A Halifax resident who developed a software program to help with the federal disaster relief process is in Puerto Rico managing the relief effort there.
Christina Moore got into disaster relief management out of necessity.
After Tropical Storm Irene devastated the Windham County town of Halifax, where she lives, Moore discovered there wasn't any computer software that helped communities manage the mountains of paperwork that follow disasters.
Moore has been working in the computer programming field most of her adult life, but she says in the days following Tropical Storm Irene she didn't immediately see a need to start writing code.
"Like so many other people who go through a natural disaster, my focus was on my own life, and my neighbors' and my community," she says.
But then the rebuilding started.
And while FEMA did its part to help, there were plenty of people in Halifax who had questions and anxiety over navigating the federal bureaucracy.
"It wasn't until probably a year later that I understood that there were no other tools out there that supported these kind of functions," she says. "Applicants were basically left to their own devices in following these very complicated federal rules."
So a few years after Irene, Moore released her software program that guides individuals and communities through the federal grant process.
The program identifies when there are pieces missing, and it makes sure that applications are complete when they hit the desks at FEMA. Ultimately, she says, the program helps disaster relief gets into the hands of the people who need it, as quickly as possible.
"There's a secondary disaster that follows these things where lives are not devastated by the rain and the destruction of buildings and property, but they're devastated by the financial fallout," Moore says. "And so if Puerto Rico doesn't manage the federal dollars very well, they are at risk of having the U.S. federal government take some of this money back, and our tools prevent that secondary disaster."
Moore has been in San Juan for a few weeks.
She says the island was hit hard by Hurricane Maria, and so she's eager to do what she can to help.
"Everything has destruction on it," she says. "Every tree top and every palm top is just removed. Wires are down everywhere. There's debris everywhere. The new buildings weathered the storm terrifically well, but those that were more than a couple of decades old, they have no windows. They have no roofs."
Moore's company, Storm Petrel, will be managing 100 percent of the federal disaster recovery grants.
When she's in the U.S. Moore still works out of her office in Halifax, though she has programmers working for her around the northeast.
She says the work in Puerto Rico will probably take five years, and she's hiring three new computer programmers to help out.