Community Bank Resources to Help Customers Bounce Back from Natural Disasters

By Steven Estep

As National Crisis Preparedness Month draws to a close, ICBA continues to reinforce the importance of proper preparedness to combat unforeseen natural disasters and keep local banks and communities operational.

Earlier this month ICBA provided community banks with tips to help their customers construct a financial preparedness plan and jumpstart their financial recovery following a natural disaster, including:

  • Creating an emergency savings account for use in a crisis.
  • Preparing a family emergency communications plan to reach loved ones.
  • Gathering pertinent financial and critical personal, household, and medical information.
  • Documenting and insuring property to help assess their value and replacement costs.
  • Contacting their insurance agent or visiting the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s (FEMA) website, to determine if additional protection is warranted.

Community Bank Available Resources

Additionally, ICBA recently published a “Guide for Community Banks on Natural Disaster Planning and Preparedness,” which provides banks with a number of resources for use at the local, state, and national level. Important considerations from the guide include:

  • Know your state resources. State emergency operations centers or emergency management agencies provide prudent information during a crisis that you will not find from national agencies. These organizations will provide your bank with key information regarding evacuation routes, re-entry protocols and state emergency assistance.
  • Event-specific resources. The types of events your community faces will vary greatly depending on where you are located, not only within the country, but even within states. Whether you are faced with wildfires, hurricanes, earthquakes, or something else altogether, seek out resources that can help your bank prepare for and respond appropriately.
  • Know your emergency response services. Simply knowing that you’d call the fire department if there is a fire is not sufficient. Reach out to your state and local emergency responders before you need them. This will ensure that emergency responders are familiar with your bank’s unique needs and will be able to get you back up and running faster.
  • Plan for business continuity. Creating a plan for your bank is an integral part of crisis response and greatly enhances a bank’s recovery capabilities. Ensure that your plan defines specific roles and responsibilities for incident response, identifies business-critical functions and interdependencies, and finds third-party service providers who may ease operational burden.
  • Exercise your plans. Last but not least, periodically review your emergency and business continuity plans. These should be treated as living documents that are routinely tested and updated. Make sure critical staff have a copy of the plans and consider running exercises with key individuals missing so that anyone in a back-up role will feel comfortable taking charge during a crisis.

Community banks may access additional resources about operational risk planning, including cybersecurity, physical security, and pandemic response on ICBA’s Operational Risk webpage.

While there’s no prescription for preventing all future acts of mother nature, by working proactively and planning for these unexpected events, we can minimize their long-term impact, and expedite the pathway to financial recovery.

Steven Estep is ICBA assistant vice president of operational risk.