Cuomo Pr Press
Cuomo Pr Press
Cuomo Pr Press
Cuomo Pr Press
Cuomo Pr Press

NY Governor Deploys Additional Assets to Help Puerto Rico Respond to Earthquakes

Feb. 12, 2020
Engineers and utility experts address outages caused by recent earthquakes, stabilize the island's power system to help mitigate repeated outages.

Governor Andrew M. Cuomo recently announced the deployment of further assets to Puerto Rico to assist with emergency response efforts, following a series of initial damage assessments conducted by the governor and his delegation. The governor said he would deploy eight additional engineers and utility experts from the New York Power Authority (NYPA) to address power outages caused by the recent earthquakes and work to stabilize the island's power system to help mitigate the repeated power outages.

The state and the Greater New York Hospital Association (GNYHA) authorized the deployment of bilingual mental health professionals to support people on the island who were suffering from the trauma of the disaster. The governor also authorized the deployment of a team of dozens of inspectors from State Fire and the Department of State to conduct more extensive damage assessments of buildings and basic code compliance inspections of public facilities. Additionally, the governor called on the Trump administration to immediately release federal funds to Puerto Rico and issue a Major Disaster Declaration for the damage caused by the earthquakes.

"The people of Puerto Rico have been through hell, and while the federal administration abdicated its responsibility to help American citizens during difficult times, New York is continuing to step up to provide assistance," Governor Cuomo had said. "After surveying the damage and touring the island, we are more resolved than ever to stand shoulder to shoulder with our brothers and sisters in Puerto Rico. I am authorizing the deployment of more state personnel including building experts, engineers, and mental health professionals to help the island get through this crisis and come out stronger and more resilient than before. I am also demanding the Trump administration immediately release federal funds that have been held up for two years to Puerto Rico and declare a Major Disaster Declaration for the damage caused by the earthquakes so Puerto Rico residents can rebuild their homes and lives."

NYPA Deployments

Engineers and utility experts from the NYPA conducted damage assessments of power plants, substations, and hydropower dams following the widespread blackouts caused by a series of devastating earthquakes in Puerto Rico. The additional support announced — eight engineers and utility experts from the NYPA — integrated with the team of 10 NYPA experts already established on the ground in Puerto Rico. The NYPA experts addressed the recent power outages and worked to stabilize the island's power system, restarting power plants not damaged by the recent earthquakes. The NYPA team also provided guidance to the Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority (PREPA) on its energy management system, which the NYPA activated and configured in collaboration with the PREPA, following Hurricane Maria in 2017.

The NYPA provided the PREPA with technical assistance on the issuance of a request for proposals for the rental of modular-mobile power plants — which were to be used to provide roughly 500 MW of additional electric capacity to the power grid — and undertook system modeling to determine optimal locations to place the power generation units. The NYPA team also provided an assessment on the refurbishment of two mothballed steam units in the PREPA's San Juan power plant for temporary use until more electric capacity could be brought online.

Mental Health Support

The New York State Office of Mental Health authorized the deployment of mental health professionals to support people on the island suffering from the trauma of the disaster, if requested. Additionally, the GNYHA partnered with 162 hospitals and health networks across the state to recruit and sponsor bilingual mental health professionals to be deployed to Puerto Rico as soon as possible. The GNYHA said they would cover the cost and make sure lodging and transportation needs were paid for.

UNICEF USA and SUNY New Paltz Institute for Disaster Mental Health Director Dr. Amy Nitza were expected to conduct a Train the Trainer program in Puerto Rico to help trauma-impacted young people who were suffering from the trauma of the disaster. The training would be for 50 employees from all the boys and girls clubs across the island and the train-the-trainer model was estimated to reach 16,000 kids. The Institute for Disaster Mental Health was also expected to conduct a two-day training for six University of Puerto Rico students on how to work with trauma-impacted children.

Structural Assessment Team Deployments

The governor authorized the deployment of a structural assessment team of dozens from State Fire and the Department of State to Puerto Rico to conduct damage assessments of buildings and basic code compliance inspections of public facilities. He also authorized the deployment of Division of Building Standards and Codes staff members to conduct rapid safety assessments of buildings. The team would determine if a damaged structure could be occupied and if any significant code issues needed to be addressed.

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