Note: This article is the last in a series discussing lessons learned from a disaster-recovery event while working at a large credit union. Introduction is here, second article here, third article here.

One of the first impacts we experienced was just being able to do the work! Luckily we had two marketing staffers who lived far enough from Huntsville that they had electricity.

I was one of those. The other was our web person. Out of a marketing staff of eight, only two of us had ready access to a computer and the internet. We certainly didn’t have access to our work files/network.

But even if everyone all had the tools to work, there was a deeper impact affecting work – staff availability. Let’s take a closer look at how these two challenges – work tools & staff availability were met. 

Reduced Resources

When the dust settled from the tornadoes, we learned the corporate office was not really available for working conditions. Yes, a huge generator was powering essential equipment, but it we quickly determined working remote would be more effective. The Marketing Vice President was at headquarters helping to lead the recovery efforts and my boss was able to go in and out of the office if needed, but mostly communication happened by cell phone, not in-person.

The two of us staffers who had electricity at our homes were able to create the messaging – the actual documents such as website banners, sign layouts, newspaper ads, digital ads, and such.

What I discovered though, was how important it is to have branding documents available outside of the corporate network! Financial institutions rightly have their networks and files tightly restricted. I felt lucky to have had a random logo file on my personal laptop. I’m sure we would’ve found a way to get it done, but from that point forward, I made sure everyone in my staff had the very basics of our branding assets available to them off-site.

Staff Availability

With the schools shut down, most of our staff had to shift their focus to their children, very similar to the pandemic situation. Their availability to work was significantly decreased, especially since we did not have remote-work capabilities.

We also had staff who were directly impacted by the tornado. They certainly needed extra time and a softer touch. And there were those who may not have been directly affected, but were definitely experiencing high levels of anxiety.

Unfortunately, we also quickly discovered there were those who had a more narrow view of the situation. When it was first announced that the branches and corporate headquarters were without power and would be for days, many employees left town.

When I first heard this I thought they were seeking a place to stay which had electricity, say with a family member in a neighboring town. But then it became clear, a small minority saw this as an impromptu vacation and headed for the beach. Their posts on social media were like a slap in the face to those who had stayed in town and were working long hours in disaster-recovery mode.

Those rogue employees got an earful from their managers and HR got a chance to update their policies – yikes!

I’m happy to report that most employees were eager to help in any way they could. There truly is a spirit of service embedded in credit union people. I witnessed many heart-warming acts of kindness and sacrifice through this disaster – one of the many reasons I continue to serve in the credit union space!

Takeaway Tips

  • Be extra kind to your staff. Check in as soon as you can to make sure they’re OK from the initial impact, but then check in periodically to see how they’re handling the after effects. 
  • Plan on reduced staff time. Figure out who can work and how much, then match that up to the items you need to get accomplished.
  • Outsource to fill gaps. Once you have a handle on what your staff can do, supplement with freelancers, consultants, and other resources. 
  • Plan on reduced tools – could be less internet connectivity, slower computers, older software, etc. Lean on vendors to supplement as necessary.
  • Maintain a set of branding assets off-site. This can be a simple as a folder of logo files, but a group of templates for newspaper ads, branch signs, billboards, etc. would also be very helpful.

If you have specific questions, challenges, concerns, please let me know (256-714-6596) or I’ll do what I can to lighten your load, whether it’s our services or those from another provider.