• The San Juan Daily Star

Another 23,000 emergency backpacks distributed in public schools

The second phase of the distribution of emergency backpacks has begun in public schools across Puerto Rico, where a total of 23,555 backpacks are being distributed.

By John McPhaul

Designated Education Secretary Eliezer Ramos Parés announced on Sunday that the second phase of the distribution of emergency backpacks has begun in all island public schools, where a total of 23,555 backpacks are being distributed.

“It is our commitment to provide all schools with the materials and equipment necessary to be prepared for an emergency,” Ramos Parés said in a written statement. “This investment, along with the training offered to the faculties and the school communities, give us the peace of mind to be able to face an emergency situation that occurs in a school.”

In the first phase, 8,445 backpacks were distributed, a total of 10 backpacks per school, but part of the revised safety plan requires that each of the classrooms have a backpack on hand. The total of equipped packs is around 32,000.

The purchase of the backpacks was made with the Emergency Relief Fund for Elementary and Secondary Schools. The backpacks contain first aid equipment, thermal blankets, rain capes, whistles, flashlights, and food and water for several days. Additionally, they have equipment for heating food, a NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) radio and a compass, among other materials necessary for an emergency.

For his part, César González Cordero, the Department of Education’s safety supervisor, stressed the importance of the equipment and of updating the emergency plans of each school.

“Throughout the year, we review and update our emergency plans and, in turn, we train all the staff of each of the schools on topics such as tsunamis, earthquakes, active shooters and environmental pollution, among others,” González Cordero said. “This periodic exercise assumes that each director and his or her team are ready to act and protect our children and young people. These backpacks have everything necessary to act quickly and diligently.”

Recently, the “Shake Out” drill was carried out in the schools, as part of the cycle of exercises that are contained in the school calendar. Each campus was encouraged to review their security and evacuation plans. The exercise was organized by the Education Department’s Security Office and led by acting Bureau of Emergency Management and Disaster Administration Commissioner Nino Correa, Public Safety Secretary Alexis Torres, Puerto Rico Seismic Network Director Víctor Huérfano and Ramos Parés.

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