When people think of companies working toward Ebola containment, they probably aren’t thinking about automotive companies, or more specifically, tire companies. When it comes to the virus ravaging West Africa, however, one automotive company has seemingly done what entire governments have been struggling to achieve.
Firestone is more than just a mechanic service and tire company. The corporation also owns rubber plantations, including one in Harbel, Liberia where Firestone workers and their families make up a community of approximately 80,000 people. On March 30th, the first case of Ebola was reported on the plantation, and since that time, Firestone has gone into disease management overdrive.
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According to a report from NPR, Firestone immediately built its own treatment center and implemented an infection management protocol. The company did their own research online into Ebola and effective containment strategies, eventually clearing out a building on the plantation to serve as an isolation hospital. Employees working inside were outfitted with hazmat suits originally designed to manage hazardous chemical spills in the rubber factory. As a precaution, the infected woman’s entire family was also quarantined regardless of whether or not their risk was considered low.
Thanks to Firestone’s prompt and decisive response, no other people on the plantation were affected, and now, the only cases being treated in the isolation building are from patients who have come to the treatment facility from outlying areas.
Ed Garcia, the managing director of Firestone Liberia, told NPR when the infected woman arrived on the plantation, he and the rest of the management staff went into crisis mode. “Unfortunately, at that time, there was no facility that could accommodate her,” he said. “So we quickly realized that we had to handle the situation ourselves. None of us had any Ebola experience.”
It was four months before the plantation saw another Ebola case, this time when the Ebola epidemic started to hit Liberia full force. This was when Firestone realized Ebola was not something private to be dealt with; the country needed their support as well. They kept the facility on the plantation open and staffed with doctors to treat as many patients as they could.
Understanding how important it is for companies with the means to provide aid in West Africa to do so, The Bridgestone Group, parent company to Firestone, has announced it will be sending a million dollars to Ebola efforts in Liberia.
“Our Firestone Liberia teammates and community have selflessly met the demands of this deadly outbreak and we support them and the great work Samaritan’s Purse and UNICEF are doing in the region to help protect the citizens of Liberia and West Africa,” said Gary Garfield, CEO and President, Bridgestone Americas, Inc, reported by All Africa. “We implore others to step up in taking on this fight against Ebola.”
Yutaka Yamaguchi, Bridgestone Group’s Vice President and Senior Officer, added, “We know that it will take everyone – every citizen, government official, a health worker and company in the region – to provide the education, resources and supplies needed to stop the spread of this disease. More support is needed and we hope others will join Bridgestone in supporting organizations that are on the front lines of this global health crisis.”