Dr. Sara Belligoni, a Postdoctoral Scholar with the Puerto Rico Research Hub, participated as a delegate of the Association of State Floodplain Managers (ASFPM) to the International Flood and Resilience Dialogue Expedition (FREDx) in Puerto Rico from March 4th to March 7th of 2024. The initiative was promoted by the ASFPM International Committee and hosted at the Polytechnic University of Puerto Rico and the Puerto Rico Science Technology and Research Trust in San Juan.

Dr. Belligoni thinks about the experience as one of the most meaningful and insightful she had over the course of her career. Dr. Belligoni is grateful for the opportunity to have engaged in conversations with several stakeholders in Puerto Rico who share the goal of strengthening flood risk management on the island. The goal of the initiative was, indeed, to expose the ASFPM delegation to flood management policies and practices in Puerto Rico to discuss differences and similarities while fostering connections to create a network of flood risk management professionals across the continental U.S. and Puerto Rico. After several conversations, the network has been established to share scientific knowledge and foster both research and best practices. 

Dr. Belligoni has particularly appreciated the opportunity to attend presentations at the nexus of flood risk communication and emergency management. The opportunity to discuss how a changing climate is affecting the periodicity and magnitude of extreme weather events is central to Dr. Belligoni’s research. Thus, she found profoundly insightful learning more from experts in Puerto Rico, conducting research and/or working in floodplain management, from, among others, the University of Puerto Rico (UPR) at Mayaguez, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) Region 2, the Puerto Rico Sea Grant, the Caribbean Center for Rising Seas (CCRS) at the Puerto Rico Science Technology and Research Trust, and the Institute for Building Technology and Safety.

Dr. Belligoni enjoyed the technical field visits, including the one in Barceloneta where officials from the municipality discussed the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers levee project which proved to be effective in protecting the town from flooding during Hurricane Fiona in 2022. Also, she found extremely interesting the visit to Salinas where the ASFPM delegation visited the community center at La Margarita, devoted to supporting the neighborhood while promoting photovoltaic systems and batteries through outreach and installations.

Dr. Belligoni says, “Research and science are only effective when we go on the ground and co-produce knowledge and best practices with those working in flood risk management every day. The FREDx initiative creates a unique platform where social and physical scientists, researchers and practitioners, and a variety of other stakeholders from the government to community-based organizations, come together and share experiences and knowledge about a topic that is also everyone’s goal: strengthening flood risk management. We do not always agree with each other, flood risk management is a very complex phenomenon and matters of equity are still aiming the discussion around it. It takes all of us sitting at the same table to improve the way we prepare and respond to extreme flooding events. FREDx is not an initiative like many others where ideas stay as such. FREDx is an initiative with a concrete impact on the personal and professional lives of all participants. It enriches us as people and as experts, because it brings us closer to the ‘problem’ we dedicate our profession to and gives us a hands-on experience that ultimately enriches us as members of society. What we started last week represents the first step of something that in the long-term will hopefully increase the number of certified floodplain managers in Puerto Rico and which will contribute to the protection of a delicate yet diverse ecosystem like the one of the island.”

Dr. Belligoni wants to thank Dr. Francisco F. Peña Guerra, ASFPM International Committee Co-Chair and David Powers, ASFPM POD Facilitator, for the invitation and leadership in such an enlightening experience. She very much look forward to continue contributing to the FREDx initiative and engaging within both ASFPM and the International Committee.








Posted March 12, 2024