BP employees volunteer to support Houston’s recovery

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In the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey, BP employees have volunteered in large numbers to help Houston recover and rebuild.

Their efforts have included serving hot meals at shelters, answering phones at emergency call centers, remediating damaged properties, rescuing stranded families, and opening their homes to evacuees, all of which has provided crucial support to those affected by the storm.

“During my visit to Houston this past weekend, I heard amazing stories of courage and compassion,” says BP America Chairman and President John Mingé. “It’s clear that our employees are standing strong with the community.”

The stories below represent just a small sample of how BP employees are contributing to the response:

The head of BP’s Global Wells Organization, Andy Krieger, spent two days helping his water-logged neighbors reach safety. To do so, he kayaked into his flooded neighborhood to get his boat, which he used to pick up individuals and families, including the families of BP retiree Cindi Skelton and BP geologist Simon Thomas.

Krieger and his wife, Kimberly, a vice president of operations for BP’s Lower 48 business, then traveled to College Station, Texas, where they collected humanitarian relief provisions and computer equipment for impacted employees supplied by BP’s East Texas Operations Center.

Other BP employees have provided similar assistance to colleagues and neighbors alike.

Wayne Sutton, a completion and intervention advisor for BP’s Gulf of Mexico business, used his various watercraft and high-water truck to assist with evacuations, obtain damage assessments, and help people safely retrieve vital possessions from their flooded homes.

Chuck Chapman, project services manager for BP’s Global Projects Organization, helped evacuate people using a friend’s boat, drove them to shelters and temporary homes, and helped establish a donation center at his church. He also worked to clean up storm-battered properties.

All across Houston, tens of thousands of homes need serious remediation, and BP employees have swung into action.

One team of employees — led by Hunter Fontenot, a drilling engineer for the Gulf of Mexico business — set up a Facebook group to help plan and organize remediation efforts. Since then, the group has grown to several hundred people, including people from outside the company.

Members of the group have joined together to help their fellow Houstonians clean up flooded homes. Some BP employees have been swinging hammers, ripping out sheetrock, tearing up carpets and hauling water-damaged materials to the curb. Others have been making lunches for the affected homeowners and volunteers.

As Fontenot emphasizes, people have made all sorts of valuable contributions. For example:

Kent Corser, deepwater drilling engineering manager for BP’s Gulf of Mexico business, sent out the initial communication that galvanized employees — directing them to Fontenot’s Facebook group — and since then has helped lead several cleanup efforts.

Carl Mountford, vice president of wells for the Gulf of Mexico business, spread the word among BP’s Houston leadership team — which helped the project grow — and then joined colleagues as they worked to remediate water-logged homes.

Mikel Kendrick, subsea blowout preventer reliability manager for BP’s Rig Engineering team, and much of his team — including Kunal Ashar, Jody Ballard, Trevor Calder, Trent Fleece, Danny Fugate, Jared Mizell, Jim Ness, Eli Nichols, Garett Speed, Gavin Starling and Scott Waters — have gone from house to house providing both physical labor and technical guidance.

Dale Pumphrey, a senior completions engineer for the Gulf of Mexico business, has led teams of worksite volunteers, and he even wrote a procedure to share lessons learned and build know-how.

Chin-yen Chan, a senior drilling engineer for the Gulf of Mexico business, has communicated with affected homeowners to establish a remediation schedule, and also has made sure that volunteers receive the information and supplies they need to do their work.

“This is what working at BP is all about,” says Fontenot. “We’ve built a culture around core values that enable us to get things done by working as a team — whether it’s delivering a major project or helping colleagues and neighbors respond to a disaster. The outpouring of generosity and support we’ve seen in the response to Hurricane Harvey is a direct reflection of BP’s focus on building a values-based culture.”

BP’s Houston team includes a number of volunteer firefighters and other first responders. Two of them are Bruce Gourd, the head of BP’s Security Operations Center, and Randall Kenny, performance director of BP’s Global Operations Organization. Gourd and Kenny serve, respectively, as a lieutenant and a captain with the Community Volunteer Fire Department (CVFD) on Houston’s west side.

From August 26th through August 30th, CVFD firefighters worked with personnel from the U.S. Coast Guard, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), the National Guard and Texas Game Wardens, along with countless private citizens, to evacuate roughly 6,000 to 7,000 people from their homes.
Kenny established an incident command center for the first 24 hours and led an area command for the Grand Lakes and Canyon Gate subdivisions in addition to multiple deployments for rescue operations.

As the storm hit, Gourd was in charge of logistics, which meant he was responsible for calling in additional resources from the National Guard, the Fort Bend County Office of Emergency Management, and FEMA, and then directing them to area command locations.

Initial recovery efforts required Gourd and fellow firefighters to wade through waist-to-chest deep waters to rescue an amputee and his family.

“The areas in Richmond and Katy that were hardest hit by flood waters from the Barker Reservoir were in our district,” says Gourd. “It was a monumental effort by everyone involved.”

Another BP employee who works as a volunteer firefighter is Greg Otto, senior project lead architect for information technology and services (IT&S).

As vice president of the Friendswood Volunteer Fire Department and a lieutenant with the fire division, Otto typically spends five to 10 hours a week responding to calls. Starting on the evening of August 26th, however, he ran 20 consecutive hours of storm-related rescue operations and helped evacuate more than 150 people who were stranded in their cars or homes.

In one case, Otto climbed through a second-story window to rescue a family whose house had flooded. In another case, an elderly woman was trapped in her house and unable to get out of her chair; Otto carried both the woman and the chair to safety.

He is quick to praise local residents for their donations of fuel and other supplies. “The volunteer efforts and the support are just tremendous,” Otto says.

BP has shown its support for Houston’s first responders by donating 100,000 gallons of fuel to their recovery efforts. It also has joined with the BP Foundation to donate a combined $750,000 to the Red Cross, the Community Foundation of Greater Houston and the United Way of Greater Houston. In addition, the BP Foundation is providing a 2-to-1 match for all employee donations to Harvey-related relief organizations.

Meanwhile, BP continues to give its Houston-area employees the immediate assistance they need. As of Thursday, September 7th, more than 300 BP employees in the Houston region had volunteered to house temporarily displaced colleagues.

“There’s been an incredible outpouring of volunteerism,” says Carl Lazear, IT&S director for BP’s marketing and trading business. “An incredible outpouring of people offering to help.”

As Mingé puts it, “This is who we are. We come together. And I have no doubt that, in the tough days to come, we’ll continue to be there for one another as we undertake a long and difficult recovery process.”