August 10, 2020

When Disaster Strikes, Text Messages Get the Word Out

Connected through natural disaster

During the first week in August, Hurricane Isaias piled on power outages to the 1.6 million residents in the Northeast who were already dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic. With massive road closings and businesses shut down, it was difficult to determine what was open and what services were available. 

When a natural disaster such as Isaias hits, people look for information from the businesses and services they rely on, including their Credit Unions. Quick, effective communication regarding branch closings, special hours of operation, loan extensions, etc., can be efficiently communicated through Text Messaging.

Although Isaias was a Category 1 hurricane, its aftermath is shaping up to be the worst storm to hit the region since Hurricane Sandy in 2012, which was a Category 3. That’s because of the compounding impact of the pandemic. Credit Unions, inherently dedicated to their members’ success, can use Text Messaging to provide welcome — and necessary —lines of communication.

For example, Credit Unions can push out a mass message to members indicating the operational status of branches. For a more personal experience, Text Messaging can also be 1:1, providing forgiveness to those with loan payments due while experiencing a power outage, for example.

Research has found that between 95% and 99% of all Text Messages are read within 15 minutes of being received. In addition, Morgan Stanley reports 91% of all U.S. citizens have their mobile devices within reach 24/7. Because SMS is supported on nearly every mobile device–from the most advanced smartphone to the most entry-level flip phone–Text Messaging is the perfect platform to communicate urgently during a pandemic or natural disaster. 

During natural disasters, people seek communication and information. However, an abundance of phone calls can flood networks, ultimately causing them to crash. Text Messages work differently: They are sent through an SMS wireless gateway and use different technology than voice messages. 

During Hurricane Sandy, FEMA encouraged people to send text updates to loved ones rather than flood voice networks with calls. Doing so reduced congestion on voice networks, making it easier for first responders and people with life-threatening emergencies to communicate.

When daily life is significantly disrupted, whether because of a natural disaster or a pandemic, it is critical that Credit Unions are able to communicate with members quickly and effectively. Text Messaging helps not only to inform members, but also helps them to feel connected during uncertain times.

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