Google CEO Sundar Pichai speaks on stage during the annual Google I/O developers conference in Mountain View, California, May 8, 2018.
Stephen Lam | Reuters
Alphabet and Google CEO Sundar Pichai sent a note to employees this past week, telling workers to sign up for an internal emergency alert system that includes location-specific assistance, as California wildfires continue to blaze across the state.
“Like many Bay Area Googlers, the first thing I noticed when I stepped outside today was the smell of smoke from nearby fires,” Pichai said in an email sent to employees late last week and obtained subsequently by CNBC. “Fires burning across California and Colorado have already prompted thousands to evacuate their homes and our hearts go out to the many Googlers affected.”
Google did not immediately respond to a CNBC request for comment.
Pichai told employees that the company is tracking staffers who have opted in to its internal emergency notification system, which is run by its security teams. Google’s Global Security and Resilience Services, which Pichai refers to as “GSRS,” is tracking and reaching out to employees in affected areas while offering support, he said. The GSRS team organized tips for employees on preparing for poor air quality, evacuations and power outages “with peak wildfire season only just beginning in the U.S., and made even more challenging by Covid-19,” he said.
“Our security teams continue to monitor the situation and reach out to Googlers who may be affected as the fires move,” Pichai continued in the company-wide email. “If you haven’t done so already, a reminder that you can share your location history with our Emergency Locator and Notifier system so that our security teams can provide support if you need it.”
Blazes ravage California
In the last week, hundreds of fires have simultaneous blazed across California, and officials have ordered tens of thousands of people to evacuate during a record wildfire season that has already left at least five people dead, 30 people injured and air quality classified as “unhealthy” for several consecutive days.
The wildfires are having a pile-on effect in the San Francisco Bay Area, where Google’s Mountain View headquarters and many tech employees reside. The area is already reeling from some of the country’s highest rates of Covid-19 cases.
Google, last week, announced new features in its Maps and Search products to detail near-real-time wildfire information including location, size, boundaries and road closures in the U.S., which Pichai noted in his email to employees.
Helping remote staff
Pichai’s note comes as executives try to find ways to show support to employees who’ve lost in-person connection as they work remotely through the year 2021.
It comes as the company’s security teams — which have acted as both business conditions forecasters and a form of concierge service or employees — play a larger role in its workforce’s well-being. Early in the pandemic, the GSRS team ran a 24-hour command center to help executives monitor Covid-19 updates in real-time and prepare for how the virus could affect the workforce, CNBC first reported in March. Last month, the team helped inform the company’s decision to extend its work-from-home order until summer 2021.
The company started an internal giving campaign dedicated to the 2020 wildfire relief, which was created by Google’s philanthropic arm Google.org, Pichai said. He added that the company made an initial $250,000 grant to the Center of Disaster Philanthropy amid the fires.
Pichai concluded the note by touting its recent consumer-facing efforts around wildfires and thanking employees for their work on the projects. He noted the new Search and Maps features as well as Google’s three year-old product “SOS Alerts,” which alerts users of emergency information when it senses they’re located in “affected areas.”
“Thanks to all the teams who helped get these new features live in time for wildfire season and to everyone contributing to support folks in need,” Pichai said. “For those in California, Colorado and other vulnerable parts of the country, please continue to prioritize your safety and reach out to GSOC if you need assistance.”
WATCH NOW: Wildfires ripping across California force thousands to flee