The People of America's Oil and Natural Gas Indusry

Hurricane Update: Supporting Our Workers During Recovery

Mary Leshper

Mary Schaper
Posted September 7, 2017

The humanitarian effort underway after Hurricane Harvey is showing Americans at their best. Communities across Texas have been battered by storm, with record-setting floods damaging or destroying more than 300,000 homes in the southeast part of the state. In Houston, home to 2.3 million people, the challenges of recovery are proving to be quite unique.

As families in one of the nation’s biggest corporate hubs began the arduous process of rebuilding, many have been able to turn to their employers for assistance. Energy companies have set up stations for employees to pick up emergency supplies, they’ve sent work crews to rip out drywall from flooded homes, and they’ve even provided helicopters to deliver water to families when the city of Beaumont’s water service failed.

Occidental Petroleum is housing the more than 400 employees and their families who had to evacuate their homes in hotels and is providing interest-free loans to help employees pay for home repairs. During the storm, Occidental leaders tracked the whereabouts of their nearly 3,000 employees using an app. From the Wall Street Journal:

CEO Vicki Hollub tracked the whereabouts of the roughly 3,000 company employees in the storm’s path using a company app and spreadsheet—and called and texted some herself, along with other company leaders. “I would see names missing,” said Ms. Hollub, adding, “We were trying to make sure we hadn’t missed anybody.” All staff were eventually accounted for.

While Houston’s energy corridor braced for Harvey, some companies kept running during the storm’s chaos. Twenty staff members from Enbridge maintained control room operations to ensure delivery of natural gas to millions of customers from Texas to New England. In the face of 12-hour shifts for seven consecutive days during the storm, the company’s leaders put up those employees in a hotel a block from their offices and provided meals onsite during the assignment. Tom Atkinson, Enbridge’s Houston-based director of gas control:

“We made the decision early on not to put the other half of our group in harm’s way… We wanted there to be no safety issues around going out in the high water, the wind and the rain, and trying to find something to eat when everything was shut down… I’m so proud of these people. They came through like troopers. They couldn’t have done it without each other.”

And even after the storm had passed, Enbridge employees continued to help their neighbors by collecting necessities and delivering them to the American Red Cross:

There have been so many stories of compassion and generosity in communities across the Texas Gulf Coast – including hometown heroes giving back. Stacy Lewis grew up in the Woodlands, just outside of Houston, and still lives in the area. The Marathon Petroleum Corp. sponsored golfer made a promise before her latest tournament – to donate her winnings to Houston’s recovery efforts.

From Golf.com:

"You know, when I said that I had the goal of winning the tournament—you got to get a lot of things right, to go your way," Lewis said standing off the 18th green. "Just what we're going to be able to do, we're going to be able to help rebuild houses and get their homes back. That's more important than anything."

Besides promising her paycheck, she also urged fellow players to provide shoes that she can bring back to Texas for those impacted. Every contribution helps as the recovery continues.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Mary Schaper is a Digital Communications Manager for the American Petroleum Institute. She previously worked on Capitol Hill for the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee as Digital Director and for Senator Lisa Murkowski. Before coming to D.C., she spearheaded digital strategy for Murkowski's successful Senate write-in campaign in 2010. Schaper enjoys traveling and taking in the local culture alongside her husband, their son and loyal springer spaniel.