In the wake of recent natural disasters, people across the country have been coming together to send support and relief to the affected areas.
Tevis Energy, a long term ADD Systems client based in Westminster, MD, made the choice recently to participate in relief efforts in Florida following Hurricane Irma. We spoke with Tevis Energy COO, Alan Sonnenleiter, and General Manager, Bruce Spiridonoff, to learn more about their experience.
Planning and Preparation
The decision to participate in relief efforts came about before anyone was sure what the impact on the area would be. On Friday, September 8, members of the management team at Tevis decided they wanted to do something to help in the relief efforts for the impending storm. After reaching out to some industry contacts and finding a national company to partner with, Bruce reached out to Tevis employees at 3pm to see if anyone would be interested in participating. By 5:00 that evening, Bruce says he already had 10 to 12 volunteers who were ready to leave that night, if necessary.
Before embarking on an 18 hour drive, Bruce told everyone to go home and get a good night’s sleep. The plan was to leave Saturday morning, but with the storm set to hit that day, they decided to take some extra time to get better prepared for the trip. Over the weekend, they did maintenance and safety checks and put together binders of their licenses and required paperwork for each driver, and on Monday, September 11, the team got on the road with a tractor trailer, four delivery trucks, and a support vehicle loaded with parts and tools. They also packed tents, sleeping bags, gas grills, shovels, hip waders, and lots of drinking water.
During the trip, the two biggest problems the team ran into were finding hotels and sourcing product.
On the first night of the trip, they found that every hotel in the area was completely booked, so they spent the first night sleeping in their trucks. Alan says this worked for almost everyone, but one of their drivers is about 6’6”, so he couldn’t fit in the cab. “He slept with his feet hanging out of the window while it was raining outside,” he commented. Bruce explained, “The further south we went, the harder it seemed to find hotels.” So, for the rest of the trip, one of the project managers would pull out his laptop whenever he had any spare time to search for hotels and call around looking for rooms. His hard work paid off, and he was able to find hotels for the team to stay in.
Sourcing product took a lot of determination, too. One Tevis employee, Kyle Price, spent a lot of time trying to source product from terminals in Florida. Because of power outages, he had a hard time reaching anyone at the terminals. Bruce explained, “Kyle probably spent about 12 hours a day for the first two days calling terminals to find product.”
The trip itself was very fulfilling for the team, Bruce said. While their primary mission was delivering product to service equipment, they were also able to make deliveries to other oil companies, and to generators, including one at a nursing home. While they had originally committed to a 5-day trip, they were asked to extend the project by an additional five days, which the team readily agreed to. Bruce says they traveled all over the state of Florida, making stops in Miami, Fort Myers, the Keys, Orlando, Clearwater, Jacksonville, and more.
When the team finally headed home, they received a very warm welcome. Alan says, “When we heard they were nearby, everyone in the office headed out to the parking lot and gave them a hero’s welcome.”
Bruce and Alan said they learned many lessons from this experience. The first thing they want to look into is streamlining some processes in their back office. Although, as Bruce put it, “to get everything prepared in one weekend – from all of the paperwork for the checkpoints, to the relief stickers for the trucks – we did a pretty good job.”
Bruce also explained that they had to learn to be flexible in dealing with equipment when their usual resources weren’t easily accessible. Alan also talked about how the trip made them think about how they would possibly spec trucks differently in the future, such as possibly putting larger fuel tanks on the trucks, which would mean stopping less frequently to fill up on long trips. He also joked that they “might have to think about adding a sleeper cab to the trucks in the future.”
One of the biggest lessons, Bruce said, is seeing how dedicated the employees at Tevis are. While sending out five trucks didn’t have much of an impact on their operations, he explained that sending two managers on the trip created a heavier workload for the rest of the management team in the office. “Any time you have two people out for an extended period, it puts a strain on the rest of the group,” he explained. “The team that stayed behind happily picked up the extra work without any hesitation, so hats off to them, as well.”
Although the Tevis team is back home in Maryland, they are still continuing their relief efforts. When asked if this was something they plan to do again in the future, Bruce said, “We obviously hope that there’s no more devastation, but we would definitely be willing to do this again. We had a luncheon for the crew that went down to Florida, and they’re all ready and willing to head to Puerto Rico to help out down there.” However, the logistics for that are much more difficult.
Tevis Energy is currently participating in a truck fill for areas of Texas, Louisiana, and Florida that were affected by Hurricanes Harvey and Irma. All Tevis Energy offices and convenience store locations are collecting donations of non-perishable goods. If you live in the area and would like to donate, please visit the Tevis Energy website for a list of suggested items and drop off locations.
We would like to thank the Tevis employees who participated in the relief efforts: Marcus Lanasa, Ken Jones, Greg Medve, Barry Stocksdale, Billy Garland, Matthew Hurley, and Eusebio Guevara. ADD Systems continues to send our thoughts and prayers to all those affected by the recent devastation.