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Intel Teams Mobilize to Help Employees on Asiana Jet

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Note from the editor: The July 6th Asiana Airlines plane crash hit a little too close to home for us. Geographically, yes, it’s an airport that many Intel employees have flown in and out of for personal and business reasons as our world quarters are located nearby in Santa Clara, but it wasn’t just that. There were a few Intel employees and family members on that plane. This is the story about how Intel sprung into action to help those employees and help them in the aftermath.

Guest blogger: Walden is from Intel’s Internal Employee Communications team.

It was about 8 p.m. Saturday evening, July 6. Corporate Security’s Richard was lounging at his home in Swindon, England, watching a DVD. Halfway around world, his colleague, Steve, was vacationing on Washington State’s remote Long Beach peninsula. He had just parked his car, and was walking toward the beach. Suddenly both began getting urgent email pings: there’d been a major commercial plane crash in San Francisco. And as they would soon learn, there were three Intel employees aboard that flight.

This is the story of how multiple Intel teams and people on three continents, primarily from Intel Corporate Security and Intel HR’s Customer Care team—very quietly, very rapidly, with zero fanfare—immediately swung into action on behalf of Intel employees.

It’s also a case study showing how employees—by keeping Intel fully in the loop on their business travel details and whereabouts—can speed Intel’s efforts to find them and lend a hand.

First word arrives within 90 minutes

Asiana Airlines flight 214—a huge Boeing 777-200 coming in too low and too slow on its final approach to San Francisco International at the end of a 10-hour flight from Seoul—had smacked into a concrete seawall, lost its entire tail section, skidded down the SFO runway, did a half-cartwheel, and began to burn. There were 307 people aboard. Ultimately, there would be three fatalities, but miraculously, everyone else survived.

Within a scant 90 minutes of the Asiana crash, Intel Security learned that three Intel employees and some family members were aboard—their conditions still unknown—and that they would almost certainly be in need of help.

Investigators with the U.S. National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) at the Asiana flight 214 crash scene at San Francisco International Airport. Three Intel employees, and several of their family Investigators with the U.S. National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) at the Asiana flight 214 crash scene at San Francisco International Airport. Three Intel employees, and several of their family members, were aboard the jet. The Boeing 777-200 had departed Seoul 10 hours earlier. NTSB photo.

Employees had kept Intel looped in on travel plans

The first notification that Intel had three employees on the jet came in to Intel Security’s Richard, the guy at home in England. He got a phone call from an outside firm, on contract to Intel. In the event of a disaster, the firm immediately begins scouring passenger manifests, and matching them with its own customers’ employee travel records.

This seemingly minor point—Intel employees had booked their travel through Intel channels—would prove key to getting help to them fast. Two of the three Intel employees were traveling on business, the third for vacation. Luckily, all three booked through the standard Intel travel process. Shortly after the passenger manifest was matched up with Intel employee travel records, Intel was notified.

Intel Security ‘follows the sun’

Much like it does for some advanced chip design work, Intel has adopted what Intel Security Director Steve calls a “follow the sun” model for calamities. While Richard continued to work to find information on the Intel employees’ status, he immediately reached out to his Intel Security teammates in the U.S. and in Asia to brief them.

Among the first attempts to reach our folks on the jet was a straightforward cell phone call that Richard made. He got a recording that the phone was powered off. “That was ominous,” he recalls.

Behind the scenes, senior leaders keep tabs

Within four hours of the crash, employees from the Human Resources’ Global Workforce Mobility, Intel Travel, and other teams were assembling virtually. Jim, who helps manage the process of corporate responses to emergencies, worked to ensure communications were efficient and quick-moving.

Intel senior leaders—including CEO Brian Krzanich—stayed in the loop throughout the weekend and checked in with Steve to be sure we were doing all we could. “They all asked ‘What can we do?’” says Steve.

Intel's HR Customer Care team kicks in

Seven hours after the crash, the first info came in—“ second-hand, but solid” is how Steve describes it—that the three employees, as well as one of the employee’s two daughters, were okay. The wife of an employee was hospitalized but her injuries were not life-threatening.

In many kinds of major disasters—floods, fires, crashes, storms, other disasters—those who are lucky enough to survive unhurt are often left without life’s essentials: clothing, cash, valuables, passports and other important documents, or simply a phone to reach out to assure others they’re ok.

(This is why Intel strongly urges employees on travel to always keep two of life’s essentials always on your person: your cell phone and your passport.)

In such situations the help of Intel HR Customer Care team members are invaluable. They provide case management for complex, cross-functional HR issues, dealing with everything from escalations on HR issues to employee hardships and tragic events. Customer Care employees—about a dozen of them—are positioned worldwide and can step in quickly when their help is needed.

Cheris, an Oregon-based Customer Care team member, had been working to get through to our employees. She  reached the first of the employees at 1:45 p.m. on Sunday when the number she had been given was answered.She identified herself, then asked him simply, “Tell me what you need.”

Daily check-ins with crash survivors

They had lost passports, driver’s licenses, and all their luggage in the burning plane. Over the next hours and days, Cheris and her team worked with the Intel employees as they began to assemble their post-crash lives. The team arranged for emergency credit cards so that the employees could buy clothing and begin to recover what they’d lost. They quickly arranged for laptops so that they could take care of myriad personal logistics. One of the employee’s former managers took her out the next day to shop for clothes and other personal supplies.

Over the next week, Cheris would have contact every single day—by voice, text, or email—with each of the Intel employees, just to see if they needed any additional help. Though it turned out to be unnecessary, she researched medical transport options to move the employee’s wife who was hospitalized to a hospital closer to her home in Arizona.

‘Intel is a family’

Looking back on the Asiana crash and its aftermath, members of both organizations—HR and Corporate Security—say that dealing with extraordinary circumstances is simply what they do for a living.

Steve’s Security team includes Intel employees with many years of real-world security experience in premier law enforcement, intelligence, and military organizations all over the world. In the past, they’ve successfully evacuated employees—details remain confidential—from danger zones or political turmoil around the globe. “When we’re successful, no one knows anything,” says Richard.

In an email note that he sent to Intel friends and well-wishers several days after the crash, one of the employees on the flight summed up his thoughts.

“After the incident my family has gone through, I want to say that I can truly see how much Intel is a family. I was lucky to have my family there quickly, but if they hadn’t been able to be there, I believe Intel would have helped. They offered credit cards, hotel, and basics to get me back on my feet fast. They continue to help me figure out how to move forward.”

When we asked Cheris, all she had to say was, “it’s very gratifying to be able to help people in their time of need.”