Cox Communications acted quickly when torrential rains drove massive floods that knocked out service and destroyed homes in its Louisiana service territory in August.
But it wasn’t the speed of restoring a downed headend or high-speed data service that impressed senior vice president and Southeast Region general manager Anthony Pope the most. That feeling would be reserved for the sacrifices and willingness to help others his employees showed during what some have called the biggest U.S. natural disaster since Superstorm Sandy in 2012.
A stalled weather system dumped an unprecedented 31 inches of rain over parts of southern Louisiana from Aug. 11 to Aug. 14, causing massive flooding in about 20 of the state’s parishes. Numbers are still being tallied, but it’s estimated that in Baton Rouge alone, about 110,000 homes, 20,000 businesses and 300,000 people were affected by the floods. That’s in a community of about 850,000 residents.
Statewide, the damage toll has been estimated at about $20 billion. So far, 13 people have lost their lives as a result of the flooding.
Within two days of the flooding, Pope said Cox was able to get continuity and secure its employees, relocating those who needed it to hotels and helping workers get their lives back together so they could return to their jobs.
Those efforts spanned the Cox corporate family — Pope said Manheim, a wholesale vehicle auction company that is part of Cox Enterprises, came to the rescue when he mentioned that several employees had lost their vehicles in the flood and found it difficult to get to work. Within days, Manheim sent a trailer of vehicles to Louisiana, enabling carpools to get employees to and from their homes.
Pope also was able to get equipment that was slated for a Cox cable upgrade in California diverted to Louisiana to help in the repair efforts.
That team effort helped cut repair times. One headend that was under two feet of water and was estimated to be out of service for six weeks was back online within seven days, Pope said.
Cox was able to restore service to its customers within seven to 10 days after the floods. Every customer who has been able to return to their residence with power restored has cable service.
As Cox moved to repair its sunken plant, it also worked hard to give customers continued access to information — reaching deals with local broadcasters and cable networks to provide out-of-home access to programming via their phones and tablets. For customers who wanted to disconnect service while they waited to move back to their damaged residences, Cox offers a Storm Package, which gives them free continued access to their phone number and email addresses for up to 12 months.
Employees also found time to help each other out, too, Pope said.
Pope recalled one Cox employee who had been overseeing a group of technicians from the Central Region and mentioned, after one particularly long shift, that he was going home to work on his own home for the weekend. On the next day — their day off — about 10 Cox Central Region technicians showed up to remove drywall, rip out damaged carpet and make other repairs.
“They had worked six days, they were exhausted and tired,” Pope said. “They could have done anything they wanted to on their day off, and they chose to help a colleague that they didn’t know.”
Cox workers in need of financial assistance because of the disaster can tap into a relief fund started by employee contributions in the wake of Hurricane Katrina in 2005. Cox has set aside about $1 million for this particular event, which can be used to help pay for personal items like toothbrushes, clothes and diapers for the kids (usually available within 48 to 72 hours). Grants were available for bigger-ticket items.
In the face of disaster, Cox employees continue to show dedication and resiliency, Pope added.