WIRED | 4/26/2019 | Chris Mellon
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On March 1, the Department of Housing and Urban Development approved a new tranche of funding for Puerto Rico’s reconstruction, the second installment of the $20 billion in disaster recovery funding the federal government has committed to help the island recover from the damage of Hurricane Maria in 2017. Much of that money will be used to repair Puerto Rico’s physical infrastructure, which was ravaged after the storm. In the months after Maria, blue tarps on rooftops and dark streets at night became enduring images of the catastrophic 2017 hurricane season and the inadequacy of the response.

Chris Mellon is a policy analyst with the Future of Property Rights program at New America.

Images - Detail - Puerto - Rico - Address

But invisible amid these powerful images hides a seemingly boring little detail: Puerto Rico has an address problem.

Addresses may seem like mundane pieces of postal infrastructure—that is, until you don’t have one. According to the Puerto Rican government's recovery plan, the lack of 911-compliant addresses "makes it difficult for emergency responders to locate homes and businesses." In the wake of a catastrophe like Hurricane Maria, when emergency services can't reach someone, it can be a matter of life or death. During one of my recent visits to the island, FEMA officials grew visibly emotional, recalling how many people were lost because first responders couldn’t locate them. In the San Juan area alone, there are still thousands of individual FEMA aid applications that cannot be processed because the properties cannot be located. Beyond the current recovery efforts, reliable addresses are needed to support all kinds of government planning initiatives and the provision of social services.

Dysfunction - Puerto - Rico - Addressing - System

The dysfunction of Puerto Rico’s addressing system has much to do with the island’s colonial history. Puerto Rico was claimed by Spain in 1493 and adopted Spanish addressing conventions. When the island was seized by the...
(Excerpt) Read more at: WIRED
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