• The San Juan Daily Star

Agencies, firms meet on telecom infrastructure resiliency

Enrique Völckers-Nin, director of the Office of Innovation and Technology Services

By The Star Staff

Three days after the end of the hurricane season, the Office of Innovation and Technology Services (PRITS) and the Department of Public Safety held a meeting with FirstNet representatives to assess the status of the emergency communications infrastructure in Puerto Rico.

The parties agreed to work on disaster simulation pilot exercises to strengthen the telecommunications infrastructure, which was severely damaged during the 2017 hurricane season.

PRITS Director Enrique Völckers-Nin and Public Safety (DSP by its Spanish initials) Secretary Alexis Torres met with the interim president of the Telecommunications Bureau (NET by its Spanish acronym), Zaida Cordero López, as well as representatives of AT&T and Liberty, providers of telephone services and communication equipment used by first responders in times of an emergency.

Völckers-Nin emphasized the importance of the collaborative effort for the effectiveness and agility of mobile communication during emergencies and to save lives.

“The meeting served as a space to review Puerto Rico’s work plan to keep its communications system operating in an emergency, the achievements obtained and how the emergency communications infrastructure has been strengthened since Hurricane Maria,” said Völckers-Nin, who is also the Puerto Rico government’s principal executive of innovation and information. “We are pleased to say that we are more prepared and once the hurricane season is over, we immediately begin to evaluate the actions taken, as well as to plan and establish goals for the next season, among other unexpected events such as earthquakes.”

Torres, meanwhile, highlighted the importance of the effort between private companies and the island’s technology and security agencies.

“Communication is key to being able to handle emergencies efficiently,” he said. “Every day we work to provide the necessary tools to our first responders and staying in touch is essential. We cannot overlook what happened after the passage of Hurricane Maria, when the communications system failed. We are working together with PRITS and FirstNet so that communication does not fail and our staff is connected all the time, working as a team for the well being and safety of everyone in Puerto Rico.”

Likewise, Cordero López stated that it is essential for first responders and security agencies to have access to the coverage of the telecommunications network in an emergency. FirstNet allows first responders to have priority access on the web to exchange information between agencies in charge of responding to emergencies and serving communities promptly. The NET will continue to work hand in hand in all the necessary efforts along with FirstNET, PRITS and the DSP to maximize the use of the network in emergency situations, she said.

Representatives from FirstNet who participated in the meeting included Doug Clark, Rob LaVielle, Michael J. Fox, Rhonda Bell and Wilfredo Pereira.

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