Part 2: Strong teamwork, strong tools
Like Lajeune, Logan Drizd took the baton at a tricky time, just as the coronavirus was about to bring public life in the U.S. to a near standstill. A Walgreens employee since 2011, she had been the emergency manager in Asset Protection Solutions (APS) – Walgreens’ national network for site safety and loss prevention – and had worked closely with the SOC before being appointed in early March to lead it.
If business continuity is the air traffic control for Walgreens during emergencies, the SOC is the main information hub, taking in all reports from the field, tracking the latest info from weather agencies and the media (including social media), evaluating threats both minor and extreme, providing instructions to stores, sending out targeted warnings and alerts, and assigning the right people – often from APS – to handle specific problems where they’re happening.
With the coronavirus, the problem was everywhere. Welcome to the job.
“It’s not as overwhelming now because we’ve been working through our response since March, but in the beginning, it was so new to us,” Drizd says. “Although we’d planned for a pandemic, we’d never had to handle one before. I’ll never forget the day we first sent a pandemic SOC email alert to everyone across Walgreens. I never thought we would ever use the word ‘pandemic,’ and I was a little hesitant because it’s such a strong word. But we had to call it what it was.”
Staffing increased as the SOC brought in additional specialists just to answer COVID-related calls from employees – usually related to positive cases, possible exposures and travel.
The usual array of seasonal disasters was anticipated on top of the virus as the weather warmed – tornadoes, wildfires and especially hurricanes, which the SOC aggressively monitors up to two weeks in advance. But then came the second big surprise. As protests flared across the U.S. in late May after the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis, a number of Walgreens stores were damaged and looted, or faced with the threat of both. On the night of May 30, every Walgreens in America was proactively closed as a sweeping safety precaution – a first in company history.
“No one could have predicted we would have two event types impacting us enterprise-wide at the same time like we did,” Drizd says. “Pretty much every state was affected by both of these major events. And even now, we still have over 100 sites where recovery efforts are going on because of the community activity since the end of May.”
Recent natural disasters have stretched SOC resources further, but for Drizd, there’s a lot to be happy about. The chainwide teamwork, for one thing, can’t be overstated. Additional call support has come from other areas of the company – including volunteers from the physical security and alarm services teams and mergers and acquisitions, of all places.
Just as important is the technology that Walgreens didn’t have previously. The systems and technology team in APS created a new platform that shows detailed site statuses for every Walgreens property at any given time. Which stores are closed, damaged or without power? Which have an open pharmacy drive-thru only? Which can currently receive shipments? The information is all there via a filtered search capability – and it’s of particular use to regional leaders who can then adjust delivery schedules, reassign displaced staff to other stores and more. Meanwhile, another new tool makes it easier to send the SOC information and update site statuses from the field in real time.
“It’s such a great system for increasing collaboration with the field and giving them the bigger picture,” says Drizd. “Unfortunately, they could never see exactly what we saw – until now.”
This all helps Drizd, whose career in emergency management started in hospitals, to sleep better.
“We’re 24/7, and when I have to go to bed, I know the team that’s taking over for me when I leave is going to go above and beyond to help the field,” she says. “And it’s so comforting.”
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