Disaster preparedness & response
UN SDG: 11
S G | Published: April 29, 2022
We aim to effectively prepare for and respond to disasters, with a focus on associate safety and recovery of business operations to serve the needs of our communities.
|Total global cash and in-kind donations from Walmart, Sam’s Club and Walmart Foundation for disaster recovery and preparedness79||>$3.5 million||>$50 million||>$24 million|
|Emergency declarations throughout the U.S. in support of disasters80||23||2,509||70|
|Number of days Emergency Operations Center activated beyond normal operations305||41||257||64|
Relevance to our business & society
Disasters and business disruptions can happen at any time. In any given year, communities face risks related to extreme weather, violence, breakdown of infrastructure, and, as COVID-19 reminded us — disease outbreaks and pandemics. Disasters have a direct impact on Walmart’s business and stakeholders. Disasters can put associates and customers in harm’s way, interfere with our operations, disrupt product supplies, compromise communications and information security, cause property damage and result in high costs of recovery. Effective preparation and response to disasters helps Walmart continue to serve the basic needs of customers, associates and communities and build trust in our company. Conversely, failure to prepare for and respond to a business disruption in a timely and effective manner may have a direct impact on Walmart’s ability to perform critical business functions, negatively impacting Walmart in the eyes of customers, associates, investors, media and the communities in which we operate.
To enhance the resilience of our business in the face of disaster and disruption, and help mitigate the impact of disaster on the communities where we operate, we focus on the following:
- Effective governance, including policies, procedures and executive oversight
- Disaster planning and preparation, through risk assessment, business continuity planning, and training
- Disaster response, including mitigation and recovery
- Collaboration with community leaders to support local response by activating Walmart logistics and operations capabilities, donating essential products and grants
Key strategies & progress
Effective governance & oversight
Walmart’s disaster preparedness and management efforts are part of the company’s Global Security Program, a risk-based approach to protecting our people, facilities, information, supply chain and inventory. We intend to enable and empower associates with the resources to effectively prepare for and manage disasters and disruptions.
Walmart’s Global Emergency Management department — a team of emergency management experts from across our business — oversees disaster preparation and recovery efforts. The department is responsible for identifying, assessing and responding to events such as natural disasters, COVID and other disease outbreaks, and other crises. The department includes:
- Emergency Operation Center (EOC): The EOC serves as the central command center for preparation and response activity. The EOC operates 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
- Enterprise Resilience Planning Team: This team is responsible for the company’s business resiliency efforts, working with critical business functions and partnering with IT Disaster Recovery teams to put plans and strategies in place to prepare the company for significant business disruptions and enable it to resume operations quickly.
Senior executives oversee our disaster preparation and response efforts, including through the following groups:
- Executive Council: Senior executives that make up the Council oversee our disaster efforts.
- Corporate Crisis Management Team (CCMT): CCMT was created in FY2021 as an advisory body comprising corporate functional officers for enterprise-wide emergency planning and response policy efforts.
- Emergency Support Functions (ESF): Adapted from FEMA’s National Response Framework, Walmart groups decision makers, responders and resources into Emergency Support Functions. These ESFs, which include associates from our People, Operations, and Walmart.org306 teams, work together to ensure an effective and consistent response from the company.
- The Resilience Governance Council: This cross functional team of corporate officers is tasked with providing thought leadership, guidance and support on matters related to the Enterprise Business Continuity and IT Resilience programs.
Associates are responsible for understanding their roles and requirements related to business continuity and emergency management. See "Disaster planning and training" section below.
Advance planning & preparation
Our disaster planning and preparedness includes risk assessments, business continuity and crisis management planning, and training.
Risk assessment process
We use data to identify, assess and help manage risks related to weather, environmental, public health and security events. For example:
- We use data from previous storms to anticipate customer and community needs following storms, helping us know where to direct necessary supplies and personnel for potential disasters, prepare associates with knowledge about available resources, spark information sharing and help us maintain or quickly restore operations.
- Using data from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's National Hurricane Center and Weather Prediction Center, we assess risks from hazards such as hurricanes and ice storms several days out to anticipate community needs and prepare for our response.
