In late December 2019 the southwest corner of Puerto Rico was struck by a 6.4 magnitude earthquake that was felt across the entire island. For weeks aftershocks and additional earthquakes ranging from 4.0–5.9 continued, leaving many residents out of their homes, living outdoors or in tents. There were several critical infrastructure assets damaged from the quakes, most notably, the Costa Sur Power Facility, which normally provides 1,000 megawatts for the island and is only one of three such facilities providing power to the Puerto Rican grid, which is still fragile from the aftermath of Hurricane Maria.
OpenWorld Relief began assessment immediately and within a 24-hour period mobilized volunteers on the ground in Puerto Rico to bring stored assets to those in need including, shelters, water purifiers, and some medical supplies. From our initial assessments we determined the largest need was access to clean potable water for those without power and those displaced from their homes. We coordinated with partners in the region to run a large scale water mission. This brought together Jane Brinton and her partner Andres Morales from TheWaterbearers.org with our Project Director Jana Stone and several volunteers to mobilize 1,000 Sawyer Filters and arrive in San Juan on January 20 to begin the mission.
We began by running a train-the-trainer course at a previous project site, Villas Del Sol, to expand the network of individuals who could take portions of the filters and not only distribute but also educate people on how to safely and efficiently operate the filter systems. This program was expanded over the following days in order to maximize the impact and ensure that every single filter went to good use and was providing water to those in need. Additionally, while this team was deployed for this mission, they conducted assessments, delivered additional shelter, and laid the framework for follow-up deployments should they be needed.