Piñones Preparation, Response, Recovery Project

Our Team: Derek Childs (Architectural Engineering ’23) Jack Fredo (Data Science ’23)

Holly Mason (Industrial Engineering ’23)

Sponsoring Organization: Corporación Piñones Se Integra (COPI)

Advisors: Professor Alex Sphar, Professor Brigitte Servatius

Co-Researchers: Shawn Halliburton-Escalera (COPI), Paola Rolon Diaz (COPI), Angel Bermudez (COPI)

Sponsoring Organization: La Corporación Piñones Se Integra (COPI)

Link to Final Report

Link to Final Presentation

Link to PPRR Pamphlet

Link to PPRR Proposal Document

Our Sponsor:

COPI is a community-based non-profit within Piñones. COPI’s mission is to transform the diversity of populations through education, community economic development, culture, music, and natural resources, achieving culturally, economically, and socially empowered communities. To fulfill its mission, COPI preserves the community’s culture and nature while promoting human, cultural, and ecological rights. They do this by hosting activities, projects, and programs relevant to the Afro-descendant community.


We would like to extend a special thank you to everyone involved in the Piñones Preparation, Response, Recovery Project; our sponsor organization COPI; co-researchers Shawn Halliburton, Paola Rolon Diaz, and Angel Bermudez, organizational leader Giomar Cruz Látimer, and all of the hardworking Piñones residents and community leaders who helped complete this project. The relationships formed during this process have been essential to the growth of the BARA GUABEL program and the PPRR project. We’ve learned valuable skills throughout working with the listed names and will forever be grateful for the time we spent in Puerto Rico working amongst an exceptional group of people.

Project Goal:

Establish connections within the Piñones community, raise awareness for the BARA GUABEL program, and design a cohesive network that informs residents of incoming natural disasters as well as shares information about community events, opportunities, and services available to them.


The Piñones neighborhood in Loíza, Puerto Rico struggles to prepare for frequent natural disasters. Our team worked to improve the BARA GUABEL program, a strategic approach to connect the community and advance their emergency preparation efforts. We improved communication between residents by surveying community members and logging the collected data in a technical mapping database. This helped inform Piñones leadership figures of reported resident amenities, skills, and needs. Piñones currently possesses resources and skills to better prepare for incoming natural disasters. The establishment of new connections and a plan for centralized resources has built a foundation for the community to increase its resilience to natural disasters. 

Executive Summary:

Piñones, a community within the municipality of Loíza, resembles an island within an island. It is separated from the rest of Puerto Rico by three natural barriers: a river, a large mangrove forest, and the Atlantic Ocean. The only way to access Piñones is via a single two-lane road that extends along the coast. The lack of accessibility to Piñones inhibits the flow of both resources and people. Therefore, it is important for Piñones residents to be able to take care of each other in times of emergency. 

In 2021, COPI started the BARA GUABEL program. BARA GUABEL stands for Bringing Awareness to Rural/at Risk Residential Areas Generando Unidad A través de Buenas obras, Educación y Liderazgo, which translates to Generating Unity Through Good Actions, Education and Leadership. The BARA GUABEL program concept was created as a result of expressed concerns from Piñones community members regarding their vulnerability to natural disasters and their inability to reach people in the event of an emergency.

The BARA GUABEL program combats the lack of community preparedness for natural disasters through networking and collaboration. Throughout the seven weeks that our team spent in Puerto Rico, we collaborated with sponsors, co-researchers, and the community to expand the influence of the BARA GUABEL program in Piñones. 

Connecting the Community through the BARA GUABEL Program

We gathered information from the community by walking door to door, holding conversations with residents, and asking them to fill out surveys. The information collected includes technical skills and personal needs that members of the Piñones community may possess or require. The BARA GUABEL program will use this information to help prepare for incoming natural disasters in addition to informing the community about events, opportunities, and services available to them.

Piñones community members exhibited a multitude of strategies by which they rely on the land around them to survive. Between local fruit trees, the capturing of local livestock, and knowledge of medicinal plants in the area, the community demonstrated their deep understanding of self-sufficiency. The community members also demonstrated a wide variety of technical skills and abilities. We found that residents within the community reported having experience in fields such as carpentry, mechanical, electrical, construction, medical, and cooking. The residents we interviewed were willing to provide their skills to fellow community members in times of need. Utilizing the community’s self-sufficiency and technical skills prior to the onset of disasters can reduce their vulnerability to extreme weather events by lessening their reliance on outside resources.

Identifying Strategic Partnerships 

We were able to connect the BARA GUABEL program to the Centro Comunitario Emiliano Figueroa Torres, a vacant school in Piñones that is actively being renovated into a community center. There are eight non-profits working out of Centro Comunitario Emiliano Figueroa Torres. A meeting has been set up with the leaders of all the organizations on May 3rd. At this meeting, our co-researchers will explain BARA GUABEL’s goals and purpose. They will also express how we believe the community center would benefit from a centralized way to promote its events and goals.

Advancing the Technical Mapping System

The technical mapping system contains all the information we collected via our surveys: residents’ locations, the skills they are willing to offer to the program, their needs in times of emergency, and more. There are currently 29 households represented in the technical mapping system, this can be seen on the right: 

This map will be used by community leaders to identify households that have specific needs, desirable skills, and useful amenities. Having a central location storing all of this information will be helpful to leaders when trying to promote what resources the community has available, as well as during emergencies to ensure that the community remains safe.


In the process of completing our project, our team learned that Piñones already possesses the resources, skills, and information to better prepare for natural disasters and everyday emergencies within their community. The missing step that Piñones has not yet accomplished is getting its residents to work together both in times of prosperity and in times of need. If the BARA GUABEL program continues to enhance connections within the Piñones community, Piñones will be able to withstand, adapt, and recover from natural disasters more efficiently.

Recommendations: BARA GUABEL Program

  • Develop a method to regularly update the community on BARA GUABEL’s progress.
    • Facebook or Whatsapp
  • Work with the Centro Comunitario Emiliano Figueroa Torres non-profit groups to create a centralized platform to promote their causes.
  • Request a space at the community center and stock it with emergency supplies.

Recommendations: Piñones Community

  • Reach out to each other in times of prosperity and in times of need.
  • Replace gas-powered generators with solar-powered ones.
  • Understand the importance of supporting each other for the benefit of the community as a whole.

Recommendations: Next IQP Team

  • Continue to survey community members expanding the BARA GUABEL database
  • Establish emergency supply hubs