As the remnants of Hurricane Harvey continued causing record rains and unprecedented floodingin Houston Monday, many general counsel based in the city were working from home or elsewhere to make sure their employees were safe and their businesses were moving forward.
Dianne Ralston, executive vice president and chief legal officer of TechnipFMC, said those executives who still had power, as she did, were working from home. Ralston said offices in flooded downtown Houston were closed, and so were manufacturing facilities south of the city, in order to assure that workers would not venture out on dangerous roads to try to get there.
"The hardest thing for us is that each community is isolated [by the flooding], and some have no power or communications," she said. "We were trying to account for all our employees."
Ralston said the task of accounting for everyone was complicated by the January merger of FMC Technologies Inc. with France's Technip. "Our only hiccup is that we don't have one unified system yet, so there was a little bit of a daisy chain in communicating," she explained.
Once all employees were accounted for, she said, a big concern was directing overwhelmed rescue teams to employees who needed medical help, including one woman who is pregnant.
TechnipFMC is an oil and gas projects and technologies company. As part of the firm's crisis plan, it sent a management team to a crisis center with a backup power supply at a site on higher ground.
Brady Long, senior VP and general counsel at deepwater driller Transocean, spoke briefly with Corporate Counsel Monday. He was trying to drive home around emergency vehicles "to take care of my family and my employees." He said he had been to a grocery store after a long weekend of sheltering from Harvey's blast.
But Tim McInturf never skipped a beat. McInturf, executive VP for legal affairs at Quantlab Financial, said his company has set up executives with home offices that mirror their company offices. Members of his legal team, at least those with power, were hard at work Monday in their home offices, he said.
Quantlab also had sent employees to Austin, beyond Harvey's reach, to work in a disaster recovery office there, and had employees going full tilt at other company offices around the world.
Quantlab is a high-frequency trading operation in global markets. "We are still trading," McInturf said. "Business was never interrupted. It is business as usual for us."
But he said the company would be more affected this week. For one thing, Houston's public schools closed down for the week, leaving parents with children at home. For another, McInturf said employees would soon have to begin dealing with their flooded and, in some cases, destroyed homes.
"I just spoke with an employee whose house has 10 feet of water in it, and both cars are under water. There are probably at least 10 employees with stories like that," McInturf said, noting the company was organizing teams of volunteers to help those employees.
TechnipFMC's Ralston agreed that there would be weeks and months of rebuilding. "So many hundreds of thousands, maybe even millions, of people are displaced," she said. "They have to have temporary housing, and they need help from reputable contractors to help them rebuild."
"That's the message I want to get out to people outside the crisis area, to be thinking about how they can help us then," she added.
Contact Sue Reisinger at email@example.com.