Puerto Rico was awakened by a quake on Three Kings Day and that fact compels us to remember the lessons learned from Hurricane María in 2017. And among those, the most important ones are to stay calm and prepare.
Staying calm allows you to prepare according to official guidelines and recommendations. Preparedness reduces the risk of injuries and brings tranquility. Prevention requires identifying both domestic, community and government vulnerabilities and strengths.
The emergency caused by Hurricane María showed family contingency plans are that the first defense against an extreme event, that is family disaster plans and having the supplies suggested by authorities. It is important for children to know what to do and to also keep them calm. serenity to them.
The quake that struck Puerto Rico yesterday was the strongest to be felt since the island started trembling on December 28, without casualties reported or telecommunications affected. A power grid safety reaction caused a blackout that impacted thousands of customers, however, contrary to what happened during Hurricane María, the service was restored within minutes.
However, the earthquake did cause structural damage, knocked down homes built on stilts and caused landslides. According to estimates, there are about 150,000 stilt homes on the island. More than half of these houses may not withstand a high-intensity earthquake because they were built without the proper permits. If you live in one of them, take the necessary precautions and find information.. There are professional organizations available to help and guide you on how to make your home safer.
In the aftermath of Hurricane María, community action became the first disaster relief front before the lack of response or authorities disorganization. Since then, each community should know who their most vulnerable neighbors are, such as the elderly and people with physical or mental limitations. Solidarity must prevail. Many of these people live alone and need the comfort and support of their neighbors. And municipal authorities should also have such their inventory of needs and resources in order to be ready to assist.
Disaster resilience centers with water reserves, solar energy systems, and other equipment have been established in many communities. It is time to ensure that infrastructure is ready to withstand another hurricane or an earthquake. Such community actions bring relief to municipal duties, but they do not replace them. City councils are people´s closest government contact. All municipal staff should by now know what to do and how to bring first aid to the areas of greatest need.
It seems quite unusual that the central government does not yet have an earthquake emergency plan. No excuse is acceptable after the tragic outcome of the 2017 Hurricanes that took almost 3,000 lives. The government has to ensure that the health infrastructure is in good condition or that they have contingency plans to deal with a crisis caused by intense seismic activity.
They should also have emergency plans to avoid a power grid collapse. Most of the grid´s generation concentrates in the southern area which was precisely the epicenter of Monday´s quake. Citizens must be guided on the availability and proper use of fuel to avoid the risk of explosions in case of an earthquake.
The government said that roads and bridges are designed to withstand earthquakes. Even so, they must have alternate roads to assist citizens.
Planning reduces vulnerability. At the central government level, the Planning Board and agencies in charge of designing public policies and Puerto Rico's reconstruction map must work with the rigor imposed by scientific data and projections.
This recent quake that awakened us on such a special holiday for Puerto Ricans, such as the Feast of the Epiphany, is a reminder that we must all work for preparedness and response, as individuals and as a nation. Prevention, based on scientific information and calm, saves lives.