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RefB: CSX prepares for hurricane season

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CSX prepares employees, trains for hurricane season


With 22,000 miles of railroad track and more than 4,000 employees in Jacksonville alone, CSX Corporation has put a lot of time and effort into planning ahead in case a hurricane or other natural disaster is looming.
According to CSX Director of Corporate Communications John Hawkins, it’s a two-part plan because there is so much involved including tracks, trains, freight and people.
“Obviously, the railroad has detailed plans for disasters. We would begin to shut down the system well in advance of a storm and reroute the trains and their freight. We have to be able to find a way to satisfy our customers while protecting our assets.
“Given the nature of our business with thousands of trains all over the country, we have to be able to provide accurate information about the status of the freight. Our customers want to know ‘Where is my orange juice? Where is my coal?’” he said.
Making sure the company’s employees have access to accurate up-to-the-minute data concerning preparation, implementation and aftermath is equally important. CSX maintains a diversified system to notify employees of evacuation plans and changes in operations.
“We have contingency plans to be able to maintain our service. If there’s a storm that we’re sure is going to affect Florida or Georgia, or if Mayor (John) Peyton calls for an evacuation, we will move key staff members to other locations where they can continue to operate the system,” said Hawkins.
Senior staff members are “on call” on a rotating basis around the clock. In case an evacuation is needed, key personnel from every department will be moved to Atlanta, Indianapolis or Dallas in order to maintain rail service, as well as payroll, technology divisions and corporate communications.
CSX has a section on the corporate Web site that provides information to employees ranging from what supplies to keep on hand in case a hurricane strikes to corporate evacuation plans and even how to make sure they get their paychecks. CSX CEO Michael Ward records voice-mail messages each week that are posted as scripts on the Web site.
“His first message went out on June 1 and it dealt with how to prepare for a hurricane. One of his most recent messages encouraged all our employees to sign up for direct payroll deposit.
“If you’ve been moved to Atlanta, we don’t want your paycheck to be in a mailbox here in Florida that’s under water,” said Hawkins.
He added that employees can also call a toll-free telephone number that will provide real-time information in addition to wide-distribution e-mail and voice-mail capabilities that allows CSX to communicate with every person in every office simultaneously.
“We want to make sure our employees have several channels to get information. We update information as soon as possible, usually in a matter of minutes,” said Hawkins.
The company is in the process of testing its latest information distribution tool, “CSX-TV,” at the Jacksonville headquarters and will soon expand the system. It’s basically a Web-based closed circuit TV system that’s connected to plasma screens in CSX offices.
“It’s in all of our offices here in Jacksonville and we’re field-testing it in other locations. Ultimately, the service will be available throughout our network to provide corporate and disaster updates from one source of information. That could help control rumors,” said Hawkins.
He pointed out there is just one reason so much planning and effort has gone into the disaster preparedness process at CSX.
“With everything we do in this business, safety is our highest priority. We don’t want to put our employees or their families in jeopardy but at the same time we have to keep our operations running.”
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