efforts and anticipates 100 percent power generation today if all assets are online, although there will be little to no reserve capacity, and the grid will be fragile.
  • FEMA continues to assist impacted municipalities in addressing emergency needs. FEMA personnel are embedded with local officials in impacted areas to facilitate requests for assistance.
  • On January 11, 2020, Governor Vazquez submitted her request for a Major Disaster Declaration. The Governor’s request is currently in process.
  • USGS current forecast indicates there is a 68% probability of a Magnitude 5 earthquake in the next seven days. These strong aftershocks are expected and are a natural process after a strong earthquake. 
  • If you are feeling anxious or stressed, you can call or text the Disaster Distress Helpline at 1-800-985-5990 and speak to a crisis counselor. The Disaster Distress Helpline’s TTY number for deaf and hard of hearing individuals, 1-800-846-8517, is available 24/7. Deaf and hard of hearing users can also use the texting options or their preferred Relay service (including 7-1-1) to connect with the main DDH hotline.
  • Shelters and feeding stations are available in the impacted area. For a list of shelters and other important information from local officials, visit www.manejodeemergencias.pr.gov or call the Puerto Rico Emergency Management and Disaster Administration Bureau at 787-724-0124 to find your nearest shelter.

Local Officials are Leading the Response

  • Disaster response is a whole community effort and most effective when it is locally executed, state managed and federally supported.
  • The Commonwealth of Puerto Rico has requested assistance from the states of California and New York by means of the Emergency Management Assistance Compact. The teams will provide technical assistance for building evaluations and inspection, as well as debris removal and management in the areas impacted by the earthquakes.
  • The Puerto Rico National Guard is assisting with operations including limited infrastructure assessment security/reconnaissance operations, evacuation support, and route clearance operations. Additional teams are en route to assist.
  • Currently, 20 shelters are open, with more than 4,200 occupants. Additionally, there are survivors in non-traditional sheltering due to concerns about aftershocks.
  • People in some shelters were evacuated and moved to other shelter locations following yesterdays' aftershock, and planning continues for establishing nine survivor basecamps and other long-term options.
  • Follow instructions from your local officials. If you have a question about whether your home is safe to re-enter, consult your local government officials for guidance.
  • Hospitals and dialysis centers are stable, there has been no impact on patient care or access.
  • AirBnB activated its “Open Homes Program.” The program allows hosts to offer no cost accommodations outside the impact areas for survivors and first responders until Jan. 31.

Federal Agencies Supporting Local Efforts

  • On Jan. 7, President Trump approved an emergency declaration allowing direct federal assistance for emergency measures to protect lives, property and public health after the recent series of earthquakes. This assistance is for all 78 municipalities in the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico.
  • The whole community is involved with response efforts including private sector partners and non-governmental organizations like The Salvation Army and American Red Cross.
  • Non-governmental organizations have set up 19 fixed and five mobile feeding sites across Puerto Rico operated by Puerto Rico Rises; the Salvation Army; Send Relief; the American Red Cross; and World Central Kitchen and other non-governmental organizations.
  • FEMA supplied 20 water-tank trucks that are available to supply drinking water to critical facilities where needed.
  • FEMA has taken the following actions to support Puerto Rico and local governments:
    • FEMA delivered food, water and other commodities to survivors in impacted communities including Lajas, Guánica, Guayanilla, Ponce and Yauco.
    • FEMA established Structural Assessment and Power Restoration Task Forces.
    • Urban Search and Rescue and Incident Support Base personnel are actively engaged in operations.
    • FEMA has prepositioned life-sustaining commodities, including meals and water throughout Puerto Rico.
  • The USGS forecasts that number of aftershocks will decrease in frequency over the next 30 days, but that a large aftershock can cause a temporary increase in subsequent aftershocks. If you live in the affected areas, follow instructions from local officials and monitor local radio, TV stations or official social media accounts for updated emergency information.
  • USGS is deploying six temporary seismometers along the coast adjacent to where the earthquakes have occurred. Observations from aftershock monitoring equipment will improve the ability to characterize and forecast earthquakes.
  • A U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Temporary Emergency Power Team is in Puerto Rico; equipment mobilization is expected to begin today. A USACE Prime Power team is conducting assessments for generator installs where required. On Saturday, through a mission assignment, USACE completed inspections of nine fire stations and FEMA facilities impacted by the earthquake.
  • Representatives of the U.S. Department of Energy are in Puerto Rico consulting with private sector partners on ways to increase power generation after the loss of the Costa Sur power plant, which will be offline for a significant period of time.
  • U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar declared a public health emergency in Puerto Rico to ensure health care and services are available to meet the needs of recipients of Medicare, Medicaid and the Children's Health Insurance Program.
    • A liaison from the Health and Human Services Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response is in Puerto Rico to assist local officials.
    • Staff from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention are in Puerto Rico coordinating with local partners to assess conditions.
  • FEMA continues to support the government of Puerto Rico with their complex and ongoing recovery efforts from Hurricanes Irma and Maria and to ensure everyone is better prepared for disasters that could impact the island, at all levels.

Earthquake Safety

  • If you are experiencing stress or anxiety, you can call the Disaster Distress Helpline and speak to a crisis counselor. This confidential service is available free of charge, 24 hours a day in English and Spanish. To speak with a trained crisis counselor, call 1-800-985-5990 or text TalkWithUs to 66746 (for Spanish, press 2 or text Hablanos to 66746).  The Puerto Rico Administration of Mental Health and Anti-Addiction Services Crisis Hotline is also available at 800-981-0023.
  • If you are in the areas affected by the earthquake, please monitor local radio, TV stations or official social media accounts for updated emergency information.
  • These secondary shockwaves are usually less violent than the main quake but can be strong enough to do additional damage to weakened structures and can occur in the first hours, days, weeks, or even months after the quake.
    • During an earthquake, Drop, Cover and Hold On. Minimize your movements to a few steps to a nearby safe place.
    • If you are indoors, stay there until the shaking has stopped and you are sure exiting is safe. Cover your head and neck with your arms or a pillow until the shaking stops.
    • People with mobility disabilities who cannot drop, should still cover and hold on. People who use wheelchairs should lock their wheels and not try to transfer during shaking.
  • Help injured or trapped persons if it is safe for you to do so. Check on neighbors who may require assistance such as infants, children, older adults, people with disabilities and others with access and functional needs.
  • Check for gas leaks. If you smell gas or hear blowing or hissing noise immediately move away from the area. If you know how to turn the gas off, do so and report the leak to your local fire department and gas company.
  • Additional earthquake safety and preparedness information is available at Ready.gov and Listo.gov.

 

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Last Updated: 
January 12, 2020 - 13:11