The situation called for creativity and speed. A Special Response Team from the U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) in Dallas was short on gear and headed into the midst of Hurricane Harvey relief efforts.
Amazon’s Fort Worth area Fulfillment Center was already gathering donations when they heard about the rescue team and quickly turned all their attention to it.
"This group was staged out of Dallas’ airport. They reached out and said they could use inflatable boats," said Tony Vozzolo, Amazon’s Assistant General Manager at the Fort Worth area Fulfillment Center.
Vozzolo says his team took down what CBP's team needed and then just start adding to it on their own. They donated all 23 inflatable boats in stock, to be used directly in rescue efforts, and more. By the time the agents arrived at Amazon's facility, three trailer loads of supplies were ready to go, including flashlights, rescue lines, child safety vests, trash bags, live preservers, LED headlamps, rope, first aid kits, instant meals, radios, baby wipes and diapers. Amazon fulfillment centers in locations around the world regularly donate supplies to meet community needs, and that effort is especially valuable in response to natural disasters.
"It’s an amazing feeling, just being able to provide support," said Vozzolo, an Iraq War veteran who came to Amazon after serving as a combat arms officer. "Very impressive to see how fast Amazon was able to support this. The capabilities to respond to a natural disaster like this, just using its vast network, not only for humanitarian reasons but also being able to aid in rescue operations was very impressive to see."
His time in the military, he said, left him with an appreciation for the relief efforts underway across Texas, including unusual situations like this one, where his colleagues took it upon themselves to outfit an entire rescue team.
"Thank you for your amazing generosity," wrote CPB’s Angel McKinney in an email. "The spirit to help others is what motivates us to all do what we do as Law Enforcement, as Texans and most of all as Americans."
Vozzolo said his thoughts are with the rescuers in the flood zone and his team is proud to be a small part of their heroic efforts.
"Texas is tough," he added. "Everybody’s going to bounce back and be stronger as a result of this."
How to help:
To support relief efforts, Amazon and Whole Foods announced a $1 million match for donations made via Amazon to the American Red Cross Hurricane Harvey Relief efforts. In just a few days, customers donated $1 million dollars to the American Red Cross Hurricane Harvey Relief efforts via Amazon, meeting the match challenge in full. Your donation enables the Red Cross to prepare for, respond to and help people recover from this disaster.
Customers may continue to donate cash through Amazon or needed products via the Wish List. Additionally, Amazon Operations teams are pulling critically-needed items from our inventory to donate directly to first responders, and Amazon Web Services is working with several NGOs for AWS support and adapting apps to disaster use cases.
Over the next several weeks and months, we’ll continue to share stories of how Amazon and its employees impacted by Hurricane Harvey are responding to the disaster, and rebuilding their community.