Communication and ready access to information about the status of the hurricane in different parts of the island are crucial during and before disasters. Real-time information about the availability of different resources can help citizens in storm-affected areas plan ahead and be better prepared to survive the hurricane.

Currently, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) issues weather emergency alerts via the National Weather Service Radio Station and other participating broadcasters. Although a Puerto Rican alert system exists, a system to provide citizens access to real-time information about the effects of the storm and the availability of different resources may be helpful.

We propose implementing an emergency information and alert system across Puerto Rico that will serve to alert residents about upcoming disasters as well as provide them with real-time local information about the effects of the storm and the availability of resources in their area. This emergency information and alert system relies on the proposals for resilient communication infrastructure, including cell service and internet access. Information on these proposals can be found on the pages under the Communications tab.

A similar system, NOLA (New Orleans) Ready, has been implemented in New Orleans. NOLA Ready could broadcast alert messages to the public over a variety of media such as text, phone, email, website, social media like Twitter and Facebook. Residents of New Orleans can sign up to receive alerts, learn about steps towards hurricane preparedness, and also get real-time information about traffic, accidents, and street flooding reports.

Figure 1: An example evacuation alert on NOLA Ready: Citizens living in the marked areas have been alerted to evacuate their homes.
Figure 2: NOLA ready provides real-time information about street closures and flooding in New Orleans

An emergency alert and information system in Puerto Rico could be implemented through a website, text messaging, local radio, and social media platforms to reach out to Puerto Ricans in as many ways as possible.

With help from Terrascope mentor Jillian James, we propose that the website provide the following real-time information, to be collected from public input:

  • Store supplies: which stores will be open have with essential supplies available and which stores have run out of them.
  • Shelter: which shelters are still taking in more people and which are full. Further, information about which shelters can take pets will help pet-owners decide which shelter to go to.
  • Status of Dams: issuing alerts to citizens in flood-prone areas if a dam is damaged and likely to overflow or rupture.
  • Hospitals and Pharmacies: which hospitals have doctors available to treat new patients, and which pharmacies have medicine available.
  • Traffic and Road Conditions: Information about which roadways are damaged and impassable will help people plan detours in advance, which can help save time and fuel.