Island Paradise

A small paradise lies 17 miles east of Puerto Rico and 12 miles west of St. Thomas – Culebra island. Culebra (which means Snake Island in Spanish). This gem of an island – seven by four miles – boasts one of the oldest wildlife refuges in the United States. Culebra, like Vieques Island, was used by the U.S.Navy for military exercises, until 1976. Since then, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has performed restoration activities in Culebra under the Formerly Utilized Defense Sites Program. Today, it’s a rural retreat and nature preserve — part of the Culebra National Wildlife Refuge– one of the oldest under the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (c. 1909).

Accessible only through ferry boat from Fajardo or small plane from San Juan and Ceiba, Culebra is a local vacation spot for many Puerto Ricans and international tourists as well. About 1,800 people live in this municipality of turquoise beaches and white sand. The municipality boasts the only ecological public school in Puerto Rico. The building that houses the school takes advantage of the sun and the wind for energy.

The principal harbor, Ensenada Honda, is considered to be one of the most secure hurricane harbors in the Caribbean. In Culebra you can snorkel, dive and swim in miles of unspoiled beaches which are also a critical habitat to green turtles in their nesting season. Sandy shores, wetlands and mangrove forests are home to pelicans and seagulls among other species that I have spotted in my visits to the island.
Culebra is an arid island with no rivers or streams, all of which creates an unique ecosystem. Cactus grow among tropical trees and palms. Most beaches are a short distance from its main town, Dewey. In Culebra there are no luxury hotels, no casinos, no traffic, and no loud noises (except for the occasional small plane). The island gets its water from the “Big Island” (Puerto Rico) via Vieques. Because of the lack of run-off from streams and rivers, Culebra boasts crystal clear waters with sixty feet of visibility on a bad day! Also, the island hosts one of the most beautiful beaches in the world, Playa Flamenco, which is part of the Blue Flag program.  However if you are looking for a secluded spot, Playa Zoni, which sits at the bottom of a tall cliff might be your best option. A pristine and tranquil beach, Zoni is also a turtle nesting area as it happens to be my favorite beach in this paradise island.

About the author: Brenda Reyes Tomassini joined EPA in 2002. She is a public affairs specialist in the San Juan, Puerto Rico office and also handles community relations for the Caribbean Environmental Protection Division.

Editor's Note: The views expressed here are intended to explain EPA policy. They do not change anyone's rights or obligations. You may share this post. However, please do not change the title or the content, or remove EPA’s identity as the author. If you do make substantive changes, please do not attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.

EPA's official web site is www.epa.gov. Some links on this page may redirect users from the EPA website to specific content on a non-EPA, third-party site. In doing so, EPA is directing you only to the specific content referenced at the time of publication, not to any other content that may appear on the same webpage or elsewhere on the third-party site, or be added at a later date.

EPA is providing this link for informational purposes only. EPA cannot attest to the accuracy of non-EPA information provided by any third-party sites or any other linked site. EPA does not endorse any non-government websites, companies, internet applications or any policies or information expressed therein.

Isla Paradisíaca

Un pequeño paraíso yace a 17 millas al este de Puerto Rico y 12 millas al oeste de St. Thomas: la isla de Culebra. Culebra es una gema en el Caribe con una extensión territorial de siete millas por cuatro millas de ancho y posee uno de los refugios de vida silvestre más antiguo de los Estados Unidos. Culebra, al igual que Vieques, fue utilizado por la Marina estadounidense para ejercicios militares hasta 1976. Desde entonces, el Cuerpo de Ingenieros de los Estados Unidos realiza labores de restauración bajo el programa de Lugares de Defensa Utilizados Anteriormente (FUDS, por sus siglas en inglés). Hoy, Culebra es un retiro rural, parte de la Reserva Nacional de Vida Silvestre de Culebra-una de las de mayor antigüedad bajo el Servicio Federal de Pesca y Vida Silvestre (desde 1909)

Accesible solo por barco desde Fajardo o avión pequeño desde San Juan y Ceiba, Culebra es el lugar favorito para vacacionar de muchos puertorriqueños y turistas internacionales. Cerca de 1,800 personas residen en esta isla municipio de arenas blancas y playas turquesas. Culebra posee la única escuela pública ecológica de Puerto Rico. En esta paneles solares se nutren del abundante sol y turbinas eólicas del viento que sopla en la isla casi todo el año.

