While Hurricane Ian began blasting its way up Florida’s spine, Herc Rentals’ company leaders knew their teams would face an unprecedented challenge.
With company headquarters in the direct path of the storm and located just a few miles from the Gulf of Mexico, Hurricane Ian presented a nightmare scenario for its disaster response team that had been positioned out of harm’s way.
Unlike other storms or disasters that have been narrow in scope, Hurricane Ian left few unscathed after pummeling large swaths of the peninsula with 155 mph winds and a storm surge that nearly wiped the tourist destinations of Fort Myers Beach, Sanibel, and Captiva off the map.
Nearly everyone living west of U.S. 41 was impacted, yet teams from this leading North American equipment rental supplier found themselves on the ground and serving its customers as well as a significant portion of its 450+ team members based in the affected areas just hours after the storm passed.
Customers and colleagues witnessed catastrophic damage. Brick-and-mortar buildings and homes were reduced to rubble. Vehicles were washed away. Lives were lost. But through it all, Herc Rentals’ teams were there to pick up the pieces and help customers, colleagues, and communities from Naples to Tampa begin rebuilding.
“This is who we are and what we do,” said Jeremy Leger, vice president, specialty equipment (ProSolutions®). “In the immediate aftermath of the storm, the team we assembled in Southwest Florida quickly realized it wasn’t just our customers and communities who needed help — it was also many of our colleagues.”
While the company has years of experience and has proven its capabilities in responding to storms and other disasters with core industrial and construction fleet, climate, remediation and other specialty gear, and teams skilled in emergency response, Hurricane Ian provided a test unlike any other.
Before the storm’s arrival, the company’s disaster response team loaded approximately 70 tractor-trailers full of gear customers would need to recover. This included 4,000 fans, 2,200 LGR dehumidifiers, 800 air scrubbers, 250 generators, and 80 pumps —along with cables and other distribution gear.
This didn’t include the truckloads of core and supplemental fleet the company brought in to assist in removing debris, repairing facilities, and transporting people and supplies.
“We brought fleet in from all over the United States, not only to serve our customers but to assist team members as well,” said Herc Rentals Director of National Field Operations Carl Jackson. With 155 mph, Category 4 winds, and an 18-foot storm surge in some areas, generators and dehumidifiers were in the greatest demand by customers in Naples, Bonita Springs, Fort Myers, Fort Myers Beach, Sanibel, Cape Coral, Punta Gorda, and Tampa.
Jackson staged dozens of team members in Tallahassee, including himself in Tampa, the night before Hurricane Ian’s Sept. 28 landfall.
“Within five hours after the storm passed, we had 50 people on the ground delivering gear,” he said. “After that, we had more than 120 volunteers assisting.” Jackson, who has responded to numerous disasters over the years, said he had never witnessed the kind of damage Hurricane Ian unleashed on Southwest Florida.
Neither had many Herc Rentals employees who survived other deadly hurricanes like Andrew, Charley, Wilma, and Irma. Realizing the widespread damage, team members set up a fund for donations to help affected colleagues. The company then matched the total.
The donations felt like a blessing for those who lost homes, vehicles, and property. For them, it proved the company cared and adhered to its values: “We do what’s right,” “We’re in this together,” “We take responsibility,” “We achieve results,” and “We prove ourselves every day.”
Senior Product Support Coordinator Jason Berenguer was one of many who saw extensive storm surge damage to his home. When he received this unexpected donation, he broke down. “I was at a complete loss for words. Totally unexpected,” he said. “I couldn’t believe it. I really didn’t know what I was reading!”
The same could be said of Sourcing Manager Janine Brown, who was forced to evacuate during the hurricane as Ian’s storm surge almost completely covered her one-story Estero home.
“I feel so blessed because so many lost so much more,” said Brown. “People lost loved ones, their homes, their jobs. I’m so fortunate to work for a company like Herc Rentals. The people at Herc were wonderful.”