Public, private sectors converge at Emergency Management Convention
By The Star Staff
The Bureau for Emergency Management and Disaster Administration (NMEAD by its Spanish acronym), which is attached to the Department of Public Safety (DSP), held Day 2 of its 2022 Emergency Management Convention on Thursday, in which Gov. Pedro Pierluisi Urrutia participated, along with personnel from the public and private sectors, to continue working in coordination to be prepared in case of an emergency.
“After the experiences we have had, now Puerto Rico is in another stage,” the governor said in a written statement. “It has been up to all of us to apply the lessons learned and ensure that we are better prepared for future events. We cannot afford to fail our people, and for the past year and a half we have been in continuous practice. We have faced storm warnings that, thank God, did not materialize, as well as rain events that caused great damage in several municipalities. At the same time, the DSP and the Emergency Management Bureau have worked on rescues, fires and other events that test our systems and help us make the necessary adjustments to always seek the best response for our people.”
“Instead of waiting a few months before the hurricane season to begin preparations, we have maintained a continuous program of actions in favor of the government’s response to emergencies,” Pierluisi added. “Likewise, we have maintained good communication with the Legislative Assembly so that they are informed about our plans.”
The governor stressed the importance of all levels of government having clear regionalization and municipalization policies, since the regional offices of the government and the municipalities are the first response front, and they need resources and effective coordination with the central government.
DSP Secretary Alexis Torres noted that on the first day of the event held at at the Pedro Rosselló Convention Center in Miramar, the main focus was the private sector, while on Thursday the main audience was personnel from government agencies.
“For the first time, a full day has been set aside at the convention to work together with the private sector,” Torres said. “If we recognize something, it is that the government cannot work independently. We work in coordination with the private sector in order to meet the most pressing needs of citizens at that tragic moment. The fact that we continue to work together and in coordination will help us in the event of a future emergency.”
NMEAD Commissioner Nino Correa Filomeno highlighted that on Wednesday, Secretary of State Omar Marrero Díaz and Economic Development and Commerce Secretary Manuel Cidre participated in the convention. Along with them were representatives of the banking and finance, telecommunications, health and public health, food industry, energy, pharmaceutical, tourism and hotel sectors, along with the critical sectors of manufacturing and transportation.
The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency were also integrated, as were leaders of the “community hubs,” Cidre said.
The second day was focused on agency heads and interagency coordinators, as well as personnel from the National Weather Service and the Puerto Rico Seismic Network, among others.
“Preparation is not just up to the central government,” Correa Filomeno said. “In the last five years, we have experienced several emergencies that have taught us that our community leaders and neighbors often become the first responders assisting a situation in their community. We work together with them, with state and federal agencies, with mayors and with the private sector because teamwork is what makes the difference.”
FEMA Caribbean Office Coordinator Orlando Olivera, meanwhile, said that at the federal agency “we have a commitment to the government of Puerto Rico to provide it with the resources it needs to strengthen its preparedness efforts to respond to all kinds of emergencies.”
“In our office in the New York Region and the FEMA Caribbean Office, we are focused on maintaining a preparedness posture that embraces all sectors of our communities, including the private sector,” he said. “The lessons learned after the passage of Hurricane Maria show us that the appropriate collaboration between all sectors will help us respond better and recover faster from any type of incident. [We have learned] that the agencies that respond to an emergency can work together and acquire the resources that are available on the island, to keep the local economy active while helping citizens.”
Also on Thursday, the governor said that before the retirement of Roberto García from the National Weather Service, he will appoint him as a consultant.
“We are not going to allow you to fully retire,” Pierluisi said. “I am going to appoint you here today publicly and later we will formalize the papers, permanent consultant to the Emergency Management Bureau for meteorological affairs.”