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Hurricane Maria Emergency Management Response Research Paper

Pages:6 (1653 words)



Document Type:Research Paper


Today, the Caribbean island and unincorporated U.S. territory of Puerto Rico is still struggling to recover from the devastation wrought by Hurricane Maria in September 2017. This category 5 storm was considered to be the most destructive natural disaster in the island’s history. The purpose of this paper is to provide a systematic discussion concerning the planning, response, stakeholders, recovery, cost/loss and social impact of Hurricane Maria. In addition, an analysis of the after action/mitigation/changes made following this natural disaster to reduce the impact should similar incidents recur. Finally, a summary of the research and important findings concerning the emergency management response and after action changes regarding Hurricane Maria are provided in the conclusion.

Review and Discussion

Preparation and Response to Hurricane Maria

Prior to Hurricane Maria, the Puerto Rican government commissioned a study by an emergency management response team from Harvard in order to identify weaknesses and opportunities to strengthen the island’s responsiveness to natural disasters. Nevertheless, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) concedes that the organization was largely unprepared for the onset of a storm of the magnitude of Hurricane Maria nor was it ready to respond to the enormity of the devastation that it caused (Schmidt, 2018). Although government officials in Puerto Rico confirm that FEMA planned to stockpile millions of meals and bottles of water on the island in preparation for this and other natural disasters, in far too many cases this preparedness was either not fully implemented or was awaiting additional federal funding to complete (Schmidt, 2018). As a result, the impact on stakeholders was especially pronounced as discussed further below.

Stakeholders, Recovery, Costs and Losses Associated with Hurricane Maria

By all accounts, Hurricane Maria caused billions of dollars in losses but the cost in human lives and suffering were immeasurable. In this regard, Mora and Davila (2018) emphasize that, “With wind speeds of 155 miles per hour, equivalent to an EF-3 tornado, Hurricane Maria ripped through Puerto Rico on September 20, 2017, leaving behind a trail of catastrophic destruction, suffering, and death” (p. 208). Consequently, the direct stakeholders affected by Hurricane Maria were the 3.3 million residents of Puerto Rico (who are citizens of the United States), but in a larger sense all Americans were affected by this major weather event. Moreover, although thousands of Puerto Ricans were believed to have died as a result of Hurricane Maria, the federal and territorial governments only officially identified 64 victims initially (Campoy & Pascual, 2018). Almost a year passed, however, before the original estimates were updated to more accurately reflect the total number of fatalities which now stand at 2,975 people, representing nearly 1 percent of the island’s total population at the time of the disaster (Mora & Davila, 2018).

In addition, tens of thousands of islanders were injured and/or displaced, and the suffering continues to this day. For instance, Mora and Davila (2018) point out that, “In the immediate aftermath, Maria left the island's then-3.3…

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…generators at hospitals (Florido, 2018). Likewise, many of the warehouses that were empty prior to Hurricane Maria have since been stockpiled with emergency food and water rations sufficient for the short-term relief of the millions of Puerto Ricans who remain (Schmidt, 2018).

Whether these steps are sufficient or not will depend in large part on the severity of the next natural disaster, but most local observers believe that Puerto Rico is now much better prepared than it was pre-Hurricane Maria. For instance, according to Florido (2018), “Overall officials say that even though you can never really predict what Mother Nature is going to throw at you, operationally, they feel that they are much better-positioned than they were when Hurricane Maria hit” (para. 6). In sum, the U.S. citizens living in Puerto Rico have once again bravely faced yet another natural disaster and are seeking to rebuild their lives, but it is clear that the road ahead is all uphill.


On September 20, 2017, a category 5 hurricane, Maria, struck Puerto Rico with devastating effect, and thousands of people lost their lives in the immediate aftermath of this storm. Tens of thousands more were injured and/or displaced as a result, and most observers agree that the island was woefully unprepared for a weather event of this magnitude. While the argument can be made that it is impossible to adequately prepare for storms of this unprecedented magnitude, the research was consistent in showing that far more could…

Sample Source(s) Used


Campoy, A. & Pascual, O. S. (2018, September 14). Hurricane Maria was a manmade disaster. Hundreds of families told us what really happened. Quartz. Retrieved from

Ferguson, M. (2018, April). The plight of Puerto Rico: What does the future hold for Puerto Rico's public schools in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria? Phi Delta Kappan, 99(7), 74.

Florido, A. (2018, May 29). Puerto Rico’s governor outlines island’s hurricane preparedness plans. National Public Radio. Retrieved from 615263459/puerto-rico-governor-outlines-islands-hurricane-preparedness-plans.

Hurricane Maria mitigation. (2019). Federal Emergency Management Agency. Retrieved from

Mora, M. T. & Davila, A. (2018, Fall). Migration, geographic destinations, and socioeconomic outcomes of Puerto Ricans during la Crisis Boricua: Implications for island and stateside communities post-Maria. Centro Journal, 30(3), 208-210.

Schmidt, S. (2018, August 5). Report: FEMA wasn't ready for Hurricane Maria, destruction in Puerto Rico. Public Radio International. Retrieved from 2018-08-05/report-fema-wasnt-ready-hurricane-maria-destruction-puerto-rico.

Sherman, A. (2019, April 3). Donald Trump falsely tweets that Puerto Rico got $91 billion in hurricane aid. Politifact Florida. Retrieved from statements/2019/apr/03/donald-trump/trumps-false-tweet-puerto-rico-got-91-billion-hurr/.

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