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PICAYUNE PEOPLE: Pat Moore a pioneer in disaster recovery planning

Pat Moore

Pat Moore of Marble Falls was a pioneer in the field of disaster recovery planning. Staff photo by Suzanne Freeman

Pat Moore was in the middle of giving a seminar on pre-disaster recovery planningat a hotelin Washington, D.C., when a participant’s pager went off and he quietly slipped out of the room. 

As she was putting away the slide projector at the end of the session, Moore, who was director of BMS Catastrophe Inc.’s Disaster Recovery Division, discovered that just a few blocks away, L’Enfant Plaza was on fire. It was 1984, and, at the time, the 10-story building was headquarters for the U.S. Postal Service. The disaster highlighted the need for what she was teaching: how to prepare for disaster recovery before it strikes. 

Now retired with her two Great Pyrenees rescue dogs in Marble Falls, Moore recalled what it was like not only to be the first woman in management hired by BMS Catastrophe but to then convince the company to add pre-disaster preparation to its post-disaster cleanup services.

“I understand why (the insurance companies) need your services, but the people who are suffering the losses need your services, too,” she told her soon-to-be boss during her job interview. “It’s a natural fit. Call on the people who suffer the losses rather than just calling on the insurance companies.”

She was allowed to put her theories into practice but was still required to meet her quota of insurance sales calls. After 13 successful years with BMS, she was hired away by Strohl Systems, which wanted to expand its own reach into this growing field.  

That field officially became Continuity of Operations Planning, or COOP, after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. But until then, Moore was laying the groundwork worldwide one disaster at a time. 

After the fire at L’Enfant Plaza, the demand for her seminars grew. They went from a three-hour presentation to three-day workshops. 

“I spent the next 10 to 12 years of my career traveling all over the world lecturing on how to build these plans,” she said. “I lectured in Stockholm for banks, in London for Lloyd’s of London, and Zurich Insurance Company in Switzerland.” 

She was teaching companies and communities how to stay in business after a disaster. Companies were already storing data off site but had minimal plans for how to deal with clients, supply chains, or employee responsibilities in the wake of major floods, hurricanes, fires, hazardous materials exposure, or attacks — any type of business interruption, including pandemics. 

When asked about that term — continuity planning — Moore explained it this way. 

“Take any business and look at all its critical operations,” she said. “Now, lose them in a fire. Where do your customers go? Where are all the schedules? Services? What happened to all the information sitting on people’s desks inside that business? What do you do next? Who does what when?”

Pat Moore at BMS Catastrophe
The Christmas photo for BMS Catastrophe Inc. the first year Pat Moore worked for the company. She was the first woman hired in management, although if you look closely, you will find a second woman in the photo who was an associate. Courtesy photo

When she went to work for Strohl Systems, which had developed Living Disaster Recovery Planning Systems software, she helped the company take it to the next level. 

Moore’s lectures and seminars came into play in some of the nation’s biggest disasters, including theFirst Interstate Bank fire in downtown Los Angeles in 1988 and the Meridian Plaza fire in Philadelphia in 1991. When the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City was bombed in 1995, she was one of the first people called to help deal with the aftermath.

The disaster recovery program she taught also proved essential when the World Trade Center buildings were attacked on 9/11.

“I had trained a majority of those insurance companies in those towers,” she said. “I, along with so many people, lost so many business associates and friends and clients that day.” 

Before 9/11, theNational Fire Protection Association Technical Committee asked her to assist in developing The 1600 Standard, which expanded the scope of national guidelines for disaster preparedness. 

Her work with NFPA and the Federal Emergency Management Agency netted her the Outstanding National Business Person of the Year Award at FEMA’s Project Impact Summit in 1999. That same year, she was one of the first disaster recovery professionals inducted into the newly formed Planning Management Hall of Fame.

Following those achievements, she received a letter of congratulations from then-U.S. Rep. Curt Weldon of Pennsylvania’s 7th congressional district.

“Your work in pioneering the development of business impact analysis software and providing the world with critical prevention and recovery information is an invaluable part of (advancing America’s preparedness),” Weldon wrote. 

“That meant a lot to me,” Moore said.  

She keeps the letter in a frame.

Different letters — the kind that follow her name on a business card — rival those of a medical specialist in several fields. Moore is a FCBCI, CBCP, CDRP, and CERT. They all stand for a different speciality in disaster recovery. Since her retirement, she has added CASA to the list, marking her time as a Court Appointed Special Advocate for foster children, just one of many volunteer positions she has held.

“Anything to do with children and animals, I love,” she said. 

She helped start Living Love Animal Rescue of Marble Falls and volunteers for other rescue groups. Locally, she taught “Play it Safe” at the Hill Country Children’s Advocacy Center in Burnet, has served on the Highland Lakes Family Crisis Center advisory board, was president of the Highland Lakes Volunteer Organizations Active in Disasters, and was a member of the first Burnet County Community Emergency Response Team under Emergency Management Director Jim Barho.

Although the industry has now moved from slideshow projectors lugged through airports by one petite woman on a mission to an international concern steeped in new technology, Moore still knows her material. She continues to write articles on business continuity, crisis management, and disaster resilience.

“I’m still available to provide training and educational programs on becoming more disaster resilient before a disaster occurs,” she said.

Years ago, she came up with a slogan for what she does: Pre-loss planning for post-loss recovery. Now, that’s a disaster success story. 

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