Groups Help Puerto Rico With Earthquake Relief Efforts

Whether assessing damage or preventing the spread of disease, associations and nonprofits are working to respond quickly to a major earthquake that hit the island last week.

Less than three years after the territory was devastated by a major hurricane, Puerto Rico is facing another tough road as it recovers from an unusually strong earthquake that affected the island last week, as well as a series of aftershocks.

The tremors have led to major power outages and a risk of lasting damage to a part of the world not known for major earthquakes. (Puerto Rico’s last catastrophic quake was a century ago.)

With a desire to help in mind, associations and nonprofits have been working overtime. Just some of the ways they’re helping:

Coordinating widespread relief. In the week since the first earthquake hit the island, the Hispanic Federation has been assisting people on the ground as resources are needed. “Thousands of solar lamps are being made available for distribution, as well as emergency funds for local health and human service providers working in affected communities,” the federation’s president, Frankie Miranda, wrote in an open letter. “Furthermore, through our partnership with the University of Puerto Rico, our mental health initiative is already providing mental health services across the island focused on trauma therapy after natural disasters.” The group is asking for donations to support its relief efforts.

Assessing the damage. With as many as 10,000 buildings damaged by the earthquake and follow-up tremors, the American Institute of Architects’ Puerto Rico chapter kicked into gear immediately behind search and rescue teams to help assess damage to buildings on the island. “It is estimated that some 8,000 to 10,000 buildings in the area are at least moderately if not severely damaged, with residents displaced and sleeping outdoors,” AIA states on its website. “Volunteers working alongside the governor’s office have the near-impossible task of assessing all of these buildings in a timely manner.” The association will be putting together training for its safety assessment program Friday, with the goal of getting more volunteers to assist with the initiative. The New York Times reports that a local group, the Puerto Rico Engineers and Surveyors Association, is also assisting with the inspections.

Helping to keep disease at bay. Many people who have been removed from their homes after the tremors are staying outside, which leaves them at risk of insect-borne diseases, such as dengue fever. Nonprofits are stepping in to assist in this situation, including the Puerto Rico Vector Control Unit, an arm of the nonprofit Puerto Rico Science, Technology & Research Trust. The group, which has support of organizations such as the Entomological Society of America (ESA), is working with local communities to distribute repellent and information on how to avoid mosquito bites. “Many relief agencies are working in Puerto Rico right now, but only the PRVCU is targeting vector-borne disease mitigation,” PRVCU Executive Director Grayson Brown, Ph.D., wrote in a blog post for Entomology Today. Brown says that one area where the unit needs help is  getting nets for people who are sleeping outside.

Volunteers assist with delivering aid to Puerto Ricans. (via the Hispanic Federation Twitter page)

Ernie Smith

By Ernie Smith

Ernie Smith is a former senior editor for Associations Now. MORE

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