Wal-Mart's Emergency Plan Shines During Hurricane Katrina Disaster
Many businesses across the U.S. and the world are working as agents of benefit following the crisis created by Hurricane Katrina by developing vital solutions to help hurricane victims begin to repair their economic and personal lives.(See The Center for B·A·W·B website at http://worldbenefit.case.edu/resources/katrina.cfm)
The Wall Street Journal (9/12/05, page B1) suggested FEMA could learn some things from Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. about emergency management and preparation. On August 24th, when Katrina was re-classified to a storm from a tropical depression, Wal-Mart’s director of business continuity, Jason Jackson, began working around the clock to prepare for a disaster. Jackson, who holds an undergraduate degree in emergency management and a masters degree in security management, was specifically hired by the company to run Wal-Mart’s efforts to provide supplies and revive sales in areas hit by hurricanes, tornadoes or floods.
Twenty-four hours before the storm actually made landfall on the Gulf Coast, Jackson had ordered Wal-Mart warehouses to deliver a variety of emergency supplies, from generators to dry ice to bottled water, to designated staging areas so the company stores would be able to reopen quickly. Katrina knocked out Wal-Mart’s computerized system for automatically updating store inventory levels, so Jackson fielded phone calls from stores about what they needed and ordered a replenishment team to reorder essential products, such as mops and bleach.
One day after the storm hit Wal-Mart trucks were on the road with police escorts driving 40 generators and tons of dry ice to its 126 stores and two distribution centers across the Gulf more than half of which lost power. Four days after the storm all but 15 of those stores had reopened in Louisiana and Mississippi, with Wal-Mart consistently beating FEMA by days in getting trucks filled with emergency supplies to relief workers and citizens in need.
Wal-Mart, like many big retailers, has its own fleet of trucks and a specific protocol for responding to disasters. It activates an emergency command center days before a disaster to coordinate an immediate response. Even as Jackson continued to reroute trucks and take calls for emergency supplies after Katrina struck he was monitoring a growing storm off the coast of Japan and keeping track of Hurricane Ophelia off the coast of Florida.
Wal-Mart also donated $3 million in basic supplies and, two days after the hurricane hit, provided rescue workers with flashlights, batteries, meals ready to eat, protective gear and ammunition.