In response to the widespread devastation caused by Hurricane Ike, the Bridgestone Americas Emergency Response Team, made up of company volunteers, made the journey from Nashville, Tenn., to Orange, Texas, last week to assist in relief and clean-up efforts.

The BERT members have been focusing efforts on assisting teammates at the Firestone Polymers plant in Orange, who are cleaning up and repairing the extensive damage to the plant caused by flooding and high winds. The team is working long hours to try to get the plant back on line as quickly as possible.

"While the focus of our BERT initiatives has always been to support emergency first responders, this effort is a bit unique," said Chuck Tarver, one of the BERT leaders. "We are actually relieving some of the burden to area first responders by helping our own teammates at our facility. In supporting our own family and business operations we are hopeful that we can get the Firestone Polymers Plan back in operation shortly."

The BERT team assisting in this Hurricane Ike relief assignment in Texas is made up of six volunteers from the Bridgestone Americas corporate headquarters in Nashville, Tenn. Along with the six team members, two tractor trailers with emergency supplies, tents, cots and tools were sent to assist in clean-up efforts. Generators on the BERT trucks are now being used to provide power for clean-up operations at the plant.

Bridgestone Americas Emergency Response Team was created after Hurricanes Katrina and Rita ravaged the Gulf Coast and so many first responders were needed to provide temporary shelter, food, water and other forms of critical aid to the thousands of people impacted by the storms. Based on a suggestion from a Bridgestone Americas teammate from the company's Warren County, Tenn. plant, a task force was created which led to the formation of BERT. The BERT mission is to provide assistance to first responders who are called to help communities deal with natural disasters and weather-related emergencies.

Earlier in 2008, BERT acted in concert with the Tennessee Emergency Management Agency to assist victims of the deadly tornadoes that hit Macon County, Tenn., in early February. BERT worked with TEMA and other local organizations to collect and transport goods to families in the affected area. Seven tractor trailers of goods were transported by BERT to Macon County.

"The very existence of the Bridgestone Americas Emergency Response Team shows the tremendous dedication that our citizens and business community have toward helping others in times of disaster," said James Bassham, Director of the Tennessee Emergency Management Agency. "BERT has been exceptionally supportive both in Tennessee and now to other states. During emergencies, capable partnerships between public and private entities are of great service to a community."

During the Hurricane Gustav response, BERT provided a communications center to TEMA. The state then arranged for this mobile BERT facility to help evacuees from New Orleans in a shelter in Smyrna, Tenn., call their families and register for federal individual assistance programs.