Posted by: Mark Cooper, Senior Director, Walmart Global Emergency Management
When it comes to severe weather, you never know when a thunderstorm may spawn into a deadly, destructive tornado. Considering Walmart serves more than 140 million customers in more than 4,000 U.S. locations on a weekly basis, it’s safe to say we’ve seen our fair share of bad weather.
Because of our size and scale, we cover a lot of territory and ride out a lot of storms with our fellow Americans. When there’s a weather warning, there’s usually a Walmart or Sam’s Club not too far in the distance. That’s why it’s extremely critical for us to ensure our stores and club associates know what to do when it comes to emergency preparedness and response.
As part of our commitment to emergency preparedness, our stores and clubs are set up to receive a phone call notification as soon as the National Weather Service issues a severe thunderstorm warning or a tornado watch/warning. When this happens, stores are expected to take immediate action to implement their severe weather safety plan.
It’s not only important to implement the plan, but it’s also important to review the plan on a regular basis. Case in point: About a month before the EF-5 tornado hit Joplin in May 2011, our store manager had decided to review his store’s safety plan. Andy Martin, Store Manager, and his team reviewed the store’s layout and determined the back of the store was the safest place to be in the event of a tornado. Then, he made sure that each and every associate knew how to execute the plan.
Andy was off from work the day the storm hit, but his associates knew what to do. They ran the plan. They alerted customers to huddle in the back of the store which was pre-determined as the safe zone. Their quick actions in working the plan ultimately helped to save more than 200 lives.
We take safety into account in everything we do. That includes identifying safe zones for every facility we have. Because locations vary, what is an appropriate safe zone for one store may not be appropriate for another. For example, we realize that the designated zone for Joplin, MO may not be the designated zone for every store. More importantly, we realize severe weather is unpredictable so we focus our energy on preparing our associates. By providing them with safety protocols and enabling them to develop an emergency plan for work and home, we’re helping them to be ready for the unexpected.
During National Severe Weather Preparedness Week, we encourage you to put together an emergency plan for your family and your business. Whether you are facing severe weather, a fire in your home, a utility outage in your workplace, or any other emergency, developing a preparedness plan will make you, your family and your employees more resilient. Walmart hopes you will take action by pledging to prepare for the unexpected at work and at home.