Strengthening Emergency Preparation & Management in the La Goyco Community

Project Sponsor: Taller Comunidad La Goyco

Team Members: Melissa Hasbrouck, Jenna Marcinkowski, Jordan Brown, and Karl Schletzbaum

Project Advisors: Dr. Grant Burrier & Scott Jiusto

Project Files:


This project aimed to strengthen Machuchal community resilience through a natural disaster response program. Located in Santurce, Puerto Rico, the Machuchal community is home to Taller Comunidad La Goyco, a rescued school turned community center that embodies a passion for culture and unity. In collaboration with La Goyco, our team developed pre and post-disaster resiliency plans including a wellness program, an emergency inventory system, internal operational guides, and community engagement materials. Strategic disaster planning is essential for an island facing increased risks due to climate change. La Goyco’s initiative, set to benefit an estimated 3000 residents, fosters thoughtful organization, community perspectives, readiness, and lasting partnerships during crises.


Executive Summary:


In the heart of bustling Calle Loíza stands Taller Comunidad La Goyco, a vibrant, community center, embodying the rich culture and colors of the area. Thriving small businesses surround La Goyco, forming a lively hub cherished by the entire community. Within La Goyco, the hardworking staff are always brainstorming, hosting events, and performing hands-on work in the pursuit of expanding cultural and community inclusion as well as social justice. Born from the tragedy of Hurricane Maria, La Goyco is leading community resilience efforts for the Machuchal area. The island’s geographical location in Hurricane Alley makes it more susceptible to frequent and severe storms, often resulting in widespread devastation. Puerto Rico has seen an increasing number of powerful hurricanes, with Hurricane Maria alone costing an estimated $113.4 billion in damages. Given escalating impacts, hurricane preparedness and relief are increasingly pressing issues for residents and community leaders. With insufficient efforts from both the government and external organizations, La Goyco has taken on the responsibility of forming a community-led disaster response program. Our team collaboratively developed “La Respuesta Comunitaria Ante Desastres,” or Community Disaster Response, a program establishing pre and post-hurricane procedures and systems for La Goyco and Machuchal residents. 

Figure 1. Map of the Machuchal Community that Taller Comunidad  La Goyco serves


Mission, Objectives, & Methods

The program strives to strengthen emergency management and planning for La Goyco’s resilience center. Providing resources such as an inventory for emergency supplies, community wellness checks, and coordinated volunteer efforts, La Goyco’s resilience hub aims to bring a sense of solidarity and togetherness to the Machuchal Community in times of need. Our objectives in developing this program included: 

  1. Develop a Resilience Hub, incorporating emergency inventory management systems, and supply distribution procedures. 
  2. Develop a community wellness program in which La Goyco can evaluate potential household risk factors pre-disaster and conduct follow-up wellness checks post-disaster, prioritizing households with the most vulnerability.
  3. Create an operational disaster preparedness plan, including defined volunteer roles and teams, pre and post-disaster management guides for the resilience hub, and supplemental training materials. 
  4. Form community engagement materials, including posters, brochures, and social media content to inform residents on household natural disaster preparedness.    

In developing these goals, our team engaged in archival and ethnographic research as well as conducting interviews with community leaders. Our collaborative efforts with La Goyco directors and employees allowed us to incorporate community perspectives, and cater our program to fit the unique goals and requirements of the community. 

Results, Findings, & Analysis

Working with Taller Comunidad La Goyco, our team formed relationships with numerous hardworking and dedicated employees and volunteers, all passionate about community-based natural disaster preparedness. Our sponsor meetings were supplemented by the meaningful interactions we had with other community members. Working in the repurposed classrooms of the rescued school allowed us to form a deeper understanding of the essence of the community. This deeper understanding fueled our passion for the project, empowering us to create enduring and reflective products.


Finding 1: Preparatory Work Strengthens Community Assurance:

Throughout our Interactive Qualifying Project, we learned invaluable information regarding Puerto Rico’s rich history, culture, and other information associated with our project. We studied previous natural disaster responses in Puerto Rico, emergency management and organization, and resilience centers, while collecting data and working on community mapping exercises. This data provided us with valuable insights into our collaborations with La Goyco and became essential information for our emergency preparation and response plan. Natural disasters are unpredictable and present the potential for widespread devastation, which highlights the critical need for proactive planning and preparedness efforts. These efforts, when effectively implemented, equip communities with the necessary tools and knowledge to mitigate risks, reduce impacts, and save valuable time before disaster strikes. Consequently, residents gain increased confidence and assurance, fostering a sense of neighborly support both before and after disasters.

Finding 2: Community Input Drives Better Planning:

Throughout working with La Goyco and the Machuchal Community, the value of incorporating community perspectives as plans are developed emerged as a crucial step in formulating thoughtful plans. Proposals formed by the community, for the community, are a way to ensure plans and designs will have a positive impact on the people they intend to serve. 

