CFE made sure its backup system run through a partnership with another credit union was operational; it considered how and when the credit union would close branches and formalized by-the-minute member communication plans for the web and social media; and it checked in with its call center backup partner to make sure it was expecting more calls and scripted 1-800 messaging.
“We thought through as many ‘what if?’ scenarios as we could,” Sheerin says. “What if the power went out? What if phones went out? What if we had building damage?”
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Before the storm hit, members wanted details about the safety and availability of their money. As long as there was power, CFE underscored, members could access money at ATMs. In the event of branch closures, members could access their money via shared branching partnerships.
Irma was scheduled to make landfall in Florida on Sunday and move inland to Orlando on Monday. On Thursday, CFE decided to close branches on Saturday — and later, Sunday and Monday — to give employees time to put their personal affairs in order.
“Fifteen million people can’t leave Florida at the same time,” says CFE’s vice president of marketing Suzanne Dusch. “The wisdom here is you run from rain but shelter from wind.”
In Orange County, where Orlando is located, a mandatory evacuation order was issued only for mobile home residents. In southern cities and counties, evacuation orders for entire populations were announced. Instead, central and northern residents were asked to not drive or buy gas to clear up roads and resources for southern residents who were evacuating. But sheltering does not equate to sitting still, and securing property against hurricane-force winds can take hours, according to Dusch.
After The Storm
After the storm, the call center activity was “pretty intense,” says director Sheerin. Even members who weren’t in town had questions about ATM and branch access. The credit union planned originally to re-open branches on Tuesday, but slow-moving Irma forced CFE to push that back to Wednesday.
Members inquired also about loans to finance the cost of damages, extensions on other loans, and fee refunds.
“When people prepare for a storm like this, they are worried about taking care of their families, having food, water, and other provisions in their home,” Sheerin says. “They spend money they don’t normally spend.”
Whether it’s deferring a loan payment for a month or two, refunding fees, or offering a repair loan for less than 1% interest, we are doing everything we can to meet members’ needs.
CFE’s CEO Kevin Miller sent an all-staff email in the wake of the storm reminding employees to be compassionate, that there was a story behind every member conversation.
“We do the best we can to help them overcome whatever they’re dealing with,” Sheerin says.
To this end, the credit union introduced three different low-interest loan types that stretched from short-term and low balance to five years and $10,000. According to Sheerin, the credit union will continue to offer these loans until the end of October.
Going forward, CFE will continue to take care of its members and community, both personally and financially.
“We have the ability to make members’ lives a little easier,” Sheerin says. “Whether it’s deferring a loan payment for a month or two, refunding fees, or offering a repair loan for less than 1% interest, we are doing everything we can to meet members’ needs — one at a time.”