How Ricardo Alfaro is Rebuilding Island’s Telecommunications
By Katie Cook
“Something is falling outside on the house!” Those were the last words that Ricardo and Dorianne Alfaro heard from her family in Puerto Rico before the line went dead.
When Hurricane Maria hit Puerto Rico on September 20 it battered the island for 30 straight hours killing 34 people and causing $90 billion in damages. 95% of the island lost power including hospitals.
For almost two weeks Ricardo and Dorianne were frantic with worry for her parents and brother in Aibonito, an area that saw some of the worst devastation from the category 5 storm. While they watched television coverage from their home in Alexandria, they had no way of knowing if their family was safe.
When they were finally able to get in touch, they were thrilled to hear that everyone was OK, but they are still frustrated by the lack of consistent communications. “Unfortunately, a great deal of media coverage is devoted to the political aspect of this story. The human component is really, really bad” says Alfaro.
“The entire communications infrastructure will have to be re-built” says Ricardo, the former IT Director for the Governor of Puerto Rico. “The lack of trustworthy data makes it impossible to pinpoint the hardest hit municipalities. Reliable communications affect every aspect of managing a major disaster. Relief efforts can’t be targeted to the areas that need help and emergency supplies sit at the docks because no one can be notified.
There are multiple relief efforts underway in the damaged island, but Ricardo Alfaro is using his education and experience, in communications in Puerto Rico and in the US, to focus on re-building the island’s devastated telecom infrastructure. Within days of the hurricane Alfaro created the Deployable Emergency Network for Puerto Rico. He put together a “tech brigade” of volunteers to target the hardest-hit communities using private and government entities. They are hoping to raise the resources to begin re-building communications networks this month.
Even today, it requires an hour’s drive for Dorianne’s family to make a phone call. This is a tremendous challenge in area where gas is simply not an available commodity anymore. Alfaro related how people are crossing dangerous streams, navigating compromised roads, and doing whatever they can to get in touch with their families and get the services that they need.
You can learn more about the network and how you can help, by going to Razoo.com.