The Bridgestone tire plant in La Vergne is one of the first companies nationwide to build and man a Severe Weather Control Center that warns employees of approaching severe storms and tornadoes.
The plant, which employs just under 900 team members, is like most large manufacturing plants in that it has few windows.
It's also noisy from running equipments, so employees have little or no warning of impending storms.
“The teammates voiced a concern that they wanted a better higher tech system,” said plant safety manager Bud Hale. “We have a little over 110 or 115 spotters trained for our facility.”
Bridgestone had volunteers attend a National Weather Service storm spotters class for training on how to determine if storms are severe and include a tornado.
“If it's really tracking our way, if we determine it's going to strike our plant, we can take shelter within 3 minutes,” said Bridgestone team member and certified storm spotter Sherman Mosley.
“They're looking for storms that track toward the plant. Here's our plants GPS location,” said Mosley.
A GPS pinpoints the plant's location amidst the national and regional live radar.
Since it takes time to shut down a plant the size of Bridgestone, and turn off the many crucial pieces of equipment that operate the plant, a yellow alarm is sent to the plant floor and to team members IP phone 20 minutes before the storm hits the plant.
That gives operators time to shut down those pieces of equipment.
If the tornado stays together and continues its path to the plant, a red alarm is sent 10 minutes out, to signal workers to seek shelter.
The command center was built in reaction to the April 2011 tornadoes that killed more than 300 people in Alabama, and damaged Bridgestone's distribution center in Lebanon which injured two workers.