Puerto Rico’s recovery from Hurricane María continues with FEMA’s obligation of over $7.6 million for the Forensic Science Institute, known as the ICF in Spanish. This grant will cover work to repair damage to the only expert research center of its kind on the island and aims to improve the building’s capabilities in future events.
The federal award also includes funding for the acquisition of new, specialized scientific equipment used by the ICF in its research, to replace those damaged by the hurricane. Similarly, the million-dollar amount serves as reimbursement for the costs incurred by the Institute to restore this equipment.
“FEMA’s efforts on the island encompass several sectors, including those related to the safety of its citizens. Our team recognizes the impact of being part of the recovery of the Forensic Science Institute to strengthen the rendering of its expert analyses, on which Puerto Rico depends,” said Federal Disaster Recovery Coordinator for Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands, Alex Amparo.
Among the initial work already completed is the replacement of gas chromatography processing machines and flame ionization detector, nitrogen generators and other specialized equipment to analyze scientific evidence.
This grant will also make other improvements possible, such as in the administrative offices and autopsy rooms, as well as in the toxicology, histopathology, controlled substances and forensic anthropology laboratories. Other areas that will benefit from the allocation are the evidence receiving and storage rooms, the ballistics office and pathology offices.
“This obligation impacts the Institute in a very positive way because after the hurricane there were leaks on the roof, and important scientific equipment can be damaged. The repair of the roof ensures that the equipment with which we perform chemical and DNA analysis, for example, is not damaged and that the computer servers are not damaged,” said Dr. Maria Conte, Commissioner of the Forensic Science Bureau.
On the other hand, about $1.7 million of the grant is earmarked for improvements that will provide greater resilience to the physical plant of this institute that is dedicated to scientific and forensic examination and analysis. Mitigation measures such as the installation of a waterproofing membrane on the roof, the installation of electric light poles around the building, improvements to the drainage systems and the installation of storm-resistant windows will help strengthen the building, which was built in 1992.
“The Bureau, as part of the Department of Public Safety, is a critical and fundamental component in Puerto Rico both in emergencies and in security matters. In addition, it is crucial in the analysis and storage of evidence in cases brought before the courts. This obligation to carry out reconstruction projects will certainly have a positive impact on the Bureau, which needs support for its improvements and optimal operation. Both the FEMA and COR3 teams will continue to work closely with the sub-recipients so that the reconstruction projects that the island needs so much can obtain the obligation of money from the federal entity and their respective reimbursements,” said the Executive Director of the Central Office for Recovery, Reconstruction, and Resilience (COR3), Ottmar Chavez.
The ICF consists of three divisions specializing in medical-legal and toxicological analysis, forensic investigation and crime labs. To date, nearly $9.3 million has been obligated to the Institute between emergency work and permanent work as a result of Hurricane María.
FEMA continues working alongside the Government of Puerto Rico and COR3 to strategize the island’s recovery projects. So far, nearly $7.2 billion has been approved for Puerto Rico under FEMA’s Public Assistance program.