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How Biden Ramped Up Government’s Response To Hurricane Fiona
From:
Edward Segal, Crisis Management Expert Edward Segal, Crisis Management Expert
Washington, DC
Saturday, October 1, 2022

 

Commentary From Crisis Management Expert Edward Segal, Bestselling Author of the Award-Winning Book "Crisis Ahead: 101 Ways to Prepare for and Bounce Back from Disasters, Scandals, and Other Emergencies" (Nicholas Brealey, 2020)

An important aspect of recovering from a crisis is to quickly determine the extent of the impact, including relevant statistics that quantify any damage.

In the wake of Hurricane Fiona, some numbers are more readily available than others. For example, 80% of the people living in the U.S. territory still don't have power, according to Reuters. But assigning numbers to the economic toll and other damage to companies and organizations will take more time.

When it comes to recovering from a corporate crisis, there is no such thing as providing too much help or making too many resources available. The same is true for large-scale crises, such as the one businesses and people in Puerto Rico are reeling from in the aftermath of Hurricane Fiona.

Four days after approving a declaration that there was emergency on the island because of the storm, President Joe Biden yesterday signed a major disaster declaration.

The first document freed up federal resources to support the local response to the hurricane and made low-interest disaster loans from the Small Business Administration available for businesses, nonprofit organizations and residents.

The second declaration directed that federal aid will supplement island-wide and local recovery efforts in the dozens of communities affected by the storm. It also provides assistance to individuals and households such as temporary housing and the restoration of roads and bridges.

Help For Individuals And Business Owners

The assistance "can include grants for temporary housing and home repairs, low-cost loans to cover uninsured property losses, and other programs to help individuals and business owners recover from the effects of the disaster."

"Federal funding is also available to Commonwealth and eligible local governments and certain private nonprofit organizations on a cost-sharing basis for debris removal and emergency protective measures in all 78 municipalities in the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico," according to the declaration.

FEMA's federal response framework "is now fully activated and many federal agencies will now step up in the support of the efforts," Clifford Oliver, a former assistant administrator of FEMA, said via email. He is now a principal with Nanticoke Global Strategies.

"Individual assistance and public assistance are now available under this declaration. Being an island, the military will play a significant role in supporting the movement of critical supplies onto the island," Oliver noted.

Assessing Damage And Impact

An important aspect of recovering from a crisis is to quickly determine the extent of the impact, including relevant statistics that quantify any damage.

In the wake of Hurricane Fiona, some numbers are more readily available than others. For example, 80% of the people living in the U.S. territory still don't have power, according to Reuters. But assigning numbers to the economic toll and other damage to companies and organizations will take more time.

"Damage assessments are continuing in other areas, and additional municipalities may be designated for assistance after the assessments are fully completed," Biden's major disaster declaration concluded.

Coordinating Recovery Operations

Besides providing additional resources, Biden designated who should be responsible for ensuring the success of ongoing recovery efforts.

"Thomas J. Fargione has been named the Federal Coordinating Officer for federal recovery operations in the affected areas. Additional designations may be made at a later date," according to the presidential directive.

Fargione is the team leader for FEMA's national incident management team, according to the agency, and works out of their Office of Response and Recovery.

Overcoming Obstacles

Meanwhile, local efforts are continuing to help people and companies get back on their feet. "Power company officials initially said it would take a few days for electricity to be restored, but then appeared to backtrack Tuesday night, saying they faced numerous obstacles," NBC News reported.

"Hurricane Fiona has severely impacted electrical infrastructure and generation facilities throughout the island. We want to make it very clear that efforts to restore and reenergize continue and are being affected by severe flooding, impassable roads, downed trees, deteriorating equipment, and downed lines," according to LUMA, the company that operates power transmission and distribution on Puerto Rico.

LUMA said it is "focused on damage assessment, reenergizing and repairing the grid, and restoring power as quickly and safely as possible. When every customer who was impacted by this devastating hurricane has their power back on, we will be more than available to discuss the progress we've made and the significant challenges we have faced."

 

 

 

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Edward Segal is a crisis management expert, consultant and the bestselling author of the award-winning Crisis Ahead: 101 Ways to Prepare for and Bounce Back from Disasters, Scandals, and Other Emergencies (Nicholas Brealey). Order the book at https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B0827JK83Q/ref=dbs_a_def_rwt_bibl_vppi_i0

Segal is a Leadership Strategy Senior Contributor for Forbes.com where he covers crisis-related news, topics and issues. Read his recent articles at https://www.forbes.com/sites/edwardsegal/?sh=3c1da3e568c5.

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