Sep 14, 2017

Helping In Houston: Employees Step Up Following Historic Hurricane

After Hurricane Harvey hit Houston, Texas, Medtronic employees took action – including one man who put work on hold and rescued flood victims trapped in their homes.

On one street, eerie silence. On another, people screaming for help.

And water everywhere.

Dodging submerged cars and picket fences, their boat’s propeller had already sustained damage. They knew it wouldn’t last much longer, but they had to keep going.

There were more families needing to be rescued.


Michael McDaniel is a Medtronic employee and a proud Texas-native. The 38-year old lives in Dallas with his wife and two children. But he grew up in Houston.

Before Hurricane Harvey hit, McDaniel was preparing for a busy few days at work. As a regional business manager he oversees the “Bayou Region” which includes Houston. 

“I had an important quarterly business review meeting —  then the storm hit,” he recalls. “I called my boss and told him I couldn’t’ make it. I had to go to Houston.”

Pulling a fishing boat behind them, McDaniel and a close friend contacted local authorities who directed them to one of the hardest-hit neighborhoods. Then the work began.

“It was so early on, there wasn’t a coordinated rescue effort yet. It was just volunteers in boats.”

Guiding their 18-foot boat, they maneuvered through quick-moving water, going house to house looking for people to help.

“Families were hanging out of second-story windows yelling and shouting addresses of loved ones,” said McDaniel. “The need was so great — you’re speechless.”

They made dozens of runs into flood-ravaged areas and brought pets, children, and entire families back to dry ground.

“We saw neighborhoods that had no water one minute, but a few hours later it was six feet high.”

They went back a second day to help, but the prop on their boat was damaged so badly, they needed to borrow a second boat.

“The next day, there were hundreds of volunteers. We pulled people from homes and apartments and actually teamed up with local authorities who guided us into places with victims in desperate situations.”

In all, they worked two-and-a-half days and rescued dozens of people.

“I was thankful to have this opportunity to give and to help,” he said. “You’re trying to do what others would do for me.”


McDaniel wasn’t the only Medtronic employee to jump into action. Blanca Silva-Solis avoided major flooding in her neighborhood, but drove through rising waters and quickly turned her attention to collecting supplies for hurricane victims. 

“I immediately went to the store and bought items I knew people would need,” said Blanca. “We quickly coordinated drop-off locations and organized a donation effort.”

On the first day following the storm, Blanca connected with a nearby shelter with just a few hundred storm victims. By the third day, the shelter was housing more than 9,000 people.

“This was a total grassroots effort and we were in the right place at the right time to help people,” she said. “I even wore my Medtronic Mission t-shirt.”

The Medtronic Mission, written by the company’s founders more than 50 years ago highlights the importance of “maintaining good citizenship as a company.”

In the weeks to come, employees are coordinating with All Hands Volunteers, a disaster relief organization sending waves of teams to Houston.  The company allows employees up to five days of paid leave to volunteer with disaster relief efforts. Medtronic and the Medtronic Foundation are also donating to organizations assisting those affected by the storm while several Medtronic facilities are collecting supplies and organizing blood drives. 

“This is what Medtronic employees do,” says McDaniel. “The need will be great for a long-time. There will be plenty of ways to help in the months to come.”


Also, keeping a close eye on Hurricane Harvey was a small team of dedicated employees in the Medtronic Global Security Office who manage the Global Command Center. The center is a 24/7 resource that monitors for any conditions that could impact employees, those who are traveling, and Medtronic facilities around the world.

In this case, the Command Center.

“Ensuring and accounting for employee safety is our first priority in responding to situations,” says Security Manager Phil Law. “We monitor events all over the world and process thousands of touch points in a single day.”

Law is using this real-world example to remind employees the importance of updated contact information in the company’s system.

“We have a duty of care that extends to Medtronic employees,” he says. “Having updated information helps us to do our job.”


Calling Houston his hometown wasn’t the only reason Michael McDaniel made the effort he did.

“I work in those hospitals and those are the patients we serve.,” he says.

That kind of patient-centered mindset could be seen throughout the company during Hurricane Harvey, including special support for those living with diabetes.

For those that rely on Medtronic devices and diabetes therapies, a storm hotline was set up for patients with any urgent needs. 

“We care about our patients impacted by Hurricane Harvey,” said Hooman Hakami, EVP and President of Medtronic Diabetes. “If they need supplies or have questions we need to be there for them.”