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Technology “First Responders” Play Essential Role Following Hurricanes
When first responders, businesses and homeowners can’t access emergency supplies like tarps, generators and chainsaws following a hurricane like Hurricane Laura, the entire recovery effort slows. Communities depend on retailers to reopen quickly, making essential materials available to clean up and recover.
But shops can’t reopen without network connectivity and functioning servers and satellites. For The Home Depot, that’s where a specialized team of technology professionals come in.
John Napper is a systems engineer senior manager leading a team of 60 Technology Field Captains across the country. He is responsible for re-establishing connectivity in stores impacted by disaster and getting equipment back online.
“We go into the store as a technology first responder to make sure we can open the store back up and support the community,” says John.
His goal is to get the store open and operational within a matter of hours. But besides assessing the damage after a hurricane, his team also anticipates a store’s needs beforehand.
“When we know a hurricane is coming, we get things prepared,” John says. “In some cases, we partner with our Technology Deployment Center to have a truck ready with equipment to replace every piece in the store, if needed.”
Technology Field Captain Manager Matt Foos and his team are some of the technology first responders who rely on that loaded truck to make repairs in-store. In 2018, that meant fixing the massive damage caused by category four storm Hurricane Michael.
“The entire technology room was soaked,” Matt recalls. He’d responded to store 6303 in Panama City, Florida. The damage was so severe that the building couldn’t reopen safely for several days. “The ceiling was so wet, it was crumbling.”
Jim McKenzie is another such expert, working as a global technology field captain with more than 20 years of experience. “You’d see people standing out in line in front of a store, hoping it’s going to open,” he says, specifically remembering Puerto Rico after Hurricane Maria. “We’d show up and associates would say, ‘Oh good, you guys are here to help us!’ We just use our experience.”
“We always want to leave the store knowing they can open,” Matt agrees. “We want to help get customers through the door so they can rebuild. That’s our warm and fuzzy.”