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Employees Keep Business Moving During Storm

As Hurricane Sandy encroached, RailWorks employees responded. Michelle King, Linda Horan, Kathy Calvente, Fabi Mayor and Louanne Wilson processed the payroll for RailWorks employees at a backup office on Long Island on October 31 after the storm knocked out power and internet service at the Corporate Operations Center in East Farmingdale, N.Y.

Hurricane Sandy swept up the East Coast of the United States in late October 2012, causing more than 100 deaths and leaving a path of devastation estimated to cost more than $50 billion. RailWorks weathered the storm with minimal disruption due to contingency plans in place along with the extraordinary response by our employees.

Here are some details about Sandy’s impact and only a portion of the response by our employees at work along the Eastern Seaboard. We salute all of our employees who were affected by Sandy for their dedicated and selfless actions to keep RailWorks at work for our customers and fellow employees and to care for others in need around them.

On Monday, Oct. 22, a tropical depression formed in the southern Caribbean Sea off the coast of Nicaragua.  It later became Tropical Storm Sandy and, within days, Hurricane Sandy.  By Sunday, Oct. 28, Sandy had collided with an arctic cold front.  The giant storm carried winds across 1,100 miles.  Feet of snow fell in half of West Virginia’s counties, and mass transit was suspended in Maryland, Philadelphia, New Jersey and New York City. Politicians, in an election year, canceled campaign appearances.

Sandy’s storm surge hit New York City on Oct. 29.  As streets, tunnels and subway lines flooded and power around the city went out, much of the city stalled.  RailWorks had emergency plans in place, and where employees encountered novel scenarios, they created work-arounds. Here are just a few of their “great works” that kept business moving.

  • L.K. Comstock General Superintendent Salvatore DeMatteo spent five days monitoring flood zones and sending alerts to project managers and general foremen on the status of project operations.
  • Field and project offices in Sewell, N.J., Worcester, Mass., and throughout the Greater New York area secured equipment in their yards, repositioned equipment and materials out of low-lying areas, and confirmed access to generators.
  • The Corporate office in Manhattan and the Corporate/L.K. Comstock operations center in Farmingdale, N.Y., experienced intermittent power outages over several days. N.Y. Transit leadership initiated ongoing communications with field personnel to coordinate Farmingdale office and project activities.
  • The Information Technology (IT) Department, led by Chief Information Officer Bob Cummings, verified that contingency plans developed more than a year ago were in place. The department conducted 10 consecutive morning and evening calls to monitor the storm, its impact on critical business functions, and related IT support activities.   

The IT department maintained contact with departments throughout the week to support essential activities and to help coordinate getting employees set up to work from home. Telecommunications Manager John Barry and Director of Infrastructure Services Bob Hickey monitored and addressed infrastructure, network and power problems and worked with the IT team to resolve them throughout the week.

  • Payroll Manager Fabi Mayor, Finance Manager/Payroll Controller Tom Lealand and Controller Judy DelGizzo decided to begin running payroll early using available data. Mayor contacted payroll employees – Assistant Payroll Manager Linda Horan and Payroll Associates Kathy Calvente, Michelle King, Louanne Wilson, and Susana Wong –who processed payroll from their homes for several days until power outages began hitting one payroll employee after another. They used landline and cell phones to notify each other when the power went out or was restored. Using a tag-team approach, they kept work progressing wherever they could find power.  At one point, Payroll Operations Analyst Fred Omar charged his mobile phone in his car so he could respond to calls from the field about the automated time-collection system.

Eventually, the Payroll department met at the Farmingdale office. They traveled with John Barry to an emergency backup office on Long Island, where the IT and Payroll departments had power and internet connections to perform their work.  By November 1, the two departments were able to resume operations in the Farmingdale office – which they did while many of their homes were without power and while some were taking on water.

  • With all mass transit still shut down in New York, Staff Accountant Kevin Evangelista caught a ride from his apartment in Queens into the Manhattan office so he could get his computer. He then returned home, where he used his Wi-Fi to transmit the file of electronic ACH payments to vendors. He continued this effort throughout the week.
  • Corporate Cash Manager Trisha O’Donohue maintained banking throughout the storm by working off available hotspots in Westchester County, N.Y.
  • Accounts Payable Manager Melissa Quinones used Wi-Fi at her home to transmit the file needed for printing checks.

Sandy affected more than 50 million people on the Eastern Seaboard.  MTA/NYCT, the largest U.S. public- transit service, suffered $5 billion in damage and lost revenue. N.J. Transit, the United States’ second largest transit system, sustained $400 million in damage.

Thanks to the response of our employees, it was a storm RailWorks was able to weather with minimal disruption.