Survey: Nearly 25% of Puerto Rico businesses still recovering from 2017 hurricanes

Numerous gas stations in Puerto Rico sustained significant structural damage from Hurricane María. September 2017 (CB photo)

Puerto Rico Manufacturing Extension to hold workshops on disaster preparedness, business continuity plans

SAN JUAN — Nearly 25% of Puerto Rico’s businesses are still trying to recover from hurricanes Irma and Maria in 2017, a survey by the Manufacturing Disaster Assitance Program (MDAP) of the Puerto Rico Manufacturing Extension (PRiMEX) shows.

For that reason, MDAP Director Ramón Vega said several workshops will be held around the island to help small and midsize businesses adopt resiliency and business continuity plans.

PRiMEX is a nonprofit affiliated with the National Institute of Standards and Technology / Manufacturing Extension Partnership Network of the U.S. Commerce Department.

Its first workshop will be held Friday, June 7, at the Hilton Ponce Golf & Casino Resort from 1:30 p.m. to 5 p.m. The second will take place June 14 at the Caguas mayor’s office. The activity will run from 8:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Both events are free of charge.

PRiMex’s Francisco García told Caribbean Business that few businesses have an adequate business continuity plan to deal with a natural disaster nor have taken all of the needed precautions to face a prolonged blackout.

He noted that when assessing whether these businesses have a sufficient number of suppliers, staff, materials or equipment, they still fail to cover all possible gaps that can interrupt their operations.

“What I have seen is that businesses are aware and they have a power outage plan but when you ask if they have spare parts or if they have enough materials to operate around the clock, they do not know what to answer,” García said.

The presentations around the island will also include other topics such as cybersecurity and presentations titled “Importance and Reason to Create a Business Continuity Plan,” and “Emergency and Disaster Management.”

“If we strengthen companies, we protect jobs and promote permanence in our economy. It is imperative that companies have a good chain of suppliers, alternatives in energy sources, protect their information and business intelligence, and know government updates regarding emergency plans,” said Vega, who is also a management consultant at PRiMEX.

For his part, the commissioner of the government’s Emergency Management Bureau, Carlos Acevedo, said the government has also updated its emergency plans and urged businesses to do the same.

“It is important that each citizen prepare individually and that the companies work on their emergency plans, as well as the Continuity of Operations Plan to guarantee a more diligent response after an emergency,” he said.

For PRiMex’s survey, conducted from Oct. 15 to May 10, 529 companies responded, while 42 declined to answer and 29 had closed. Additional work is being carried out on the second phase of the project, which is underway.

Of the 529 companies, 463 are manufacturers, 61 are from the service sector and five are in agriculture.

“We can say that some manufacturing sectors related…such as the metals sector are experiencing an increase in their demand of goods, which is shown through some statistics collected with the survey: 409 (77.3%) of the 529 assessed companies indicated having positive or neutral financial conditions more than one year after hurricanes Irma & Maria. Another manufacturing sector that is also showing positive financial conditions is food companies,” according to the survey.

However the nearly 25% of companies still struggling to recover from the hurricanes, shows there are major challenges that need to be overcome such as the need for capital to refurbish structures.

Companies reporting financial losses spent an average of 112 days without electric power service, compared to an average of 88 days for those reporting profits or breaking even, 24-day difference. This finding reveals the importance of restructuring the infrastructure of Puerto Rico Electrical Power Authority (Prepa) together with a Disaster Recovery Plan that addresses the different sectors of the island.

Small companies lack the capital to invest in renewable energy sources and are dependent on Prepa for their daily operations, leaving them in a precarious position in the event of another disaster in the near future.

Only 145 companies of the companies assessed had some type of business continuity plan in place. Of these, 121 reported positive or the same financial condition as before the hurricanes.

These companies said that having a continuity plan helped their preparedness, which resulted in better financial results.

“If we can highlight only one important lesson, it will be that companies need to prepare, and having a business continuity plan will contribute strongly in their recovery after a natural disaster,” the report reads.




Summit on Caribbean disaster preparedness to be held Feb. 27 in San Juan

SAN JUAN – A conference focusing on disaster preparedness in the Caribbean will take place Feb. 27 to March 1 at the Sheraton Hotel and Casino in San Juan.
“Caribbean Strong: Building Resilience with Equity,” a three-day summit, is co-sponsored by the nonprofit Puerto Rico Science, Technology & Research Trust and the Society for Disaster Medicine and Public Health Inc.

The society’s goal is to improve global health security, with the involvement and development of health professionals and others who are involved in responding to and or managing significant events. Its stated mission is to “advance and promote excellence in education, training and research in disaster medicine and public health for all potential health system responders based on sound educational principles, scientific evidence and best clinical and public health practices.”

The event’s keynote speakers will be Richard Besser, MD, MPH, CEO of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, who is the former acting director for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and ABC News’ former chief health and medical editor; and Georges Benjamin, MD, who is executive director of the American Public Health Association.

