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From left: Ana D Burgos Colón, Ashley M Pérez, and Ana H Burgos Colón, women trained and apprenticed by HEART 9/11 to rebuild roofs in Puerto Rico. (William Balas of HEART 9/11)

New Manual for Resilience Considers Puerto Rico’s Unique Challenges

Hurricane Maria devastated Puerto Rico. For months, parts of the island continued without power and clean drinking water. Thousands left the island for the mainland while others continued to live in precarious conditions.

Now, Enterprise Community Partners, a national affordable housing developer that has worked on the island since 2007, along with the University of Puerto Rico and the Puerto Rico Builders’ Association, has published a guidebook — Keep Safe: A Guide for Resilient Housing Design in Island Communities — detailing how individuals and developers can better prepare for the next storm.

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Ricardo Álvarez, a partner with Álvarez, Diáz and Villalón Architecture and Interior Design, tells Next City that building spaces that facilitate community life is central to resilient design. Álvarez helped spark the guide’s creation.

“One thing that we’ve learned is that when a hurricane hits or when a fire, anything happens, the first group that helps is your own community, and you can’t just wait to see FEMA or the federal government get on a plane and help you,” Álvarez says. “You have to be able to get help from your own friends and families and community members,” he says. “That’s why it’s important to be community-focused and not housing-focused.”

To help readers ready to move beyond a focus on protecting their own homes, for example, the guide includes a section called “Community Engagement: Prepare for Action Together.” This section describes how to develop a community disaster plan, prepare a community shelter, and strategize for post-disaster efforts.

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