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Carlo Ditta Ready Mix Concrete's Joseph Ditta is certain New Orleans will prosper again.

Aggregate prices have increased. The higher fuel prices have caused delivery charges to increase dramatically. But just as important, there have been problems with some of the highway bridges. “The state has lowered total truck gross weights until the main highways are repaired, causing a double whammy on delivery costs,” says Ditta.

Even with all these challenges, Ditta is certain New Orleans will survive and prosper. In fact, he's here to stay. The 38-year-old executive relocated when his home and belongings were severely damaged by the levee break. “I'm looking forward to helping rebuild my hometown and creating a better place for my kids,” he says.

On the storm front

Persevering through the storm and its aftermath took a team effort, says Dave Slaughter, vice president of Eastern U.S. Ready-Mix for Lafarge North America.

With a coordinated effort of local, regional, and national staff, the producer was able to not only get its New Orleans plants up and running quickly to help in the immediate levee repair, but was also able to develop a staff coverage plan to allow key employees help their neighbors.

Slaughter credits strong communication, coordinated by Rob McCurdy, a Lafarge vice president in Louisana, which began when George Anglada took the initiative, located, and secured an unconventional office space—a funeral home. Helping Anglada set up the field command post were Gerald Boudreaux and Tom Dazet, who had computers set up, extra phone lines installed, and a functional office in place, where concrete orders were taken, processed, and dispatched. “Lafarge was the first in the region to be open and ready to serve the public after the storm,” says Slaughter.

Along with the local effort, M.J. Snyder of Lafarge's regional office began preparations for repairing infrastructure and installing new communication lines. Once local managers recognized the magnitude of the communication problem, they recognized the need for a reliable information source outside the region.

Dave Whitehurst, director of manufacturing, established a command center in Lafarge's Towson, Md., office. “With so many employees displaced around the country, it proved to be a great tool in first locating missing employees and them helping them,” says Slaughter.

A toll-free number allowed employees to report their whereabouts and any need for assistance. Danielle Maggio contacted the news media in the Gulf area to alert missing and affected employees early in the recovery process.

Affected employees received updates on direct deposits and emergency funds issues, insurance, employee assistance programs, status of plant operations, and opportunities for work outside of Louisiana. Sandy Rinker and others in human resources manned the phones and coordinated the distribution of emergency funds and direct deposits. They secured temporary housing in Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) trailers for all affected employees.

Helping others

Employee efforts weren't only focused on themselves. Ward McClendon helped Jefferson Parish officials build a temporary dam across a section of Airline Drive, which protected hundreds of homes from rising floodwaters. He also assisted in repairing the 17th Street Canal levee breech.