Case Study: Hurrican Maria iN puerto Rico
During times of disaster, it can be a matter of life or death for first responders to have cross-training in solar powered systems, accessible design, and sustainable waste management.
Betzaida Ramos Chárriez, executive director of the Movement for the Reach of Independent Living (MAVI) in Puerto Rico, and Dr. Arturo Massol-Deyá, executive director of Casa Pueblo, shared their experiences with us of the tragedies that resulted from Hurricane Maria’s landfall in Puerto Rico in September 2018, and the subsequent failures of federal emergency management and response efforts.
When Hurricane Maria struck Puerto Rico, an estimated 50,000 people on the island relied on supplemental oxygen. People reliant on electrically powered wheelchairs remained unable to move in the wake of extended power outages. People requiring dialysis or refrigerated medications were often left not only without these lifesaving interventions but without even any information on how they might access them.
The statistics are horrifying but persistent: people with disabilities are four times more likely to die in a disaster than people without disabilities. These deaths are often not results of the disaster itself but rather inaccessible crisis planning and recovery efforts like emergency communications that fail to account for people who are blind or deaf or the failure of shelters or responders to stock or distribute medical equipment that people rely on.
The complex nature of equitable emergency response and recovery requires cross-sectional specialists who can work capably alongside other emergency professionals to design and provide critical infrastructure.
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