La bahía principal de Culebra, Ensenada Honda, es considerada una de las más seguras en todo el Caribe, lo cual es muy importante en la temporada de huracanes. Esta pequeña isla paradisíaca ofrece al visitante espacios prístinos en donde nadar y bucear pero que a su vez también son hábitat crítico de tortugas en su temporada de desove. En Culebra también hay manglares y zonas pantanosas desde donde se pueden avistar pelícanos y gaviotas, tal como he podido ver en mis visitas a la isla.

Culebra posee una superficie árida ya que no cuenta con ríos o quebradas, lo cual resulta en un ecosistema único. Los cactus crecen junto a palmas tropicales y árboles frutales. Casi todas las playas están a corta distancia de su ciudad principal, Dewey. En Culebra no hay hoteles de lujo, casinos, tráfico ni ruidos (excepto el ocasional de los aviones). La isla recibe su abasto de agua potable de la “Isla Grande” como los residentes de Culebra llaman a Puerto Rico. La ausencia de escorrentías permiten ver el fondo del mar hasta 60 pies de profundidad en días soleados en playas como Flamenco, la cual es parte del Programa Bandera Azul Hay otros lugares más retirados como Playa Zoni, una playa tranquila y de aguas prístinas ubicada al fondo de un acantilado,que es mi favorita en esta isla paraíso.

Sobre la autor: Brenda Reyes Tomassini se unió a la EPA en el 2002. Labora como especialista de relaciones públicas en la oficina de EPA en San Juan, Puerto Rico donde también maneja asuntos comunitarios para la División de Protección Ambiental del Caribe.

Editor's Note: The views expressed here are intended to explain EPA policy. They do not change anyone's rights or obligations. You may share this post. However, please do not change the title or the content, or remove EPA’s identity as the author. If you do make substantive changes, please do not attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.

EPA's official web site is www.epa.gov. Some links on this page may redirect users from the EPA website to specific content on a non-EPA, third-party site. In doing so, EPA is directing you only to the specific content referenced at the time of publication, not to any other content that may appear on the same webpage or elsewhere on the third-party site, or be added at a later date.

EPA is providing this link for informational purposes only. EPA cannot attest to the accuracy of non-EPA information provided by any third-party sites or any other linked site. EPA does not endorse any non-government websites, companies, internet applications or any policies or information expressed therein.

The Lagoon

One of my earliest childhood memories while riding in the car with my parents is the Condado Lagoon boardwalk. Back in the late 1970’s, this area was a local hangout. Filled with noise and street vendors who operated from trucks converted into food stands, the Condado Lagoon boardwalk was the place to go at night from Thursdays to Saturdays. On Monday the area was littered with food residue and trash, many of which were dumped or dragged into the lagoon. The place was also known for its foul odors from grease from the food stands and raw sewage going into the body of water from houses in the nearby Condado neighborhood.

The Condado Lagoon encompasses an area of 102 acres and flows into both The Atlantic Ocean and the San Juan Bay and is part of the San Juan Bay Estuary. In the late 1950’s, 20 percent of its total area was dredged for the development of an arterial avenue. Dredging activities destroyed sea grasses and mangroves, which are essential habitat and nursery, respectively, for some marine species.

The health hazards associated with the water quality of the Condado Lagoon prompted the Puerto Rico government to construct a sanitary sewer system to service the structures that were discharging their raw sewage into the water body. This effort, and the enlargement of the Dos Hermanos Bridge to increase water flow into the lagoon, significantly improved the water quality of the area. In addition, in the late 1970s, the Environmental Quality Board addressed the noise problem and issued cease and desist orders to those discharging into the lagoon or storm sewers.

Now over 300 species, including birds, reptiles, amphibians and tropical fishes, are associated with the Lagoon and its mangrove habitat, including 124 species of fish. The Lagoon includes coral reefs that are home to sponges, starfish and sea urchins and other fish and marine invertebrates. Turtles and manatees now make the Condado Lagoon their “hangout.”

Moreover, efforts conducted by the San Juan Bay Estuary Program, EPA and NOAA have led to restoration of the red mangrove forest. Nearly 750 volunteers have planted 1,389 plantules of red mangroves since 2005. After street vendors were relocated in the early 1980’s a new boardwalk was built. Two years ago the Condado Lagoon Jaime Benitez State Park was inaugurated providing ample space for outoor activities, such as the Estuary’s Green Movie Night, and non-motorized aquatic sports. Now driving along the lagoon boardwalk is a real scenic drive.

