Partners (Number 1, 2008)

Free Crisis Preparedness Video Available From the Atlanta Fed

Crisis Preparedness Publication The Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta has pro­duced a video program designed to help financial institutions and first responders like police, fire and other emergency assistance providers prepare for emergencies, including hurricanes, pandemics and floods.

The free video is available to download or order in DVD format.

Learning from others' experiences
The video, "Crisis Preparedness: Reconnecting the Financial Lifeline," explores lessons learned from Hurricane Katrina and other disasters as well as steps taken afterward. Interspersing storm footage with interviews featuring Atlanta Fed officials, bankers and emergency first responders, the film conveys the message that pre­paredness helps prevent business losses and helps consumers find their financial footing during a crisis. The video also explains the Federal Reserve's role during emergencies.

The case studies in the video include:

  • a community bank in coastal Mississippi that is constructing a data center 20 miles inland after Katrina destroyed its headquarters on the Gulf;
  • a Louisiana bank that secured permission for its staff to gain access to restricted areas to open for business immediately after a disaster, as Katrina taught government authorities and bankers that people have a strong need for cash after a calamitous event;
  • a bank center in Birmingham, Ala., where employees monitor conditions such as weather for 1,900 offices in 16 states; and
  • Mississippi police officers and firefighters who describe a renewed appreciation for the post disaster role of financial institutions.

Video intended to fortify future emergency responses
"We believe bankers and first responders alike will find value in this video based on the lessons learned from Katrina and other disasters," said Lynne Anservitz, the Atlanta Fed's publications and special projects director. "We appreciate the cooperation of the people and organizations featured in the film. What they have learned and what the Federal Reserve has learned will help to further strengthen the financial system's resilience for the next crisis."

Through the medium of video, the project reminds bankers of the need for emergency preparedness, considering issues from contingency planning and the development of offsite back-up to planning for contacting employees scattered by a disaster to business continuance planning during an emergency. The goal of the video was to make the message a top-of-mind issue among Sixth Federal Reserve District banks.

In addition to bankers from Biloxi, Birmingham, Gulf­­port, Lafayette and New Orleans, the documentary includes interviews with Atlanta Fed First Vice President Patrick Barron and Adrienne Slack, administrator of the Atlanta Fed's Cash Function Office, based in the New Orleans Branch. Barron and Slack discuss the Atlanta Fed's response to hurricanes and other disasters and lessons gathered from successes and problems.

This article was written by Charles Davidson, editor and communications manager in Public Affairs at the Atlanta Fed.

In the Face of a Crisis

It was the worst kind of wake up call, an almost emotional, visceral reaction to the extreme need for preparedness.

During and immediately after Hurricane Katrina, banks all over the Gulf Coast area experienced an emergency situation none of them had ever encountered before. In spite of the enormity of the disaster, they worked around the clock to get up and running: to locate employees and to get cash into the hands of local people in their communities, many of whom had lost everything. How they did it is a remarkable story.

For banks to be prepared in times of crisis, they need to:
  • Develop a flexible plan to ensurequick recovery
  • Plan for safety and welfare of employees
  • Back-up critical information to alternate locations
  • Use the Federal Reserve and other banks to create supportive continuity plans
  • Meet with first responders to arrange security and access
  • Test emergency plans regularly

Community banks rise to the challenge
Pat Barron, first vice president of the Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta, commented on the immediate post-Katrina situation for banks in New Orleans and the Gulf Coast area. "There was no transportation, no working computer networks, no mechanism for sending the customer's check onward to be cleared by the Federal Reserve Bank, a correspondent bank, or anyone else. [The banks] had no way of knowing that the amount of funds for which an individual was writing a check was really available in their own bank because no accounting records were accessible. And certainly they had no way of knowing if the funds were available, let's say, in a competitor's bank. These were not normal circumstances. But that was not the operating mode in the midst of the crisis. Most of these community banks reached out to their neighbors, their communities and to their competitors. They simply said, "We're a bank. We're a community. We'll take your check up to a limited amount because that's what needs to happen right now."

The motivating thought was that part of the healing process for consumers and business owners alike was being able to get to their money. And it was, at times, a matter of survival.

All these Gulf Coast banks had emergency plans on the books, but no one had expected a disaster on the level of Hurricane Katrina. No one.

Since that time, each bank has re-examined their emergency plans and made changes so that bankers can provide vital services to their customers as quickly as possible after any type of disaster.