“Limited menu, cash only!” This was a phrase heard by millions of Americans who, prior to the 2017 hurricane season, may have harbored illusions about the unfairness of disaster. Likewise, it is a phrase that encapsulates an overarching message to credit unions: your members need you, so you must be prepared.
Whether it is increased demand for cold, hard cash or the distribution of supportive messaging, it is imperative your credit union has a well-practiced plan for weathering future storms. One of the most important observations following recent hurricanes is how close to the margins many businesses are operating on a daily basis, and credit unions are no exception. We now conduct business in an era of standardized disaster, with credit unions sprawling across what are now effectively floodplains. And while there is certainly no sport in natural calamity, there are some game strategies that can help reduce distress at both the credit union and member level.
Who’s on First?
One of the best first steps a credit union can take in planning for an emergency is identifying staff members that may have experience in natural disaster preparation and letting them develop a system for storm-day operations. Who among your employees is evacuating? Is the contact information of all employees readily available to key officials? Who is assigned the role of business continuity planning? These are all key items for those staff members to address ahead of the thunder and lightning.
It is also important, however, not to forget about the “human factor” of employee wellness in the midst of contingency planning. Credit union members are not the only ones who require reminders about their value in times of disaster; employees do as well. The best way to show employees you care is to communicate expectations clearly and support them in their personal decisions to put their safety, and that of their families, first. Flexible scheduling, extra time off and even a few company-paid supplies go a long way in fostering employee loyalty.
Go the Distance on Cash
Restaurants are not the only ones to enact “cash-only” policies during major storm outages. Consider that many individuals return to old-fashioned bartering with neighbors and friends for supplies such as plywood, and many stores, as well as lodging facilities, may too suffer a loss of card processing abilities. As a widespread dash for cash is expected in the days leading up to and after a storm, it is crucial that your credit union have a plan for replenishing ATMs at a more frequent interval than usual and have ample currency on hand at your locations to meet member demand and expectations.
Touch Base on Social Media
The majority of members are looking for bare-bones basics on operational status, availability of services and impact to resources during a storm disaster. Not sure where to start with your social media updates when bad weather approaches? As a general rule of thumb, it is best to begin by acknowledging it is no longer “business as usual.” Provide information about which branches are open, what the expected hours are and how to reach someone with questions. Once the basics are made readily available and published in easy-to-find locations, you can then use social media to become part of the story and mobilize goodwill for your members and the community.
Any Given Storm Day
The weaker team can still beat a stronger opponent with the right tools and preparation. This idea should be a reminder to credit unions of the positive, post-storm realities that are possible when proper, proactive planning takes place. A little forethought and a few practice storm drills can ensure you are in a position to come out shining when the sun goes down on normalcy.