About the author: Brenda Reyes Tomassini joined EPA in 2002. She is a public affairs specialist in the San Juan, Puerto Rico office and also handles community relations for the Caribbean Environmental Protection Division.

Editor's Note: The views expressed here are intended to explain EPA policy. They do not change anyone's rights or obligations. You may share this post. However, please do not change the title or the content, or remove EPA’s identity as the author. If you do make substantive changes, please do not attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.

EPA's official web site is www.epa.gov. Some links on this page may redirect users from the EPA website to specific content on a non-EPA, third-party site. In doing so, EPA is directing you only to the specific content referenced at the time of publication, not to any other content that may appear on the same webpage or elsewhere on the third-party site, or be added at a later date.

EPA is providing this link for informational purposes only. EPA cannot attest to the accuracy of non-EPA information provided by any third-party sites or any other linked site. EPA does not endorse any non-government websites, companies, internet applications or any policies or information expressed therein.

The Case for Green Tourism

Recently I participated in a green business conference focused on pollution prevention for the manufacturing and hospitality industries in Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands. This was a joint effort between EPA, the Puerto Rico Solid Waste Management Authority, the Puerto Rico Environmental Quality Board, the Puerto Rico Hotel and Tourism Association, the Northeast Waste Management Officials’ Association, the Puerto Rico Manufacturers Association, and the Puerto Rico Tourism Company.

Puerto Rico attracts 2.5 million tourists every year. While Puerto Rico is known for its balmy weather, diverse eco-systems, and a rich cultural history, it has another unique characteristic: it also uses the most electricity per person of anywhere in the world. Greenhouse gas emissions in Puerto Rico are 230% more than the world average and water consumption is 1,089,000,00 gallons per year. Tourism operations in Puerto Rico contribute to high electricity and water consumption and waste generation patterns.

While there are more than 450 “green” certifications for hotels, all programs are strictly voluntary. So, how do you develop a truly sustainable facility in the midst of an economic crisis to attract green tourists? In this conference, several hotel owners shared best practices. I found one of the inns located in the southeastern part of the Island to have many noteworthy green features. The inn has a recycling program, solar water heater for the pool and rooms, composting area and water recycling just to name a few of the efforts. Guests are invited to bring their own beach towels since the hotel provides none in an effort to save water. The inn has received the highest green award by the Puerto Rico Tourism Company for the past two years in a row. Larger hotels like the Caribe Hilton, where the two day seminar was held, have also incorporated energy and water conservation efforts into their daily operations. Furthermore, they have gradually been incorporating more energy efficient appliances and air conditioning systems. These changes have yielded savings to the landmark San Juan hotel and contributed to a reduction of the hotel’s carbon footprint.

There are many shades of green travel. As tourists make greener demands of the hospitality industry, hoteliers will learn to reinvent themselves in order to comply.

About the author: Brenda Reyes Tomassini joined EPA in 2002. She is a public affairs specialist in the San Juan, Puerto Rico office and also handles community relations for the Caribbean Environmental Protection Division.

Editor's Note: The views expressed here are intended to explain EPA policy. They do not change anyone's rights or obligations. You may share this post. However, please do not change the title or the content, or remove EPA’s identity as the author. If you do make substantive changes, please do not attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.

EPA's official web site is www.epa.gov. Some links on this page may redirect users from the EPA website to specific content on a non-EPA, third-party site. In doing so, EPA is directing you only to the specific content referenced at the time of publication, not to any other content that may appear on the same webpage or elsewhere on the third-party site, or be added at a later date.

EPA is providing this link for informational purposes only. EPA cannot attest to the accuracy of non-EPA information provided by any third-party sites or any other linked site. EPA does not endorse any non-government websites, companies, internet applications or any policies or information expressed therein.

Turismo Verde

Recientemente participé en una conferencia dirigida a la industria turística y farmaceútica de Puerto Rico y las Islas Vírgenes sobre estrategias de prevención de contaminación. Esta actividad fue un esfuerzo conjunto entre la EPA, la Junta de Calidad Ambiental de Puerto Rico, la Autoridad de Desperdicios Sólidos, la Asociación de Hoteles y Turismo de Puerto Rico, la Asociación de Oficiales para el Manejo de Desperdicios Sólidos de Norteste de Estados Unidos, la Asociación de Industriales de Puerto Rico y la Compañía de Turismo de Puerto Rico.

