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When disaster strikes

Preparation and determination pay off for Citizens State Bank

In Roseau, Minn., about half of the town?s 2,700 residents had left for drier ground by the time record floodwaters from the rainswollen Roseau River had surged through a sandbag dike and into streets, businesses and homes. Among those who stayed behind was Citizens State Bank President Robert Foley, whose $140-million institution was one of the many businesses hit hard by the flooding in early June.

The flood approaches
?I?ve lived in this part of northwest Minnesota for most of my life, and never imagined we could have a flash flood of this magnitude,? says Foley, whose bank sustained approximately $1 million in damage. ?Our situation would have been a lot worse, had it not been for the preparations we made ahead of time.?

Citizens State?s 50-page disaster recovery plan dealt mainly with what to do in case of fire or loss of power. ?Most of that document was put together in preparation for Y2K,? explains Foley. But it also reflects lessons learned by the Grand Forks, N.D. flood of 1997, where serious flooding was compounded by deadly fires.? Citizens State also has a contract for disaster recovery services with its banking software provider ITI; hardware provider Unisys; and SunGard, a provider of disaster site facilities for Unisys.

On Tuesday, June 11, Foley and his staff began implementing elements of their disaster plan when word came that the river dike was unlikely to hold much longer. ?One of the first things we did was move everything to the second floor of our building. Thank goodness for elevators and strong backs.? One of the largest pieces moved was the bank?s 24-foot-long reader/sorter, which had to be taken apart to fit into the elevator. ?When we ran out of room upstairs, we made sure staff on the main floor placed their personal computers, hard-drives, and lower desk-drawers on top of their desks,? says Foley.

At about 5 p.m., sandbags were placed around the front doors in an effort to prevent rising floodwaters from entering the facility. ?At the time, I thought the worst that could happen was that maybe we would see an inch or two in the building. I was in for a big surprise.?

Foley received a phone call in the middle of the night from authorities notifying him of a fire alarm at the bank. On his way there, he quickly discovered that the dike had failed, as his truck stalled in floodwaters not far from the bank. He waded the rest of the way to the bank. ?I was astonished at the strength of the current. The pressure from the floodwaters made it impossible to open the front doors.? He eventually pried the doors open just far enough to slip inside, where he discovered there was no fire, but plenty of water which had activated the bank alarm.

He inspected the damage on the main floor while wading through knee-deep water. ?Without scuba diving equipment, there was absolutely no way to check the basement,? Foley observed. ?What surprised me most was that the bank still had phone service. I called the Federal Reserve and FDIC to let them know that our main office was closing down until further notice. Then I put the next phase of our disaster recovery procedures into action.?

Going into action
As it happened, ITI and SunGard had just completed their annual disaster recovery test the month before (considered one of their most rigorous ever). A team of four was chosen to travel to Roseau (one each from ITI and Unisys, and two from SunGard), experts well prepared for what was ahead. The team arrived on-site within 24 hours of notification.

Though temporary bank equipment from SunGard was on its way, Foley and the team determined that since most of the equipment at the main bank hadn?t been damaged, they would attempt to move it to the branch. The Army National Guard was called in to help make the move possible.

Just outside Roseau, they were met by National Guard troops who took them to the bank in a five-ton truck. ?The water in the streets was more than four feet deep in some spots, making it difficult even for a truck of that size to get to the bank,? describes Eric Kaczor, ITI senior customer support analyst and a member of the disaster recovery team. ?When we arrived, we backed the truck up to the canopy of the drivethru.

I was able to climb on top and safely position a ladder to reach the roof of the building.? Through a door there, much of the equipment was loaded into the truck and taken to Badger. Quickly receding floodwaters allowed a forklift to be brought in the next day to move heavier equipment.

Smooth recovery
?Thanks to the hard work and skill of the disaster recovery team, we had our debit card center, Internet banking and telebanking up and running quickly, and we were fully operational on our own equipment that weekend,? says Foley. ?And I can?t say more about my great staff. They worked some phenomenal hours, and really went above and beyond the call of duty.?

Citizens State Bank also leased about 1,000 square feet of space in a strip mall near the main bank for a temporary branch facility. ?It was important to maintain a presence in Roseau, especially for people who couldn?t easily travel the extra distance to Badger,? says Foley. A mobile facility was also brought in and set up on their parking lot.

While remodeling operations got started, the main office re-opened and banking services were steadily restored.

Submitted by Information Technology, Inc. This article previously appeared in the publication BankNews, August of 2002.

ITI Boilerplate Information Technology, Inc. (ITI) provides America's bankers an extensive array of technology solutions and support services for core accounting, relationship management, teller and platform automation, Internet banking, account aggregation, e-commerce solutions for business and consumers, business intelligence, imaging and document management. A comprehensive suite of planning, installation, support, training, analysis and consulting services supports all technology solutions. Founded in 1976 and headquartered in Lincoln, Neb., Information Technology has grown to include its subsidiaries Precision Computer Systems (PCS) and eSolutions, as well as partnerships with some of the best-known technology companies in the world. Contact ITI at 402.421.4207 or ITI can also be found on the Internet at

ITI is a subsidiary of Fiserv, Inc. (NASDAQ: FISV), a provider of industry leading information management systems and services to the financial industry.

First published on 2/03

First published on 02/03/2013

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