Last year was the hardest of Jacinthe Galpin’s 20-year career. As the director of Lowe’s Emergency Command Center, she leads a team that prepares for and responds to disasters. And 2020 was filled with them.
“Last year was the fourth pandemic response I’ve led,” Galpin said. “But it was obviously, by far, the biggest one. It was a tough one because of its size and because it was truly global. In the last year, we’ve seen the whole world have to live through this incredible experience.”
Galpin is utterly cool in a crisis, but she’s human, too. In her job, she said, “you need the ability to stay calm under pressure, to make decisions with unknown variables, to keep everybody else calm when everything’s going really, really bad. And the ability not to cry: in public, that is.”
“I cried every single day in 2020,” she continued. “I maintained my relationship with my own humanity because that connection was necessary in order for me to effectively do my job. At the same time, nobody needs to see me ugly crying in the Command. So, I will go to the bathroom, cry, clean myself up, remind myself of my purpose and then I get back to work.”
Galpin’s job involves addressing whatever crisis is happening right now, but she’s always planning for the next crisis, too. Her team is devising snowstorm and ice storm strategies in July. They’re planning for hurricane season, which starts in May, the previous December.
Preparedness is what this team is known for. And taking care of associates – as well as customers – is a priority.
When you need us, I can guarantee that this team will be firing on every single cylinder. And we won’t stop until the job is done.
Jacinthe Galpin, Director, Lowe’s Emergency Command Center
Last year, Lowe’s launched disaster response trailers for associates. Four washer/dryer trailers and four shower trailers were deployed last year. The shower and washer/dryer trailers were deployed post-Hurricane Sally to Gulf Breeze, Florida. The washer/dryer and shower trailers are kept in Palmetto, Georgia, southwest of Atlanta. “Palmetto is what we call our ‘nest,’” Galpin said. “We keep a lot of our staged inventory there.”
When a disaster leaves a number of Lowe’s associates with uninhabitable housing, the trailers provide – temporarily – some of the comforts and conveniences of home.
“A number of our associates in Lake Charles and Sulphur, Louisiana, lost power, lost parts of their homes, lost everything last year,” she said. Hurricane Laura devastated the area last August, and then Hurricane Delta followed in October.
In the aftermath, Lowe’s sent food and hygiene kits to stores in hard-hit areas. The food kits are MRE [Meals Ready to Eat] rations, and the hygiene kits have deodorant, toothpaste, mouthwash. “These things make such a difference,” Galpin said.
The Lowe’s Tool Rental team is working on a similar concept that will offer customers increased aid after a disaster. The team is working through “proof of concept” now and hopes to have the first Tool Rental Disaster Response Trailer ready by late August 2021. This 53-feet-long semi-trailer can be deployed to hard-hit areas, after a disaster, loaded with tools that customers – both DIY and Pro – can rent to make home repairs.
“People may not necessarily have the funds to buy big power tools,” Galpin said. “And if it’s a quick job, it may not be worth it to buy a particular tool needed for just a couple of hours. The purpose of this trailer is to allow customers to rent the tools they need and get their homes back up and running as quickly as possible. This trailer, hopefully the first of many, is a 53-foot reflection of Lowe’s’ enduring commitment to communities in need.”
Ready for duty
Lowe’s already has pre-staged trucks geared for a number of natural disasters. They’re ready to supply Lowe’s stores with products impacted customers need in a hurry. It’s merchandise that stores could easily run out of if these trucks weren’t ready to go even before they’re needed.
“Product is staged and ready to go,” Galpin said. “All I need is wheels under it. That means that if somebody calls me and needs a flood truck, within a few hours, that flood truck is on the road, heading to a community in need.”
“Power trucks are full of generators and products customers can use during power outages,” she explained. “Our wildfire trucks are loaded with replacement filters, air purifiers, masks, goggles, clean-up supplies: anything that somebody might need to respond to a wildfire.”
As soon as one pre-staged truck goes out on a mission, another one is loaded and moved into queue. “We had to deploy a couple of flood trucks just recently, due to tropical storm Claudette,” Galpin said. “And literally the Monday after, we were replenishing that truck so we were ready for the next storm.”
Lowe’s maintains in excess of 150 flood, wind, power and fire trucks, from Mount Vernon, Texas to Plainfield, Connecticut and from Moreno Valley, California to Kissimmee, Florida. In addition, hundreds of truckloads of water are strategically positioned around the country.
The supplies are ready. And so are Galpin and her team.
No matter where or when disaster strikes, Galpin and her team (and a fleet of trucks) are prepared. “When you need us, I can guarantee that this team will be firing on every single cylinder,” she said. “And we won’t stop until the job is done.”