- We use real-time data to provide associates with open-source air quality index (AQI) information in order to implement a series of best practices depending on the AQI to protect associates who might be exposed. For example, when California wildfires severely impacted local air quality, local associates received a notification from the EOC.
- We used Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) county-level COVID-19 transmission rates to update requirements for our associates in counties with “significant” or “high” transmission rates and encouraged all customers to wear masks/face coverings.
- Our Global Emergency Management team gathers information from government authorities regarding emergency declarations at the federal, state, county and city level that may impact our operations, supply chain, or associates. This information is made available to our business to evaluate whether further action is necessary to mitigate the impact of a disaster or assist with our response.
Disaster planning and training
Global Emergency Management, which is staffed by Walmart associates with experience in law enforcement, meteorology, emergency management and resilience planning, develops strategies and plans to help mitigate the impact of disasters on our associates, our stores and our communities.
Our Enterprise Resilience Planning team, a part of Global Emergency Management, engages with partners in various Walmart business units and corporate functions to implement business continuity and crisis plans. This team supports continuous assessment of resources and risks, and trains global crisis management teams and plan participants on how to maintain their plans and leverage business continuity strategies.
Walmart associates receive role-specific training in business continuity planning, processes, response and recovery procedures, including participating in regular hands-on preparedness exercises.
Walmart and the Walmart Foundation help support disaster preparedness in communities. Read more in the "Supporting communities" section below.
Disaster response & recovery
When disasters occur, Walmart activates the Emergency Operations Center to check on the safety of associates and their families, get store operations back up and running and deploy business and philanthropic assets to help communities recover.
Our Global Emergency Management team works with our facility and human resources teams to help ensure our associates and families are safe. Through OneWalmart.com, our associate-facing website, we provide recommendations and best practices for what to do before, during and after a natural disaster or when a store experiences a security threat or other business disruption. Resources and personal and work preparedness plans and kits are available for download. For example, Walmart provides disaster displacement assistance for those forced to leave their homes due to mandatory evacuation, as well as opportunities to work in nearby stores and clubs should their location temporarily close. Real-time updates on weather and other potential business disruptions are shared with associates by email, OneWalmart.com and through an associate hotline. The Associate Emergency Information Line provides return-to-work information and the ability for associates to request assistance. Information on this line is automatically updated and tailored to the caller’s work location.
We aim to promptly restore our facility operations. For example, ahead of potential power outages due to expected storms, we may stage resources and contractors so we can deploy mobile generators to begin restoring power when it is safe to do so. We may also deploy mobile generators to a site when we expect a grid outage to be of a significant duration. Mobile generators kept stores, clubs, and distribution centers powered for more than 10,000 hours while grid electricity was unavailable in 2021. Using generators allows our associates in operations, supply chain, fuel, health & wellness and other functions to open our facilities to support impacted communities.
Our physical presence in communities allows us to deploy associates and resources such as food and other products, mobile chargers, mobile pharmacies and fuel to affected associates and communities. For example, in FY2022, we deployed associates to Louisiana in support of Hurricane Ida relief and Kentucky following the December tornadoes. We work closely with local leaders and organizations responding in real-time to assess needs and tailor our response to what communities need most in the wake of disasters. We use technology and support initiatives that help improve the speed and focus of disaster response so that people, food, water and other resources are quickly deployed to the right places (see discussion regarding use of customer data above).
After each event, the Global Emergency Management team conducts after-action reviews to incorporate lessons learned for continuous improvement.
We draw on our strengths as a retailer to support relief efforts. As noted above, the primary way we support communities in times of disaster is by operating our business. We work to reopen stores as quickly and safely as possible so that people can access the pharmacy, grocery and other essential products and services. Customers can see which stores are open and available for their needs on our corporate website.
The Walmart.org306 team and the Public-Private Partnership team in Walmart’s Global Emergency Management Department work with response organizations that are on the ground in hard-hit communities, relaying real-time information back to our EOC. We use this information to determine the level and nature of support needed, which can range from product donations (such as food and water) to major grants to relief organizations and community foundations.
