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PRiMEX: 70% of Puerto Rico’s manufacturing buildings show structural damage

The Puerto Rico Manufacturing Extension Inc. (PRiMEX) released two studies analyzing the state of the island’s manufacturing infrastructure, which concluded that more than 70% of 160 buildings inspected are still dangerous after the earthquakes that hit two years ago.

The studies also showed that more than 85% of the small and medium-sized manufacturing companies on the island have structural problems and have risks in the face of a large earthquake.

The companies are in the 33 municipalities included in Federal Emergency Management Agency’s (FEMA) Major Disaster Declaration for the seismic event of 6.4-magnitude of Jan. 7, 2020.

“These findings can be grouped into the following areas: informal concrete construction, informal concrete construction modifications, informal steel construction, possible collision between buildings with different floor heights and hillside structures with possible landslide movement in an earthquake,” said PRiMEX Executive Director Ramón Vega-Alejandro.

The methodology used is the Rapid Visual Detection Procedure (RVS) which identifies, inventories, and examines buildings that are potentially seismically dangerous.

It is a study based on the characteristics that can be observed in data collection with pertinent information from the building for the seismic performance, the trade group explained.

“The results indicate a more detailed analysis of many of the buildings, in which 88% (141) of the buildings require a detailed analysis beyond the RVS to determine their seismic performance, of the buildings that require a detailed analysis, 30% had low RVS scores and 70% had other hazards present,” said Vega.

Regarding the economic aspect, the study examined the impact and strategies adopted by small and medium-sized manufacturers located in Puerto Rico’s southwestern region during the 2020 earthquakes.

“The supply chain of 75% of them was affected due to interruptions in distribution, 73% reported losses of more than $10,000, which are 119 of 163 small and medium manufacturers,” said Alizabeth Sánchez-López, chief researcher at firm AMS.

“Fifty-two percent, or 84 of 161 companies, reported partial or total closures, 80% reported human impact, 157 of 197 small and medium manufacturers reported problems with absenteeism and employee retention,” said Sánchez.

“Some 51%, which are 100 of 196 SMEs, intend to change their business strategy and 39%, or 77 of 197, have intentions to modify or create new products,” added Sánchez.

The findings show that SMEs in the agriculture, food and beverage sector are less prepared in terms of insurance planning and coverage, in comparison to the textile industry.

Despite the challenges, there is evidence to suggest that entrepreneurs and managers are beginning to take steps to overcome them by modifying their business strategies.

PRIMEX indicated that the next steps should be to raise awareness of these issues to reduce the possible impact of a major seismic event on the human and commercial impact of the sector.

Furthermore, there is a need to increase financial assistance through low-interest loans to the sector to finance more in-depth technical analysis and remediation.

Author Details
Author Details
Yamilet Aponte-Claudio was born in San Juan, Puerto Rico. She graduated from Colegio Nuestra Señora de la Providencia and is currently a junior at Sacred Heart University. Majoring in Journalism and adding a minor in sustainable development and foreign languages, she aspires to study law after obtaining her bachelor’s degree.

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