Matt's Reflection: NDPTC Training in Puerto Rico!

Today, we had the great opportunity to listen to the perspectives of local Puerto Rican stakeholders such as graduate student planners, FEMA professionals, and various government sector officials regarding their local recovery efforts from Hurricane Maria. One of the big takeaways from what was commonly said was that they were "not ready" to respond to the extent of this natural disaster due to communication. Local communication before and after the storm was minimal with only 2 radio stations with information, but was unreliable due to mixed-messages forcing residents had to contact family outside of PR for information regarding the extent of Maria. Additionally, technological barriers such as converting from analog to digital technology prevented residents from responding to the storm in a timely manner. The lack of pre-disaster response was contributed by all communities not being included in the disaster planning processes, education deficiencies regarding preparedness, and "inefficient" response/recovery centers with ruptures between all levels of government leading to an overall lack of trust towards government. This all led to "communities" to take it into their own hands to recover right after the shock. Additional concerns regarded how to reach out to the "whole community" in response and recovery planning. Suggestions included having more diverse and even visual communication tools (e.g., maps, etc.), developing protocols for preparedness and recovery to all hazards, including all municipalities and communities into the planning and decision-making process, and therefore regaining trust by starting from the bottom-up. 


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