First-hand experience of hurricanes has taught the Coca-Cola UNITED team valuable and unforgettable lessons. In the wake of a severe weather event, in addition to first confirming the safety and well-being of affected associates, it also must be determined whether a local facility can safely resume business operations.
With sales, distribution and production centers located along the Gulf Coast of Alabama, Florida, Louisiana and Mississippi, Coca-Cola UNITED takes hurricane preparedness seriously. Following Hurricane Ida, which made landfall on the Louisiana coastline on Aug. 29, 2021, 16 years to the day since Hurricane Katrina made landfall, Coca-Cola UNITED activated its Mission Support Command Center for the very first time.
Housed in a 53-foot transport trailer that was formerly a NASCAR merchandise trailer, the Mission Support Command Center is now stationed right outside New Orleans Coca-Cola, where Hurricane Ida relief efforts are under way. The command center is the latest addition to Coca-Cola UNITED’s mission support network and operations which include generators, portable showers and restroom units, and other essential equipment needed in a storm’s aftermath.
The Mission Support Command Center serves as a mobile sales center and shelter, and is outfitted with wall-mounted, foldable desks, sleeping quarters, wall-mounted coolers, a kitchen with a working sink, grill and stovetop burners, a private office space, restroom and additional storage space for folding chairs and tables, air mattresses, tents and other necessities.
The command center also has its own satellite network and portals to connect computers, printers and other critical technology to the business.
“We can actually run the business out of here,” said Coca-Cola UNITED Corporate Fleet and Facilities Director Larry Pritchett. “Our goal was to create a multi-purpose vehicle that is self-sufficient.”
The command center was transported to New Orleans from Virginia, where the satellite network was recently installed. When not activated, the command center is housed at the Montgomery Coca-Cola Production Center in Alabama.
Lessons learned from past hurricanes informed the command center’s amenities. For example, when Hurricane Michael impacted Panama City Coca-Cola in Florida in 2018, accessing the facility was not an option immediately following the storm. When Hurricane Laura impacted Lake Charles Coca-Cola in Louisiana in 2020, the network to communicate needs, information and resources was down.
Coca-Cola UNITED Vice President of Supply Chain and Operations Stan Ellington credits Pritchett and the supply chain team for bringing their vision to fruition.
“Larry and his team have put in an awful lot of effort over the past year to bring Mission Support and our overall network to life,” Ellington said. “To have these resources available for our associates in times of need is nothing short of amazing.”