Business & Economy

Vermont company assists Puerto Rico recovery

Christina Moore
Christina Moore, founder of Storm Petrel LLC, works in her Halifax office. Moore says the company, which makes software to assist local governments with disaster recovery, grew out of a need she saw in the wake of Tropical Storm Irene in August 2011. Photo by Mike Faher/VTDigger

(This story was updated Oct. 11 at 6 p.m. with further comments.)

HALIFAX – A software company born in the wake of Tropical Storm Irene is now playing a key role in Puerto Rico’s recovery from Hurricane Maria.

Halifax-based Storm Petrel LLC, which assists governments with post-disaster financial management, has landed a contract to aid Puerto Rican authorities as they begin recovering from a Category 4 storm that devastated the island last month.

It’s a large-scale, high-profile application for Storm Petrel’s software, which was designed to help communities navigate through complex federal funding regulations.

“The commonwealth of Puerto Rico is using our software for managing all of the (Federal Emergency Management Agency) grants now, and they will be using it for the other disaster-response grants that follow,” Storm Petrel founder Christina Moore said.

As founder of Halifax EMS and a member of the town’s emergency operations center, Moore was deeply involved in the response to Irene in August 2011. She applied that expertise the next year, when she traveled to New York City to help with Hurricane Sandy recovery.

Moore said southern Vermont and in New York didn’t have the tools to handle federal disaster funding requirements. In response, she launched Storm Petrel, a software development company that helps small governments navigate the Federal Emergency Management Agency funding process.

The tool she developed, called Tempest-GEMS, is grant management software with a “significant focus on regulatory compliance.” It is designed, Moore said, to “assist from the moment the disaster hits and for the decade that follows, guiding communities through successful grant close-out processes.”

Moore’s business is part of a comprehensive, tri-state green economy project called the Ecovation Hub.

Storm Petrel now will be put to the test in Puerto Rico, where the company is serving as a subcontractor to the Alexandria, Virginia-based DCMC Partners. DCMC bills itself as a “crisis management and public safety consulting firm,” and the company has a contract with the Puerto Rican government.

Barry Scanlon, a DCMC co-founder, said his company “couldn’t be more pleased” with Storm Petrel’s contributions so far.

Moore “has been a great member of the team, and I think her work ultimately will help the people of Puerto Rico recover,” Scanlon said.

That recovery, however, is a long-term process. That’s especially true when it comes to Storm Petrel’s specialty – the realm of disaster funding management and federal reimbursement.

“This is data that will literally be used for years and years,” Scanlon said.

This isn’t the first time the two companies have worked together: Moore said DCMC has been a Storm Petrel customer and uses the company’s software tools.

“With that existing relationship, we were a natural choice for partnering with them for these disasters,” she said.

This year’s hurricane season has brought one disaster after another. Hurricane Maria made landfall in Puerto Rico on Sept. 20, with winds in excess of 150 mph.

The deadly storm caused severe flooding and wreaked havoc on the U.S. territory’s infrastructure. Many essential services including electricity, telecommunications, transportation and health care are still severely damaged several weeks after the storm.

Corresponding on Tuesday via email from Puerto Rico, Moore described the devastation – “power lines on the ground, debris everywhere, tree tops and palm tops removed.”

She was careful to say she was not serving as an official spokesperson for the situation or for the relief effort. But Moore did say that the now-familiar pictures of destruction in news accounts “can only start to tell the stories that are now commonplace here.”

Moore declined to disclose the amount of her company’s contract in Puerto Rico. But she is expanding her workforce to meet the project’s demands, and Brattleboro Development Credit Corp. is assisting Storm Petrel in recruiting three software-development employees.

It’s a significant growth spurt for a still-young company.

“We were six (employees) including a part-time bookkeeper,” Moore said. “We’ve added three contracted programmers and another staff member last week.”

Moore said it’s not yet clear how much work will require Storm Petrel’s presence on the ground in Puerto Rico.

“A lot of that depends on the state of the infrastructure and demand for housing,” she said. “We can work remotely, and maybe it makes sense for us to ease burdens on the infrastructure. But we’d prefer to be here, if possible.”

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