Facebook Weathering Storm

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Hartman: Weathering the COVID-19 storm together

Hartman: Weathering the COVID-19 storm together

Normally, we would be celebrating the 10th birthday of Morgan’s Wonderland, and that will happen one of these days, but right now, all of us are confronted with an invisible storm that threatens San Antonio, our state and our nation.

To reduce the storm’s damage as much as possible, San Antonio Mayor Ron Nirenberg and Bexar County Judge Nelson Wolff have mobilized the COVID-19 Community Action working groups. In making the announcement, Nirenberg said these groups will act as “strike teams” focused on immediate areas of impact within the community.

“They’re charged with identifying measures to mitigate the challenge (posed by the pandemic), recommending measures for long-term recovery, and identifying local, state and federal resources to assist the community,” he added.

This is a commonsense, methodical approach to pinpoint critical issues and determine the resources needed to address them. It’s my honor and privilege to lead this process and coordinate among five working groups of leaders in our community:

Federal and state government advocacy: Every state and municipality is going to seek governmental funding, so it’s absolutely essential we specify what financial assistance our community will need and make sure we have a “seat at the table.”

Philanthropy: This doesn’t mean the establishment of a new fund to provide community assistance. Rather, it’s a process to inform existing foundations and philanthropists as to how they can play a role for either a specific purpose or a common purpose.

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Food security and shelter: Suddenly, the San Antonio Food Bank is being called on to feed 120,000 families, twice the normal number, so securing enough food for those in need is of critical importance. Likewise, we must deal with shelter issues – thousands who will be delinquent in paying their monthly rents and thousands of homeless people living on our city’s streets.

Business and employment: This working group is involved in helping small businesses survive the economic downturn and retain their employees, and it also concentrates on helping these businesses get re-established once the storm passes.

Social services: It’s important the demands on the so-called “safety net” are being met. This includes helping those with special needs, the elderly and children in low-income families who need care so their parents can attempt to earn a living.

We’ve just begun, but already I’m greatly encouraged with the enthusiastic response of residents from all over San Antonio and Bexar County eager to lend a hand. I’m also very impressed with the dedication and determination of our health care providers and first responders. In the midst of the health emergency, I’ve never seen a better opportunity for greater San Antonio to come together for the common good.

As we move forward, I ask that you continue to heed the guidance of health professionals, volunteer to help your neighbors in need through entities such as the San Antonio Food Bank and Haven for Hope, and keep the well-being of our community in your prayers. Working and cooperating together, we will survive the COVID-19 storm and get back to living life to the fullest in the city we love.

Gordon Hartman is founder and CEO of the Gordon Hartman Family Foundation.

Facebook Weathering Storm

A sharp cold front that moved through the Mississippi and Tennessee Valleys producing severe storms Wednesday will stretch out along the Gulf of Mexico coast to the Eastern Seaboard today (Thursday). The threat for severe storms in the Northeast exists in the first half of the day. Another round of severe weather is expected to ramp…

9 Apr 2020, 8:00 am

Snow Returns to the High Plains

After a nice dose of springtime warmth, a blast of wintry weather will invade the High Plains region later this week. More specifically, accumulating snowfall and chilly temperatures will impact many communities in the north central United States. This may make social distancing and staying at home a bit easier! On Friday, a strong spring…

9 Apr 2020, 7:00 am

Heat Builds Across the Eastern Half of the Nation

If you like warm spring temps, you’re going to love what’s in store for much of the southeastern quarter of the nation. Temperatures have been heating up significantly ahead of a cold front. Record highs were set in Lincoln, Nebraska and Fort Myers, Florida on Tuesday. As the cold front moves through the Tennessee and…

9 Apr 2020, 6:30 am

Rain, Snow Continue to Pound West Coast

After an active weekend across the West Coast, more rain and snow is expected to continue to lash the Southwest over the next couple of days. A slow-moving area of low pressure will continue to pound portions of California, Nevada and the Four Corners states with more rain and mountain snowfall into this weekend. In addition…

9 Apr 2020, 6:00 am

Severe Weather Threat Continues for the Weekend

The possibility for severe storms will remain likely over the weekend with signs pointing toward a potential severe weather outbreak across the Southeast and Gulf Coast on Sunday. FRIDAY SEVERE OUTLOOK We’ll have to stay weather aware as we head towards the end of the week and through the weekend. A marginal risk is in…

9 Apr 2020, 4:30 am

Spring Snow on the way to the Northeast

WINTER WEATHER ALERTS AND FORECAST SNOW Heavy snow is on the way to the northeast for the end of the work week. Winter Storm Warnings, Winter Storm Watches, and Winter Weather Advisories are in place for areas across Maine, New Hampshire, and Vermont. Snow totals are looking to be quite high with Maine and New…

8 Apr 2020, 4:54 pm

Big Chill Likely Across U.S. Next Week

This week coincides with many cities’ average last freezes, especially across the northern and eastern tiers of the country. But, you might want to hold off on planting that garden, at least for now. The Climate Prediction Center’s (CPC) 6-10 and 8-14 day outlooks indicate the likelihood of a punishing blast of colder air to…

8 Apr 2020, 4:34 pm

Tornadoes Strike Northeast Ohio Tuesday Night

Severe thunderstorms developed across the Great Lakes and Mid-Atlantic regions on Tuesday, April 7, 2020. These storms brought incredibly large hail and damaging wind to multiple states. Unfortunately, these storms also spawned at least three tornadoes in Ohio. Well after dark on Tuesday night, a powerful line of severe thunderstorms moved southeast off of Lake…

8 Apr 2020, 3:30 pm

Severe Threat in the Mississippi and Tennessee Valleys

April is typically one of the peak months for severe weather across the United States, and in turn, this week will feature several chances for strong-to-severe thunderstorms moving forward. Today’s (Wednesday) storms could also carry an overnight threat with them into early Thursday morning. The areas of concern include the mid and lower Mississippi Valley…

How Weathering the Storm Can Benefit Your Bank

In late September, the city of Cedar Rapids, Iowa, was hit by the worst flooding it had experienced since 2008.

