Prior to Hurricane Ida making landfall on Sunday, August 29th, our team prepped as we would before any storm coming into the Gulf of Mexico. Crews began making their way in from offshore, equipment at our facilities had been picked up out of harm’s way, corporate sent out safety alerts and preparation guidelines to our organization, in addition to team members securing belongings at home and packing up their families to evacuate out of town. Those who traveled out of town worried about their homes, communities, and family members back at home. As Ida began to make its way through Grand Isle, Port Fourchon, and then up Bayou Lafourche, those who stayed feared the strong winds that blew through that day which felt never-ending.
Hurricane Ida Aftermath
The morning after the passing of the storm, our GIS team members assessed their homes and set out to assess nearby facilities only to quickly realize how difficult roads were to pass through with fallen trees and powerlines scattering the streets and highways on top of debris from surrounding homes being torn apart from the constant 140+ mph winds. With no cell service in the impacted areas, it was difficult to reach family members and the team. Due to power outages and no running water to the area, our first plan of action was to assist our personnel that stayed back by either assisting them with supplies or getting them to some of our housing solutions in unaffected regions. With limited access to communicate, we gathered updates from all impacted facilities that were accessible and began reporting out status updates to the team. Those who evacuated began making their way back home to assist if they were able to. However, some were unable to head back due to conditions of their homes being left unlivable from the aftermath along with evacuation mandates in place.
Coming Together as One
During the two weeks following the storm, GIS came together and respond in an immediate fashion. We have seen some of our amazing team members step up, and ensured not only did our operations get back on line but our people were being taken care of as well. Our leadership team played a vital role in jumping on daily calls twice a day to ensure we were aligned and we had coverage in all required areas. We began working to get the connection back up to our servers for connectivity, cleaning up facilities from debris and making repairs as needed to any damages incurred. Generators were brought in to power up our offices and facilities in the lower Lafourche and Lafitte areas.
Many are still without power to this day. With Lafitte being the hardest hit facility with wind and flood damage, we anticipate we will resume operations there around October 1st.
Our E&I Division supported a huge client within the Southeast Louisiana region with the installation and maintenance of generators to businesses, medical facilities, and grocery stores vital for the impacted people in those communities.
Although travel was tough with the limited fuel supply following the storm, some of our employees began to make their way back to work as they were able to, while we continued to work with clients who had to divert crew change locations in other areas while the Galliano and Houma heliports were not accessible.
Mark Pregeant II, GIS CEO
"Roughly 60% of our employees in the affected area have already made it back to work since Ida. Although some of our operations are still working to get back up and running (Port Fourchon and Lafitte, LA), we were able to utilize our people to assist with our clean-up activities. The concerning part as a leader is that while these individuals are desperately needed to help us restore normal operations for the company, we understand that they are also trying to restore their personal lives. Typically, in life we believe we can separate our personal lives from our work lives, but it is impossible to do. These individuals are helping to rebuild our community and our company, but they are doing that with so many other personal issues on their mind. We are doing our best as an organization to ensure we are flexible and caring to our people so that they can balance their recovery."
Putting People First
GIS employs over 2000 people, and we had over 800 employees whose homes are located in the path of Hurricane Ida. Of that total, about 300 people resided in the hardest hit areas within the Southeast Louisiana region. Although with limited cell service, we worked diligently to have our HR team reach out to our personnel to confirm their safety and any immediate supply needs. Our GIS facilities to the West took immediate action the day following the storm and began gathering supplies, including tarps, roofing materials, fuel, and water to deliver down to our Galliano facility. GIS created a Supply Center to assist any of our employees with these critical needs as the majority of the homes in the area experienced roof damages and running water was not accessible for days. We are also very appreciative for the many outside donors who saw our people in need and provided what they could to assist our employees and our communities.
"While the monetary impact is obviously significant, our main concern is the emotional impact that is being endured by all our team members. Each of these individuals have their own story and challenges following the aftermath of Ida – whether it is personal losses, family members losses, etc. You can’t put a value on the mental toll this is taking on our people."
As towns and homes are still without power in many areas, and many restaurants and groceries stores remain closed, we knew we had to do what we can to assist the people within our local communities. GIS partnered with the towns and local churches and have made visits to Lafitte, Grand Isle, and Cut Off serving over 2000 hot lunches with additional locations on the calendar to come.
We are so grateful to see communities coming together, assistance from out of town, and supply stations made available to the public while people are still trying to take care of their families and rebuilding their lives.
Thank You for Supporting Our Helping Hands Foundation
GIS is also thankful for our 501(c)3 non-profit Employee Assistance Fund that was developed earlier this year. The GIS Helping Hands Foundation was initially funded by our very own employees to provide emergency assistance to our employees. While we are so thankful for donations from our employees assisting their own team members, we also want to send a big thank you to those outside of our organization including family, friends, and colleagues who have requested to donate to our Helping Hands Foundation to assist our people.
GIS’s Dedicated Workforce
So many people have stepped up the day following the storm, and took on additional tasks as we continued to do what we could and ensured operations continued on. While our operations team worked to get facilities up and assisted with clients, our support team in the office worked around the clock to ensure payroll was processed, our people were safe, and our remote staff was able to get online. We are so thankful for each and every one of you.
"To all of our employees within the disaster zone – whether they gave the company 1% of their time or 100% of their time the last few weeks – I sincerely appreciate their dedication to ensuring our family makes it past this. I know you all had unique personal challenges to deal with, and you still came in to lend a hand in some form or fashion – a special thank you needs to go out to the teams that stayed back at the logistics center because their efforts accelerated our rebuilding process by a few weeks. And for that, I truly cannot thank you enough. It has been extremely tough to hear some of our team members’ stories and the situations you have been going through. Hopefully as a company we are doing our part to help each one somehow. I am so proud that everyone was so dedicated to help us out with whatever time they had available."
The Culture of the Company Starts from the Top
While our leadership team was vital to the progress we have made as an organization over the past few weeks, we would also like to acknowledge the incredible direction throughout the entire recovery process from our CEO and President, Mark Pregeant II. He was present from day one following the Hurricane aftermath with boots on the ground making sure our personnel were safe, to being involved in all facets of operations and disaster relief efforts, as well as doing whatever he could possibly do for those who faced extreme devastation to their homes. The culture of a company starts from the top. And while this may have already been known to some, it was evident even during the most difficult times when Mark’s character of true leadership was showcased with every single decision made to include Putting our People First. Our organization is truly thankful for his guidance, leadership, and empathy for GIS.