Responding again during a historic hurricane season, U.S. Customs and Border Protection is reaching out to help those in Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands, including hundreds of CBP employees, in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria.
Puerto Rico experienced sustained winds of 155 mph which destroyed property and cut electrical power throughout the island.
Yesterday, two Blackhawk helicopters from CBP Air and Marine Operations (AMO) from Puerto Rico’s Air and Marine Branch were the first to take flight and began assessing damage to CBP facilities. Today, assessments continue with 56 percent of employees accounted for, reported Dario Lugo, manager of CBP’s emergency operations center in Washington, D.C.
“The difficulty is that power and lines of communication are down all across the island, so many have not been able to report in,” he said. “With the damage to infrastructure and blocked roads, it has proven difficult to make contact with all our employees immediately after the storm. One of our top priorities now is to account for everyone and see to their immediate needs and the needs of their families.”
Meanwhile, P-3 aircraft are orbiting the island today to maintain communications and more P-3s from the Jacksonville Air and Marine Branch are shuttling between Miami and San Juan bringing in supplies and returning with evacuating employees, said Aviation Enforcement Agent Carey Ammons.
Yesterday P-3 aircraft flew a team of BORSTAR agents and CBP officers to Puerto Rico to assist with security, assessments and to support the incident commander. Five more BORSTAR agents are slated to fly into the area today.
The Office of Acquisitions is delivering Ford F-150s, Chevrolet Tahoes and SUVs to the port director in Jacksonville, Florida, destined for San Juan. The vehicles will immediately be loaded onto a vessel for shipment. Procurement is also purchasing 92 generators for Puerto Rico’s emergency operations center.
The Office of Human Resources Management stationed a Traumatic Incidents and Events Response Team in Key Largo for deployment. The five-member group of health professionals will be available to assist employees with personal and mental issues related to the storm.
Additionally, AMO marine interdiction agents along with 39-foot coastal interceptors are currently providing security for the Coast Guard’s Key West Sector until coast guard vessels take over that responsibility.
Up to 150 CBP surge capacity force volunteers are expected to be involved in assessments, accountings and other tasks from Hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria.
U.S. Customs and Border Protection is the unified border agency within the Department of Homeland Security charged with the management, control and protection of our nation's borders at and between the official ports of entry. CBP is charged with keeping terrorists and terrorist weapons out of the country while enforcing hundreds of U.S. laws.