When Hurricane Hits – and a Few Lost Hours Costs Millions – a Bank is Grateful for an Immediate and Flexible Response

The average cost of downtime to businesses “is staggering,” according to a recent Rand Group study. For 81 percent of companies, an hour’s worth costs over $300,000—and “losses are significantly higher per hour for businesses like banks,” the research concludes.

So for a financial firm with multiple retail bank locations in Texas and Louisiana, it’s a very nervous time when storm clouds start to gather off the Gulf Coast threatening to shutter operations.

Early Advanced Planning

Well before Hurricane Harvey ever made landfall, as with Hurricane Katrina several years’ earlier and lesser storms in between, U.S. Security Associates (USA) reached out to its client, one of the largest banking institutions in the United States. Through the early outreach, the bank established clear lines of communication between its emergency team and USA’s and it had a chance to preview the additional help it expected to need, which was limited to providing protection to key bank personnel.

But USA’s management has extensive background in crisis management and responding to natural disasters, and knows well that such events rarely go as expected—and that flexibility is key. To be in a position to ramp-up services should the bank need it, USA activated its list of emergency responders, individuals in surrounding areas who were able and willing to provide assistance.

The advance preparation proved vital in the case of Hurricane Harvey, and even more so in the case of Katrina.

Immediate Response Capabilities

As levee and flood walls failed, submerging 75 percent of New Orleans under water, the bank quickly needed more support than it had anticipated. But as its needs grew, USA’s response was able to grow right along with it.

USA’s fast response team supported the client first, by meeting their request to dispatch 300-plus Security Officers and managers to the bank’s emergency command center in Baton Rouge. With the Security Officers in place, then USA focused on securing gas and vehicles that the bank desperately needed. Next, USA team coordinated logistics distributing Security Officers to meet critical asset protection needs—banks with vaults and safety deposit boxes that were without alarms. USA secured and protected bank locations throughout the lengthy process of drying them out and cleaning them before they could re-open the vaults.

Perhaps most critically, USA helped the bank to provide financial services community residents desperately needed by meeting requirements to put mobile trailers into action as temporary bank locations. Emergency services included renting 15-passenger vans to shuttle bank employees to and from locations where the bank was housing employees—something USA did for a month-and- a- half. More importantly, USA Officers provided protection to workers and customers at the makeshift banks during a time when tensions and tempers were running high.

In one troubling instance, an individual banged on the door after closing, demanding to be let in and making threats to workers inside. It was the response of the USA security officers that made the difference between a smooth operation and one that spiraled out of control. “Being able to provide that quality officer that has been well trained and is able to de-escalate situations, that meant everything to [the bank], especially in these situations when things can get out of hand quickly,” explained a senior operational director at USA.

Similar unanticipated needs arose alongside flood waters in Houston after Hurricane Harvey. And again, because of USA’s robust disaster management process, the experience of managers dedicated to crisis management, the support of senior management, and the quality, commitment, and engagement of its Officers, USA successfully scaled its services to meet the bank’s needs as the storm’s fallout exceeded all expectation. It meant securing and protecting generators, getting resources to locations cut off by road closures, and renting vehicles to escort the bank’s people to where they needed to be.

“Part of my job, and part of all of our jobs—from the local branch to national accounts—is to be as proactive as we can be,” explained the USA executive. Often, he said client companies will take a measured wait-and- see approach to approaching storms, “but that won’t stop us from going ahead and putting resources to the side just in case they become necessary.”

Plans that Pay Off

For the bank, USA’s enterprising approach helped it improve on its recovery time objective after the storm’s impact was known. When opening just one day early, in one branch, means more than $4 million to the bottom line, it was a major benefit. Moreover, as reports of generators being stolen across Houston amassed, dedicated USA Officers made it to bank locations to provide security and visual deterrence, preventing theft that could have meant additional branch closures.

Not surprisingly, the bank’s contract manager reached out to USA to thank it and its Officers for their above-and- beyond response to crisis events. “Anytime we called, you got the job done,” they wrote in thanks. “You provided what we needed even if it was 2 o’clock in the morning.”

U.S. Security Associates (USA) is the market-leading, wholly-owned American, full-service safety and security solutions provider. With over 160 locally-responsive offices, international locations and over 50,000 dedicated professionals, they offer the most complete array of physical security, remote surveillance, and global consulting and investigations to ensure better outcomes for thousands of clients and a range of industries. Innovative applications of leading-edge, proprietary technology enable USA to rank annually among the world’s best training companies, sustain the highest standards of quality, and underscore world-class customer service with unparalleled accountability. USA’s rise as one of the largest innovative security solutions leaders is a natural byproduct of these differentiators and enable the company to provide the most Safe. Secure. Friendly. ®  environments for people, assets, and brands.

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