This lesson became apparent to our group after attending a community discussion around the redevelopment of Calle Loíza, the road on which La Goyco is located. Today, Calle Loíza is home to thriving small businesses, with a historic, neighborhood feel. Filled with color and culture, Calle Loíza somehow balances the excitement of a bustling city with the calmness and intimacy of a small town, catering to community members of all ages. Upon arrival at the meeting, community members were greeted by government-contracted engineers tasked with designing the refurbishment of Calle Loíza. As the presentation began, designs of an unrecognizable Calle Loíza filled the screen. As the meeting neared completion, community members were shocked to see that design finalization would occur that same month, without ever having input from community perspectives. Many individuals voiced distrust towards the plan, explaining that the core concept was not representative of community needs, but rather catering to tourists and mainland investors. Due to the short timeline, community perspectives and ideas were deficiently considered, reinforcing feelings of neglect and dismay.

Witnessing the dynamic between the presenters and the audience of community members served as a valuable lesson for our group. Embracing ideas formed with lived experience makes plans and proposals more authentic and purposeful. With each of our deliverables, we consulted the community, speaking to Goyco employees, volunteers, and affiliates. Each step of the way an effort was made to carefully consider the vision of those who the plan was being created for. 


Figure 2. Collaborative Emergency Preparedness Efforts were undertaken with La Goyco 


Finding 3: Organization and Maintenance Brings Efficiency to Disaster Relief

Through talking with our liaisons, they stressed the importance of order and organization when dealing with natural disasters. Mariana Reyes, executive director of La Goyco, expressed that if there is no existing plan or organization, there will be a lack of clarity among both employees and residents regarding the proper protocols. Having a well-structured plan is essential for a quick and efficient disaster response. These themes became prevalent as we began our emergency supply efforts. As we took an inventory of La Goyco’s resilience hub, we discovered a cluttered environment with miscellaneous items that had remained unused for years. In one sponsor meeting, we emphasized the value of an organized inventory in helping to prepare for natural disasters, prompting our creation of a more methodological emergency supply system. 

We identified the need for a simple way to keep track of items in their inventory that would allow for more organization and preparation, consciously choosing programs with accessibility and familiarity in mind. Before and after natural disasters, maintaining storage and orderly distribution will be crucial to mitigating chaos.

Finding 4: Partnerships Forge a Comprehensive Network of Resources

Upon entering La Goyco, an undeniable sense of resiliency and empowerment is prevalent. Our experience with La Goyco revealed that their strength as a united entity comes from the unique backgrounds and past experiences of its members and affiliates. Their resourcefulness and success can largely be attributed to this diverse network. These employees and volunteers can lead teams in their field of knowledge. La Goyco has also developed strong connections externally, even hosting Vice President Kamala Harris during her visit to Puerto Rico, elevating their standing as a community workshop. 

Bettering the community requires the collective efforts of many individuals. La Goyco recognizes this notion and exemplifies it by extending their partnerships and utilizing all available resources. La Goyco’s resourcefulness reflects their resilience and creativity, contributing to their continued progress within the community. These actions are vital in the face of natural disasters when community togetherness and support are crucial. La Goyco has integrated this approach into their daily operations, enhancing their efficiency in disaster relief efforts.


Outcomes, Conclusions, & Recommendations

The many invaluable lessons and insights discovered throughout our work with La Goyco shaped the development of our final deliverables. Focusing on organization and sustainability, our team’s goals were to create final products to aid La Goyco in a way that considers programs, strengths, and limitations unique to their organization. 

These deliverables began with an understanding and development of their emergency supplies and inventory system. We explored La Goyco’s inventory, noting all current supplies. 

With a deep understanding of La Goyco’s mission and goals, we created a Google Sheets and forms-based system for inventory management, prioritizing efficiency, ease of use, and conciseness. Based on their current inventory, we developed a comprehensive list of supplies for potential future emergency investments and a user manual for the system.

Another aspect of La Goyco’s resilience hub is the organization of emergency volunteer teams. Our team worked on defining clear volunteer roles needed in the event of an emergency. In collaboration with La Goyco, it was found that many of La Goyco’s resilience volunteers function as an emergency response team, conducting post-disaster wellness checks on individuals. To enhance this process, our team created a community wellness program using Google Forms, Sheets, and MyMaps. Pre-disaster resident enrollment will allow La Goyco to identify households with higher medical or structural risks, facilitating post-disaster prioritization based on household vulnerability. The program launch will allow La Goyco to ensure the safety of upwards of 3000 residents. 

To encompass our project developments and programs, we compiled our efforts into a comprehensive La Goyco Emergency Operational Plan for La Goyco’s employees and volunteers. This Google Document-based guide includes pre- and post-disaster checklists for La Goyco’s resilience hub operations. Additionally, this guide details post-disaster volunteer opportunities and teams, the inventory system, and the wellness program. Training materials are also incorporated throughout the document for user convenience. 

Lately, to capture the community engagement aspects of La Goyco’s mission, we developed the Machuchal Community Disaster Preparedness Plan. This distributable guide provides a comprehensive set of pre-, during, and post-disaster procedures for individuals and households. To ensure the information is distributed to as many people as possible, relevant posters, brochures, and social media formats were created in Canva. 

In our final considerations, we prioritized comfort and accessibility. We converted materials into different formats to ensure accessibility, including paper versions in case of internet connection loss. We also produced English and Spanish versions of all deliverables to address the area’s language diversity. 

Reflecting on our time in San Juan, we were inspired by La Goyco’s passion for fostering community unity. The opportunity to collaborate with so many dedicated employees has impacted our lives in the best ways. We are confident that “Respuesta Comunitaria Ante Desastres” will positively impact the Machuchal Community, advancing toward a more prosperous and united future.