The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Science and Technology Directorate (S&T) is providing expertise in integrating possible solutions with assessing hurricane damage and recovery needs in Puerto Rico.
The impact from hurricanes Irma and María in 2017 overwhelmed Puerto Rico’s infrastructure, damaging or destroying power, water, health, communications and transportation systems.
The added impact to housing as well as commodity distribution (i.e., food, water, and fuel) weakened communities throughout Puerto Rico for the long term and has prompted an unprecedented amount of assistance at all levels of government.
To supplement recovery from the disaster, Congress has required the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to support the Governor of Puerto Rico in delivering a full report on the damage as well as a plan for building back more resiliency within 180 days.
The final report is due to Congress on Aug. 8.
Guided by a collaborative interagency approach, the response to Puerto Rico’s complex concerns seeks coordination between participants with specific recovery functions, such as FEMA, the U.S Army Corps of Engineers and the U.S. Departments of Commerce, Health and Human Services, Housing and Urban Development, and Interior.
Key to achieving unified, resilient solutions has been the appointment of Michael Byrne of the FEMA Office of Response and Recovery, as Federal Coordinating Officer and Federal Disaster Recovery Coordinator.
Supporting this coordination effort, DHS S&T linked FEMA with the Homeland Security Operational Analysis Center (HSOAC), one of the Department’s Federally Funded Research and Development Centers (FFRDC) sponsored by S&T.
Director of S&T’s FFRDC Program Management Office Scott Randels, responsible for connecting FEMA with HSOAC, visited a FEMA joint field office (JFO) in San Juan, Puerto Rico in February 2018 to kick off the dialogue.
Randels helped FEMA determine the optimal contract solutions for initial damage and needs assessments with HSOAC. Together, they developed a spending plan, setting a foundation for FEMA to carry out the governor’s report.
“FFRDCs are a valuable Department asset, and S&T is a steward of that asset,” said Randels. “We make sure an FFRDC is capable and responsive to the Department’s needs.”
Together with the directorate’s experience promoting public and private collaboration, the center’s high level data analysis capability facilitates gathering and analyzing information from all participants.
The methodology implemented by this approach supports objective decision-making so the recovery plan is developed in incremental stages. These stages are then refined using feedback from all stakeholders and partners to ensure it is thorough and all-inclusive, resulting in the most comprehensive recovery plan possible for Puerto Rico.
“To ensure transparency and multiple opportunities for feedback, HSOAC is using Agile management methods and plans to release multiple drafts building toward the final products,” said Cynthia Cook, HSOAC Project Lead for the Puerto Rico Recovery Plan.
Employing Agile management means the project develops the recovery plan in multiple incremental stages, refining each stage through feedback. Each of these incremental documents is widely shared with stakeholders and partners to ensure many perspectives are involved in drafting the plan and the final product does not leave any stone unturned. This methodology is revealed in how HSOAC defines its end-to-end goals: integrating damage and needs assessments with possible solutions from stakeholders, providing additional analysis to support objective decision making, and ensuring that all input is produced in writing.
The result has allowed participants to identify and implement optimal solutions for initial damage and needs assessments as well as funding mechanisms for courses of action outlined by the Government of Puerto Rico.
A “Forward Team” of analysts remains on-site at the Guaynabo Joint Field Office supporting continued and accurate data collection and analysis.
1. Aerial view shows homes that were left roofless in Puerto Rico, due to the strong winds brought by Hurricane Maria. Photo taken by Yuisa Rios/FEMA. -- Sept. 30, 2017
2. Department of Sanitation New York (DSNY) Debris Management Specialists assess road and bridge accessibility in the Jayuya municipality. A team of 31 specialists from DSNY have canvassed the island and provided technical assistance to the mayors in each of the municipalities as well as food and water to disaster survivors. Photo taken by Andrea Booher/FEMA -- Oct. 22, 2017