The NMEAD Commissioner, Carlos Acevedo. (semisquare-x3)
The NMEAD Commissioner, Carlos Acevedo. (GFR Media)

Only a month before the end of the hurricane season, the government and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) still keep the state emergency plan and the Strategic Plan "under review."

So far, the emergency plans of the 78 municipalities, which must be certified by the State Agency for Emergency and Disaster Management (NMEAD, Spanish acronym), are not ready.

 Even so, FEMA and the government claim to be ready to face any atmospheric event.

"Currently, we are finishing the part that has to do with the hurricane annex for Puerto Rico. It will contain the tsunami and earthquakes elements. It's an ongoing process," said Jesús Cuartas, Chief of Operational Planning Branch for FEMA Region II, which includes Puerto Rico, New York, New Jersey and the Virgin Islands.

"From FEMA's point of view, we are working with our documents, and the State provided us with theirs. However, we continue to refine that document in terms of the more complex aspects, broader strategies of possible variations of hurricanes that may come, "added Cuartas.

Since September, El Nuevo Día has been requesting unsuccessfully the Strategic Plan developed by FEMA and the state plan, which must also be reviewed by the federal agency.

"We do not publish the whole plan until all its components are ready. For us, the goal is (to finish it) by the end of the year," Cuartas said in an interview with El Nuevo Día.

"The issue is not rushing to have something, but doing something that is in tune with current changes," he added.

He clarified that the Strategic Plan is used for training exercises, and was put into effect when Hurricane Beryl represented a threat to the island. But it was not specified with whom they are sharing the document at the moment.

The NMEAD Commissioner, Carlos Acevedo, expressed himself in a similar way.

 "Our plan has been ready since the end of July. It will have monthly changes; we will continue refining it," said the official.

He sent a copy of an October 2018 version of the state emergency management plan, a 236-page document. 

Acevedo acknowledged that he is missing some plans that are being worked on.

"Now, we are working with the distribution (plan), which is being completed. The only thing is that I requested some changes regarding two warehouses that are being acquired. The (plan) of mass aid is being translated from English to Spanish because FEMA developed it with our personnel," said Acevedo.

Likewise, he assured that "we are working on the government's operational continuity plan". "That is being done here with FEMA personnel. The Agency's communications plan is being developed with everything that’s new. These plans are being worked on at the same time, some are more advanced than others. Here, a hurricane can come now and I am ready," he said.

 But the former director of Emergency Management, Ángel Crespo, said that "if the plan is ready, it must be ready with all its annexes." "It's elementary," he said.

Municipal plans

Regarding the municipalities emergency plans, Acevedo acknowledged that they are not ready.

"We received that of the municipalities’. I'm reviewing it with a task force," said the commissioner, who anticipated that, in two weeks, he will meet with the mayors and their respective Emergency Managers to discuss the plans.

 FEMA does not certify the municipalities emergency plans, but reviews them to see that they are consistent with the state and Strategic plans.

On when municipal plans will be ready, Acevedo said: "I have to check with FEMA when they can review them and add the information I'm asking for. I'm making it more comprehensive."

He added that the municipalities "currently" have a plan that they can execute if there is a hurricane.

Meanwhile, the mayors acknowledged that they have plans, but stressed that the duty of NMEAD is to certify the documents submitted, which is necessary to receive FEMA funds in case of catastrophes.

"We handled it just like the other time with María: with experience. The government was not going to be prepared, but municipalities were," said the mayor of San Germán, Isidro Negrón.

 The mayor of Aibonito, William Alicea, said he submitted his plan on September 7. He is "still awaiting approval," he said.

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