FEMA awards $4.1 million to create the EcoExploratorio Resiliency Institute

By John McPhaul

To support efforts on the island aimed at raising awareness of the importance of hazard mitigation, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) has awarded a $4.1 million grant to the EcoExploratorio Resiliency Institute (ERI).

The unique center in Puerto Rico will provide guidance on resilience and other mitigation topics to the public. The funds are provided by FEMA’s Hazard Mitigation Grant Program, FEMA said Wednesday in a press release.

The Institute, which will be located in Hato Rey, will allow the public to access a disaster mitigation certification program tailored to the specific needs of the island.

As part of its educational platform, the ERI will develop an online training center through a specialized learning program available on its website.

“Hazard mitigation goes hand-in-hand with all long-term recovery efforts on the island,” said José Baquero Tirado, the federal disaster recovery coordinator for Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands. “It is important for everyone to know how they can contribute to a stronger Puerto Rico.”

Likewise, the ERI curriculum will have simulators for hurricanes and earthquakes, as well as a community outreach area that will be the hub of its training center.

Those features will allow for an innovative educational experience in order to train citizens in a virtual environment. The educational content and material that will be made available will be developed by experts, including scientific and academic researchers, with the support of FEMA and the Emergency Management Bureau.

“The Board of Directors of the EcoExploratorio Inc. is honored to receive the support of FEMA in order to elevate the EcoExploratorio project to another level as the cornerstone and training axis for the development of more resilient communities in the face of the effects and impact of natural events in Puerto Rico,” said Ada Monzón, meteorologist and founder of the EcoExploratorio Inc. “This will be the ‘center of gravity’ for education, so that our communities will have the tools to mitigate the impact of climate change, based on the experiences acquired over the past five years.”

To date, FEMA has approved $71.1 million under the Hazard Mitigation Grant Program.

Mitigation aims to reduce the loss of life and property following a disaster through sustainable actions such as planning and zoning, and other measures that support long-term solutions.

“Without a doubt, the development of the EcoExploratorio Resiliency Institute is an asset for citizens who recognize the need to be prepared for the impact of a natural disaster,” said Manuel Laboy Rivera, executive director of the Puerto Rico Central Office of Recovery, Reconstruction and Resilience (COR3). “At COR3 we will serve as facilitators for the development of this important and innovative project.”

Laboy Rivera noted that after hurricanes Irma and Maria, Puerto Rico received the maximum possible under the Hazard Mitigation program due to the magnitude of the disasters.

By identifying local threats, families, communities and municipalities can determine how best to locally reduce or mitigate hazards. Studies have shown that every dollar spent on mitigation activities saves an average of six dollars in future disaster costs.

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