With the supply chain just beginning to loosen and 90 percent of Puerto Rico still without power more than 2 weeks after Hurricane Maria, Prent Corp. officials put a disaster relief plan into action for its 40 employees coping with little food and no electricity.
The staff at the headquarters of the Janesville, Wis.-based medical thermoformer packed the corporate jet with pallets of non-perishable goods and as many generators as they could, and found a pilot to make the delivery on Sept. 29.
They did this again and again on Sept. 30 and Oct. 1, making sure everyone who works at the Yauco site got food and a generator as well as power cords, tarps, rope, water purification tablets and collapsible buckets to carry water home from work if they had no other source.
Prent's precast concrete manufacturing plant was not damaged from the Category 4 storm that cut a path of destruction through the center of the island on Sept. 20. The 40 employees seem to have escaped physical harm for the most part. However, their houses were damaged, they were scrambling for food, and they were spending nights in the dark.
Prent CEO Joseph Pregont said in a phone interview that something had to be done for the employees.
“Our people in Puerto Rico had already organized a relief effort for [Hurricane] Irma,” Pregont said. “Then, all of a sudden, they're taking cover.”
Puerto Rico escaped the full impact of Irma, which skirted the island Sept. 6 and took down trees and power lines. Then Maria blew through two weeks later, causing $95 billion of hurricane-related damage, according to Moody's Analytics.
As of Oct. 4, cell service had been restored to 12 percent of the island, 65 percent of grocery stores and 70 percent of gas stations are open again and banking services were being restored, according to the Federal Emergency Response Agency (FEMA).
Prent officials said they were on pins and needles for a nerve-racking week trying to communicate with colleagues in Puerto Rico. Finally they got a text message from a Yauco site manager saying the factory and employees were fine but without power and supplies.