By Aimee Cabrera, Payroll Specialist, Payroll Services
One thing you can say for certain: There will be wildfires in the San Diego region. And once or twice a decade, we get what some people call firestorms or “firenadoes.” This can happen when the Santa Ana winds blow wildly out of the desert, temperatures reach 90-100 degrees and humidity drops to near nothing. Several fires start at once, roar into major conflagrations and race toward neighborhoods. That’s when things get edgy around here.
Firestorms can have a big impact on businesses, not just from the unsettling sight of giant columns of smoke rising into the air and sometimes a rain of ash and a stench of smoke, but because team members get worried about their families. Schools often are closed, too, and parents may suddenly have no place for their kids.
So, during the most recent firestorm, AMN responded quickly. “It was easy to decide what actions to take,” said Lisa Larson, Senior Director of HR Operations. The first of at least eight fires sparked on a Tuesday morning. By that afternoon, AMN’s leadership teams were connecting hourly to review contingency plans and assess needs. A water bottle station was setup inside our building entrance and CAMP AMN was created to provide childcare (staffed by volunteer employees gathered within 30 minutes). Email updates provided employees with information about the fires, weather/traffic conditions, school closures, areas affected, evacuations, and useful links to emergency and preparedness websites.
On Wednesday morning, the fires were raging. AMN’s building wasn’t immediately threatened, but team members, who live all over the county, all felt the burden. When people arrived at work that morning, Danny Hans, Senior Director of Facilities, greeted them with water bottles. Danny’s neighborhood had been evacuated as fire closed in, but the gracious responses he received from team members, who were glad to know the company was thinking about them, helped boost his spirits while his home was under threat. When I came to work, worried just like everybody else, this simple gesture of being given a water bottle and a smile warmed my heart.
One positive about the fires was that there were a lot fewer meetings for a couple of days as CAMP AMN took over most of the meeting rooms, with ages grouped together. There were a lot of activities and some movies watched on Thursday and Friday, and the company even provided the lunches, snacks, and drinks. Jennifer Rader, who worked through the fires along with our Payroll Team, said, “…CAMP AMN allowed me to do my job knowing that my kids were taken care of and having fun. I am so impressed about how quickly this effort came together, and it was a big help to a lot of people.”
The firestorm of 2014 was a bad one – 65 homes destroyed. But there have been worse, and there probably will be again in the future. California’s drought continues, and besides, fire is a natural occurrence in our brush-covered, hilly terrain. Fortunately, AMN now knows what to do to maintain team engagement and customer service in the face of a natural disaster that we know will happen again.