When it comes to severe weather, Group Assets Protection Team Leader Shawn Abernathy’s teams just can’t catch a break. They staff the Target stores and distribution centers (DCs) located in the southeast corner of the U.S., stretching from the Florida panhandle across Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia and Arkansas that regularly experience some of the most dangerous weather conditions in the country.
“‘Tornado Alley.’ ‘Hurricane Central.’ Call us what you like, we see a lot of storms,” Shawn says. In his time at Target, he’s helped guide store and DC teams through ice storms, tornadoes, tropical storms and more. He was also part of the team that helped prepare for Hurricane Isaac.
Before the storm hit, Shawn and other leaders worked to connect Target teams in affected areas with headquarters and the Corporate Command Center (C3) in order to keep team members and guests safe and help our stores—and the community —prepare for what was ahead.
“The tricky part is that it’s hard to tell exactly where a storm will make landfall,” says Shawn. “So the best we can do is prepare our teams in the path of the storm and be ready to react to change in a moment’s notice.” Through it all, communication was key.
Hurricane Isaac began as a tropical storm headed for Florida, but later shifted its course as it became a full-blown hurricane, veering toward Alabama and Mississippi and finally making landfall in Louisiana. This meant that, at the first signs of the storm, Shawn and his peers began prepping Florida store teams for the impending disaster, and followed along the storm’s predicted path, supporting any additional store teams that could be in danger, finally mobilizing Louisiana store teams in preparation for impact. In each case, they assigned roles and made preparations for all possible outcomes, including ordering extra disaster relief supplies that the community would soon need—like water and ice—from the distribution centers, and putting extra onsite security measures in place in case power was lost.
Once the storm passed, Shawn and his teams worked quickly with the C3 and Target’s Human Resources teams to locate all team members in the area and make sure they were safe and had everything they needed. Then, the team members who were able to return got to work prepping affected stores to reopen as soon as possible, assessing flood damage to the facilities, cleaning up debris, replacing water-damaged products on the shelves and more. Because of the teams’ efforts prepping for the storm, they were able to react quickly and reopen most of the affected stores in just two days, and all within four.
Along the way, team members supported their community too. Before the storm hit, stores in the anticipated impact area opened early so guests could get needed supplies with time to get home and prepare. After it passed, several Louisiana stores, including the team in Kenner, La. (pictured above) handed out free ice to community members, many of whom were without power. And Target donated $150,000 in cash, products and GiftCards to the American Red Cross and other nonprofit organizations in support of recovery efforts.
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