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Governor Pedro Pierluisi deployed a team from La Fortaleza to the Bureau for Emergency Management and Disaster Administration (NMEAD) to direct the response after the scourge of Hurricane Fiona with the intention of “obtaining greater agility”, but, according to personnel from the entity, what has caused is a bottleneck in the dispatch of services, equipment and supplies.
When questioned about that decision, Pierluisi rejected that the move is due to discrepancies or flaws detected in the operation of the NMEAD, although, during the emergency response, criticisms regarding the distribution of supplies, water, generators and diesel have emerged publicly.
Three NMEAD sources who spoke on condition of anonymity for fear of reprisals pointed out, separately, that long before Fiona’s passage and with the creation of the Department of Public Security (DSP) – to which the NMEAD is attached – there is a shortage of personnel in each of the five critical or core areas of the business: prevention, preparedness, response, recovery and mitigation.
But they indicated that the arrival of personnel from La Fortaleza, instead of speeding up the procedures, has complicated the panorama, since there is a great lack of knowledge about the proper handling of an emergency and the content and execution of each of the plans prepared to deal with emergency situations. this type, which violates the National Incident Management System (NIMS), a set of federal provisions for the coordinated management of incidents.
They also agreed that the guidelines are dissimilar, which results in a significant delay in requests for aid from the municipalities.
The sources specified that, from September 20, two days after the passage of the cyclone, La Fortaleza decided to place in the NMEAD, as regent of the response, Mr. José Ignacio Campos, who served in the Executive Mansion as an advisor to the governor. As part of his new tasks, the lawyer is in charge of dispatching business missions, such as the supply of diesel.
“It is that, in Fortaleza, we are all extremely activated with this situation (the response after Fiona). Campos is the assistant secretary for state affairs, and the main role of Campos, before this emergency, is precisely to follow up on the agencies and promote good coordination between agencies”Pierluisi acknowledged to questions from El Nuevo Día.
“In this case, his role, among others in the emergency, is to make sure that the supply of fuel is being done in the most effective way possible,” he added. He mentioned that, likewise, the Secretary of the Interior, Noelia García, among other officials, is prominent in the NMEAD.
He rejected, however, that the location of La Fortaleza personnel in the PREMB delays response efforts, causes problems or fails to comply with plans approved by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA, in English).
The commissioner of the NMEAD, Nino Correa, justified the entry of La Fortaleza personnel in that entity because, “the more people you have available, the better still.” “He (Pierluisi) made them available to me and I said ‘of course,'” he said.
He affirmed that Campos has supported him and that the emergency plans “are not written in stone and you can make adjustments to them without going beyond what is the norm.”
Petitions before the NMEAD
El Nuevo Día had access to the NMEAD record of the orders it receives, which are made through the EOC RF 113 report or form 113, which must be submitted by any public entity that requires services or equipment from the business. The updated list up to yesterday shows that, from September 18 – when the hurricane hit the island – to the present, they have had 2,411 requests, and 380 have been completed, which represents 15.76% of the requests.
Of the 2,411 requests, 306 have not been reviewed and 1,329 were “accepted”, which means that the NMEAD has already reviewed and processed them. Of the total, 25 were denied, nine postponed, 129 assigned, 165 cancelled, six in progress, 27 partially completed and 34 reviewed.
During a press conference on Thursday afternoon, Pierluisi referred to 2,454 petitions, of which 2,192 “were served” and 260 are pending. He did not offer further details.
The breakdown of the orders analyzed by this means reveals that the requests include the opening of shelters, generators, cots, awnings, water, water pumps and heavy equipment.
“You have three heads here: NMEAD, DSP and Fortaleza. Although it has plans, including a Distribution Plan and guidelines to follow in case of an emergency, NMEAD does not know them administratively, it does what Fortaleza and the DSP say”said a source.
In the opinion of the head of the NMEAD, they are quickly handling the requests they receive, and the assistance “from Fortaleza helps to debug.”
But confronted with the information in the possession of this medium and the public complaints from mayors and the private sector, Correa acknowledged that the number of requests far exceeds the service completed. “Definitive. That happens in all emergencies. It’s to keep working on it until it can be resolved, and that’s what we’ve done. We haven’t rested.”he pointed.
The NMEAD scaffolding -according to federal and state regulations- establishes that the municipalities initially work on their emergencies with their respective emergency management offices, and then they can go to the corresponding NMEAD region. The 10 regions filter the request and decide if it is worth submitting it to the Emergency Operations Center (COE).
The NMEAD must function as a coordination and response agency, but former directors and experts on the subject have denounced years ago that it has lost its essence since its consolidation to the DSP.
“Emergency Management always has to stay in command, in command. That is law, beginning with the FEMA law. This is how the system is structured to deal with any emergency. NMEAD has a ministerial function and cannot be delegated. NMEAD coordinates all the agencies. If it is not done, there may be duplication of efforts, the resources do not arrive and the people are harmed, they are the ones affected”said Carlos Muñoz, an expert in emergency management, with 35 years of experience and a member of the government’s COE.