Superstorm Sandy brought millions of business operations to a halt. Not FedEx however, which stayed up and running through the storm, largely by outlining a contingency plan, anticipating infrastructure outages and planning for the worst.  Quartz interviewed FedEx spokesman Scott Fiedler, who explained how the company kept its trucks rolling.

1. Advance Prep

FedEx knows about any serious incoming storm long before it hits, thanks to a team of 14 in-house meteorologists. According Fiedler, the company started preparing two weeks before Sandy hit.

“For example, we didn’t know if this storm was going to go to Florida. We prepare folks all the way up from the Florida Keys all the way up the coast through Boston. It missed Florida, and it missed kind of the Outer Banks there, and then it took a hard left into Atlantic City. So everyone was prepared all the way up and down the coast.

The company first briefs its employees on emergency procedures, then focuses on preparing and securing its facilities for loss of power, flooding and other damages.

2. Establish Call Chains and Communication

Communication is key post disaster. After the storm has passed, FedEx’s management and leadership reach out to their teams to assess any damage and to determine how to get operations moving again. Fiedler says the company supplies relief like ice, food, and water to people on the ground so they can begin work. They also post continual updates and messages to its employees on everything from transportation to safety. During Hurricane Katrina:

“We brought people in on a volunteer basis to run routes, live out of trailers, and keep the business running, keep the logistics going that way.”

4. Have a Separate Plan for Every Location

Not all FedEx operations and locations require the same attention. In order to get back to business, FedEx pays careful attention to the needs of each location, Fiedler says. Imposing one blanket contingency plan on every region not only doesn’t make sense, it wastes resources that should be directed toward the worst-hit areas.

“…In Philly, you’re going to start operating a little differently than you will in Allentown, because of the type of business, the size of the city, the number of routes. Each operations plan is going to be slightly different, so the number of employees that you would need to start the business back up, get back out on the road, picking up and delivering will change.”

5. Improvise and Work Around Road Blocks

FedEx doesn’t let closed airports or flooded roads stop operations — they work around them and have alternate solutions until they can resume normalcy. As infrastructure regains functionality, “we start layering service back in,” Fiedler says. As for the current situation in New York City:

“We’re not so worried about the airports just opening now, because we have been moving volume up via truck because the roads, the highways were open and passable, and you hold volume outside, or customer shipments outside, the affected area so you can truck them in…”

Read the full article on Quartz.

ABOUT Tiffany Kaiser

Avatar photoTiffany is a tech journalist turned full stack developer who's passionate about the design of a site, the code I write and the people I'm writing it for. I can OO JavaScript, style a sidebar and query a database while upholding that human element needed to communicate with team members and clients.