Weathering the Storm

Posted November 15, 2020 in Afni News

On November 11, 2020, Typhoon Vamco devastated the Philippines with hurricane-intensity winds and flooding rain. Also known as Typhoon Ulysses, the powerful storm forced more than 100,000 evacuations and took dozens of lives.

Afni’s facilities and employees in the Philippines were impacted by the dangerous typhoon as well. The fast-moving storm gained strength as it approached heavily populated areas, leaving little time for preparation.

“Typhoons are common in the Philippines, but the rate at which this storm intensified was atypical,” says Gary Goodhart, Afni’s Senior Strategic Project Manager for Business Continuity Planning. “This severe-weather situation was much different than others we have experienced in the past.”

To make matters worse, at the time of the storm more than 80 percent of Afni’s local staff was working remotely due to COVID-19. While Afni’s three buildings in the region are reinforced and well-protected against tropical storms, most of the area’s residential structures are not.  

“The immediate concern was for the safety of our employees,” says Cindy Blackburn, Afni’s Vice President of Global Human Resources. “Our HR team worked closely with operations and senior leadership to get our people whatever they needed.”

Approximately 500 Afni employees and their families were affected by the storms. Blackburn and other senior leaders quickly formed a plan to assist with emergency needs including food, water, temporary housing, home repair, and basic living supplies. Once the urgent safety issues were remedied, Afni leadership quickly shifted to addressing outages for customers who receive service from the Philippines team.

Within Afni’s three area facilities, all redundant backup systems performed as planned, minimizing issues at the site level. For remote workers, mobile connections were established to assess and test the technical status of each offsite location. Employees who could still connect and work from home were given updated equipment to replace anything that might have been damaged by the storm. Those who could not work remotely were transported to one of the three Afni facilities, which also served as temporary housing.

“Our team would also like to thank Afni’s valued clients and customers,” says Khalid Khursheed, Afni Vice President of Philippines Operations “They have been incredibly supportive in helping us see to the needs of our people, while also demonstrating patience and compassion as we worked to restore vital services.”

Within the first 24 hours of the typhoon’s landfall, 50 percent of the Philippines workforce was back online serving Afni clients and their customers. Five days later, Afni’s agent coverage was running at 100 percent—a remarkable achievement that wouldn’t have been possible without compassion, dedication, and teamwork.

“The collaboration and attention to detail from all Afni leaders and departments ensured the safety of our people, the security of our clients, and the best-possible service for all customers,” Blackburn says. “So many people came together to help with everything from delivering boxes of emergency supplies to supporting the operations team to creating a program for Afni employees to make donations to their colleagues in the Philippines.”

Every dollar raised from the employee-giving program will go directly to those impacted by the typhoon. In addition, Afni announced an initial donation of $10,000 to support those employees in need.

“This situation has once again demonstrated that Afni is a company with a truly good soul, with clear priorities and a focus on our people,” Goodhart says. “That focus drives employee loyalty and unity, which coupled with the strengths of our client partnerships and overall business health, helps us weather any crisis.”

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