PUERTO RICO - A year after Hurricane Maria struck Puerto Rico, the Puerto Rico National Guard, along with federal and state agencies and National Guards from other states, gathered at Fort Buchanan in Guaynabo, Puerto Rico, Sept. 18-19 to coordinate and prepare details for the "Vigilant Guard 2019" exercise in March of next year.

During the meeting, personnel from FEMA, the Puerto Rico Emergency Management Agency, the Department of Health, Puerto Rico Fire and Police Departments, and members of United States Northern Command and the National Guard Bureau divided into working groups to establish methods and procedures to implement, depending on the situation to address during the emergency.

For the purpose of this planning meeting, an exercise was presented with a scenario similar to the one that Puerto Rico experienced last year with Hurricane Maria. In this case, a category five hurricane crosses the Island with approximate winds of 155 mph, leaving 30 inches of rain in its path and causing catastrophic damage to the Island's infrastructure and communications.

"The purpose of the exercise next year is to measure the capability of state and federal agencies to effectively respond to an emergency, with the support of National Guards from other states as well," said the Adjutant General of Puerto Rico, Brig. Gen. Isabelo Rivera. He adds that "with MarĂ­a we confronted many situations during our response to the emergency, but this did not stop us from performing our mission. This exercise helps us to improve our emergency response strategies."

The Adjutant General explained that the Puerto Rico National Guard is ready to respond to an emergency like Maria, as they have reviewed and updated their work plans, as well as reviewed the essential equipment to be used in any emergency.

This equipment includes engineer, transportation, water purification and fuel distribution among others.

Vigilant Guard is an exercise sponsored by United States Northern Command in conjunction with the National Guard Bureau. The mission of this exercise is to give states and territories the most realistic support of civil defense to civil authorities, exercising all aspects of the response.

This exercise allows joint National Guard operations with agencies at local, state and regional levels, and provides a means to include federal agency involvement. This is accomplished by using scenarios and events where National Guard forces can interact with local, state, and federal agencies. It also allows the planning efforts of civil agencies by incorporating their objectives and activities in the general exercise.