As temperatures drop and snowflakes start to fall, most of us bundle up and hunker down indoors, but for Amazon’s vast logistics network, our busiest season is underway. The arrival of winter weather in many parts of the country creates a unique set of challenges that require careful planning and execution with one top priority: safety. One of the many people at the helm of this effort is a meteorologist in our last mile network, Victor Rodriguez. Rodriguez and his team examine seasonal forecasts, assess the potential weather impact on Amazon’s operations network, and identify specific opportunities to help Amazon and its partners ensure safety is prioritized.
While winter weather is particularly difficult to predict, Rodriguez's goal is to provide accurate and timely information to help Amazon and its partners make informed decisions because, as Rodriguez says, “We can't control the weather, but we can certainly make sure we're prepared for it.” We sat down with him to understand how he partners with teams across Amazon to predict and prepare for severe winter weather.
Severe winter weather is just around the corner, and in some places, it has already arrived. Can you share how you and your team prepare Amazon for harsh winter conditions?
Our approach to preparing for any severe weather is trying to anticipate all possibilities to minimize risk and help keep everyone safe. As you can imagine, winter weather is one of the largest disruptors to a transportation logistics company, which is why we leverage meteorology to inform our operations network.
In addition to regular training exercises, predictive forecasting allows us to prepare employees and partners with action plans so they’re ready to respond safely and effectively to diverse weather conditions. Teams across Amazon’s transportation network are in constant communication with critical incident departments, enabling comprehensive tracking and response planning. This, paired with closely monitoring travel advisories, informs adjustments to delivery drivers’ routes, along with changes or reductions to employees’ shifts working at our operations sites.
We communicate in real-time with our delivery partners and their teams via text messaging and in-app notifications before, during, and after weather events, so they have the latest forecasts and mitigation plans. The same goes for leadership teams on-site. In addition to these adjustments, we’ve developed protocols to aid decision-making around opening and closing operations during inclement weather—prioritizing safety above all else.
How exactly does Amazon equip employees and partners to adeptly handle winter conditions? What kind of measures are they taking?
In preparation for winter, we ensure we have the right equipment and gear for various weather conditions for employees in our buildings as well as our Delivery Service Partners (DSPs) and Delivery Associates (DAs) on the road. For instance, Amazon equips operation sites’ employees, who work outdoors, with winter-weather apparel, including gloves, caps, outerwear, hand warmers, and ice cleats. We also install ice plates outside our buildings to help to mitigate slip, trip, and fall incidents. While all of our operations sites are climate-controlled, some employees work predominantly outdoors. As such, if temperatures drop below freezing, they’re required to take breaks inside warm indoor areas, and we ensure they are using the aforementioned supplies.
For those on the road—all of our DSPs’ vehicles must have functioning heat, or their DAs are not allowed to drive. This helps ensure DAs have the option to use their vehicles as a warm place to take breaks. DAs also have a list of indoor break spots, like gas stations or restaurants, which are outlined in the Amazon Delivery app. These measures are in addition to the existing 30-minute meal break and two 15-minute rest breaks that are already built into our routing logic, every day. It’s also important to note that routes are adjusted if the wind chill drops and/or precipitation increases to ensure drivers are protected from the elements.
In 2023 alone, we’ve invested more than $8.5 million in winter supplies for our DSPs and their DAs, including ice scrapers, ice cleats, snow shovels, warm-up kits, snow removal roof rakes, first-aid and roadside emergency kits, and flashlights for deliveries with low light. Winter doesn’t just bring colder temperatures, there are less daylight hours—for this reason, all delivery drivers have access to reflective safety vests to stay visible to other vehicles and customers while out delivering.
Does Amazon provide any safety training to ensure people feel prepared for inclement weather?
Yes, we believe training is key to preparedness. In addition to our mandatory safety trainings and sitewide drills, operations site leaders undergo training programs and practice exercises covering various aspects of winter weather safety. This includes understanding risk factors for cold stress, recognizing signs and symptoms of cold-related injuries and illnesses, and knowing how to report incidents promptly. Employees are also encouraged to reach out to their managers or HR if they have concerns about getting to or from work.
For all of our delivery partners on the road, we emphasize that drivers should never make a delivery if they feel unsafe, and they’re empowered to return to the station if at any time they feel their health or safety is in jeopardy. We provide DSPs training for their DAs on how to walk on snow, ice, slippery surfaces (in their ice cleats), and how to exit a vehicle safely while using three-points of contact to prevent slips, trips, and falls. This also reduces strain on the lower back, knees, and ankles. At our Last Mile Driver Academy, we even have a simulator where we spray a glass floor with water to simulate ice and use that method to teach DAs how to stay focused and avoid distractions. This, coupled with continuous learning tools on winter safety best practices, empowers drivers to make safe decisions when faced with a winter weather situation, while always knowing that no delivery is more important than their safety.
Can you share any specific examples of how your team's weather forecasting and early warnings have helped prevent accidents or disruptions in the past?
Last year, these precautionary measures proved to be successful during severe storms. The team identified Hurricane Ian's trajectory 10 days in advance, which allowed for focused, effective planning. By narrowing down which regions would be impacted, Amazon efficiently managed resources, properly protected teams on the ground, and avoided unnecessary disruptions to package delivery.
Similarly, when Winter Storm Elliot approached, the team adjusted the warning area based on the storm's evolving path. By the time Winter Storm Elliott moved across the eastern half of the United States, Amazon had already reduced or ceased operations at 177 facilities and cancelled, reduced, or re-routed delivery routes to help ensure everyone’s safety. This proactive decision demonstrated the efficiency of precise weather forecasting. We were able to learn from both of these weather events and adjust our preparedness model to expand and improve the safety exercises we previously had in place. We are always looking to evolve, innovate, and set the standard for safety in the industry.
Why are these measures so important to Amazon and its operations?
As winter weather begins to ramp up, Amazon's dedication to safety remains steadfast. Amazon recognizes its broad responsibility to help keep employees and partners safe and aims to set the standard for safety in the industry.
Are there any tips for Amazon customers to help keep delivery drivers safe when they’re delivering?
Yes! We can all play a role in safety this winter. Now that it’s darker earlier, customers can help keep delivery drivers safe by turning their outdoor lights on sooner, salting their driveways, and keeping their dogs inside. With deliveries occurring through the day and evening, customers are able to track their packages, see estimated times of delivery, and plan accordingly.
Learn more about how Rodriguez and his team help keep employees safe.