When Rayshuan Walkersmith started in his role as Retail Store Manager in Placerville, California, battling wildfires was not on his list of roles and responsibilities. But when the Caldor wildfire neared town, he knew he had to act.
What started as a small, slow-burning fire in El Dorado County turned into a destructive blaze, prompting the evacuation of more than 20,000 people and burning 221,835 acres in the El Dorado National Forest and other areas of the Sierra Nevada from August-October 2021.
When the wildfire reached Placerville, Rayshaun had only been in his new role for one month. But when he noticed residents fleeing their homes and gathering in a large parking lot shared by AT&T and other local businesses, he saw an opportunity to help.
Working with Bryant Milesi in External Affairs and Martha Kohler in Retail Execution, Rayshaun was able to provide water, food and face masks to the residents seeking refuge from the smoke and blaze while also keeping the store open for residents parked in the lot to charge their devices.
Weeks drew past and progress fighting the fire was slow. Rayshaun continued to watch as residents remained stranded in the parking lot. With the help of Bryant and Andy Bailey in Corporate Social Responsibility, Rayshaun teamed up with local shelters, eventually connecting with the Red Cross. Once on site, Rayshaun and Bryant supplied loaner phones and charging stations to the Red Cross as they helped care for fire victims.
“We had to steer away from sales and performance,” Rayshaun said, “And support the community and first responders.”
Stories like these demonstrate the importance of compassion and solidarity amongst fire fighters, first responders and community members alike when faced with natural disasters. As wildfire season arrives earlier and more severely across drought-impacted states in the West, we’re already seeing the profound toll these deadly natural disasters can have on local communities and those taking on the enormous task of fighting the blaze.
When it comes to public safety and our first responders, our dedication is not limited to network enhancements or tools for responding to emergencies in the moment. Just as we work to support first responders when they’re on-duty fighting raging wildfires, we must also work to support their physical and mental wellness while off-duty.
Through FirstNet, Built with AT&T initiatives such as the FirstNet Health and Wellness Coalition, FirstNet’s animal assisted therapy program, ROG the Dog, and FirstNet’s app catalog that features mental health and wellness apps – we are making resources available to support the mental health of first responders.
- Learn more about the health and wellness resources FirstNet and others have put together: Supporting Our First Responders – On and Off the Job.
We are investing in these resources because improving mental health and wellness is an important step to properly supporting the brave individuals on the frontlines who work tirelessly to keep us safe.
We are also helping communities connect to resources to plan ahead for emergencies and natural disasters using tools from AT&T and other organizations:
Tips for Families & Small Businesses –
- Plan ahead with our tips & resources for preparing for natural disasters.
- Make sure you’re prepared with FEMA’s wildfire evacuation checklist.
- Sign up for emergency alerts via Ready.gov from local, state and federal officials.
- Download the Equip App, a free app built in collaboration between AT&T and the St. Bernard Project (SBP) to connect communities with interactive tools to plan ahead and recover in the aftermath of natural disasters.
Tips for AT&T Customers –
- Learn how to request help with your AT&T account during a disaster.
- Learn about how to use your smartphone to stay connected in an emergency.
Tips for FirstNet Customers –
- Read FirstNet and Wildfire Response Operations: 5 Things You Need to Know
Rayshaun’s story is one of community and compassion. We thank him and his colleagues immensely for helping his community and supporting first responders in the wake of the blaze. This wildfire season, we encourage you to know your resources and to look out for yourself, your family and your community – the same way Rayshaun did when his community was in need.