Rebuilding with extreme events in mind
If other post-disaster recovery efforts are any indication, then Puerto Rico will go through three phases of recovery:
- Basic needs: water, shelter, energy, and sanitation
- Engagement of resources for rebuilding: large amounts of money, time, and energy to restore services and resume job and school attendance
- Reparation of emotional and mental anguish: healthy and sustainable re-inhabitation of neighborhoods and homes with attention to both physical infrastructure and emotional trauma
At the same time, Puerto Rico also has many unique characteristics that can amplify current challenges. The concentration of administrative power in San Juan, for example, may hamper decision making for, or resource allocation to, the municipal level. Municipalities will be at the forefront of recovery efforts because of their ability to engage local communities and their mandate to use urban regional planning strategies, which can improve public health and safety through climate-resilient design.
A critical question that remains is whether Puerto Rico will rebuild with a recognition that these extreme events will increase in their frequency, duration, and intensity.
Why it matters: Rebuilding offers an opportunity to integrate new knowledge about extreme climate events into municipal planning and business operations.
Other voices in the conversation:
- Edwin Meléndez, professor of urban affairs and planning and director of the Center for Puerto Rican Studies, Hunter College, CUNY: The island economy needs massive federal support
- Sergio M. Marxuach, policy director, Center for a New Economy, San Juan, PR: Congress has to step up
- Ozlem Ergun, professor of mechanical and industrial engineering, Northeastern University: Short-term relief, long-term resilience
- Laurie Johnson, urban planner and disaster-recovery consultant, author of "After Great Disasters": Averting collapse after a catastrophe