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  • Writer's pictureThe San Juan Daily Star

Public safety agencies, DNER said ready for Holy Week

Public Safety Secretary Alexis Torres Ríos

By John McPhaul

Public Safety Secretary Alexis Torres Ríos said Sunday that all island security agencies are ready to deal with any situation that arises during Holy Week.

“The components of the Department of Public Safety have been activated to handle any situation that may occur during Holy Week,” Torres said in a written statement. “In particular, the Emergency Management and Disaster Administration Bureau [NMEAD by its Spanish acronym] and the Puerto Rico Police Bureau, in addition to the Emergency Medical Corps [NCEM], the Firefighters Bureau and the 9-1-1 Emergency System [NSE]. The call to the public is that they can enjoy themselves as a family, taking the proper precautions, and we are ready to attend to any situation.”

NMEAD Interim Commissioner Nino Correa Filomeno said personnel from the bureau’s 10 regions are working with personnel from municipal emergency management from across the island, and especially with those from the 44 coastal towns.

“We are aware of any situation that may occur, both on beaches and in rivers and lakes,” Correa Filomeno said. “We know that there are places that receive a lot of public these days, especially on the beaches, and we are attentive to weather conditions and bulletins issued by the National Meteorological Service to be able to guide citizens if the beaches are suitable for bathers or not.”

As for the Police Bureau, all resources will be mobilized to increase surveillance by air, sea and land in all coastal areas and reinforce preventive patrolling.

“People must be assured that the police will be vigilant,” Police Commissioner Antonio López Figueroa said, noting that the commanders of the police regions will be on the streets with their work teams to ensure compliance with the surveillance plans, especially during holidays, from Thursday to Sunday.

He added that arrangements have been made for administrative staff to also be mobilized to support security efforts on holidays. Police Bureau staff will be stationed in the San Juan metropolitan area and in coastal towns such as Arecibo, Mayagüez, Aguadilla, Isabela, Cabo Rojo, Guánica, Ponce, Rincón, Luquillo, Fajardo, Ceiba, Vieques and Culebra, and in urban centers where activities are held.

NCEM Commissioner Javier Rodríguez also activated his prevention plan for Holy Week, reinforcing the areas of greatest incidence with intermediate shifts and first response personnel, and allocating resources for the offshore island municipalities of Vieques and Culebra.

“With a commitment to dealing with any emergency during the coming week, we will activate the ‘Incident Command System (ICS)’ in coordination with all municipal emergency systems and agreements with private ambulance companies,” Rodríguez said. “The nine NCEM zones are prepared to deal with any eventuality. We urge citizens to take preventive measures to avoid regrettable incidents and enjoy these days with the family.”

NSE 9-1-1 Commissioner Manuel González Azcuy added that “during these days of reflection due to Holy Week, we have reinforced the six work shifts in both reception centers for 9-1-1 calls.”

“To our deaf community and to victims of gender violence, we remind you that telecommunicators can channel their emergencies through the text messaging tool. They just have to write a text message to 9-1-1 indicating their emergency,” González Azcuy said.

Firefighters Commissioner Marcos Concepción said meanwhile that firefighters will be activated in the six zones that comprise 96 fire stations around the island, as well as the maritime unit of the San Juan coastal region and the special operations divisions.

“The statistics show that, during this week, the use of boats that can cause maritime accidents increases, as well as the consumption of alcohol, so more accidents can occur,” Concepción said. “For such reasons, fires that will require immediate intervention by our staff could increase, in addition to the emergencies that occur on a daily basis.”

DNER urges safety precautions

Interim Natural and Environmental Resources (DNER) Secretary Anaís Rodríguez Vega meanwhile urged visitors to beaches and bodies of water to take all precautions to guarantee their safety during the Easter break.

“Going to the beach and other bodies of water such as rivers and lakes is one of the greatest and healthiest forms of entertainment in Puerto Rico, particularly during this season and in the summer,” Rodríguez Vega said in a written statement. “However, like any natural habitat, in addition to its charms, it has its dangers. We recommend that you pay attention to the National Weather Service to find out about weather conditions, river flooding, underwater currents, waves. Our agency will also be attentive and will issue any necessary communication through its social networks.”

“Likewise, we urge visitors to take their garbage away with them and not throw it into the water or onto the ground,” she said.

Rodríguez Vega also revealed that the DNER Ranger Corps has a surveillance plan and will remain alert to any threat to natural resources, including patrolling the maritime-terrestrial zone.

She added that although shark attacks on humans are not common in beach areas, they can happen, so bathers should exercise caution. The DNER promotes the use of inland spas for their safety, as there are dangerous parts of the coast with strong underwater currents.

Fish such as the barracuda or the reef shark are some of the marine animals to be alert to. However, there are other species in Caribbean waters that should be avoided, such as fire coral, moray eel, lionfish, jellyfish, sea urchins, and manta rays.

Rodríguez Vega also warned about the use of motorized watercraft off the beaches, reminding the public that such activity is prohibited by law to protect the environment and the species that can nest or live on or near the beaches. Those who violate the law risk fines and other applicable sanctions.

“I make a call for us to share the beaches and other natural resources, taking into account their conservation and preservation,” she said. “Likewise, we encourage our citizens to become eyewitnesses and speak out against the possible environmental damage that some people cause due to ignorance or unscrupulousness.”

Any incident that occurs involving a swimmer or anyone who is enjoying protected natural resources must be reported without delay to 9-1-1, as well as to the Rangers, at 787-851-3600 (Boquerón), 787-230-4929 (Mayagüez) or 787-230-5550 (command center), or to the police, Rodríguez Vega said.

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