Why I'm left humbled by Hurricane Harvey
Sep 1, 2017
Shell CEO Ben van Beurden reflects on the courage and determination shown by all those caught in the trail of Harvey's devastation.
Planning for hurricanes, tropical storms and floods is one thing. The last few days have been something else.
Shell was ready. We knew Harvey was coming in, we could see some of our facilities were in its path (both onshore and offshore) and we put our plans into action: evacuating rigs, closing down refining and chemical operations, tying down equipment, protecting instruments, releasing staff to their homes to prepare, working out product supply plans with customers.
Then it hit. It came in fast. And, as CEO, I very quickly realised the situation was turning into something far more profound than I could have ever expected.
Like most of you, I watched the footage on the television news and saw how Texans were suffering. And it was with those images in my mind that I began to hear of, and marvel at, the extraordinary things that were being done by Shell staff on the ground.
People with their lives being turned upside down, with their possessions and property ruined and with the elements opposing them at every turn, were still doing their jobs, ensuring safety and helping their colleagues. The professionalism I have already heard about - and I am sure I have heard about only a tiny fraction of it - is humbling.
At Shell's refining and chemicals facility southeast of Houston, Deer Park, hundreds of employees and contractors stayed at the site and rode out the storm there... to ensure safety, to assess damage, mitigate the impact and plan for recovery.
Staff from Deer Park also loaned some portable six inch pumps from the facility to a nearby neighbourhood that was about to be flooded. The mayor later said they had saved several hundred homes.
In the parts of our business that work to ensure customers get the products they rely on, many employees headed out in advance of the storm to remote operating centres where they could ensure those products kept moving.
In the community, Shell staff have helped out so many in need that people are flagging down anybody wearing the company pecten symbol to say "thank you".
These are the same staff who were worried that they wouldn't have enough food to last until the flooding fell back... filling up their baths with water in fear of their supply becoming contaminated... printing off basic human survival checklists and advice to be ready for the very worst... trying to stay in contact with family and friends.
One Shell employee had six feet of water in her house. She realised there was nothing she could do... so she abandoned her home and took her husband and children to assist the Shell crisis team that had set up in another city.
And even now, with the sun coming back out and freeways beginning to emerge again from the water, the challenges keep on coming... and the professionalism in the face of those challenges keeps on coming.
The resilience that has been on show in Texas has also been present 9,000 miles away in Mumbai, where floods have also hit and where Shell staff have also kept on going despite everything.
Shell planned for corporate resilience... but not the depths of human resilience we have witnessed: the courage, the grit and the determination.
I have never been more proud of the company that I work for than today. I have never been more impressed by those I work with than now, or felt more honoured to call them my colleagues. What they have done stands alongside some of the brightest moments in 105 years of Shell history in the US.
We will support those staff in all possible ways. We will help meet their needs today and as they go on to rebuild their lives.
It is the least we can do.
Shell is blessed with the staff that it has and, with such people in our ranks, our future together is bright indeed.