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The 1997 Flood - 20 Years Later

Alerus | APR 14, 2017

Our Company and Community Changed Forever

This year marks the 20th anniversary of the Red River flood which devastated Grand Forks, North Dakota. Our corporate headquarters, nearly all of our employees and most of our customers were based in Grand Forks at the time. The flood of 1997 caused billions of dollars in damages, destroyed homes and businesses and forced the largest evacuation of a city’s residents since the Civil War. 

Tips for Surviving a Natural Disaster

We gained valuable insight into surviving a disaster during that event, including the most important step: Be prepared. You can never fully prepare for a disaster, but you can prepare to recover. Walk through the “what ifs” of a disaster and ask yourself how you would react. Make plans to relocate important items ahead of time. Back documents up to the cloud. Check your insurance policy.

Here are a few more important items for businesses to consider if they experience a disaster:

  • Care for your employees. Without employees, there is no business. Make sure your employees are safe before addressing any business-related concerns. Many of our employees suffered personal loss during the 1997 flood. Alerus (then First National Bank North Dakota) ensured employees’ homes were rebuilt in a timely fashion and handled many of the details so that employees could focus on other things. We also provided lodging, meals, and other financial assistance to employees who needed it.
  • Communicate with your customers. During a time of crisis, simply being able to contact a business can make a significant impact on its future success. There was no social media in 1997, so our company relied on radio, television, newspapers and word-of-mouth to make sure our customers knew that we were open and how to contact us. Our dedicated employees helped ensure our phone lines stayed open throughout the disaster. 
  • Be creative. Our employees gathered frequently during the rebuilding process to brainstorm unique solutions to challenges. Ideas that emerged during that time included what we believe to be the first mobile bank in the Midwest – a retrofitted motor home which was allowed to travel through communities in the area to serve customers who had evacuated during the flood.
  • React quickly and confidently. Disasters are inherently unpredictable, so while it is important to have a plan, leaders must also be equipped to react quickly and confidently to unforeseen challenges.

If employees are cared for, and communication lines have been established between the company and its customers, there is no disaster that cannot be endured.

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