Hurricane Maria, a Category 5 hurricane, ravaged Puerto Rico on September 20, 2017. Nearly two years after the devastation, the country continues to rebuild.
Recovery operations like these take time, money and resources. More often than not, all are in short supply. As a result, people and companies volunteer time and equipment to help the recovery process.
Ben Cook, a volunteer responder with Crisis Response International and Power Panel® are a prime example of the kind of humanitarian aid that gives hope to those who need it most. For the people of Dos Bocas, that hope took the form of the Gen-2-O.
For Cook, volunteering with humanitarian aid organizations and travelling around the world has been a way of life for seven years. Numerous times, he has landed days after an extreme weather event to spend months rebuilding. Indeed, Cook knows how dire situations can be after a hurricane.
“The first couple of weeks are tough because you see the immediate aftermath. During this time we supply the basic human needs like toothpaste, toothbrushes and clothing, and we continue through the rebuilding phase."
A large part of the recovery process is getting reliable electricity and hot water to hard-to-reach locations similar to the mountain village of Dos Bocas. Remote and without power, villagers had no access to hot water and needed to travel down the mountain to get reliable power. Cook was stationed in Dos Bocas when he first became aware of Power Panel® and their Gen-2-O portable solar power generator.
"The people of Dos Bocas live in a mountainous area near a lake, which is their local water source but gets incredibly cold. The villagers would bathe and wash their clothes in water so cold your hands would go numb. On top of that, they would be without electricity for six months to a year."
Once Cook and his team received some quick training on the Gen-2-O, set up was quick— the generator was up and running within 45 minutes.
"Some of the equipment you deal with in disaster recovery situations take a lot of time to set up. We set up the Gen-2-O on a foggy day and thought for sure we would need a clear day to start generating power," he said.
But that wasn’t the case. Within two hours, Cook and his team had the generator running, had hot water for showers and cooking, as well as enough power to charge cell phones.
"These people had been without hot water for months and to see the looks on their faces was priceless."
Compact, durable and easy to transport, the Gen-2-O’s housing uses a BASF resin that withstands high heat, moisture and UV exposure. The unit is insulated with Autofroth®, a rigid polyurethane foam, to ensure the unit can handle the high temperatures that occur when water is not in the unit to harvest the thermal energy.
Solar power generators like the Gen-2-O are often used in reactionary scenarios after disasters. But when it comes to extreme weather events, we often find recovery long and arduous because existing infrastructure simply can’t absorb extreme winds or rain. Weather events like these are showing us that a more proactive approach is needed to prepare cities and villages, big and small.
Disaster recovery and aid is only part of the solution
While hurricanes may be the norm for some countries, existing infrastructure like electrical grids, homes and drainage systems are not built to withstand the extreme flooding and wind we have seen lately.
This begs the question: If extreme weather disasters are expected to get stronger and more frequent, what can be done?
The first couple of weeks are tough because you see the immediate aftermath.
Volunteer responder, Crisis Response International
For BASF, it starts with approaching extreme weather events with a focus on resilience. Preparing for recovery is important but that’s only a part of the answer. Being prepared for a hurricane or a flood means building infrastructure that is not only strong but resilient in the face of extreme weather.
Thankfully, many of these resilient building methods and materials already exist. When it comes to building a reliable and strong electrical grid, Boldur™ Utility Poles weigh in at 485 lbs. but have a breaking strength of 5,070 lbs. BASF's Disaster Durable Solutions exceed building codes to give homeowners peace of mind. Additionally, countries and cities that sit on coastlines have options available to them to protect property and people.
With the materials and methods to build resilient cities available to us, there’s no better place to start showing what resilience can be than at home because if the past few years have shown, North America is not immune to extreme weather events.
Plan for recovery, build resilience
While engineers, construction experts and city planners understand the state of U.S. infrastructure, the average citizen may not. Most people don’t know how susceptible their neighborhood is to extreme weather, and for Cook, it’s no surprise.
First and foremost, we are not ready.
Volunteer responder, Crisis Response International
"One of the most worrying things that I hear is ‘we just never thought it would happen here.’ It’s why a lot of people stay in their homes and ignore the real danger some of these extreme weather events pose."
While not all of North America is susceptible to extreme weather, it doesn’t mean it will never happen. Breezy Point, NY was struck by Hurricane Sandy, resulting in massive flooding, Toronto, Canada was crippled by a flash flood on August 7, 2018 and currently the Midwestern U.S. is still dealing with flooding across several states along the Missouri River.
We know what the future entails when it comes to extreme weather, and building infrastructure accordingly is the right place to start. Unfortunately, it’s a long process. In the meantime, planning for recovery efforts becomes ever more critical. For Cook, it’s something that most cities and towns need to consider, and part of that process should include getting reliable solar powered generators like the Gen-2-O.
"The value the Gen-2-O is you can do short term and long-term recovery planning. The Gen-2-O can be deployed quickly in areas right after an extreme weather event and remain active weeks later while the other stages of the recovery rolls out. This is the kind of equipment that fire fighters, first responders and even mayors should have in storage ready to be deployed. Especially in remote rural areas."
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