Power Outages and Wildfires: How CA CUs Coped

power outage
Bay FCU spread some cheer to its members affected by the power outage by partnering with Aunt LaLi’s Mobile Café to provide members, employees, and neighbors with free ice cream snacks at Bay Federal’s Aptos, Capitola, and Scotts Valley branches. This is at the Capitola branch.

Many credit unions in Southern and Northern California spent most of last week dealing with either power outages or wildfires.

Last Wednesday, Pacific Gas & Electric (PG&E) intentionally cut power to almost 800,000 customers in Northern California to prevent wildfires caused by high winds downing live power equipment. Southern California Edison also shut off power in some parts of Southern California for a time. All power has now been restored throughout the state. When the winds came, the Saddleridge Fire—among others throughout Southern California—started last Thursday. The fast-moving brush fire started in the northern foothills of the San Fernando Valley and quickly spread, resulting in thousands being evacuated and freeways closed. The nearly 8,400-acre fire is now 44 percent contained (as of Monday night) and moving away from homes, but not before it destroyed 17 structures and damaged another 77.

There were a number of credit unions impacted by PG&E’s Public Safety Power Shutoff, including Patelco CU, whose Lafayette branch as well as Santa Cruz and Windsor branch ATMs were briefly out of power. To help its members and the community, Patelco created a video featuring tips on how to deal with a possible power outage.

Redwood CU also was impacted; still it managed to keep all 18 branches open. Four of its branches were under power outages; three still provided full services with the assistance of a generator. The fourth one had limited service with a generator, according to Communications and Public Relations Manager Tracy Weitzenberg.

The outages did not impact Redwood’s mobile, online, mobile deposit, or bill pay capabilities. It allowed the children of staff to join their parents at work, and those without power were able to go home on Thursday night with a baked lasagna and a salad for their family. In addition, the credit union had an informational site it continually updated with bilingual information about the power outage.

Bay FCU had a unique idea to spread some cheer to its affected members. The credit union partnered with Aunt LaLi’s Mobile Café to surprise and delight members, employees, and neighbors by providing free ice cream snacks at Bay Federal’s Aptos, Capitola, and Scotts Valley branches. These three locations happened to be where a number of homes and businesses were without power. Members of Bay Federal’s senior leadership team helped distribute the treats and snacks from the truck. Even though the branches were without power, they remained open and available to serve their members with certain transactions. Branch employees also showed members how they could perform transactions on their mobile devices, as mobile banking was unaffected by the power outage, according to VP of Marketing and Development Amy Ivey.

For Community First CU, of its 14 facilities, spread among five counties (Lake, Marin, Mendocino, Napa and Sonoma), only three facilities in Lake County were without power, said Chief Marketing and HR Officer David Williams. “However, we had a lot of employees without power in counties where our branches had power,” he added. “And parents suddenly with kids at home, because schools were closed.”

San Mateo CU’s Half Moon Bay branch was its only location affected. The branch had no power all day Thursday. “And while it was our intent to serve our members during the power outage to the best of our abilities, we found that it was not possible and therefore had to close the branch for the day, said Marketing Manager Cynthia Held

All affected branches from the various credit unions were operational by Friday.  Other credit unions, including Provident CU, PremierOne CU, and USE CU’s Northern California branches, were not impacted by the outage.

The Saddleridge Fire led to the temporary closures of some credit union branches on Friday and Saturday, including Premier America CU.

“While Premier America CU is headquartered here in Chatsworth near the location of the Saddleridge fire, we are open to serve our community,” said SVP of Member Experience Marci Francisco last week. “Out of an abundance of caution, we have closed our Santa Clarita and Chatsworth branches due to complications from air quality concerns and freeway closures. Our other branches and corporate headquarters remain open. The situation remains fluid. It is early, so we do not know the extent of any impact yet. We do have members and team members who are in the mandatory evacuation areas, so we continue to monitor the situation. Our hearts go out to those affected by the Saddleridge fire, and we will be offering emergency assistance to those who are impacted.”

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