USA’s Hurricane Heroes

 The succession of hurricanes that rocked the country in late August and September left a wake of devastation stretching from Texas to Florida. USA Associates in six states were impacted by the storms, from power outages to flooded homes. Overall, more than 7,000 Associates lived and worked in the paths of Hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria. In the face of this devastation, many of our Associates were on the ground creating better outcomes for our clients, their fellow Associates and for others in their community.

Francesco Romano, Houston Operations Manager
Francesco Romano swims through Harvey flood waters.

Houston Operations Manager Francesco Romano went far above the call of duty to help a Security Officer on duty and in need. When Harvey made landfall, storm surges and flooding stranded several Officers at their duty sites. Upon learning one of the stranded Security Officers was on the verge of a diabetic crisis and was without access to vital medication or the allimportant food needed to maintain healthy bloodsugar levels, Romano took matters into his own hands. Undeterred by the flooded and treacherous roadways, Romano retrieved the medicine and swam the final 50 yards across murky and dangerous flood waters to bring the Officer his medication and team stranded there food. Romano returned again several times over the next two days, swimming to and from the site to bring necessities to the those stranded at the post.

Harold Russell, Security Officer
Harold Russell, Security Officer

Security Officer Harold Russell faced the worst of Hurricane Irma for two days alone on duty. When the Category 4 hurricane made landfall in the central Florida area, Russell was on watch a client site in De Leon Springs. Russell selflessly remained on site, taking on a number of extra responsibilities to ensure the facility’s safety and security when co-workers were unable to safely make their shifts because of storm damage. The De Leon Springs site – staffed from the Orlando branch – is a secured facility and requires around- the-clock security Russell made certain that the client’s property was safe and secure throughout Irma’s time in Florida. As the weather deteriorated, he remained vigilant, patrolling when able and reporting any damage he observed. “Harold Russell went above and beyond the call of duty to preserve our client’s livelihood,” USA Site Supervisor Maj. Valerie Withrow said.

John McCracken, Regional Vice President of Operations
Barbara Paciotti, John McCracken, Regional Vice President and John Paciotti

Just a day after Harvey took its toll on the Houston region, Regional Vice President of Operations John McCracken set out in his boat to survey damage to our local offices and client sites. But what began as a reconnaissance mission turned into a rescue operation. Over the course of a day, McCracken ferried 76 people, including 49 children, from the flooded territories to the safety of emergency shelters. He also brought along 11 dogs and 2 cats. This was all before making it home to pluck his own family from a home threatened by rising waters. Once his family was safe, McCracken pulled another four people from the flood waters. McCracken continued to serve our clients through and after the storm, and his resolve inspired family and friends far away from the storm to get involved. His aunt and uncle, John and Barbara Paciotti, own coffee shops in Pennsylvania and were inspired by McCracken’s heroics to lend a helping hand to Harvey relief efforts. For two days, they hosted charity spaghetti and meatball dinners at each of their locations, even selling “Houston Strong” T-shirts to raise funds for hurricane survivors. After just four days, they were able to raise more than $12,000. Arriving in Houston a few days later, they joined McCracken to deliver the money to Harvey impacted Associates and members of the Houston affected community. “More donations are coming in to my uncle’s restaurants every day,” McCracken said. The Houston branch is providing additional support by conducting a clothing drive to collect needed items for hurricane victims. McCracken, his family and the entire Houston branch pooled their efforts to ensure they could continue our mantra to provide the most Safe. Secure. Friendly.® environments to  the clients and communities we serve.

Not All Heroes Wear a Cape
USA’s Florida Emergency Response Team on the ground in Texas after Harvey.

