Employees in Indianapolis FedEx Facility Didn’t Have Phones to Contact Loved Ones

The policy is standard in industrial shipping and sorting facilities, to minimize worker distractions.,

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The employees inside didn’t have cellphones, creating anguish for loved ones.

The FedEx facility where eight people were killed late Thursday. A FedEx spokesman said cellphone access was limited there to minimize distractions.
The FedEx facility where eight people were killed late Thursday. A FedEx spokesman said cellphone access was limited there to minimize distractions.Credit…Maddie McGarvey for The New York Times
  • April 16, 2021

For family members agonizing over the fate of their loved ones who were working inside the FedEx facility where a shooting occurred late Thursday, the usual means of contacting them was cut off: Many did not have their cellphones.

Deputy Chief Craig McCartt of the Indianapolis Police Department told CNN that many employees could not contact their families after the fatal shooting, exacerbating the distress of relatives who were waiting for updates.

Jim Masilak, a FedEx spokesman, confirmed on Friday morning that cellphone access is limited within the facility, where packages are sorted for shipping, to minimize distractions. Such policies are common in the industry, where distractions could prove harmful to workers and disrupt the fast-paced, highly automated operations.

Christina Valor said she had learned about the shooting from news reports and had not been able to reach one of her husband’s sisters who worked at the facility. She was waiting for an update Friday morning at a nearby Holiday Inn Express, where the authorities told family members to gather.

“We’re hoping for the best,” Ms. Valor said. “But we don’t know anything.”

Tammy Campbell, who said her husband works at the FedEx facility, criticized the no-cellphone policy on the local Fox television station on Friday morning while waiting for word about him. She said she was told that he was fine but would not be able to talk to him until his shift was over.

“They need a different type of policy where you can contact your employee or allow them to have their cellphones,” she told the station.

Typically when a truck arrives at a facility like the one where the shooting occurred, FedEx employees unload the packages by hand. From there, the parcels enter a fast-paced and automated system where they are scanned, shuttled around by conveyor belt and sorted. They may then be loaded back onto vehicles to be shipped either to their final destination or another facility.

“Fast-moving machinery and belts zip those packages around like crazy,” said Dean Macuiba, a managing partner at Last Mile Experts, a shipping consulting firm. “You can’t be distracted for a second, you could get hurt.”

Mr. Masilak said on Friday that FedEx was cooperating with the authorities. “We are deeply shocked and saddened by the loss of our team members following the tragic shooting at our FedEx Ground facility in Indianapolis,” he said. “Our most heartfelt sympathies are with all those affected by this senseless act of violence.”

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