Monday, July 16, 2018

Homeland Security sci-tech division supporting FEMA recovery in Puerto Rico

By on June 15, 2018

SAN JUAN – 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, according to a release.

Aerial view shows homes that were left roofless in Puerto Rico, due to the strong winds brought by Hurricane Maria.

Aerial view shows homes that were left roofless in Puerto Rico, due to the strong winds brought by Hurricane Maria. Sept. 30, 2017 (Yuisa Rios/FEMA)

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.

The disaster response is coordinated between participants such as FEMA, under the appointment of Michael Byrne of the Office of Response and Recovery, as federal coordinating officer and federal disaster recovery coordinator; the U.S Army Corps of Engineers; and the U.S. departments of Commerce, Health and Human Services, Housing and Urban Development, and Interior.

Supporting the 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 in February “to kick off the dialogue,” the release reads.

“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,” it adds, pointing out that a “’Forward Team’ of analysts remains on-site at the Guaynabo Joint Field Office supporting continued and accurate data collection and analysis.”

“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, DHS explained.

Department of Sanitation New York (DSNY) Debris Management Specialists assess road and bridge accessibility in the Jayuya municipality

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. Oct. 22, 2017 (Andrea Booher/FEMA)

Adding: “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.”

Cynthia Cook, HSOAC project lead for the Puerto Rico Recovery Plan, specified: “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.”

HSOAC’s 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, have resulted in allowing the “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,” the release concludes.

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