Since 2016, Walmart, Sam’s Club and the Walmart Foundation have provided more than $132 million for disaster preparedness, response and relief efforts supporting communities around the globe. We use a variety of means to get aid quickly and effectively to those who need it most. For example, our support in FY2022 included using our space to coordinate services, in-kind donations to shelters and nonprofits, and cash grants to emergency response organizations:
- Hurricane Ida. With widespread power outages in the region affected by Hurricane Ida, our stores and parking lots served as hubs with resources for the community, including the Walmart Mobile Pharmacy to help bring needed medications to communities without access, Duracell PowerForward charging stations to provide an opportunity to charge devices, and two of P&G’s Loads of Hope laundry stations so people could clean their clothes and linens. The Louisiana National Guard handed out ice at Walmart Store 4129 in Ponchatoula, Louisiana, and people from the community were able to get gas at Sam's Club 4775 in Metairie, Louisiana. Our response included donations of water and food and helped meet critical needs in affected communities. For example, we donated more than 60 truckloads of produce, deli and meat from our distribution center 6057 in Robert, Louisiana to Feeding America food banks in the surrounding area. The Walmart Foundation also provided over $4.3 million in grants to various local nonprofit organizations that provided hot meals, emergency relief and help with clean-up efforts. Additionally, Walmart activated a customer campaign to support the American Red Cross's response to Hurricane Ida as well as other natural disasters in 2021 with a $5 million match.
- December 2021 U.S. tornadoes. After tornadoes struck the South and Midwest in December 2021, Walmart truck drivers brought in the Walmart Feeding Truck and reported providing more than 70,000 meals at Walmart Store 430. As many families relied on shelters after losing or suffering damage to their homes, Walmart donated over $100,000 worth of water, snacks, baby food and other basic needs items to shelters. Walmart also donated gift cards to nonprofit partners so they could meet specific needs during the recovery. Since the tornadoes hit during the holiday season, Walmart helped bring holiday events to three Kentucky communities with free "pop-up shops" for families to get warm-weather gear, clothing essentials, toys for kids and Walmart gift cards. In total, Walmart and the Walmart Foundation provided more than $1 million to help with relief, including donated water, food, supplies and financial support for local organizations.
- Riots in KwaZulu-Natal. In the wake of riots in KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa in July 2021, Walmart, the Walmart Foundation and Massmart committed over R 13 million ($880,000) in in-kind support and grants to facilitate recovery and strengthen the food bank system. Massmart worked with local relief organizations such as Gift of the Givers and FoodForward SA, for example by providing much-needed items like rice, baby formula, peanut butter, coffee, canned fish and maize meal.
- COVID-19. Walmart provided convenient access to COVID-19 vaccination and testing, as well as in-kind and grant support to communities. See additional details below.
When the COVID-19 pandemic called for us to rise to a new challenge, we were already a trusted voice in the community that was able to meet our customers and patients where they live and work throughout the pandemic.
Throughout the pandemic Walmart has worked closely with federal and state governments, labs and insurance companies to expand COVID-19 testing. From standing up free community testing sites with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, to working with insurance companies to test their members and supporting testing events in hard-hit communities, we have continued to evolve our testing capabilities and expanded testing at our drive-thru pharmacy windows. As of January 2022, we supported more than 800 active testing sites across the country that have tested hundreds of thousands of people.
Walmart has administered millions of vaccines across the U.S., with 80% delivered in medically underserved communities as classified by the Health Resources and Services Administration. Our vaccination efforts have encompassed 51 states and territories and more than 5,100 retail locations in the U.S., providing access to many. In addition, the Walmart Foundation supported organizations through grants totaling $2.75 million to increase education, outreach and awareness of COVID-19 vaccines among diverse communities, including: NAACP Empowerment Programs, Inc., UnidosUS, Johns Hopkins Center for American Indian Health, Association of Asian-Pacific Community Health Organizations, the National Council of Asian Pacific Islander Physicians, Asian & Pacific Islander American Health Forum, Interfaith Youth Core and The Conference of National Black Churches.
In-kind and cash donations
Walmart and the Walmart Foundation have supported local communities through both in-kind and cash donations. We continue regular food donations from our stores, clubs and distribution centers to local food banks and have found new ways to engage our customers in supporting food banks to address the increased food insecurity due to the pandemic. Additionally, we have provided in-kind support of hand soap, sanitizer, and PPE to schools and nonprofits as they navigated reopening procedures in FY2022.
