Hurricane Harvey Above and Beyond

By Mike Wallin

Penske Logistics storm stories

Before, during and after Hurricane Harvey, the men and women of Penske Logistics and Cardinal Health worked together to make sure their customers were able to provide patient care. (Penske provides trucks and drivers for Cardinal Health’s Medical segment, and helps optimize hospital delivery routes.) Here are some of their stories.

Forty-five hours in four days

  • Penske Associate Name: Mark Smith
  • Associate Duty Position: Driver
  • Length of Service with Penske: 9 years

On the first day of Hurricane Harvey, Saturday, August 26, Mark Smith volunteered to come to work and assist a fellow driver who had additional hospital deliveries. Mark made emergency deliveries with heavy rain, wind and tornado warnings. He did so because he wanted to assist his fellow teammate. Despite being closed on Sunday, August 27, Cardinal Health had four hospitals in need of critical items. Once again, it was Mark Smith volunteering his services.

As the storm began to subside and the roads became flooded, Mark was part of a team of drivers making deliveries to hospitals that were in dire need. He worked 45 hours over a four-day stretch navigating through the city that had over 400 highway closures. Despite volunteering to once again work on Saturday, September 2, he reluctantly took the day off to take care of his family and home, as flood waters had crept up to his front door. On that day, Mark loaded up his pickup truck with rotisserie chicken, salads and water to provide to those in his neighborhood who were in the process of cleaning up due to major flooding.

Safe passage

  • Penske Associate Name: Jose Flores
  • Associate Duty Position: Driver
  • Length of Service with Penske: 9 years

During the recovery of Hurricane Harvey, Jose Flores was a key resource to Penske Logistics Operations Manager Mike Wallin in both the route planning and execution of delivering emergency medical items to numerous hospitals. When nobody was driving anywhere around the downtown Houston Medical Center, it was Jose who navigated a safe passage in. As a result, they were able to share the only possible route to fellow associates as well as staff at hospitals and health systems in the area.

As the week progressed, Jose received praise from more hospitals he delivered to that were desperate to receive medical supplies and did not think they would see a delivery for several more days. During this recovery stretch, Jose worked an amazing 62 hours offering to do whatever was necessary.

‘Rough band is starting to move’

  • Penske Associate Name: Mark Stubblefield
  • Associate Duty Position: Driver
  • Length of Service with Penske: 8 years

Mark Stubblefield leads the Penske Logistics Safety Team. Never have his skills been needed more than during Harvey. Mark literally worked through the storm. At one point while making a critical delivery, he took safe shelter as tornadoes had been spotted in the area of his destination. During that time, his main concern was making sure a fellow driver, who was in another part of town, was safe and aware, as noted by his text:  “Hey Mike, the rough band is starting to move, I’ve safely parked it for now to ride this one out as I’m not taking any unnecessary risks. I’ve got a great radar app that shows me everything. My tornado experiences in Oklahoma are an invaluable education. I will call you in a few minutes with an update”. He safely made his last two deliveries, but not before it was all clear to do so.

Mark lives the Safety 24 culture of Penske; throughout Harvey he was continually identifying existing and potential hazards to his operations manager and teammates. He played a key role in keeping an open line of communication. This was absolutely essential in the safe execution of deliveries to hospitals in need of critical supplies.

Sheer determination

  • Penske Associate Name: Anthony Monroe
  • Associate Duty Position: Driver
  • Length of Service with Penske: 9 years

Anthony “AC” Monroe has been making deliveries for Cardinal Health for 31 years. His knowledge of every hospital delivery is second to none. As a result, AC relayed the knowledge, and used it to make critical deliveries to locations he had not been to in years.

Come mid-week of the storm, hospitals in the vicinity of Corpus Christi, and the spot where Hurricane Harvey made impact, were in panic mode as their critical medical items were depleted. It was AC who volunteered to make deliveries to hospitals in need due to his personal relationship with them. One hospital had extensive damage, yet still had patients under critical care. The staff was relieved beyond belief when AC arrived. They could not believe the Cardinal Health truck made it. AC safely accomplished this fete because of sheer determination to help those in need of medical attention. He is the living definition of safe, professional, on-time and efficient work.

13 hours instead of 5

  • Penske Associate Name: William Mendez
  • Associate Duty Position: Driver
  • Length of Service with Penske: 9 years

While Houston metro endured disastrous flooding, the Beaumont, Port Arthur area was arguably even more catastrophic. By Thursday, Aug. 31, one hospital had gone six days without a delivery and was in desperate need. There were many critical, life-threatening issues as a result. Cardinal Health was exploring every option, such as a delivery from Hammond, Olive Branch, Grand Prairie, as well as helicopter service.

With Interstate 10 and Highway 90 closed, Houston driver William Mendez volunteered his services and worked with his operations manager on a safe route into Beaumont. The tenured driver is well versed on all roadways in southeast Texas, and despite numerous changes during his trip, William backed into hospital’s dock at 3:01 p.m. He was embraced at the dock by hospital personnel for his heroics. On a normal day, the round trip would take a maximum of five hours; on this day, it took 13. Both representatives from Cardinal Health and Baxter asked to personally shake the hand of the driver who accomplished this amazing fete.

A leader by example

  • Penske Associate Name: Daren Watson
  • Associate Duty Position: Driver
  • Length of Service with Penske: 6 months

Despite being a newcomer to the Penske team, driver Daren Watson has already established himself as a leader by example. On Tuesday, Aug. 29, Daren called his operations manager at 7 a.m., stating that while his neighborhood had extensive damage, he had left his vehicle at a nearby location, thus he would be able to assist with emergency deliveries. His commute to work was more than triple in both miles and time; however, Daren arrived with a big smile, stating he was ready to help.

A hospital in The Woodlands was in need of items imperative for surgery. The problem was that flooding caused closures to I-45, Hardy Toll Road, State Road 105 and 249 North. The team was struggling to find safe passage in, despite The Woodlands being just 16 miles from Cardinal Health. Daren, who lives in The Woodlands area, was essential in mapping out a route. He manned the wheel with a teammate alongside for safety purposes and to keep the line of communication open with his operations manager. While the round-about course took two hours, Daren safely navigated into the hospitals in need.

Daren’s heroics for the Harvey recovery didn’t end there. He was back at it the next three days, even making safe passage into Livingston and Lufkin hospitals!

Mike Wallin is operations manager, Penske Logistics @ Cardinal Health Houston

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