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Flying into San Juan, blue tarps dot the landscape, an indication of how much disaster recovery work remains to be done.

by Elizabeth Keller, director of public policy and disaster recovery program, ICMA 

The loss of power across the entire island of Puerto Rico earlier this month is a reminder that the disaster recovery progress has been fragile. As part of a FEMA-funded Rand contract, ICMA member volunteers headed to Puerto Rico starting Monday, April 23, to undertake service and governance assessments of the Commonwealth’s 78 municipalities. 

Working in teams with students and faculty from the University of Puerto Rico, IBTS volunteers, and FEMA planners, ICMA members will interview city leaders to create an inventory of services and how they have been affected by the hurricanes. ICMA developed a municipal assessment diagnostic tool to gather information and to guide the interviews with municipal leaders about their long-term priorities to improve the resilience of their communities. 

The Puerto Rico Municipal Assessment Project will inform recommendations for technical assistance and long-term strategies to strengthen communities. Congress has mandated that the governor of Puerto Rico submit his disaster recovery plan no later than August 9, so the assessment work must be completed by June 1.

ICMA has a long history of providing technical assistance to local governments around the world creating more sustainable, livable, and resilient communities. Through tools like our CityLinks™  model, ICMA is able to tap into the expertise of our 11,000 members and their staffs in the United States and around the world. ICMA has provided leadership in helping jurisdictions mitigate, prepare for, and recover from natural disasters--from tsunamis to earthquakes--in the United States and around the world.

ICMA members and other municipal experts participating on the Puerto Rico assessment teams are Ken Parker, Oel Wingo, Kevin O’Rourke, Nydia M. Rafols, Victor Cardenas, Robert Kass, Patrick Howell, Sergio Loya, Carlos Toro, and Samuel Fleishman. 


Related Resources 

Disaster Recovery for the Long Haul. This 2017 article discusses the value of long-term planning as part of the disaster recovery process. 

6 Stories of Recovery and Resilience. In another 2017 article, ICMA highlighted 6 communities who have gone through disasters and recovery leading to a more sustainable future. 

Essential Disaster Recovery Tips. This document from 2017 provides tips on starting the disaster recovery process. 




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