CARTERET, N.J. – With electricity, telephone landlines and cellphone power all out, staff at MidState FCU gathered here amid lanterns and flashlights last Friday to disperse much-needed cash to members who were unable to pay for food, gas and other necessities in the wake of Hurricane Sandy.
“Gas stations needed cash, so did local merchants; there was no phone service (to conduct credit or debit transactions). “If you didn’t have cash you were in a lot of trouble,” Tracy Sussmann, president of the $17 million credit union, told the Credit Union Journal this morning.
With parking-lot floodwaters receding from the nearby Raritan Bay and the credit union’s lone office in the semi-dark, Sussmann and her four staffers gathered with two lanterns and a handful of flashlights to conduct transactions, count out cash and even make a few deposits for needy members last Friday, after the massive storm had left its wake of destruction.
The 1,100-member credit union had enacted its disaster recovery plan Monday as the storm approached and transferred all online transactions, including ACH, share drafts and direct deposit, to its data recovery center in Detroit. But in this modern era of electronic transactions, the power outages prevented anyone from using MidState Visa credit or debit cards locally. And the power outages prevented use of ATMs. Luckily, Sussmann said she had ordered an additional $200,000 in cash delivery as the storm approached.
The credit union is now planning additional disaster relief, which is likely to include special loans for things like home repairs and insurance deductibles.