Coastal environments in the Caribbean and around the World host communities and critical infrastructure that are exposed to extreme risks generated by natural multi hazards, namely, floods (storm surges and swells, tides, waves, rivers, urban drainage, tsunamis), winds (hurricane), earthquakes, soil instabilities (erosion, sedimentation, liquefaction, landslides), corrosive environment, and many combinations of those. The US Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has established the need to protect and upgrade the state of the nation’s critical infrastructure to a more resilient and sustainable state.
The paper will present the outcomes of the educational project sponsored by the DHS to help improve the resilience of coastal infrastructure by means of education and building capacity. The goal of the project is to educate engineering students, university faculty and staff in principles of resilience for both built and natural coastal infrastructure through formal education. The project also helps educate members of the community by teaching first responders and other professionals through informal education through conferences, workshops, seminars, lectures and short courses in resilient coastal infrastructure. Educators also work with partners who focus on resilience of coastal and island communities. All the island of Puerto Rico is considered coastal environment. Over 400,000 people live within 1 km of coasts and 44 municipalities with over 60% of the island population are at the coast. A tremendous amount of the critical civil infrastructure like airports, seaports, highways, water and wastewater, power, and communication infrastructure are located at the coastal communities. Puerto Rico before and after Hurricanes Irma and María has been the vivid field setting of the project. Billions of dollars of Federal and Commonwealth funds will be invested to enable recovery. As Puerto Rico aims to be resilient recovery efforts’ investment must integrate the best science and knowledge available. Capacity building to all the sectors in resilient infrastructure is achieved through formal and informal education.
The project aims to teach end-users about the effects of natural hazards on coastal infrastructure, conditions of existing structures and rehabilitation alternatives to mitigate future damage and potential risks. Education focuses on infrastructure’s performance before, during and after hazard events and includes courses on the causes and effects of riverine and coastal flooding, storm surge, ocean waves, tsunami loads, earthquakes and extreme winds. It is expected to create pipelines for students and professionals to move into the coastal infrastructure resilience field.
The paper addresses the needs for the community to better understand the stages of coastal infrastructure hazard prevention, preparedness, response and mitigation. The lessons learned regarding the impact of the hurricane to the island with emphasis on coastal environments and its infrastructure during the past, including the most recent catastrophic Hurricanes Irma and María in 2017, will be addressed.
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