In the days following Harvey’s Category 3 landfall and widespread flooding, our Associates throughout the region saw a need and rose to the occasion to help those most in need. A team of USA Officers from the Tampa and Orlando branches were looking forward to a long Labor Day weekend on the morning of September 2, when they got the call to travel west to Texas to lend aid to Harvey stricken sites. They put their lives on hold and 10 hours later Tampa Senior Operations Manager John Sigona and his team – Joe Russo, Anthony Harris,Clement Osafo, Walton Subryan, Bart Thompson, Glorioso Legaspio, and Orlando Security Officers Christopher Jerome and William Barden – were on the ground in Houston, helping their Texas counterparts rebuild following the storm. Their contributions to recovery efforts in the Houston area included covering client refinery sites in Beaumont and relieving Officers at other sites. The team remained in Texas for a week and were able to get back home in advance of Irma’s landfall. Beaumont Operations Manager David Fruge called the Florida contingent “heroes,” and said they were vital to helping his team manage after the storm. “That Florida crew? They were wonderful,” Fruge said. “Thanks to that emergency Harvey crew for being there for us and for the company. Without them, it would have been very difficult to get positions manned out at the site.” Todd Zimbeck, a Houston Business Development Manager, led a church group to help families affected by Harvey. In the evenings following the storm, Zimbeck went to various homes to remove wet sheetrock, cabinets, flooring, carpets, and other materials so that families could begin to rebuild. Zimbeck also volunteered to help collect donations that were dropped at his church for the ongoing relief effort. Business Development Manager Adrian Jackson went to Houston’s storm shelter at NRG Center to volunteer his time distributing supplies and processing incoming individuals seeking support. The Beaumont team, shouldering their own burden of Harvey’s brunt, had a number of their own heroes reaching out and helping wherever and however they were able. Branch Manager Charles Jones and Assistant Site Manager Michael Pinney lost their homes to the flooding from Harvey. But both men doubled down on leading their team and protecting the oil facility that was under a mandatory emergency shutdown. Fruge said Jones was out in the field getting Officers to their posts, even when the hurricane was at its worst. And Pinney, he said, remained at the site around the clock making sure that every position was covered … even if it meant covering the positions himself. “It’s hard to realize what they’re going through but still putting the company first,” Fruge said of his fellow Associates.

No Room at the Inn? No Problem.

In Deerfield Beach, FL, USA Security Officer Godfrey Smith was on duty at a hotel client site when more than 80 Florida Power & Light technicians working to restore power to the area arrived seeking lodging after lengthy shifts. The hotel had no rooms that were ready and available, however. Hotel officials applauded Smith’s eagerness to do whatever was needed to help accommodate the new arrivals, from making beds in rooms and retrieving fresh linen to delivering items to rooms as needed or setting up roll-away beds. “The Officer took the initiative and began pulling together places for those technicians to get some rest,” Fort Lauderdale Branch Manager Herbert Morency said. “And he just did whatever was needed.”

Darren Brooks, who works for USA client Shintec, had this to say about the team serving during Harvey:

“I want to thank USA for their performance during Hurricane Harvey. The storm brought heavy rain, high winds, and flooding to our area. During this time, USA, kept all security posts manned. The employees from USA were strong in their resolve to perform their duties. The USA team, led by Mike Hurn, was organized and well managed through the entire event. Even when faced with diminished manpower due to the storm’s impact, USA found ways to accomplish their mission with a calm and measured approach. I am proud of each person who served during this time. Their performance and dedication to duty reflects great credit upon themselves and USA.”

 

The Aftermath

Irma’s aftermath transporting Officers to sites and filling in shifts as needed. He even traveled several hours north of his branch to retrieve an RV, then delivered another three hours west of the branch to accommodate Officers without access to hotels. David Kahn, Chief Human Resources Officer for USA, said, “I’m proud to be on the team with the great group in Florida and Texas. Great job to Hank (Henry) Hiday, Larry Price, Eric Glasgow, and the Branch Managers, Ops Managers, Site Managers and Officers for doing exceptional work under tough circumstances.” Richard L. Wyckoff, President and CEO, said, “I am overwhelmed by the dedication and resilience of our Associates. As the stories of loss and devastation from Hurricanes Irma and Harvey continue to pour in, I am heartbroken for our team and our clients who have lost so much. At the heart of our company is our mission to provide better Pictured: Lorenzo Moreira, Supervisor with the RV used to transport Officers to client sites during Irma’s aftermath. outcomes for the people and communities we serve and these stories of our Associates who rise above personal tragedy to do heroic work is humbling. It brings me a great sense of pride to know our people are banding together in the face of this tragedy to ensure the safety of all people.”

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