Puerto Rico recibe cerca de 2.5 millones de turistas cada año y es conocido por su clima agradable, su rica historia cultural al igual que por su diversidad de ecosistemas. Pero también posee una carácterística sinfular: es el lugar en el mundo donde más electricidad se consume por persona. Las emisiones de gases de invernadero en Puerto Rico son 230% más que el nivel mundial y el consumo de agua es de 1,089,000,00 galones por año. Las operaciones turísticas en Puerto Rico contribuyen al consumo desmedido de agua y electricidad al igual que a la generación de basura y desperdicios.

Aunque hay cerca de 450 certificaciones verdes para hoteles, todos los programas son voluntarios. ¿Cómo desarrollar una hospedería sostenible en plena crisis económica que atraiga turistas “verdes”? En la conferencia tuvimos la oportunidad de escuchar dueños y gerentes de hotels, quienes compartieron con nosotros sus experiencias y prácticas de manejo. Uno de los mejores ejemplos es el de una pequeña hospedería o “parador” ubicada en el sureste de Puerto Rico. Este hotel de 34 habitaciones tiene un program de reciclaje, calentador solar tanto en el area de la piscine como en los cuartos, centro de composta y reciclaje de agua, por solo nombrar algunas de sus practices de manejo. En este hotel los huéspedes deben traer su propia toalla de playa para fomentar el ahorro de agua. El hotel ha recibido el galardón máximo que otorga la Compañía Turismo de Puerto Rico por los pasados dos años. Instalaciones más grandes como el Caribe Hilton, en donde se llevó a cabo la conferencia, ha incorporado prácticas como conservación de agua y energía en sus operaciones lo cual ha resultado en una reducción en su huella de carbon. El hotel ha sustituído enseres y equipo de aire acondicionado, según estos dejan de funcionar, por otros de alta eficiencia.

Hay muchos tonos de verde, al igual que opciones a la hora de vacacionar. Según los turistas exigan a los hoteles y la industria turística, estos tendrán que reinventarse para así satisfacer la demanda por un turismo auténticamente verde.

Sobre la autor: Brenda Reyes Tomassini se unió a la EPA en el 2002. Labora como especialista de relaciones públicas en la oficina de EPA en San Juan, Puerto Rico donde también maneja asuntos comunitarios para la División de Protección Ambiental del Caribe.

Editor's Note: The views expressed here are intended to explain EPA policy. They do not change anyone's rights or obligations. You may share this post. However, please do not change the title or the content, or remove EPA’s identity as the author. If you do make substantive changes, please do not attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.

EPA's official web site is www.epa.gov. Some links on this page may redirect users from the EPA website to specific content on a non-EPA, third-party site. In doing so, EPA is directing you only to the specific content referenced at the time of publication, not to any other content that may appear on the same webpage or elsewhere on the third-party site, or be added at a later date.

EPA is providing this link for informational purposes only. EPA cannot attest to the accuracy of non-EPA information provided by any third-party sites or any other linked site. EPA does not endorse any non-government websites, companies, internet applications or any policies or information expressed therein.

Greening Your Way Into Reading

I am an avid reader. For me, buying books and exchanging them with friends has always been the norm. However in the last few years, I have been trying to green my way into reading. According to the Green Press Initiative, approximately 30 million trees are used in the production of books sold in the United States. The raw materials used in book production can have devastating effects on the environment. While the book industry is implementing measures, such as the use of recycled paper, to minimize the impact on our natural resources, one wonders how such a good habit can be made greener. Books can be downloaded from the computer and even loaded on to our phones and there are e-readers that help readers find a good book with the touch of a button.

In spite of these electronic options, however, I prefer to venture into the world of reading the traditional way—by actually holding a book in my hands. I truly enjoy the touch, feel, and smell of the actual book. There are greener options for reading the old-fashion way. Besides borrowing books from the library, I also swap with friends. Another great way to reduce my carbon footprint has been the Salvation Army store where I can find recent titles as well as paperbacks for less than $3.00 and the book swap section at the library. In our Caribbean Environmental Protection Division office we keep a large bin by the reception desk where all EPA readers drop off books of all genres. When the books have been read by most of the participants they are taken to the library for book swapping, thus ensuring that new titles keep making their way into our office. You can pursue another green option by visiting book swapping websites. On these sites, you get points for every title you submit and then you can use those credits to get additional books. One small caveat is that the exchange of books still needs to take place via the mail.

