On September 20th 2017, Hurricane Maria struck Puerto Rico with fierce intensity. This powerful Category 4 storm plowed across the island with sustained winds of 155 mph, severely impacting all 78 municipalities.
Hurricane Maria was the worst storm Puerto Rico has faced in over 80 years. High winds, heavy rains, and flash flooding resulted in widespread devastation, turning streets into rivers full of debris, washing out roads, uprooting trees, as well as downing weather stations and cell towers. Thousands of resident homes were left without roofs, suffered severe flood damages or ultimately destroyed. Electricity was cut off to 100% of the island, and access to clean water and food became very limited for most.
Following the Presidential disaster declaration, WSP USA Inspection Services launched field operations to Puerto Rico to support FEMA’s Individual Assistance program. Partnering with FEMA and local municipality representatives enabled WSP to overcome multiple challenges encountered during our mission. Daily hurdles included communicating with disaster survivors, poor cellular and internet service, locating survivors displaced in shelters, equipment logistics, risky driving conditions, lack of electricity, and inspector lodging constraints. FEMA provided large berthing ships to assist with lodging of relief personnel, including WSP inspectors, as most hotels were either damaged or at full capacity.
Working closely with FEMA, WSP USA Inspection Services hired, badged, trained, and deployed 2,207 local inspectors from Puerto Rico. In addition, hundreds of inspectors deployed from stateside in response to the declaration. To assist with navigating roads, locating addresses, and language translation, a ‘Field Inspector Guide’ program was implemented in which 346 island locals were hired and strategically paired with stateside inspectors working throughout the island.
DR 4339 Puerto Rico is WSP USA Inspection Services’ largest deployment to date. With a team of over 3,000 inspectors and guides engaged during the height of our response, almost 385,000 inspections have been completed over the course of five months. This achievement contributed to over one billion dollars approved for FEMA’s Individuals and Households Program.
WSP Inspection Services is very proud to serve the people of “Isla de Encanto” in the wake of this compelling event and would like to thank all involved for performing an admirable job.