Puerto Rico School Health, Safety and Environment Assessments
Immediately following Hurricanes Irma and Maria, 1,100+ public schools in Puerto Rico required a health, safety, and environment assessment as part of disaster recovery to determine which schools could immediately be reopened or required minimal work to make them safe prior to reopening.
The Puerto Rico Department of Education needed an effective method to quickly get into the field, collect and report information, coordinate field assessment teams, and centrally store assessment data for each school to efficiently search and access information. The geography of Puerto Rico and the post-disaster environment also presented safety hazards to assessment teams who sometimes did not have cell phone coverage or did not have accurate mapping services to navigate around the island.
APTIM quickly deployed a team of Geographic Information System (GIS) and project management specialists to develop a data collection system per the needs of the client and get the project up and running. Field staff used Collector for ArcGIS and a custom mobile Go Canvas application loaded on iPads® to collect data. These apps translated data to an encrypted web application to allow project managers to view the schools that had already been assessed and to assign schools to field teams by geographic region or municipality to develop an efficient and effective work down plan. The database and its user-friendly mapping website allowed for continuous monitoring and quality control, which was crucial for project management. Due to mobile data cellular services being unavailable in many parts of the island, we tailored the applications to store assessment data temporarily and then when crews returned from the field, upload the assessments to a central repository. We provided training to field crews on how to use the GIS technology as well as other mobile data collection applications that APTIM operations technology specialists tailored specifically to assess the public schools.
Using our past disaster recovery experience, we were able to provide the framework of technology and staff to complete assessments of all schools in less than six weeks. We were able to coordinate and work directly with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) who needed assessments for schools to develop emergency repair plans. In this informal partnership, we provided the technology, operations management, and data management, and USACE provided engineers and field crews to complete assessments. As field crews completed assessments at each school, the client had immediate access to the data to make a determination of each school’s safety conditions to reopen or relocate citizens using sites as temporary shelters.