The Hurricane Maria Path of Destruction is Personal

by | Sep 29, 2017

If you read my blog, follow me on LinkedIn or Twitter, you could probably take a guess that I’m a technology guy. You might have even picked up that I specialize in business continuity. I’m often sharing knowledge about industry trends, cybersecurity as well as proactively preparing an organization for disaster, human and manmade alike.

It makes sense. I’m the co-founder of Invenio IT, a technology firm that helps organizations eliminate downtime as downtime kills businesses—large and small.

These days, disasters appear to be occurring with greater frequency, with media coverage lasting only until the next catastrophic event occurs. In a remarkably short period of time, we witnessed terrible devastation with the earthquake in Mexico as well as Hurricanes Harvey and Irma in Texas and the Caribbean, respectively. Of course, I worked with my clients in affected areas before and after the storm, I sympathized with those affected and and tried to help the best I could from a far.

The Hurricane Maria Path was personal

However, then came Maria. This time it was different. This time it was personal. This time, I am witnessing many of my friends and their families suffer as the future of their lives (and livelihoods) as they know them are uncertain.

What many of you do not know about me is that I lived on the island of Vieques. An island off the eastern coast of Puerto Rico with about 9,000 inhabitants that largely flew under the radar before last week and continues to do so today.

The island was quaint and magical with wild horses, dirt roads and beautifully-empty beaches. So delightful, in fact, that my wife and I took some serious strides to move our lives there permanently—away from the hustle and bustle of New York City. And, during that process made some lifelong friends.

Destruction left by Hurricane Maria Path

The island of Vieques has been in a complete blackout since Maria roared through as a Category 4 hurricane. No power. No phones. No water. And, gas, food and information is scarce (Check out this recent coverage by Bill Weir at CNN).

Almost any structure made of wood was damaged or destroyed. Many of the horses blown away. The old Ceiba tree stands, but stripped bare. The media may be onto the next dramatic event, but for me, I’m anxiously awaiting sporadic updates to confirm our island friends are safe. There has thankfully been no report of fatality on the island to date.

However, we have learned that any sources of livelihood that once existed for the islanders—have been destroyed. Like our old neighbor, who ran a chartering business and no longer has boats or docks. Or, the wedding photographers who are losing their brides (and grooms) by the day as the island remains in turmoil. And, our friend (and officiant), who owns a boutique hotel by the sea that is no longer inhabitable. Those are business owners. What will happen to all the employees? The people would work at restaurants? Hotels? And tourism? The prospect is really terrifying.

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Since Vieques is a small island community, its needs have been overshadowed by that of mainland Puerto Rico, also badly beaten by hurricane Maria. There has been little coverage regarding the island or information about how to donate to disaster relief efforts directly to Vieques. However, there is hope.

Help for those in Vieques

If you share in my love for Vieques, here is some information about a non-profit set up to help the community, Vieques Love. I’m really impressed with what they have been able to orchestrate. Many thanks to the organizers, who have been working tirelessly to raise both awareness and funding as well as figure out all the logistical hurdles that exist in the wake of hurricane Maria.

Vieques Love is working under the COREFI umbrella, a 501c3 organization based out of Puerto Rico, maintaining this fund has launched Operation 18 Degrees North, a relief effort designed to:

  • Get immediate communication supplies and sat phones to key emergency relief personnel, the hospital, and the hurricane shelters.
  • Purchase and deploy critical life saving supplies to the island of Vieques.
  • Purchase and deploy transportation to and from the island, to both carry in supplies and evacuate at-risk or injured citizens of Vieques.
  • Provide housing for displaced citizens of Vieques once they are evacuated.

Planning for the next “Maria”

Remember disasters often come with little to no notice. And, once it is here, it is usually too late to communicate a recovery plan. A catastrophic event can happen anywhere. Please take some time in the coming days to develop, test and/or update your business continuity plan.

Think about the hurricane Maria path of destruction. How would your business have fared? Would you have been able to communicate with your co-workers? Could business be conducted remotely? How long could you sustain a business without access to servers and data? Did you have ample emergency supplies? Most businesses would not be adequately prepared.

Here are a few resources to help you prepare your business:

Hopefully, these resources provide a good start for developing a resilient continuity strategy. To learn more about protecting your business, please contact us at Invenio IT: call (646) 395-1170, email [email protected].

Dale Shulmistra is a Business Continuity Specialist at Invenio IT, responsible for shaping the company’s technology initiatives -- selecting, designing, implementing & supporting business continuity solutions to bolster client operational efficiencies and eliminate downtime.