It has been a little over two months since Hurricane Harvey devastated parts of Houston, a city I have called home for many years. While life remains difficult for many of our employees, customers, and business partners impacted by the most catastrophic storm to ever hit the region, incredible stories of survival and selflessness are emerging. Several of our employees are now ready to share their experiences of flooding and loss, survival and hope and how this community – utilizing old-fashioned ingenuity and modern technology – came together to rescue their neighbors during this disaster and its aftermath.
I’m honored to work alongside Siemens 3,000 Houston employees and particularly proud of Zaki Abbassi, Annant Srivastava, and John Steer; ideal examples of Siemens employees who make real what matters.
Zaki Abbasi, Process Safety Consultant
While many Siemens employees lost homes and belongings during the hurricane, Zaki Abbasi shares that he actually gained a few very important things: his hope in humanity – and a baby daughter.
Abbasi, his nearly 40-week pregnant wife and young son rode out the storm in their apartment in Sugarland. They felt the worst was behind them by Sunday night, Aug. 27. Close to midnight, a friend called in a plea for help. Their home was flooding and they were trapped with no way out. The flood waters were too high for him to drive though. So, on Monday morning he established a group on WhatsApp,asked his network of friends for boats and through this, offered a lifeline to anyone else in need. “I left my wife with our friends and family living nearby and told her to call 911 if she went into labor,” Abbasi said. “I wanted to be with her, but those people were in worse off condition than we were.”
Friends quickly responded. One had a paddleboat, another had a canoe, and even more said they wanted to pitch in however they could. Soon after, a local mosque posted Abbasi’s contact information so others in need could reach out for help. The men split into two groups and rescued more than a dozen stranded families throughout the day. “The storm was bad, really bad … but there was something good, too.” Abbasi said. “Everyone was helping everyone. And no one cared about color or religion. So many people were offering their personal boats to make rescues.”
Though Abbasi intended to go back out for more rescues on Tuesday, baby Khadijah had other plans. Abbasi’s wife went into labor early Tuesday morning – one day before her due date – and the 7-pound, 2-ounce girl was born at the hospital, with her father and older brother ready to welcome her into the world. Both mom and baby are healthy, and Abbasi has a renewed hope for his family, his community and all of Houston.
Annant Srivastava, Solutions Architect and Product Manager
The solutions architect and product manager for Siemens has a love for technology, and delivers software solutions to our many oil and gas customers along the Gulf of Mexico. He also has a personal passion for service, and is devoted to social work at home and abroad. These two forces came together during Hurricane Harvey, empowering Srivastava to help keep his community informed before and during the storm – as well as rescue and house a family of six when part of the city started to flood afterward. “I knew something bad was coming and I wanted to be prepared. I was prepared to evacuate … I was prepared to live inside my house,” Srivastava said. “I was not a first-responder, but I made connections with them and together, we helped.”
A few days before Harvey, Srivastava established a WhatsApp group with more than 200 people in his community and the local media. He checked the status of every co-worker he knew personally and ensured they were prepared. When dawn broke and the city east of Highway 99 began to go underwater, Srivastava used a Google Feedback form to register anyone willing to help who had a boat – or a vehicle tall enough to navigate the flood waters. He coordinated rescues by the volunteers – and worked with key points of contact from the American Red Cross and Sewa International, a Hindu faith-based, humanitarian service organization.
The teams worked feverishly to put boats where they were needed most to rescue those in danger. “I credit technology, 100 percent,” Srivastava said. “If we didn’t have the technology, I would not be connected to the right people. Once you’re connected, it becomes personal connections, but you can’t get away from the fact that technology is what brought us together.”
John Steer, Field Service Engineer
On the eve of Hurricane Harvey, a Siemens field service engineer who was commissioning new drives on a customer’s docked oil rig was evacuated in a fury. John Steer, Sr. arrived home on Friday night at 10 p.m. and readied himself and his family for a Category 4 nightmare. The storm dumped more than 20 inches of rain on Steer and his neighbors in 24 hours – on top of rain that had already fallen. And that’s when the flooding began. “The water started coming onto the street and backing up drains. The street flooded and we couldn’t drive away,” Steer said. “We walked to our neighbors, who still had power, to check on them. By the time I got back to my house, I put my valuables on folding tables that were upside down, I grabbed my work computer, personal computer and a backpack. My house was suddenly under 4 feet of water.”
Steer and his family took his johnboat, equipped with a motor weaker than that on a lawnmower, and navigated to the front of the community. It looked less flooded, safer, and perhaps help would be waiting. “As we’re going, there are people standing on their rooftops and on the tops of their cars waving white flags,” Steer remembers. “Everyone was calling 911 during the night, but no one came.”
With first responders unable to reach the community safely, it was only neighbors like Steer who could help the other neighbors make it to safety. Though his own house was flooded, Steer spent all of Sunday pulling people from their homes, loading them onto his johnboat and delivering them safely to a makeshift shelter at a local church.
Siemens supports Houston and its recovery. The company donated $100,000 to the Hurricane Harvey Relief Fund and matched employee donations to the Fund, dollar for dollar, up to $150,000. To make a donation, please click here.
Published On: November 6th, 2017