Doctorate Student Presents Findings on Preparedness For Hurricane Maria


Sara Belligoni, a doctorate student in Security Studies, has just returned from San Juan, Puerto Rico. Focused on emergency management and human security, Belligoni presented the preliminary results of her research about the local-federal (un)coordination in Puerto Rico before, during and after Hurricane Maria. This, in occasion of the Conference Within a Conference (CWC) on the Politics of Disasters organized by the Disaster and Emergency Research Network (DERN) within the 71st Annual Meeting of the Southern Political Science Association (SPSA).

Belligoni also chaired the panel “The Role of Emergent Groups and Entrepreneurship in Disaster Response and Recovery” discussing how actors different than governmental entities contribute to relief efforts when responding to disasters and whether if it is leading to a complementary or substitutionary role of the formers.

Belligoni thinks that the conference and “especially the CWC has provided [her] with the right environment to share the research findings aimed at further investigating how the political status of Puerto Rico is negatively affecting the capacity of the Puerto Rican government in preparing, responding, and recovering from disasters while showing the unpreparedness of the federal government when elaborating the emergency management plans.” Also, Belligoni adds that since SPSA was held in San Juan, Puerto Rico, it has given her the chance to recall the attention on her research while being able to get in touch with experts and scholars working in emergency-related fields in Puerto Rico.

Belligoni has also dedicated some time to explore the city of San Juan, and in particular she walked through the boardwalk that goes aside the neighboorod of La Perla. Belligoni says “La Perla is a coastal neighborhood of the city of San Juan where a marginalized community lives – literally – below the city wall dating back to the Spanish domination. While already living in precarious social and economic conditions, the residents of La Perla have seen wiped out their homes by Hurricane Maria. When you look at the city of San Juan you cannot really tell that Hurricane Maria has passed, however, when you look down to La Perla all you can see are disrupted homes, rubbles, and blue temporary roofs awnings.”

For precaution, Belligoni took some pictures from the points of the boardwalk closer to the neighborhood, testifying that La Perla has not even closely fully recovered after the hurricane and, as she says “the fact that the hurricane season happens every year arises concerns about the safety of these people and their homes. The fact that Puerto Rico has been affected by several earthquakes and aftershock in the last few days – including San Juan where I personally felt a couple of them – undermine the still ongoing recovery after the hurricane of 2017.”

Belligoni looks forward to completing her research by the end of the semester and soon being able to share it with a broader public.

“The motivation that SPSA has given me and the CWC by giving me the chance to serve as a panel chair during my second-year of the doctoral program, convinces me that my research is going  the right way. Hopefully my policy analysis will contribute to a better understanding of strengthening emergency management in U.S. territories.”


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