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When Hurricane Maria hit Puerto Rico in 2017, it knocked out power to most of the island. Without electricity, many fire stations could not receive emergency calls or charge equipment.

So to prevent the problem in the future, a nonprofit called Solar Responders is helping install solar and battery storage at fire stations across the island.

These systems help the stations continue operating and providing critical community services, even when the electric grid goes down.

“People depend on us and rely on us to come here to charge batteries for their medical equipment, for oxygen machines. They can also use our refrigerator to store medicine,” says firefighter Luis Saez.

His station in Guánica received solar panels and battery storage several months ago. And he says the system proved itself during a recent blackout.

“Our station never went without power, so that’s something that we were really happy with” Saez says.

So far, Solar Responders has helped install renewable energy on about a fifth of the fire stations in Puerto Rico. And the group’s work continues — so future blackouts do not delay the work of first responders.

Reporting credit: ChavoBart Digital Media