The “No-Name Storm” would dump over 2 feet of water over a large geographic area over two days, with some areas getting 2”-3” per hour. It was estimated that 7.1 trillion gallons of water was dumped over several parishes (counties), more than any tropical storm had dumped in Louisiana since 1950, of which 30 would eventually be declared disaster areas. Livingston Parish, which Denham Springs resides in, was one of the hardest hit by the storm.
Pelican State Credit Union, a large Louisiana credit union and a full-service Labarre client, had a branch that took on several feet of water, like most of Denham Springs.
After the flood waters started to recede and damage was assessed, Pelican sat down with Labarre in an emergency meeting to discuss how to get a temporary mobile branch (a truck, outfitted for minimum branch needs) up and running on the site for affected members to have a place to start accessing funds to build back.
The geographic area of the flood was extremely widespread. The only mobile temporary branches available were given to those institutions that had ongoing service agreements for the branches. And even then, some could not get their promised temporary branches for weeks.
The Pelican executive team had the idea that they could utilize the drive through somehow to have cover for folding tables or something similar to go along with their mobile branch. Then the Jay Labarre solution presented itself: why not close-in the drive through and build a temporary branch?
Admittedly, the gut-reaction for most of the people around the table to this idea was to say it would cause insurmountable issues. Air conditioning in the August heat was an issue as well as lighting issues, how to build something that was truly temporary without wasting money, and how to let people know they were open since the drive through was hidden in the back of the property. But the more issues that were thrown on the table, the more ideas and solutions came up, and finally everyone agreed: we could do this. Why not build a temporary branch out of a drive through?
Only 10 days later, a 1,565 square foot temporary branch was built and equipment and employees were set up. Marketing was installed around the property to direct people and the word was spread through social media. On September 13th, only a month after the devastating flood waters tore through the city, Pelican State Credit Union was open for business.
HOW DID WE DO IT?
First of all, and this cannot be stressed enough, this could only be done because of the open mindedness of both teams around the table and the trust in the relationship we’ve built together over 20 years. Without our Client’s trust that we could do what we promised and come through with solutions to their needs, this project would have turned into every other mobile temporary branch story.
We built it by taking semi-translucent corrugated panels onto temporary stud walls, closing the gaps in 2 of the 3 open sides of the branch. The 3rd side, we extended (for access around the drive through curbs) with a roof that attached to the existing drive through fascia and enclosed with more corrugated panels. The drive through curbs suddenly became a way to queue people instead of cars. At the other end of the drive through we built temporary millwork out of plywood by covering it with carpet tiles. We used a “swamp cooler” (evaporative cooler) to cool the area, and when winter came we supplemented the temporary heater in the branch with a new duct that penetrated the exterior wall of the branch and connected into the temporary space. We added security fencing to connect the door behind the tellers to the vault room (through an electrical room with exterior access) via a temporary door that would only be removed once all other interior renovations were complete. And marketing put up signs directing traffic to the back and into parking spaces, with an employee sitting outside at a tent to help explain the circumstances and where to go.
Overall, the temporary branch might not have been as comfortable as a normal branch, of course. But it created more room than a mobile branch and the ability to function closer to normal branch operations. And best of all, it was erected a month or two earlier than other credit unions in the local area were able to open their mobile branches, which allowed an extremely affected population to have a sense of normalcy about their banking, so they could focus on their own recovery processes instead of having to spend time to travel to cash insurance checks, FEMA checks, or payroll. They could meet with loan officers close to home if necessary instead of having to travel a couple towns over.
THE NEW BRANCH REMODEL AND DEMO
On March 3rd, 2016, Pelican was able to move into their fully remodeled and updated interior in their permanent branch. March 4th, 2016, the temporary branch was torn down and the drive through was open for business.
THE LESSON LEARNED
Disaster recovery plans are necessary for any corporation to get back on their feet as quickly as possible, but when a disaster far outreaches anything anticipated, or when the plans (such as mobile branches) are suddenly not available because everyone needs one, you have to be quick on your feet to come up with an out-of-the-box solution. And sometimes it’s staring you in the face in the form of a drive through.
Advocate aerial photo: http://www.theadvocate.com/baton_rouge/multimedia/photos/collection_75d2e660-6186-11e6-abeb-ffe940937355.html#2