As a leader, it’s something you never want to happen: a fire at one of your facilities, made even scarier with people in the building. But that’s exactly what occurred about a month ago at our eCommerce Fulfillment Center in Plainfield, Indiana.
March 16 began as a typical Wednesday for the more than one thousand associates working in the Plainfield FC. Around noon, a large fire broke out in the building, and everyone had to evacuate as quickly as possible.
To give you a sense of how massive the fire was, it took 20 local fire departments to put out the blaze. Fortunately, no lives were lost, and no injuries were reported. We are incredibly grateful to the team of firefighters and first responders who worked tirelessly to contain the fire and prioritize associate safety.
As associates realized everyone was physically unharmed, they also realized there were some practical matters to handle. Personal items, like keys, cell phones, wallets, drivers’ licenses, insurance cards – had been left behind in their lockers.
Walmart’s Emergency Operations Center in Bentonville was immediately activated, and the team helped coordinate and support remotely. The People team moved quickly, too, establishing an Associate Resource Center at a local hotel. The People support team and the Plainfield Facility Manager, Geoffrey Appleby, worked to help meet associates’ most immediate needs first. This included working with the state to bring its mobile bureau on site to replace state IDs and engaging mobile locksmiths for homes and cars. The company replaced Walmart discount and insurance cards for all 2,200 associates.
The team worked quickly with phone carriers and locksmiths to find cell phone and key fob replacements. The company also created a claims process for personal property and gave associates disaster pay through April 1.
Unfortunately, the facility will not be functional for the foreseeable future, and associates wanted options for new Walmart positions. They weren’t on their own for this. To make sure associates knew what roles were available to them in the area, we held an internal job fair, with over 40 facilities represented. Over 1,800 associates attended, and over 72% of eligible hourly associates accepted offers to remain with Walmart. We’re having conversations with our salaried leaders to ensure they can continue their careers, too.
When the worst happens, we often notice Walmart associates at their best. Whether it is a natural disaster or a local need, we see associates rising up to do what’s best for the community. They never cease to make us proud, and the events in Plainfield are no exception.