This has been one of the strangest and most devastating years for weather in the U.S. No matter where you live, you've been affected by extreme elements.
Growing up on the Gulf Coast, this was the time of year when we would instinctively prepare for hurricanes.
I worked for a manufacturer that survived Hurricane Katrina — and they did so by properly establishing disaster recovery procedures. I suspect most companies have done this over the past few years; the need for it was certainly impressed upon all of us. From protecting assets to getting people's lives back in order, there are many complex tasks involved with recovery.
The sad lesson learned from Katrina is that when devastation happens, people lose access to many vital services they require for daily life. Entire infrastructures may be shut down — and for quite a while.
The other nasty reality is that when electrical power is lost, people lose the ability to use their debit/credit cards to pay for the bare necessities. They simply cannot access the cash that's in their accounts.
Unless they've tucked their money under a mattress, the average person will have less than $100 in cash in their possession. There are many that don't plan ahead for disasters and they wind up the victims of circumstance.
The worst events bring out the best in people. After Katrina, several banking institutions on the Gulf Coast received help from companies that had mobile ATM services immediately available. Essentially, these are temporary ATMs that are most often used for large activities and events, such as county fairs and festivals.
Designed for convenience, these mobile ATMs may be in vans, trailers or other free-moving vehicles that allow them to set up virtually anywhere.
After a disaster, these mobile ATMs take on new meaning to the community. They are no longer a convenience item — they are an absolute essential for the community to return to a "new" normal.
After Katrina, mobile ATM companies came to the rescue and aided financial institutions by serving their cardholders. In some cases, they gave their services away to help communities get back on their feet and rebuild. They didn't surcharge — they didn't seize the moment to make huge profits.
For the unprepared, mobile ATMs became a lifeline. Cash reigns supreme in disaster recovery and mobile ATMs are outfitted with cash dispensers only. There is no need for deposit-taking ATMs in a catastrophic event.
When a community loses electricity it can still communicate via wireless devices. Mobile ATMs do this with the latest wireless modems available on the market.
Via cell towers and satellites, they are able to communicate to the corresponding network and release funds. The ATMs are powered by generators to keep them active when power is not available.
A great amount of effort is made when modifying the vehicles to support ATMs. Mobile ATM deployers also do an excellent job of making the ATMs handicap accessible so that everyone may have access to cash.
I would suggest that banks, credit unions and mobile ATM deployers work together in advance of weather events to have a disaster recovery strategy in place.
Every major city has an IAD that provides for mobile ATM needs. Working together, FIs and mobile deployers can determine the best path to recovery.
IADs would benefit from the valued relationships with banks and credit unions; perhaps even becoming their preferred provider for all off-premises ATM needs.
This is an opportunity to perform at a high level for financial institutions and prove how nimble you can be — and their cardholders will love you for it.
/ As VP of the Kahuna Financial Solutions division of Kahuna ATM Solutions, Mark is responsible for development of the division's product and services lineup. He manages the Kahuna VAR channel and provides direct sales support to financial institutions.