Amazon says it has turned over more records to Congress after being accused of obstructing probe into warehouse collapse

Published: Jun. 9, 2022 at 8:15 PM CDT
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EDWARDSVILLE, Ill. (KMOV) -- Amazon says it turned over more records to Congress after being accused of obstructing a Congressional probe into the Edwardsville warehouse tornado.

Six people died when the warehouse collapsed during an EF-3 storm on December 10, 2021.

In March, the House Committee on Oversight and Reform launched an investigation into Amazon’s actions surrounding the storm. The committee gave Amazon a list of materials to hand over by mid-April. Congress members claimed Amazon did not turn over all the requested material and gave the company until June 8 to comply.

Amazon tells News 4 it sent “additional documents” to the committee but would not specify what those documents entail.

Amazon claims it sent the committee a letter detailing changes the company has made since the storm. According to Amazon, the company is upgrading strobe lights and sirens at all US locations and recently added a 24/7 team to monitor the weather. News 4 Investigates first uncovered Amazon was hiring a chief meteorologist in January, at the time Amazon would not confirm if it was a position created in response to the Edwardsville tornado.

Amazon sent News 4 the following excerpts from the letter it sent to the congressional committee:

“….While we have no doubt that the heroic efforts of Amazon team members saved many lives during the Edwardsville tragedy, and OSHA confirmed that we met the standards they expect from a responsible employer, we believe we can continue to improve and innovate on our emergency response protocols. Amazon is actively undertaking several initiatives to improve worker safety in the event of extreme weather and other disasters, including:

• Enhanced drill requirements: We have long required our facilities to conduct emergency response drills at least annually. We have updated our global emergency response procedures to require each core shift (including all on-site contractors and visitors) to undergo at least one external evacuation drill and one shelter/severe weather drill annually. Each drill must be followed by a debrief to evaluate performance.

• Alarms and signage: Our prior procedures required that designated shelter areas and rally locations be clearly and conspicuously marked and that each site have means to alert associates in an emergency. We have reviewed compliance with these requirements across our network, are updating strobe lights and sirens in North America locations, and are evaluating a mass notification system for installation at all sites across North America. We also have provided printed copies of each site’s Emergency Action Procedure at each facility, ensured that all site contacts and map layouts are up to date, and developed visitor brochures with emergency information that are readily available to employees, drivers, or other contractors at our facilities.

• Improved emergency response training: To build upon the safety and emergency preparedness training we previously required, both managers and line personnel were assigned refresher emergency response trainings on all shifts at Amazon facilities. In addition, all new hires and transfer associates must now complete site response training within one week of initial assignment. We also are enhancing the content of our trainings and reviewing emergency response training materials for third parties working in Amazon facilities, including materials used with DSPs and other third-party contractors, to ensure robust coverage of severe weather events.

• Updates to severe weather and emergency response protocols: We have updated our Global Emergency Response Development Procedure to provide greater clarity on protocols and procedures to follow in a severe weather emergency. These updates include new guidance for roles in an emergency, standardized weather event definitions, and universal thresholds for operational responses to severe weather.

• Severe weather monitoring and communications: At the time of the tornado, we had already begun efforts to track weather-related events by a centralized team and coordinate unified weather-related and safety messaging to DSPs and delivery partners across facilities. We have since expanded that initiative by creating a continuous monitoring and action center, which became fully operational with 24-hour coverage on March 21, 2022 and has already acted on more than 1,500 severe weather events. The center is also improving and streamlining process and reaction times for weather-related communications to DSPs, drivers, and facilities.

• New emergency badges: We have issued new emergency badge cards for all onsite personnel, including visitors, that now contain a detailed site map showing internal and external evacuation points, severe weather assembly areas, and instructions on what to do in an emergency. New incident management team badges have also been designed that include instructions for what to do during and after an emergency event……”