As Hurricane Maria approached Puerto Rico in September, 2017, Wovenware, an artificial intelligence and software company, was on deadline with customers outside the island. “This put us in a challenging position very fast,” explained Carlos Melendez, COO. It wasn’t his customers’ fault that the company would be affected by the storm, so delivering the product had to be a top priority.

The immediate aftermath

The first challenge came before the storm struck the island. Wovenware lost power. Melendez moved to another facility with power and delivered the software before the storm. However, there were still customers depending on support and product delivery. “Post-storm, our priority was to communicate with customers,” he said.

There are stages to hurricane response. On the day the storm hits, there is nothing you can do but wait it out. In the immediate aftermath, your focus is your family and community. On the third day, Melendez was able to access a working phone and was able to contact his customers with regular updates. “You have to over-communicate with customers and let them know what’s happening.”

Take care of employees, too

But it was also important to take care of the employees who had no food, no water and no gas to come to work. Melendez arranged to have some of his employees work onsite at the customers’ facilities off the island. He used Wovenware’s facility as a base for his staff, a place where they could get water deliveries and cash advances.

On the day the storm hits, there is nothing you can do but wait it out. In the immediate aftermath, your focus is your family and community.

Giving back

Knowing his employees were okay, Melendez reached out to his neighbors. He works with a non-profit called ConPRmetidos that helped small businesses survive the storm. The organization bought generators and distributed them to restaurants and stores to provide power, giving these businesses the ability to stay open.

“You gain nothing if others fail,” Melendez said. “It’s important to cooperate and help each other rather than compete.”