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How Hugo hit Charleston.

HURRICANE HUGO GAVE THE RESidents along the South Carolina coast SOme warning of its Power-the destruction of the US Virgin islands and Puerto Rico. While we watched the television and read the stories of the various islands' problems, little did we understand the total chaos and fear the storm could cause.

As loss prevention director for Robert Bosch Corporation-an automotive products manufacturing facility that distributes worldwide-I was keenly interested in the storm's activity. The following is an account of my experience as a security Professional with Hugo beginning with the week of September 18, 1989.

Monday, September 18, 1989

Today seems like a normal Monday, all of us returning to the office after a weekend. However, the afternoon and evening news reports hint a hurricane may come to Charleston later in the week. I wonder if our emergency plan is ready for a test?


This morning people are concerned about what the storm might do. I schedule a meeting of the maintenance, safety, construction, and utility personnel to discuss how to button down operations. The meeting is geared to the construction personnel since several projects are going on at the I 10-acre site, which has 700,000 sq. ft. of production under roof.

The contractors work four 10-hour days and would have 12 hours to secure their lay-down area, which includes steel beams, piping, and other materials that may be caught up in high wind. A review of the drain ditches that help divert the water indicates the ditches require cleaning - another project for the contractors. Meeting attendees receive a memo on how to create a secure construction site.

At the end of the day I attend a meeting of the Greater Charleston Chapter of ASIS. The subject of the hurricane is reviewed and discussed with input from all members on actions to consider. At 23:00 the hurricane has slowed, and the intensity is decreasing. Apparently, Charleston will dodge the storm.


09:00. Back at the facility the internal group meets and continues to make preparations to protect the facility from the storm. They sandbag, tape windows, lower the water in the retention pond, secure power, and make other preparations, The outside contractors are cleaning up their areas. If nothing happens, we at least know a program with assignments works well.

13.30. The team reviews the morning checkoff list and learns the storm is increasing in speed and direction. Charleston now has a 27 percent chance of getting hit. Engineers and material and Production personnel are included in the program to assist in saving the facility, people, machines, and products.

Measures introduced at the meeting include

* lining up 10 trailers on the concrete parking area on the southeast side of the property and loading them down with merchandise,

* distributing sandbags to prime locations,

* securing th explosion panels on the test rooms to prevent them from blowing in,

* placing company vehicles by each building after filling the tanks with gasoline, and

* recommending closing the facility for production on Thursday.

16:00. Senior management reviews all action and accepts the seriousness of the storm. Hugo is due to hit on Thursday between midnight and 03:00. Preparations continue. All employees are provided with a handout on what to do in the event of a hurricane.

23:00. Hugo will be arriving in Charleston at 2 1:00 tomorrow. Plans to close the facility are in action. We continue to monitor the storm.


05:30. All tasks to secure machines, parts, and other items requiring special attention begin.

06:00. The governor of South Carolina issues a mandatory evacuation order for the Barrier Islands and low-lying areas.

07:30. Senior management meets. The facility is to be evacuated by 10:00. Emergency crews will secure all areas, including gearing the power via individual electrical bus ducts. The computer center tapes are backed up and will be delivered to the disaster recovery center,

10:00. All nonessential personnel have left the facility. One hundred remain.

13:00. Fifteen employees are still at the facility. The local fire department requests permission to park its snorkel unit in the building since the department needs room for the emergency medical squad. The request is approved.

15:00. Ten employees remain on-site waiting for the storm.

17.-30. The storm increases in intensity to level four (131-155 mph winds).

19:00. We discuss having all personnel leave the facility. Four people volunteer to stay through the storm. An area is prepared for their safety.

22:30. The eye of Hugo is due to come into Charleston Harbor at 23:15. Trees have blown down and others have been topped. The water surges into empty areas. People have evacuated. It sounds like a train accompanies the hurricane.

23:15. The power is gone. All that can be seen is darkness. Visibility is less than 10 ft.


05:30. People begin to venture out onto land that no longer resembles what it did eight hours ago. Trees are down, four-lane roads are blocked, water is everywhere, and there is no power for a cup of coffee. (Little did anyone know this was the beginning of days without power or water. As one person said, camping can be fun; however, it is hard to camp in your own home.)

My home is intact. Now it's time to check the facility and start the recovery process. As I drive to the facility, evidence of the storm is everywhere, and the total power and danger of the storm sinks in.

I arrive at the edge of the facility. The forest has been cut in half, and the fencing has been bent like a piece of paper. A few seconds later the buildings become visible; they are intact. The west entrance, like the fence line, is littered with trees as if they were toothpicks. The east entrance is still open for access. Driving into the parking area, I notice a few broken windows in the newest building due to flying debris. The exteriors of the buildings look intact. Inside a building, water is on the floors because the roof was shredded, but the equipment and the raw materials are not damaged. Our preparation paid off.

Reviewing the two newest buildings, I find they suffered severe roof damage. Yet, due to the construction on-site, enough roof membrane is available to refit 60,000 sq. ft. of roof.

