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  • Writer's pictureThe San Juan Daily Star

As hurricane season begins, citizens are urged to prepare

Caguas Mayor William Miranda Torres/Bureau of Emergency Management and Disaster Administration Commissioner Nino Correa Filomeno

By The Star Staff

Gov. Pedro Pierluisi Urrutia insisted on Thursday that Puerto Rico is in an improved position to face the Atlantic hurricane season, which had just begun.

“Are we better off than we were before [Hurricane] Fiona? Definitely yes, we are in better condition, we have better preparation than before Fiona. We’re better off than we were before Maria, obviously much better than we were before Maria,” the governor said at a press conference. “So well, you have better resources, for example, that the electrical system is in better condition, that the disengagement has been done, in areas where in the past it had not been done. That we have more equipment available to replace any [damaged] equipment. That today, I find out that we have more generators, that we have more shelters in proper condition. Given all that, under all the metrics, we are in better condition than we were last year before Fiona, and not to mention Maria.”

The island Bureau of Emergency Management and Disaster Administration (NMEAD by its Spanish acronym) urged citizens to prepare for the hurricane season, which officially began Thursday and ends on Nov. 30.

“We are prepared to react and help in any emergency,” stated NMEAD Commissioner Nino Correa Filomeno. “But it is important that each person, family, community and municipalities have their necessary provisions and resources.”

The preparation includes training for mayors, zone directors and municipal emergency management offices in collaboration with the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). A seminar on emergency management is expected on June 12 and June 13.

The FEMA coordinator in Puerto Rico, Orlando Olivera, stressed the importance of preparing all sectors of the community, especially the most vulnerable populations.

For this season, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration forecasts between 12 and 17 named storms, 5-9 hurricanes, and 1-4 major hurricanes.

“Puerto Ricans must have already made the decision to be prepared,” warned Ernesto Morales, alert coordinator of the National Meteorological Service.

NMEAD, along with relevant agencies, remains active in emergency preparedness and response. Work has also been done on training for first responders and the general public through the Community Emergency Response Team program, and around 100 “community hubs,” or community centers, have been established throughout the island.

“The DSP [Public Safety Department] and all its bureaus are active to work together to address any emergency situation,” DSP Secretary Alexis Torres said.

In the event of an emergency, the Emergency Operations Center is activated, which coordinates requests from mayors, shelters, other agencies and the public itself.

In Caguas on Thursday, Mayor William Miranda Torres urged citizens to prepare for the 2023 hurricane season.

“Regardless of whether or not we experience the direct impact of an atmospheric event, we must prepare,” the mayor said. “The hurricane season is a period that generates a lot of anxiety, so citizens should stay informed by following official sources. It is important for each family to review and activate their emergency plan. For this season we launch our campaign ‘Caguas Activate’ to guide citizens during the hurricane season.”

Caguas Activate is available on the portal, and on the Facebook and Twitter pages of the Autonomous Municipality of Caguas.

Miranda Torres noted that the Caguas Municipal Office of Emergency Management has prepared, as it does every year, according to its emergency plan, a process that includes conducting mitigation work and inspecting areas that are susceptible to flooding or landslides, as well as ditches and sewers, to certify that they are not covered or clogged.

In an emergency officials recommend having supplies for at least 10 days: water (one gallon per day per person), non-perishable food, flashlight, radio, batteries, first aid kit, medicines, multipurpose tools, manual can opener, hygiene items, copies of important documents, cash in small denominations, cell phone with its charger, family and emergency contact information, emergency blanket, a map of the area and a whistle.

Pets should not be left alone at home, but rather should be taken with a family member, along with their food, medicines, a collar with their identification, and their vaccination documents.

The Caguas mayor also called on citizens to maintain a proactive attitude and contribute to the preparation effort by collecting debris at home that may become projectiles or affect the course of runoff, streams, rivers and other bodies of water. It is necessary that yard waste be separated for later disposal.

The official refuges in Caguas are: Abelardo Díaz Morales School in Santa Gertrudis Street, Urb. Santa Elvira; Inés María Mendoza School in 10 Urb. Villas de Castro; Cipriano Manrique School on highway PR-765, km 3.1, in Bo. Borinquen; Francisco Valdés Rola School on PR-798, km 12.5, Bo. Río Cañas; and Dr. Juan J. Osuna School on Calle 1.

FEMA, meanwhile, announced Thursday that it had located over $1 million in mitigation measures for generator projects that will help address future disasters in several facilities in Bayamón and Guaynabo.

The funds under the Hazard Mitigation Grant Program (HMGP) will provide essential services to communities during power outages or future natural disasters. To date, the agency has awarded nearly $415.3 million under HMGP for the installation of generators in multiple projects.

“Guaranteeing power during an emergency is critical for communities,” said Federal Disaster Recovery Coordinator José G. Baquero. “This is one of the measures that FEMA is working on to strengthen the preparedness of government agencies and nonprofit organizations that will serve Puerto Rico during a future response.”

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