Committee for disaster-related death reporting created in Puerto Rico
SAN JUAN – Puerto Rico Gov. Ricardo Rosselló created via executive order Friday the 9/20 Committee, a group of public health and administration specialists that will assist the government in “the creation and revision of death certification protocols and improve accountability and the management of information regarding fatalities caused by natural and man-made disasters,” his office, La Fortaleza, said in a release.
The aftermath of Hurricane María, which struck the entire island on Sept. 20, 2017, revealed the lack of “its vulnerability in facing these types of disasters, especially when tallying fatalities directly and indirectly caused by the storm,” the release reads.
On Feb. 22, Rosselló commissioned a study by the George Washington University’s Milken Institute of Public Health to assess mortality related either directly or indirectly to María. In its findings, released Aug. 28, the researchers observed an excess of 2,975 deaths between September 2017 and February 2018.
The new 9/20 Committee will establish protocols to implement the Milken Institute of Public Health recommendations, and will begin work with a “Phase 1 planning period” co-chaired by Carlos Mercader, executive director of the Puerto Rico government’s Federal Affairs Administration (PRFAA), and Dr. Irwin Redlener, director of the National Disaster and Preparedness Response Center (NDPRC) at Columbia University.
“The George Washington University’s excess mortality study was a novel approach at tabulating death tolls, not just in Puerto Rico but worldwide. It is our intention that this Committee serve as a model for the whole of the United States so that we can more adequately assess mortality but more importantly, avoid the loss of life during and after both natural and man-made disasters,” Mercader said in the release.
“The establishment of the 9/20 Committee means Puerto Rico is positioning itself to lead the way in researching and implementing new methods to standardize how short and long-term disaster-related fatalities may be most effectively tabulated. These new strategies will be valuable in any jurisdiction experiencing a major disaster,” Dr. Redlener added.
“As we enter the long-term reconstruction of our island, we are committed to building a safer, more resilient Puerto Rico. This Committee will play a key role in the future of Puerto Rico, as it will establish the appropriate protocols and guidelines so that we are better prepared in the face of a disaster such as Hurricane María,” Rosselló said.
The 9/20 Committee members are:
1. Carlos Mercader – Executive Director, Puerto Rico Federal Affairs Administration
2. Dr. Irwin Redlener – Director and Clinical Professor, Columbia University National Center for Disaster Preparedness Director and Clinical Professor
3. Jeffrey Schlegelmilch – Deputy Director, National Center for Disaster Preparedness Columbia University
4. Eric Greenberg – Chief of Staff, Columbia University National Center for Disaster Preparedness
5. Dr. Carlos Santos Burgoa – Director, George Washington University’s Global Health Policy and Professor
6. Dr. Rafael Rodriguez – Secretary and Neurosurgeon, Puerto Rico Department of Health
7. Hector Pesquera – Director and former FBI agent, Puerto Rico Department of Public Safety
8. Carlos Acevedo – Director, Puerto Rico Emergency Management Agency
9. Dr. Carmen Deseda – State Epidemiologist, Government of Puerto Rico
10. Dr. Luz Silva – Interim Director, Puerto Rico Forensics Science Bureau
11. Wanda Llovet – Director, Puerto Rico Demographic Registry
12. Jaime Plá – President, Puerto Rico Hospital Association
13. Dr. Victor Ramos – President, Puerto Rico Medical Surgeons Association
14. Dr. Dharma Vázquez – Interim Dean, University of Puerto Rico School of Public Health
15. Eduardo Cardona – President, Funeral Homes Association of Puerto Rico
16. John Mutter – Seismologist and author of “The Disaster Profiteers”
17. Nicolette A. Louissaint, PhD – Executive Director, Healthcare Ready
18. Rossy Santiago – Director, Office of Communications, Office of the Governor of Puerto Rico
19. Pedro Cerame – Communications Director, Puerto Rico Federal Affairs Administration