Five Bank Branches, Two Tornadoes and Four Recovery Lessons Learned

On May 22, 2011, Joplin, MO suffered an EF-5 tornado that resulted in 158 fatalities and more than 1,000 injuries. Just two years after the Joplin, MO catastrophe, another EF-5 tornado struck Moore, OK. Arvest Bank, which has three branches in Joplin and two in Moore, suffered both tornadoes.

Armed with experience from the Joplin tornado encounter, two Arvest Bank employees — Rebecca Dunham, sales manager, and Stuart Puckett, loan manager — shared their disaster recovery expertise with bizjournals.com. Below are four tips we gleaned from them.


Put Your Customers First


“Our job today is to get people back into houses as quickly as possible.”

Your company survives because you have customers. Give back to your community after a disaster; it’s important to show that your company cares about who it’s serving. Customers will come into your bank looking for loans to buy new homes because theirs were destroyed, so it’s vital to keep your branch’s doors open to accommodate the community’s needs.

Have a Plan for Customers with No Identification


“You have to take your average everyday job and tweak it to help in a situation that is not normal as a banker.”

Most of the time when a disaster hits, there’s little to no warning. Many of your customers may have lost their homes, cars and wallets. There will be an influx of people looking for cash, especially if the power is out and ATMs are not working. Before a disaster affects your work environment, establish a protocol for serving customers with lost identification or who may not even be your regular customers.


Protect Your Customers’ Assets and Information


“You’ve got to have those connections within your community and know who to contact so you can go in and secure the cash and information.”

When disasters strike, there’s always the chance that your branch will fall into a police-restricted area. Be sure to establish connections with authorities in your community now so that in the event of a disaster, you know who to contact to gain access to your branch so you can secure and protect your customers’ cash and confidential information.

Have a Plan


“It’s one thing to come into work and earn a paycheck, but it is another thing to come into work and have a purpose. It was one of the most trying times, but also one of the most satisfying times in my career.”

The single most important aspect of recovering after a disaster is to have a plan. Your company, your employees and your customers’ well-being depend upon your preparedness. Having a plan will aid in the safety and well-being of all parties involved. It will help your community, and it may even be personally fulfilling for your employees.

To read the full article, click here. For more on what to do if your business is affected by a tornado, check out our blog post "What to Do When... A Tornado Strikes."

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