We have also responded to COVID-19 in other markets where we operate. For example, in FY2022, Walmart, Flipkart, PhonePe and the Walmart Foundation mobilized their resources to support India’s COVID-19 response, providing medical equipment, contributing to the national vaccination drive and providing financial donations. To combat the surge in COVID-19 cases, Walmart donated 20 oxygen-generating plants, 20 cryogenic containers, more than 3,000 oxygen concentrators and 500 oxygen cylinders. Walmart and the Walmart Foundation also funded an additional 2,500 oxygen concentrators and the Walmart Foundation donated INR 148.2 million (USD $2 million) to support two NGOs responding in India.
While responding in the moment is important, we also aim to help communities build resilience and prepare to respond more quickly and effectively when natural disasters strike. For example, the Walmart Foundation made a $3 million investment in the Gulf region to build capacity among community-based organizations and municipal governments to help vulnerable communities prepare for and mitigate the impact of disasters. The funds were awarded to:
- Institute for Diversity and Inclusion in Disaster Management (I-DIEM) — I-DIEM will implement its Bridging Support for Underserved and Indigenous Communities in Landfall Disasters (BUILD) program to empower community-based organizations through capacity building and education in mitigation funding strategies. I-DIEM will lead mitigation workshops for 10 vulnerable, underserved, and/or marginalized communities in Louisiana and Mississippi. These workshops will help leaders work on funding sources, business development, and government relations with the aim to combat systemic exclusionary practices and cultivate communities that are stewards of resilience and sustainability.
- St. Bernard Project (SBP) — SBP will expand its Leader Practitioner Course (supported by the Walmart Foundation), a program that helps government leaders more effectively deliver mitigation and recovery resources to low-income, high population communities of color. SBP will also increase long-term resilience for communities of color by placing two Resilience & Recovery Fellows in local government offices to prioritize challenges, secure federal and charitable mitigation funding, and build sustainable best practices.
- The Nature Conservancy (TNC) — TNC will work across three counties in Florida’s panhandle to help small, low-income local governments identify and design nature-based solutions (NBS), which use natural infrastructure, such as wetlands and oyster reefs, to help communities prepare for and build resiliency to natural disasters. This will further advance an existing TNC project called SUNS (Scaling-up Nature-based Solutions), which works with local government officials and other stakeholders to identify opportunities, access funding, and create plans for NBS in the part of the Florida panhandle severely damaged by Hurricane Michael in 2018.
- Disaster Resilience Leadership Academy at the Tulane University School of Social Work (DRLA) — DRLA’s Consortium for Equitable Disaster Resilience (CEDR) will research the barriers that prevent rural and underserved organizations from receiving preparedness funding. Using insights from this research, CEDR will create an equitable resilience framework and work with 10 grassroots community organizations to help create equitable disaster response and funding plans. CEDR will also create open-source courses in English, Spanish and Vietnamese to educate 500 students and community leaders on resilience and equity training.
- While we use available data to prepare for and anticipate storms and other disruptions, these events are inherently unpredictable. Moreover, storm intensity, frequency and unpredictability are expected to increase with climate change.
- The primary way we serve communities is by operating our business; our success in serving communities in times of disaster and disruption is therefore dependent on our ability to keep operating and/or resume operations.
- Our information systems are not fully redundant and our disaster recovery planning cannot account for all eventualities, as discussed in more detail in Walmart's most recent annual report on Form 10-K.
- Stakeholders and communities have more needs than Walmart can possibly meet alone, creating the need to focus on our core capabilities and collaborate to extend impact.
- Successfully serving communities and recovering from disasters and disruptions are dependent on engagement of associates, suppliers, and customers. Associates serve our customers, suppliers produce and distribute products, and customers contribute to relief efforts.
- Disasters disproportionately impact marginalized communities and communities of color that tend to be both the most exposed to damages from an event and the least able to recover financially.
- Navigating the federal emergency assistance grants process is challenging for households already struggling with limited time, resources, and access to technology.
- National and global catastrophic events, including pandemics, can exacerbate many of the above factors.