UPSers Provide On-Demand Relief in Wake of Hurricane Isaac
Tuesday night, August 28, exactly seven years to the day after Hurricane Katrina flooded New Orleans and battered a broad swath of the Gulf Coast, Hurricane Isaac crawled ashore at roughly the same spot.
Ray Waguespack, UPS Logistics Action Team coordinator in Louisiana, began serious emergency management preparations as soon as Isaac rounded the Florida Keys as a tropical storm and headed north, gathering strength over warm Gulf of Mexico waters.
Coordinating with authorities, Ray oversaw preparatory efforts, he says, by “a whole handful of UPS drivers,” along with Tulane University volunteers for the American Red Cross of Southeast Louisiana, UPS Freight personnel, and other volunteers.
Ray’s team sorted and loaded 2,500 cots, 50,000 packaged relief meals and 38 pallets of water, then moved these in advance of the high winds and torrential rain to predetermined staging areas. The supplies will be available to displaced people after the storm.
Isaac may not have packed the destructive winds of Katrina, but it posed special problems.
The storm came to a virtual stall once it struck the coast. Wind gusts and rain (up to 25 inches forecast) persisted all Tuesday night and Wednesday as the storm crept northward at 8 mph. Metro New Orleans avoided the massive flooding it suffered during Katrina, but the elements knocked out power, blocked roads, and made operations temporarily impossible for all but emergency vehicles.
Wednesday a wash … literally
Ray, like other UPSers, waited out the storm together with his family at his own home. He says he and his wife spent a fitful Tuesday night checking the property for downed trees or wires before he jumped on a 7:15 a.m. Wednesday UPS conference call.
He spent the rest of a rainy day on the phone coordinating post-storm logistics with UPS supervisors, and personally calling to check the status of other UPSers.
Ray and his team will mobilize once the slow-moving Isaac no longer poses a danger. (The National Weather Service downgraded Isaac on Wednesday to a tropical storm.) As needed, UPS will deliver relief supplies and support via a carefully prepared network, providing Red Cross, other relief agencies, New Orleans, and stricken areas elsewhere with resources to get citizens back to normal as soon as possible.
Credit the carefully coordinated relief network to Katrina. After that storm, UPS sought better ways to partner with Red Cross.
“We wanted to fully honor our community involvement value,” says Ray. A UPS senior manager joined the board of Red Cross as the company reached out to various city offices and community action people, like the fire chief and others, who could help UPS stand up its network and support disaster relief efforts when needed.
“We wanted to make sure we’d have a logistics network to help with disaster recovery and to serve our customers in an expeditious way,” Ray says.
In January 2011, the UPS Foundation established U.S. Red Cross Logistics Action Teams (LATs) to leverage the transportation network, logistics expertise, and far-reaching employee volunteer base for the benefit of the Red Cross during natural disasters and emergencies.
“The donation (for the teams) helped give us legitimacy and reinforce our relationships here,” Ray says. “The UPS Foundation could not have been more generous with us here in New Orleans.”