For those still trying to contact family in Puerto Rico following Hurricane Maria’s devastation, the territory’s administration cautions people to be patient as the search continues for survivors. They warn that the storm decimated the island, leaving large areas without electricity, running water, and reliable means of communication; the island’s 1,600 cellphone towers are almost entirely non-operational. Officials recommend anyone trying to locate family members try the following steps.

Contact Municipality Authorities

Those attempting to discover the status of their family members in the island territory should first try contacting municipality authorities for the area where their missing loved ones last were. These offices have more up-to-date information on their regions than the national authorities.

Contact Disaster Relief Team:

Provide your contact information (e.g., email, phone, etc.) and all the details you have about your missing family member(s). This can include last known location, number of family members, contact information for the family, and more. Due to the high volume of inquires, authorities request that individuals sending an email to this account do so only once. They have one exception – if the status of the individual’s family member changes, you may send another email with the updated information.

Call Administration’s Washington D.C. Office

202-800-3133 or 202-778-0710

Contact the office where staff will take the names and numbers of family members in Puerto Rico whose status remains unknown. They will contact the appropriate authorities to determine what each agency knows. Be prepared for long wait times when calling, as the staff fields calls from many other citizens seeking relatives.

Contact The American Red Cross: 800-RED-CROSS (800-733-2767)

The Red Cross stands ready to help family and friends in finding their missing relatives. Their online tool, Safe and Well, is available in both English and Spanish. It connects families disconnected by disaster. People in affected areas can register their status using the tool, thereby allowing families in other locations to keep track of them. The site connects users to their Facebook and Twitter accounts to further facilitate contact.

Other Options

For status updates on the island, call WIPR, Puerto Rico’s Radio Station, at 787-777-0940 or 787-766-0505. You can also follow their Facebook page for more updates or to post questions. The Puerto Rico Tourism Company volunteered its services to help people locate family members who may have been guests. Call 1-877-976-2400 to contact them, however authorities do not consider this an official means of locating missing persons. Officials also recommend PR Informa’s Facebook page as another source of information.

Waiting to discover if loved ones are safe in the aftermath of a hurricane is difficult, but, after such a devastating event, patience is crucial. In the meantime, everyone can help by donating to the relief efforts. To ensure that your money ends up in the hands of those who need it, only deal with reputable relief agencies. Contact the American Red Cross or email for more information on how you can help contribute or volunteer.