If you are a traditional reader like me who loves book shops and libraries, make sure that when picking up your next read you consider these options.

About the author: Brenda Reyes Tomassini joined EPA in 2002. She is a public affairs specialist in the San Juan, Puerto Rico office and also handles community relations for the Caribbean Environmental Protection Division.

Editor's Note: The views expressed here are intended to explain EPA policy. They do not change anyone's rights or obligations. You may share this post. However, please do not change the title or the content, or remove EPA’s identity as the author. If you do make substantive changes, please do not attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.

EPA's official web site is www.epa.gov. Some links on this page may redirect users from the EPA website to specific content on a non-EPA, third-party site. In doing so, EPA is directing you only to the specific content referenced at the time of publication, not to any other content that may appear on the same webpage or elsewhere on the third-party site, or be added at a later date.

EPA is providing this link for informational purposes only. EPA cannot attest to the accuracy of non-EPA information provided by any third-party sites or any other linked site. EPA does not endorse any non-government websites, companies, internet applications or any policies or information expressed therein.

Leyendo….de una forma más verde

Amo la lectura. La compra o el intercambio de libros con mis amistades ha sido la norma a la hora de buscar nuevos títulos. Sin embargo con el pasar de los años he tratado de buscar opciones más verdes para sostener mi pasatiempo favorito. De acuerdo a la Green Press Initiative, en Estados Unidos se utilizan apróximadamente 30 millones de árboles en la producción de libros vendidos en territorio norteamericano. El uso de materia prima para producir libros tiene un efecto devastador en el medioambiente. Aunque la industria editorial ha implementado medidas como el uso de papel reciclado para minimizar el impacto en nuestros recursos naturales vale preguntarse ¿cómo un hábito tan enriquecedor como la lectura puede hacerse más verde? Hoy día los libros pueden ser descargados en la computadora e inclusive en nuestros teléfonos móviles al igual que existen aparatos electrónicos que nos permiten tener un buen libro en nuestras manos en cuestión de segundos.

Debo confesar que aunque he sopesado estas opciones electrónicas, soy una lectora tradicional. Me gusta tener un libro en mis manos al igual que disfruto del olor que traen sus páginas. Por tal razón he buscando opciones verdes que me permitan hacerlo de forma tradicional. Aparte de tomar libros prestados de la biblioteca, también intercambio con mis amistades, familiares y vecinas. Otra forma de reducir mi huella de carbono mientras disfruto de mi pasatiempo favorito es visitar la tienda del Ejército de Salvación. Allí encuentro títulos recientes en edición blanda y cubierta dura, así como clásicos de la literatura por menos de $3.00. Otra forma es la sección de intercambio en la biblioteca. Allí puedo tomar un libro por cada libro que llevo. En nuestra oficina de la División de Protección Ambiental del Caribe tenemos un contenedor en el área de la recepción donde los lectores de la oficina llevamos nuestros libros para intercambio. Cuando los libros han sido leídos por la mayoría de los participantes, estos son llevados al intercambio de la biblioteca para mantener un flujo constante de nuevos títulos. Los lugares en Internet de intercambio de libros son otra excelente opción. En estos se obtienen puntos por cada título ofrecido. Estos puntos se pueden canjear para obtener nuevos títulos. Una pequeña desventaja es que el intercambio de libros necesita ser a través del correo.

Si usted es un lector tradicional como yo que ama las tiendas de libros y las bibliotecas, considere estas opciones a la hora de adquirir su próximo libro.

Sobre la autor: Brenda Reyes Tomassini se unió a la EPA en el 2002. Labora como especialista de relaciones públicas en la oficina de EPA en San Juan, Puerto Rico donde también maneja asuntos comunitarios para la División de Protección Ambiental del Caribe.

Editor's Note: The views expressed here are intended to explain EPA policy. They do not change anyone's rights or obligations. You may share this post. However, please do not change the title or the content, or remove EPA’s identity as the author. If you do make substantive changes, please do not attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.

