January 21, 2020

Keep Safe Guide Launches in New York City

Keep Safe NYC event

Hurricane Maria left 100 percent of Puerto Rico in the dark and 60 percent of its inhabitants without water. It shut off telecommunications and caused 2,975 deaths and $100 billion in damages.

The lowest-income Puerto Ricans were 45 percent more likely to have lost their lives after the hurricane due to lack of safe housing. The Caribbean island is home to 3.3 million U.S. citizens, 8 percent of whom left in the wake of the storm. Many have not returned.

Given the need in my beloved Caribbean island, a group of experts – led by Enterprise’s Laurie Schoeman – began the journey of creating Keep Safe: A Guide for Resilient Housing Design in Island Communities / Manténgase Seguro. The guide can be used by homeowners and agencies and designers alike to provide practical education on various systems and designs that could support safe and resilient reconstruction in the face of immediate and future climate threats.

This project rose from an authentic commitment to support and safeguard homes across Puerto Rico after Hurricane Maria proved how devastating a storm can be for Puerto Rico and her most vulnerable communities. Puerto Rico continues to suffer the effects of this devastating storm, with residents still suffering blackouts, damaged infrastructure and lack of services.

The Keep Safe Guide was released at a New York City launch event in the fall with the coordination and collaboration of the American Institute of Architects, Puerto Rico Taskforce and Design for Risk and Reconstruction Committee.

The event began with the Community Open Mic about Hurricane María with Bill Keegan, president of Heart 911. He shared how his organization has been a source of transformation on the island. The introduction was presented by a member of the Puerto Rico Task Force, Venesa Alicea, and Eric Wilson, deputy director of Land Use & Buildings at New York City Mayor's Office of Resiliency.

Laurie Schoeman, Enterprise’s national senior program director for resilience initiatives, moderated a panel discussion featuring experts in resilient construction and the Puerto Rico Task Force. Schoeman explained how Keep Safe emerged as an idea after Hurricane Maria. Keep Safe is an effort between Enterprise, the Homebuilders Association and the University of Puerto Rico School of Architecture.

Panelists included:

  • Amy Macdonald, Head of Resilience at Thornton Tomasetti
  • Yanel De Angel, Puertorican Architect Expect and Principal at Perkins and Will
  • Ilya Azaroff, The Co-Director AIA DFRR,
  • Janice Barnes, Managing Partner, Climate Adaptation Partners
  • Edwin Meléndez, Director, the Center for Puerto Rican Studies, Hunter College, CUNY
  • Jonathan Marvel, Founding Principal Marvel Architects and Resilient Power Puerto Rico (RPPR) a grassroots initiative to bring solar energy and green jobs to Puerto Rico

Attendees gained a basic understanding of how to recognize resilient and sustainable building methods that can synthesize and coexist to contribute to a sustainable society with the initiative "design for future." The guide is designed for island communities that have warmer climates and are more susceptible to hurricanes, Keep Safe is a useful resource well beyond Puerto Rico.


Ashley Rosello is a Resilience and Disaster Recovery Intern, at Enterprise Community Partners in New York City. She is working to provide support to the recovery and rebuilding effort in communities in Puerto Rico with the National Recovery Initiative at Enterprise. She is part of the production team of the 'Keep Safe: A Guide for Resilient Housing Design in Island Communities' as production and supporting editor of the Spanish version ‘Manténgase Seguro: Una guía para la resiliencia en el diseño de viviendas en las comunidades isleñas’.

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