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Supporting Your Community When Disaster Strikes

Community banks are a valuable public resource for information, services, and support during recovery from natural disasters. With their experience and strong local connections, they can quickly come to the aid of customers and an entire area in a meaningful way.

A common starting point in planning for and responding to disasters is accounting for the safety of staff members, this RMA Journal article notes. That can mean preaching safety prior to a storm and having employees check in daily in the aftermath. Disaster recovery plans also typically include provisions for infrastructure resilience and policy: If a bank’s leaders want the option to waive fees in an emergency to ease the burden on customers, they need to ensure that their policies allow for it before a crisis hits.  

How Community Banks Can Help: An Example  

There are a lot of ways banks can step up to support recovery efforts. When the Maui wildfires took the lives of 101 people and destroyed 2,000 buildings—many of them homes—RMA member Central Pacific Bank of Hawaii noted on its website that it had launched a multi-front campaign to support the community, including:  

  • Waiving bank fees.  
  • Deferring loan payments.  
  • Donating to aid groups.  
  • Working with the Small Business Administration to educate customers on disaster relief programs.  

A Role That May Become More Familiar   

As climate events become the norm, banks may find themselves regularly called to play this kind of role in their communities. While the West Coast may see more wildfires, East Coast flood risks are rising in cities like Washington, D.C., and New York, community bankers interviewed for the article said.

Although community banks are not subject to current or proposed regulation related to climate, they are increasingly mindful of the risks that climate-related disasters and economic impacts pose. Nikki Sloan, head of growth and strategy at Novato, California-based RMA member institution Bank of Marin, said “we are all trying to figure out how to incorporate this into credit decisions and underwriting.”