Several steps put the crisis management program on-line. The first is a cellular phone call to a sister facility to indicate the damage, problems, needs, and estimates of overall area support. The sister facility notifies all required parties and starts recovery.

We reestablish communication with the outside world by a tie onto a business telephone service from the central office on-line. Three phone numbers were given to the support facilities.

Our next concern is to secure the facility and stop anyone from gaining unauthorized entry. We have to design an effective means to track any authorized entry and maintain a buddy system to account for people allowed into the facility.


06:30. Crews from the sister facility have arrived and are ready to assist. Volunteers with equipment arrive early from out of town. The command management group is now assembled. Everyone is delegated a specific responsibility from communication to fuel dispensing to checking the equipment to bring the units on-line when power is available. A sister organization is arranging for power to be provided to the facility through a series of specially equipped tractor-trailers.

The cleanup continues, but the components may be damaged due to the humidity and temperature outside and in the buildings.


Managers request 200 employees to work to reoil the components to protect them from potential corrosion. The power units are rolling in. The supplies are arriving; the facility is ready to be redeveloped into a working facility.

The official cleanup and revamping of the facility begin. The affected employees during this time also receive support. A telephone line is dedicated to those requiring assistance due to the storm. This assistance ranges from roof repair to tree cutting to providing food, clothing, and shelter.

The staff meets three times a day to discuss the progress, planned activities, needs, and a target start date. Business activities such as purchasing and warehousing now have become business as normal.

The computer tapes were sent out of town to the disaster recovery site, enabling computer support for four facilities to be on-line after just 10 hours. Our customers receive their shipments on time. Mobile generators supply light and computer interface to the 100,000 sq. ft. warehouse. We are effective in data disaster recovery.

The phone service works after we move the operating lines to different sections of the buildings as needed. This is done via the copper network placed in the facility.


Employees at the site increase to 500. The machines are uncovered, and parts and components are reoiled. The equipment and components are in good condition. Partial power is provided in the facility by the tractor-trailer units. HVAC units are also operating.


General work continues. Though power is back at the facility, we will need 24 hours to determine if it is clean, full power. Normal power loads will commence Thursday at 05:30 - a week after the storm.

Activities are more regulated and demand extreme care. Before each machine is started, it is reviewed by three people-a mechanic, an electrician, and a set-up person. After the power is delivered to it, the machine is rechecked. All machines suffer a power loss as the area receives power, but they immediately return to normal operation.

Ten days after Hugo hit, the plant is ready to start production on the third shift, employing 2,000 people. At the warehouse location, roofing and normal shipping continues. Normal construction and renovation are also normal during this period. The emergency relief continues to the affected employees in need in the area.

THE RECOVERY PERIOD FROM THE storm provided a new view for planning crisis management. Like many large organizations, our company had prepared an emergency manual. Due to major renovations and changes in the facility, however, a new plan was started two years ago to include all possible disasters that could occur. This is not an easy task to accomplish as one emergency may activate other concerns, as Hurricane Hugo did.

Hugo created a need for a supermarket approach to resolving problems. In such an approach a variety of options are available to choose from to fit changing needs. The first priority was to establish a crisis management procedure to provide a framework. The crisis management policy outlines the difficulties a company may experience, whether tornadoes, floods, human disasters, fire, or other environmental problems occur.

A crisis management policy should designate key personnel and their roles before, during, and after the crisis. This policy should also include a checklist of questions that should be addressed by key personnel prior to or during the crisis.

Other topics that should be included are the communications recovery system, data recovery system, and other support services. After two years of revision, Bosch's new multiple policy guide was accepted-just six months before Hugo.

A great deal of negotiation took place on each section of the guide. The negotiations were extremely valuable because many questions surfaced that were not discussed when the company originally drew up the policy. For example, how many data recovery sites did we have? Did we have replacement equipment and suppliers? And did we have the ability to recover materials to rebuild the facility?

The key elements in the planning stages are communications, people, and support. While most procedures provide a general outline of what should be accomplished prior to the crisis, the majority of procedures do not cover the aftermath.

I do not feel procedures or action plans can cover a situation such as a major hurricane. The effects and problems are widespread and require a full supermarket approach to complete a programmed recovery successfully.

A programmed recovery consists of one person doing an assigned task and reporting to a crisis management team. In our situation, a core group of individuals met prior to the storm and successfully prepared for Hugo. It was this same group that responded after the storm to assist in the reorganization of the facility. Each individual knew what area to approach and what to do. This was not done through a documented procedure but by instinct. This action worked well since everyone required was available.

The time has come to review our procedure, correct its deficiencies, and make changes. A few names have changed, but with a name change the procedure now includes a primary, secondary, and alternate person for each of the key elements to bring the company back to business after such a crisis. About the Author . . . Scott T. St. Clair, CPP, is responsible for security with the Robert Bosch Corporation in Charleston, SC. He is a member of ASIS.
COPYRIGHT 1990 American Society for Industrial Security
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1990 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Title Annotation:how Robert Bosch Corp. weathered the hurricane
Author:St. Clair, Scott T.
Publication:Security Management
Date:Aug 1, 1990
Previous Article:Unhealthy business.
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