Thousands of area residents had to leave, and many businesses shut down to prepare for the worst-case scenario.

Unlike the 2008 deluge, preparations for the recent flood were largely effective. Preparation efforts helped minimize the damage and allowed many Cedar Rapids residents to get back to business much more rapidly than initially expected.

Many places have not been so lucky. In March, Mississippi experienced severe flooding that caused massive damage and widespread power outages for homes and businesses. To help Mississippians get back on their feet, the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. encouraged banks to “work constructively with borrowers experiencing difficulties beyond their control.” The FDIC believed those efforts would “serve the long-term interests” of the banks.

In theory, the time immediately after a disaster is when banks can make themselves most useful. By providing citizens with the funds they need — through loans or other means — banks play an integral part in recovery efforts and can foster goodwill in the process.

Unfortunately, many banks opt to preemptively close branches in areas where storms and floods hit, assuming potential outages could force them to shut down anyway. Rather than pay employees who have nothing to do during this downtime, banks assume closing everything down ahead of time is more cost-effective. They similarly rely on TV and app-based weather forecasts that lack the sort of accuracy and location-specific detail necessary to make such an important decision.

While it’s prudent to take precautions to mitigate potential losses, this overly cautious attitude could inflict serious damage on a business’s bottom line and cause more headaches than it’s designed to prevent while missing the opportunity to truly serve its clients and community.

Ripple Effects

It’s important to remember that shutting down a store affects more than a single location: The entire business, its customers, and its suppliers are all involved in some way. A hasty shutdown can lock clients out of critical services or overburden other nearby locations that remain open.

Closures also can leave vendors in the lurch, stuck with stock they are unable to move. The price of such an inconvenience can be minimal for some businesses, but it’s a costly nightmare for banks that routinely welcome armored vehicles full of cash.

Even if the extra cost were not a factor, businesses must notify vendors early to avoid stranding delivery drivers in the same inclement weather that caused the closure. An impulsive decision to close without all of the facts could be seriously detrimental — and in some cases dangerous — to other parts of the supply chain.

Preparing for the Worst

While there are plenty of reasons to carefully consider any decision to close, none of this is meant to say bank officials should never shutter in the face of inclement weather. Rather, executives should take several key steps to minimize costs and keep their branches open for business as long as possible.

1. Prevent damage to your building and people.

No one wants customers or employees to suffer any injuries, but you should take extra care in the run-up to a potential outage. Proper precautions will ensure you keep people safe while removing the possibility of lawsuits or having to pay out workers’ compensation. At the same time, these steps will help minimize inconvenience to employees, customers, and vendors.

Meanwhile, easy and effective measures such as boarding up windows before a hurricane and having some tools and equipment on hand to help with cleanup and basic repairs can help protect your building itself. These simple acts are financially prudent and can significantly reduce recovery time.

It’s also a good idea to take preventive steps to keep your branch in business and ensure it can open on time. For example, you might consider contracting with a snow-removal crew before a blizzard hits or, better yet, before the snow season starts. In addition to saving you from a business outage, it could actually help lure a greater number of customers through your doors (and your snow-free parking lot).

2. Step up your weather game.

When you’re planning for the worst, look beyond your local TV meteorologist. Consider investing in a commercial weather forecast service that will allow you to isolate conditions on a location-by-location basis. This will allow you to be more efficient in deciding which locations you want to close, which you should shore up, and — just as important — when it’s safe to reopen.

Consider a scenario with two banks in a community — one in the flood zone, the other along the evacuation route. Proper intel would help you decide to prepare the latter for additional business. The location in the flood zone most likely will have to close at some point, but there is no reason to waste time preparing both facilities for the same conditions.

A more detailed weather forecast also can tell you when a location needs to close, when it is in real danger of significant damage, and when it can safely remain open. This sort of specificity helps avoid an inefficient, one-size-fits-all approach that leads to unnecessary closures and waste.

3. Get ready to work through an outage.

Don’t focus solely on loss. Instead, consider what you can gain by maintaining near-normal business operations in a disaster zone when competitors are unable to support their clientele.

Look no further than brands such as The Home Depot, Waffle House, Whataburger, and H-E-B Grocery to see how they function and serve their clients in disaster zones after devastating weather events.

Preparing to stay open during an extended outage can be costly — but consider the alternative. You could just as easily damage client relations or lose the ability to serve customers altogether. When financial institutions can maintain somewhat normal operations during a time of crisis, this spells good news for customers. You can strongly reinforce brand loyalty among customers whose financial needs likely are more pressing than normal.

Closures are likely to happen regardless of your preparation, but they don’t have to be so commonplace or long-lasting. By relying on a professional weather service and taking the proper precautions ahead of time, you can stay open for business even when your competitors are closing up shop. Your customers will likely appreciate you being there for them when they need you most.

Don Shelly is the Director of Sales—North America for StormGeo. He has over 25 years of experience in delivering custom-designed solutions for clients in a variety of business sectors. The breadth of his experience in understanding the challenges faced by companies and the importance of having effective risk mitigation solutions backed by timely decision guidance resources has resulted in clients being well-equipped to mitigate weather-induced business disruptions and maintain profitability.

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