By Ron Derrick for Domestic Preparedness
A community’s level of resilience during a disaster often relies on the preparedness efforts of its private sector partners. Companies that invest in preparing for and responding to large-scale events are protecting much more than just company profits. For example, the thought and design that went into one hamburger restaurant led to a companywide culture of safety and community service.
Whataburger was born from one man’s dream in 1950 when Harmon Dobson opened a small building selling burgers for just 25 cents in Corpus Christi, Texas. His idea was for someone to hold up the burger and think, “Wow, What-A-Burger.” The name has stuck, and the company has gone from one little shack to over 950 restaurants across 14 states. The orange and white colors and the iconic “A-frame” building came from the founder’s passion. Dobson was a pilot, and he wanted to be able to see his buildings as he flew overhead. The orange and white colors come from aviation; most airports use these colors to signify obstructions and buildings. The “A-frame” shape is also iconic, and a version of it is used in all new construction along with the flying “W.” In 2001, the 77th Texas Legislature officially designated Whataburger as a “Texas Treasure.”
Whataburger restaurants grew rapidly into many southern states, and most restaurants are open 24 hours. Executive leadership knew that issues and incidents would need to be handled through an elite team with emergency management and crisis response experience and expertise. In response, the company formed the Whataburger Command Center, which initially consisted of four individuals dedicated to identifying potential threats and incidents that could impact or threaten employees, customers, restaurants, or brand reputation. After COVID-19 emerged in the U.S. in March 2020 and several company re-organizations between 2020 and 2023, the team now has one senior manager and one professional running a high-level Command Center at the San Antonio, Texas, home office. This team uses multiple vendors and applications to help identify, analyze, and verify incoming information.
The Command Center uses a hybrid form of the Incident Command System, and its mission is to prepare for, identify, respond to, and recover from a crisis or an unexpected event that threatens the stability, reputation, or operations of the company’s employees, buildings, franchisees, and support departments. It involves a wide range of activities and strategies designed to mitigate the impact of the crisis and protect the interests of the company and its stakeholders. The main goal of the Command Center is to minimize damages and ensure the company’s survival and quick recovery after a planned or unplanned incident.
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