Twelve months on, the storm and its aftermath are still fresh in local memory. Widespread flood waters damaged or destroyed thousands of homes and businesses, with the rebuild still ongoing for some.
At BP’s Houston headquarters, home to around 4,300 staff, renovations continue on the first floor and basement of the Westlake One building, where some 12 million gallons of water were pumped from the site after the hurricane.
While property damage was extensive, many remember the community’s response as the most remarkable aspect of the disaster. Even before the flood waters subsided, BP employees rallied to help with the recovery. For example, some rescued water-logged neighbors by boat or kayak, while others went house to house to provide physical labor and technical guidance in the clean-up.
“My house flooded during the storm, so I know from firsthand experience the hardships that people had to endure,” says BP America Chairman and President Susan Dio. “The phrase ‘Houston Strong’ really means a lot to me. I was tremendously inspired by how our people came together and how the company supported all of us.”
Despite the catastrophic flooding, work continued as BP teams executed business continuity plans, relocating or working remotely to assure uninterrupted business operations.
BP’s Country Support Team was established in Naperville, Illinois, to coordinate activities during the storm,while the Humanitarian Assistance Team offered guidance to around 900 directly-affected employees.
As for BP’s Houston campus, some 382 tons of debris were removed, and 100 tons of electronics recycled from Westlake One, while the Child Development Center also required repair. That site reopened to families in February, but work at the larger building took several more months.
“The entire area was scrubbed and sanitized and a third party certified that there was no mold,” says Tom Halaska, general manager of Westlake One property management. “Only then could we begin to replace the electrical switchgear and infrastructure that had been damaged.”
By June, nearly all staff were back in Westlake One. The fitness center is set to reopen this fall, while a redesigned and modernized cafeteria will be ready in 2019.
“Looking back a year later,” says Dio, “I’m enormously proud of how our people opened their hearts and homes to colleagues and neighbors. That’s what One Team is all about.”