Standing Firm in the Face of Disaster

By Rhonda Rathje Sep. 01, 2016

When the rains came, four associates refused to leave their distribution center.  

“They stood firm,” says Kevin Arbaugh, General Manager, Distribution Center (DC) #6057 in Hammond, Louisiana. “I told them to leave the building. ‘We know what we have to do. We’re volunteering to do this,’ they told me.”  (Hammond is approximately 45 miles southeast of Baton Rouge – and that entire area was under water).

It was Friday night, Aug. 12.  “We had absolute downpours of rain. We were receiving reports the roads were being closed and overtaken by water,” Kevin recalls. “So we filled the most important commodities – meat and produce.”

The roads worsened as the night progressed. By early Saturday, the roads surrounding the DC became unsurpassable. “We had one way out of the building,” says Kevin. “And that one way started to go. It went from no water to 2 ½ feet of water in 15 minutes.”

Staffing decreased to about 25 associates as associates left to take care of their families and homes.

Evacuation was necessary.

The Four Who Stayed Behind to Help. 

Yet, four associates raised their hands after already working eight-hour shifts. They knew they would be locked in with no way out. Each one volunteered for a ‘post.’

Ed Allen, Maintenance Operations Manager, and Steve Holcomb, Energy Center Manager, monitored  the energy center to ensure the DC remained functional – ensuring the generators worked when the power did eventually stop.

“If they hadn’t stayed, we would have lost several million dollars’ worth of freight,” Kevin notes.

Christie Smith, Area Manager, secured the front of the building. She also communicated with the DC associates to ensure they made it home safely and to help find hotel accommodations for others.

Tyron Tillis, Asset Protection (AP) Associate, ran point on security and watched over 20 stranded truck drivers. (This just in: Tryon was just promoted to AP Area Manager).

And, when the National Guard came knocking in the middle of the night, they provided provisions for victims stranded on Interstate 12 and local shelters.

"A selfless act."

It was thirty hours later – about mid-day Sunday – before the water receded and DC leadership could get through the water and back to work.

Heroic is the word that Kevin uses to describe Ed, Steve, Christie and Tyron.  “They knew they would be trapped in the building. Their actions are humbling, and it was a selfless act.  They did it for the betterment of the community and for those drivers.”

Slowly, the DC is getting back to the work of ensuring the delivery of groceries to stores and Sam’s Club in the region. In addition, about 50 truckloads of food, water and supplies have been delivered to Baton Rouge and other local organizations. Also, the DC has supported volunteers who have cooked and served almost 300,000 meals to the flood victims and volunteers during the past few weeks.

Rebuilding, together. 

And, yet, up to 200 DC associates were personally affected – nearly 100 associates lost their homes; another 100 have partial losses.  When the DC workers complete their shifts, they help each other. Associates, whose homes aren’t affected, volunteer to run shifts so that others can start their rebuilding efforts. 

“I’m blessed to be a part of this team,” Kevin concludes.  “Their values are in the right place.  They take care of the community and each other.”

Photo, L – R: Ed Allen, Maintenance Operations Manager; Steve Holcombe, Energy Center Manager; Christie Smith, Receiving Manager: and Tyron Tillis, Asset Protection Manager.

 

 


Meet The Author
Rhonda Rathje Director, Walmart Internal Communications

Rhonda's favorite exhibit, the interesting returns customers have brought in over the years, is just one example in the museum of the fact that the customer is always number one at Walmart.