Andy Leaders, VP Provider Services
Owens & Minor
Q; What preparations did you take in the days leading up to landfall on Sept. 10?
Andy Leaders: Preparation for Hurricane Irma started Monday 9/4 with first landfall in the Florida Keys Sunday, Sept. 10. Preparations were truly a team effort in conjunction with our provider partners. Our focus the beginning of that week was to work with our provider partners in getting incremental supplies picked, packed, and shipped prior to landfall. For the most part, this included providing 48–72 hours of daily use supplies to prepare for the possibility of travel delays due to wind speeds and road closures due to Irma.
In addition, the entire O&M team put a lot of work in preparing themselves and their families for Irma. This was critical to ensure the safety of our teammates, but also so that we would be in a position to service our providers once we were able to resume work post-landfall.
The team put in a tremendous amount of work to expedite products into the state of Florida prior to the storm all the way up till Saturday, Sept. 5. Starting Wednesday evening and going through the weekend, we were still focusing on getting supplies to our provider partners, but work started to shift to our preparedness in the response of Irma. This included working with our manufacturer partners to divert shipments into our Atlanta facility. This allowed us to get replenishment product into our three distribution centers more quickly.
We also compiled pallets of water for teammate and provider use, along with extra batteries and other essentials. And, we facilitated the leasing of an all-purpose military delivery vehicle and an amphibious “duck boat.” We planned ahead to secure help for our DCs, which included lodging arrangements and additional tractor-trailers for the anticipated increase in delivery needs post Irma. At the end of the week, a lot of work was put in by both O&M and providers to cope with the relocation of patients within the state. We obtained a number of last-minute supplies that we needed for critically ill patients who were transferred into larger healthcare entities better equipped to handle these patients during Irma. This led to several unplanned deliveries on Saturday, Sept. 9.
My hat goes off to all O&M teammates and our supply chain teams of our providers for making these accommodations in the face of the imminent landfall of the hurricane. The O&M operations, IT and home office support teams did all they could to help us and supported us throughout the storm.
Q: How did you/your provider customers fare during the storm itself?
A: In total, the majority of our customers fared very well. Hospitals were forced to use backup power, some experienced flooding, and all of them experienced long work days by clinicians and supply chain teams across the state of Florida.
Q: What were your greatest challenges (and those of your customers) in the 7-10 days following the storm?
A: Inventory recovery was our major challenge. This was partly due to the path of the storm, which put a moratorium on inbound shipping into the state for quite a few days. We were fortunate that— through pre-planning and diverting inbound freight—we were able to mitigate many of these issues for our provider partners.
Q: Longer-term problems or challenges?
A: Even after the storm, we continued to see power outages in isolated areas, and a few of our teammates suffered major structural damage during the storm. I feel that we are all fortunate that there was much more time to plan and prepare for this storm. Improvement in meteorology forecasting is helping to save lives.
Q: Finally, any lessons learned to share with your colleagues?
A: Having a plan prior to storm like Irma puts all parties in a better situation. Open and honest communication leads to improved outcomes. Last, but not least, remain flexible, as even the best laid plans do not capture all scenarios.