In addition, local, national and international speakers will participate in panel discussions and breakout sessions on disaster medicine and preparedness topics including:

  • Medically Fragile Populations
  • Infrastructure, Transportation Access and Power
  • Education and Training for Community Resilience
  • Public Health
  • Institutional Response and Resilience
  • Population Mental Health

On Day 3, participants will work on identifying actionable goals and objectives for the response, recovery and preparedness segments of the disaster cycle.

The summit will also feature poster presentations, an exhibit hall and opportunities for networking and knowledge sharing. Papers selected for presentation will be included in the Journal of Disaster Medicine and Public Health Preparedness, which will be available in hardcopy at the event.

For more information or to register, go to https://www.eventbrite.com/e/caribbean-strong-building-resilience-with-equity-registration-51591509594. Information for exhibitors can be found here: https://prsciencetrust.org/caribbeanstrong/#exhibitors, and details for those interested in sponsoring the event can be found here: http://prsciencetrust.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/10/Sponsorship-Proposal-Caribbean-Strong.pdf.

 




Foundation for Puerto Rico starts emergency resilience program

SAN JUAN – Foundation for Puerto Rico (FPR), a nonprofit that fosters social and economic development, has signed an agreement with the island’s Housing Department to lead preparations for emergency situations, such as natural disasters, as part of the nonprofit’s “Whole Community Resilience Planning Program.”

The foundation’s efforts center around inserting the island into the global economy via its programs, as well as to promote Puerto Rico not only as a tourism destination, but also its investment potential, while focusing on the visitor economy by making an impact on the tourism sector.

The signed agreement kicks off the Whole Community Resilience Program, which is part of the foundation’s numerous initiatives to address the island’s recovery after the historic 2017 hurricane season.

As part of the program’s first phase, the foundation explained it is building a working group to assist communities in developing plans to “prevent, prepare and handle emergency situations, including natural disasters.”

FPR is bringing together government, community, nongovernmental and nonprofit organizations “that have the knowledge and experience in the different focus areas of the program, specifically: housing, health and environment, education, infrastructure and economic development,” the foundation said in a press release, adding that among those helping draft long-term resilience plans as part of the working group are the Puerto Rico Community Foundation and the Puerto Rican Planning Society. 

“These working group partnerships are crucial to achieving a more comprehensive and inclusive process, and will result in higher quality and sustainable plans,” said Annie Mayol, president and COO of FPR.

The president and COO of Foundation for Puerto Rico, Annie Mayol, left, holds a blueprint for a resilience-plan target area. (Courtesy photo)

Puerto Rico’s Housing Department assigned $37.5 million from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s Community Development Block Grant for Disaster Recovery (CDBG-DR) program. The allocation is a result of a joint “Action Plan” by both agencies to fund activities and programs aimed at the recovery of communities affected by hurricanes Irma and Maria.

The program’s first phase consists of collecting and publishing the data needed to “determine and inform communities” about their current situation and vulnerabilities, FPR explained. That process will be followed by the publication of the “Notification of Availability of Funds” (NOFA), a document that will “describe the participation parameters for communities, and the selection criteria to receive funds for the development of their plans.”

Maria Jaunarena, the executive vice president of FPR, described the foundation’s objectives succinctly: “We have served and will continue to serve as a liaison, especially after Hurricane Maria, to support communities around the island so they can have access to updated and reliable data, in addition to information to create their own plans with the financing and necessary tools that will allow them to prepare, mitigate risks, quickly manage, and recover from emergencies, including natural disasters.”

Puerto Rico Housing Secretary Gil Enseñat was quoted as saying that the initiative “will allow eligible communities to develop planning and management policies to streamline housing and infrastructure repair, as well as revitalize the economy,” adding that the foundationwill lead the process to help communities understand their real needs across sectors based upon the best available data. This way, we can continue to take positive steps forward, for the recovery and reconstruction of Puerto Rico.”

For more information about the Whole Community Resilience Program, visit http://www.foundationpr.org/WCRP.

Foundation for Puerto Rico Teams with Skift Foundation in Visitor Economy Recovery Initiatives

 




Queensland offers to assist Puerto Rico in disaster preparedness

SAN JUAN – In a written statement, Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk said that on behalf of the government, she has offered to share “our experience and approaches responding to natural disasters” with Puerto Rico.

“Sadly, Queensland is well versed in responding to cyclones and flooding in recent years, but it has meant we have refined our approach across agencies and with other tiers of government,” she said in Monday’s statement.

Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk (Screen capture of www.facebook.com/APalaszczukMP)

Palaszczuk, who is also the trade minister, goes on to say she has already met with Gov. Ricardo Rosselló and offered to host a delegation from the Government of Puerto Rico to meet Queensland Government officials “involved in our natural disaster preparedness, response and recovery.”

In her meeting with Rosselló, Palaszczuk said they “discussed the role of the Queensland Reconstruction Authority and my role as Chair of the State Disaster Management Committee and the phases of recovery” from disasters.

“I have offered to send Queensland Government officials to Puerto Rico to assist the Government,” Palaszczuk said. “I believe we can assist the people of Puerto Rico through our experience.”