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Resilience of Communities in Puerto Rico Following Hurricane Maria: Community-Based Preparedness and Communication Strategies

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  02 November 2021

Elizabeth L. Andrade*
Affiliation:
Department of Prevention and Community Health, Milken Institute School of Public Health, The George Washington University, Washington, DC, USA
Nicole D. Barrett
Affiliation:
Department of Prevention and Community Health, Milken Institute School of Public Health, The George Washington University, Washington, DC, USA
Mark C. Edberg
Affiliation:
Department of Prevention and Community Health, Milken Institute School of Public Health, The George Washington University, Washington, DC, USA
Matthew W. Seeger
Affiliation:
College of Fine, Performing and Communication Arts, Wayne State University, Detroit, MI, USA
Carlos Santos-Burgoa
Affiliation:
Department of Global Health, Milken Institute School of Public Health, The George Washington University, Washington, DC, USA
*
Corresponding author: Elizabeth L. Andrade, Email: elandrade@gwu.edu

Abstract

Objective:

This study aimed to examine factors that may have contributed to community disaster resilience following Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico.

Methods:

In April 2018, qualitative interviews (n = 22) were conducted with stakeholders in 7 Puerto Rican municipalities (9% of total). Transcripts were deductively and inductively coded and analyzed to identify salient topics and themes, then examined according to strategic themes from the Federal Emergency Management Association’s (FEMA) Whole Community Approach.

Results:

Municipal preparedness efforts were coordinated, community-based, leveraged community assets, and prioritized vulnerable populations. Strategies included (1) multi-sectoral coordination and strategic personnel allocation; (2) neighborhood leader designation as support contacts; (3) leveraging of community leader expertise and social networks to protect vulnerable residents; (4) Censuses of at-risk groups, health professionals, and first responders; and (5) outreach for risk communication and locally tailored protective measures. In the context of collapsed telecommunications, communities implemented post-disaster strategies to facilitate communication with the Puerto Rican Government, between local first responders, and to keep residents informed, including the use of: (1) police radios; (2) vehicles with loudspeakers; (3) direct interpersonal communication; and (4) solar-powered Internet radio stations.

Conclusions:

Adaptive capacities and actions of Puerto Rican communities exemplify the importance of local solutions in disasters. Expanded research is recommended to better understand contributors to disaster resilience.

Type
Original Research
Copyright
© The Author(s), 2021. Published by Cambridge University Press on behalf of Society for Disaster Medicine and Public Health, Inc.

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