Riding out the storms: Lowe's shares its best practices

Lowe’s store manager Michael Hollowell received a congratulatory call from the President of the United States the day after he and his team herded about 70 customers away from the vulnerable front-end of his Sanford, N.C., store, moments before it was ripped apart by a tornado.

The modest Hollowell credited the training and policies handed down to him and his team from the Mooresville, N.C.-based retailer. But interviews with witnesses suggest that quick thinking and decisive action played a major role, as customers verbally questioned the danger -- and even the existence of a tornado. According to reports, it took calm, clear leadership to get everyone back to the protected rear of the store, literally seconds before the tornado hit.

Home Channel News asked Lowe’s to describe the policies that Michael Hollowell credited for the successful emergency management. Here’s what we heard:

• In a tornado warning, the manager on duty makes a public address announcement for customers and employees to move to a safer place in the building.

• Employees direct customers to safe area and encourage them to remain calm.

• Take shelter inside the building under sturdy objects such as desks, counters, archways, interior hallways and away from windows, doors and glass.

The company also said that management takes the safety of Lowe’s customers and employees very seriously, so the company has store staff dedicated to monitoring and reporting severe weather situations when the National Weather Service releases warnings and watches.

All 1,750 Lowe’s stores are also prepared to act in a worst-case scenario when severe weather or natural disasters hit stores, and Lowe’s  has an “Emergency Command Center” staffed 365 days a year dedicated to supporting stores before, during and after an emergency situation. The Lowe’s Emergency Command Center guides stores through crisis situations and the aftermath/cleanup phase.

Across North Carolina last month, a severe weekend of weather saw dozens of destructive tornadoes sweep across the state. Throughout the South, there were more than 200 deaths reported, while the property damage continues to be tallied. 

In Sanford, N.C., Lowe’s said it will eventually reopen the store. Until then, employees have been given jobs in other area stores.