EPA's official web site is www.epa.gov. Some links on this page may redirect users from the EPA website to specific content on a non-EPA, third-party site. In doing so, EPA is directing you only to the specific content referenced at the time of publication, not to any other content that may appear on the same webpage or elsewhere on the third-party site, or be added at a later date.

EPA is providing this link for informational purposes only. EPA cannot attest to the accuracy of non-EPA information provided by any third-party sites or any other linked site. EPA does not endorse any non-government websites, companies, internet applications or any policies or information expressed therein.

Convey the Message: How Social Media Helps Us Serve you Better

On January 7, 1994, as I was about to leave for another semester at Loyola University in New Orleans, there was an oil spill in San Juan Bay. An oil tanker leaked 750,000 gallons of fuel in the Atlantic coastal area. I read the news two days later in my first class on News Editing. That was the first time I used the Internet in a classroom. My professor, a seasoned journalist and a great mentor, asked me, “Aren’t you from San Juan?” We read the story on a California newspaper Web site. Countless pictures from the disaster spoke for themselves. EPA personnel from Caribbean Environmental Protection Division were on the scene responding to the disaster.

A few weeks ago, when the CAPECO oil tank farm in Bayamon burst into flames, less than a mile from home, I went straight to the Internet for information. While most local news sites only had a few sentences on the incident, some of my friends had already posted their amateur videos of the fire on Facebook. As a public affairs specialist, I can tell you that we’ve come a long way from just using traditional media tools. Nowadays messaging happens in realtime. The Internet and social media have added a new dimension to the field of communications.

The blog you are reading is part of this new dimension. When I was asked to write for Greenversations, I was a little hesitant. With training from EPA’s Office of Public Affairs, I got it nailed. Since blogs are statements from a personal perspective, they are a great tool to quickly strike a resonating chord with the reader.

Recently I read a speech on social media given by GSA’s Chief Information Officer. In it she emphasized how government is changing the way it interacts with citizens through blogging. I also read an article on crisis communications which discussed how blogging shapes our response to a crisis. It provides timely information from a human perspective. A human voice can help connect with the public’s emotional response during a crisis. I invite you to read Greenversations or Gov Gab at USA.gov and GobiernoUSA.gov It is one way to stay connected with the people we work for: the general public.

About the author: Brenda Reyes Tomassini joined EPA in 2002. She is a public affairs specialist in the SanJuan, Puerto Rico office and also handles community relations for the Caribbean Environmental Protection Division.

Editor's Note: The views expressed here are intended to explain EPA policy. They do not change anyone's rights or obligations. You may share this post. However, please do not change the title or the content, or remove EPA’s identity as the author. If you do make substantive changes, please do not attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.

EPA's official web site is www.epa.gov. Some links on this page may redirect users from the EPA website to specific content on a non-EPA, third-party site. In doing so, EPA is directing you only to the specific content referenced at the time of publication, not to any other content that may appear on the same webpage or elsewhere on the third-party site, or be added at a later date.

EPA is providing this link for informational purposes only. EPA cannot attest to the accuracy of non-EPA information provided by any third-party sites or any other linked site. EPA does not endorse any non-government websites, companies, internet applications or any policies or information expressed therein.

Llevando el mensaje: cómo los medios sociales nos ayudan a comunicarnos con el publico

El 7 de enero de 1994 justo cuando regresaba a la Universidad de Loyola en New Orleans, ocurrió un derrame de petróleo en la Bahía de San Juan. El tanquero Morris Berman derramó 750,000 galones de combustible en las aguas de la costa del Atlántico norte. Me enteré de este suceso por la Internet dos días después en mi primera clase de edición de noticias. Esa fue la primera vez que usé la Internet en mi vida. Mi profesor, un experimentado periodista, tomó la noticia como muestra en la clase por que yo era de San Juan. La leímos en un periódico de California que tenía un sitio Web. Las fotos del desastre hablaban por sí solas.
Hace varias semanas la instalación de almacenamiento de combustible de CAPECO se incendió a menos de una milla de nuestra residencia. Mientras muchos periódicos tenían sólo titulares sobre el incidente ya mis amistades habían puesto sus fotos y videos caseros en Facebook a menos de una hora de la explosión inicial. Como especialista en asuntos públicos, conozco la importancia que estas herramientas de comunicación social tienen hoy día a la hora de mantenernos informados. Ciertamente la Internet, Tweeter y Facebook y otros medios sociales, han añadido una nueva dimensión a la manera en que nos comunicamos.

