Civil Air Patrol responds to Puerto Rico earthquakes

SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico ― Civil Air Patrol members have been conducting damage assessment as part of the response to a series of earthquakes and aftershocks off the southern coast of Puerto Rico since Dec. 28, 2019.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency requested support from CAP for disaster relief efforts in Puerto Rico.

“Civil Air Patrol has a legacy of serving its communities in times of trouble,” said Lt. Col. Rick Woolfolk, CAP deputy incident commander for the Puerto Rico response. “Our teams are in the field gathering information that will help in the rescue and recovery efforts underway.”

Five CAP ground teams gathered photographs of damaged structures and facilities in communities on the southern coast of Puerto Rico, including Peñuelas, Yauco, Guanica and Guayanilla. Photos were sent to FEMA for analysis.

Trained CAP crews are also using small, unmanned aerial systems, commonly known as drones, to take photos and video. Three two-member teams are coordinating with search and rescue managers to provide overhead support for ground operations. Those teams continue their operations as they are able, given weather conditions in the area.

CAP planes are grounded due to adverse wind and weather conditions. The crews will conduct aerial assessment flights as soon as conditions permit, CAP officials report.

Typically, these aerial photography missions produce hundreds of photos that FEMA reviews in order to determine where the need for disaster relief support is greatest.

CAP operates a fleet of 560 airplanes.

“Safety is a top priority since day one,” said Col. Edgardo Torres, commander of CAP’s Puerto Rico Wing. “Puerto Rico Wing has five cadet squadrons based in the affected areas. I have asked CAP members and their families to review their Family Emergency Plans.”

Necessary measures have been taken to safeguard CAP personnel, property, equipment and assets in the area as authorities work with the emergency, CAP officials add. The Puerto Rico Wing Crisis Communications Team was activated to facilitate services to wing members affected by the continued earthquakes and aftershocks.

Civil Air Patrol, the longtime all-volunteer U.S. Air Force auxiliary, is the newest member of the Air Force’s Total Force. In this role, CAP operates a fleet of 560 aircraft, performs about 90% of continental U.S. inland search and rescue missions as tasked by the Air Force Rescue Coordination Center and is credited by the AFRCC with saving an average of more than 80 lives annually.

CAP’s 66,000 members also perform homeland security, disaster relief and drug interdiction missions at the request of federal, state and local agencies.

In addition, CAP plays a leading role in aerospace/STEM education, and its members serve as mentors to more than 28,000 young people participating in CAP’s Cadet Programs. There are approximately 1,000 CAP volunteer members in the Puerto Rico Wing.

In 2018, CAP members flew 587 hours in response to hurricanes Irma and Maria disaster relief missions, generating 201 sorties and more than 82,000 aerial damage assessment photos.

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