NC engineers, architects deploy to help with Puerto Rico earthquake recovery

RALEIGH, NC (WWAY) — A team of structural engineers, architects and urban search and rescue team members from North Carolina traveled to Puerto Rico Wednesday to begin work assessing damaged homes and buildings after a series of earthquakes and aftershocks that have hit the island territory since late December.

The team was requested by the Puerto Rico Emergency Management Bureau for a 14-day mission. They deployed through the Emergency Management Assistance Compact (EMAC), an agreement between U.S. states and territories to assist each other with critical emergency resources and personnel after disasters.

The 12-person team consists of six structural engineers and an architect from private firms and UNC-Charlotte, four urban search and rescue team members from Charlotte, Durham and Greensboro fire departments who will serve as interpreters and support staff, and a team leader from North Carolina Emergency Management. The team will work to determine the structural safety of homes and other buildings.  They will initially focus on residential properties so that people living in shelters can return to homes that are safe to occupy.

“The logistics and operations teams at NC Emergency Management have put a great deal of work into assembling this team, organizing the mission and making it a reality,” said NC Emergency Management Deputy Director Steve Powers. “The team is headed to work in some tough conditions, but we know they are up to the task.”

California and New York have also deployed engineers to help meet Puerto Rico’s request for more than 200 engineers to assess earthquake damaged buildings.   Some members of this North Carolina team deployed to Puerto Rico two years ago, after Hurricane Maria struck the island.

In late 2017, North Carolina deployed several teams of emergency managers who helped Puerto Rico plan and execute hurricane response and recovery operations for eight weeks. A team of North Carolina veterinarians advised the government on recovery for its poultry and livestock industries and a NC National Guard Engineering Task Force of approximately 170 soldiers and their equipment helped with debris removal and road repairs.

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