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Retailers Respond with Major Rescue Efforts in the Wake of the Hurricane Disaster

The 2017 Atlantic hurricane season has been a disastrous one. Hurricane Harvey slammed into Texas as a Category 4 storm on August 24. One of the wettest tropical storms on record, Harvey continued to douse the Lone Star state and parts of Louisiana with a devastating amount of rainfall over the next several days, causing severe flooding. According to the New York Times, rainfall topped over 50 inches in some areas.

Among the destructive effects caused by the raging floodwaters included serious environmental and health risks and the very real possibility of electrocution. At least 71 people died because of Harvey, and efforts to help survivors put their lives back together are ongoing. (Find out how you can help.)

But the nightmare hadn’t ended yet—we were hit again earlier this week.

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Hurricane Irma started by ravaging the islands of the Caribbean, killing at least 27 before making its way to the West Coast of Florida and prompting one of the largest evacuations in US history. Now, days later, residents are slowly returning to their homes. But parts of these regions are still flooded, and millions are still without power. The massive amounts of damage will likely take months to clean up. (Find out how you can help.)

In the aftermath of these terrible events, however, the retail community has responded in a big way. Among those responses:

  • Walmart has committed $30 million towards relief and recovery efforts and has partnered with the American Red Cross.
  • Lowe’s has committed at least $2 million in total contributions to support disaster recovery efforts for both Hurricane Harvey and Hurricane Irma.
  • The Home Depot has been working through its Disaster Response Command Center to support impacted communities and has pledged $2 million in aid for nonprofit organizations.
  • DICK’S Sporting Goods has committed $5.5 million in donations to communities impacted by both hurricanes.
  • Walgreens has committed a $200,000 donation to Red Cross relief efforts.
  • Kohl’s donated $1 million to the American Red Cross.
  • The Rite Aid Foundation has given a $100,000 donation to the American Red Cross to aid in relief efforts.
  • Rent-A-Center has launched a GoFundMe account, the RAC Coworker Harvey Relief Project, to raise money for employees and their families, as well as a clothing and food drive for shelters in the Dallas-Fort Worth area.
  • H-E-B, a Texas grocery chain, sent hundreds of employees to help reopen and replenish stores during the fallout from Harvey.
  • CVS Health and the CVS Health Foundation have given $200,000 in cash and product donations to organizations helping with relief efforts.
  • FMI has created resource pages for food retailers that want to help in the response efforts for Hurricane Harvey and Hurricane Irma.
  • RILA has spotlighted a list of member retailers providing donations, food, shelter, and emergency relief.

These are just a few of the major efforts put forth by the retailer community. These retailers and many more are giving cash and resources to those in need and setting up ways for customers to donate in their stores.

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Hopefully, the hurricane season is winding down. But it never hurts to refresh your memory. Below are basic minimum steps to be sure your stores, as well as your homes, are prepared for hurricane disaster season:

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  • Review all crisis communications guidelines as they realty to hurricanes and major storms.
  • Be sure all contact information is up to date and that store management maintains a personal copy away from the store.
  • Be sure all stores have a basic disaster supply kit including flashlights, batteries, first aid supplies and a battery and/or hand-crank radio. These basics apply to potentially affected residences as well.
  • Most communities and malls have text or email alerting systems for emergency notification. Be sure your store management is aware of crisis communication alert protocols for their area.

The following are specific crisis management protocols for when a hurricane is actually on the way:

  • Advise store personnel to fill their vehicles’ gas tanks. Availability of gasoline has been a major issue in recent weeks.
  • Assign someone at corporate and in potentially affected stores to monitor broadcasts as to the hurricane’s progress.
  • Coordinate any potential store closures with mall and corporate management.
  • Be sure all stores are familiar with shutoffs for gas, water and/or electricity. Sometimes this is a mall issue, but sometimes it is not. Be sure employees know this information for their homes as well.
  • Review all evacuation procedures.
  • Move merchandise away from glass windows.
  • Elevate merchandise, at least to pallet height.
  • Secure all cash registers, safes and cash rooms
  • Be sure all cell phones are 100 percent charged. Text messaging was the only means of communication immediately after Hurricane Katrina.
  • Follow evacuation orders given by local police or fire authorities. No heroes—if ordered to do so, get out. Communicate plans to corporate.

Below are some post-storm crisis management guidelines:

  • Check on all store personnel regarding their well-being.
  • Return to the store (home) only when safe and allowed by authorities.
  • Inspect and document damage. Take pictures. Report damage to corporate following company guidelines.
  • Coordinate facility repair needs with mall and corporate officials.
  • Document all costs and expenses.
  • Familiarize yourself with all corporate communications guidelines to be followed if contacted by the media.

It’s true that hurricanes usually affect Gulf Coast and eastern seaboard locations. However, it is critical that all loss prevention professionals be familiar with corporate crisis management guidelines and emergency response plans as they relate to hurricanes. You never know when you will be called in to help.

This post was originally published in 2016 and was updated September 14, 2017. 

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