Disaster preparedness & response
UN SDG: 11
S G | Last Updated: July 7, 2021
We aim to mitigate the impact of disasters and related disruption on our business and local communities with a focus on associate safety and well-being and recovery of business operations to serve communities in need.
Fiscal Year 2021 (FY21) numbers in the table below include the effects of COVID-19
|Total global cash and in-kind donations from Walmart, Sam’s Club and Walmart Foundation for disaster recovery and preparedness||>$11 million||>$3.5 million||>$50 million|
|Emergency declarations throughout the U.S. in support of disasters79||27||23||2,509|
|Number of days Emergency Operations Center activated beyond normal operations||26||41||257|
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. Communities impacted by disasters need continued access to the essential products, services and infrastructure that Walmart can provide. 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.
Effective preparation and response to disasters helps Walmart continue to serve the basic needs of customers, associates and communities including access to essential products, services and infrastructure as well as employment (underscored by the COVID-19 pandemic). We want customers to feel confident in our ability to respond effectively to a wide variety of business disruptions and associates to feel supported. As an omni-channel retailer with a physical presence in thousands of communities around the world and over 2 million associates present in those communities, we have a unique ability to serve people in times of disaster.
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 corporate 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. The approach includes emergency management standards and business continuity practices. Our intention is to enable and empower associates with the resources to effectively prepare for and manage disasters and disruptions.
Walmart’s 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, 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.
- Business Continuity 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 ensure plans and strategies are 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 comprise the Council oversee our disaster efforts and are notified any time the EOC is activated to respond to crisis situations.
- Corporate Crisis Management Team (CCMT): CCMT was created in FY2021 as an advisory body comprised of 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.org80 teams, work together to ensure an effective and consistent response from the company.
- The Resiliency 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 Resiliency programs.
Walmart associates receive role-specific training in business continuity policies and practices, including participating in preparedness exercises. Associates are responsible for understanding their roles and requirements related to business continuity and emergency management.
Advance planning & preparation
Our disaster planning and preparedness includes risk assessments, business continuity 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 predict 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.
- When California wildfires severely impacted local air quality, we used real-time data about local air quality to notify associates working outdoors to wear N95 masks in accordance with state law. Working with our Compliance and Operations teams, we added open-source air quality information to the EOC’s dashboard, a site on Walmart’s associate-facing website where associates can quickly check the status of events and find resources. When air quality reached the threshold, local associates received a notification from the EOC telling them to wear a mask.
- With the 2020 hurricane season predicted to be extremely active, the Walmart.org80 team worked with the Salvation Army and Feeding America to pre-stage product near coastal areas to reduce response time. Water, snacks and essential items were shipped by Walmart to staging areas weeks in advance of the hurricane season so that these organizations were prepared to respond more quickly helping those affected by storms.
Disaster planning and training
Emergency Management, which is staffed by Walmart associates with extensive experience in law enforcement, meteorology and emergency management, develops plans to help mitigate the impact of disasters on our associates, our stores and our communities.
Walmart business units and corporate functions have business continuity and crisis plans to guide recovery in the event of an emergency. In FY2021, the Enterprise Business Continuity team trained over 1,000 associates on how to maintain their plans and leverage business continuity strategies. The team also created 187 new business continuity plans throughout FY2021.
The Walmart Foundation has also helped to support disaster preparedness in communities. For example, in 2019, the Foundation provided a grant to the St. Bernard Project (SBP) to support SBP’s Leader Practitioner Course. The course is designed to train government leaders in developing and implementing long-term strategies for community disaster recovery and mitigation.
Disaster response: mitigation & recovery
When disasters occur, the Walmart EOC provides real-time support, through a variety of channels including an emergency phone line and an emergency app.
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 disruptions. Personal and work preparedness plans and kits are available for download as well as resources to help associates affected by a disaster. For example, Walmart provides disaster displacement assistance for those forced to leave their homes due to a federally declared disaster, as well as opportunities to work in nearby stores and clubs should their location temporarily close.
Real-time updates on severe 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 and other information for associates following a crisis. Information on this line is automatically updated and is tailored to the caller’s work location. Also, the hotline allows associates to provide Walmart with their contact information and the ability to request assistance.
To help manage our disaster response and recovery, we set up temporary inbound and outbound call centers to check in with our associates to make sure they are safe. Additionally, we deploy associates and resources such as food and other products, mobile generators, mobile pharmacies, and fuel resources. In FY2021, we deployed associates to Washington D.C., Louisiana, Texas and Arkansas in the wake of tornadoes, hurricanes and flooding. 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 data customer above).
After each event, the Emergency Management team conducts after-action reviews to incorporate lessons learned for continuous improvement.
While Walmart has long helped communities in times of disaster, the experience of Hurricane Katrina in 2005 helped us realize how we best draw on our strengths to support relief efforts in the aftermath of disaster.
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.org80 team and the Public-Private team in Walmart’s Emergency Management Department work with response organizations who 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 $108 million in cash and in-kind donations to support community preparedness and relief efforts for disasters including COVID-19. For example, our support in FY2021 included:
- Walmart and the Walmart Foundation committed up to $1 million in cash and in-kind product donations to support relief efforts to help feed and shelter those affected by wildfires in California, Oregon and Washington.
- Central America fell victim to Hurricanes Iota and Eta in late 2020, and Walmart and the Walmart Foundation responded with a commitment of up to $1 million through the Walmart Foundation Disaster Relief Fund at Charities Aid Foundation of America, a donor advised fund. The Fund supported organizations including the International Federation of the Red Cross and the Red Crescent Societies. Our stores in Central America were also engaged with emergency efforts and supported organizations that helped those affected by the storm.
- In one of the most active hurricane seasons on record, Walmart, Sam’s Club and the Walmart Foundation committed up to $2.5 million in cash and in-kind product donations to organizations leading response and recovery efforts in southwest Louisiana and southeast Texas after Hurricane Laura.
While responding in the moment is important, we also aim to help communities build resiliency and respond more quickly and effectively when disaster strikes. For example, in 2015, the Walmart Foundation funded the American Red Cross’ development of the Red Cross Visual Event Wizard (RC View), a geospatial data tool to help relief organizations know where to focus their efforts when planning for disasters. In 2019, additional funding was provided to launch the Partner Hub, which uses the RC View platform. During emergency situations, RC View aggregates and shares critical real-time data across organizations to enable a faster, more coordinated and more efficient response.
- While we use available data to prepare for and predict 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.
- National and global catastrophic events, including pandemics, can exacerbate many of the above factors.