El blog que está leyendo forma parte de esa nueva esa dimensión. Cuando empecé a escribir para Greenversations hace mas de un año me encontraba un poco nerviosa. Poco a poco le tomé el gusto ya que los blogs son ensayos cortos que expresan una perspectiva personal. Le dan un toque humano a la escritura y permiten desarrollar empatía entre el autor y el lector.

Recientemente leí un blog de comunicación social de la Jefa de Información de GSA sobre social media . En dicho discurso ella enfatiza cómo el gobierno ha cambiado la forma en la que interactúa con sus constituyentes mediante los blogs y cómo estos constituyen un nuevo espacio para la discusión pública de asuntos importantes. Por otra parte hace varios meses leía en un boletín de comunicación en crisis al que estoy suscrita de cómo los blogs afectan la manera en la que los comunicadores respondemos a una crisis. El blog nos permite acercarnos al público, mantenernos accesibles, a la vez que informamos . Estos medios proveen las herramientas para lograr conexión con el público en un momento de crisis. Le invito a que lea nuestro Greenversation o Gov Gab en USA.gov o GobiernoUSA.gov Es nuestra manera de estar cerca de nuestro publico.

Sobre la autor: Brenda Reyes Tomassini se unió a la EPA en el 2002. Labora como especialista de relaciones públicas en la oficina de EPA en San Juan, Puerto Rico donde también maneja asuntos comunitarios para la División de Protección Ambiental del Caribe.

Editor's Note: The views expressed here are intended to explain EPA policy. They do not change anyone's rights or obligations. You may share this post. However, please do not change the title or the content, or remove EPA’s identity as the author. If you do make substantive changes, please do not attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.

EPA's official web site is www.epa.gov. Some links on this page may redirect users from the EPA website to specific content on a non-EPA, third-party site. In doing so, EPA is directing you only to the specific content referenced at the time of publication, not to any other content that may appear on the same webpage or elsewhere on the third-party site, or be added at a later date.

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Fire in the Sky: Emergency Response

A loud thump woke me up. I looked at my startled husband as he yelled, “Let’s go get the kids.” I stood as our concrete house shook, and grabbed an iron post from the bed to keep my stance. “An earthquake,” I mustered as we exited our room and noticed the hour:12:25 a.m. In the hallway, my eldest daughter hugged me while asking what was going on. Fortunately, our youngest children did not wake up. In our dining room, the window screens were on the floor and the chandelier was swinging from side to side. My brother-in-law phoned to say there was fire in the sky. My immediate thoughts were about an airplane accident. I opened our dining room side door to find the sky changing colors from red to orange to violet. We looked for a radio and soon learned the cause of such chaos: fire at the Caribbean Petroleum (CAPECO) tank farm less than a mile from our home.

image of fire at petroleum plantWhat was a long awaited weekend all year long – we were holding our Halloween party – turned into an emergency response for me. Within ten minutes of the explosion, I called our Response and Remediation Branch Chief who in turn called the National Response Center.

As a public affairs specialist in the San Juan office of EPA, I had dealt with minor emergencies; this, however, was a real environmental threat since various drums containing jet fuel, Bunker C, diesel and other petroleum derivatives were on fire. The CAPECO facility is located on Road #28 in an area that encompasses three towns: Guaynabo, Bayamon and Cataño and is next to Fort Buchanan, a large military base. The San Juan Bay is two miles away and wetlands and minor water bodies are nearby. The reason this emergency hit home is because, aside from living nearby the facility, I drive down this very same road at 5 am to go to the gym at Fort Buchanan. The tanks are visible from the road.

The first few hours were frantic as federal, state and municipal agencies tried to contain the fire and activate all emergency protocols to ensure the citizens in this largely populated area were not affected. An Incident Command Center was established within 18 hours at a sports facility in San Juan, and we were deployed to work. The media and citizens needed accurate information. We worked hard to provide it.

I must say I have learned more from this experience than I have before in my seven years at EPA. While the fire is out, now the real work begins. I will keep you posted.

About the author: Brenda Reyes Tomassini joined EPA in 2002. She is a public affairs specialist in the San Juan, Puerto Rico office and also handles community relations for the Caribbean Environmental Protection Division.

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