Cashless Society? Irene Says Not So Fast
While I did not have to resort to the survival extremes of a Bear Grylls, I can say that surviving the aftermath of a hurricane is no walk in the park.
Today is day 5 without power at my home in Williamsburg, Va., and the constant hum of generators offers little comfort. Our county alone has been hit with some $25 million in damages as trees hit homes, businesses and of course, power lines. I am happy to say injuries were few.
I learned some valuable lessons as a result of this ordeal. I had the basics covered: plenty of fuel, tested the generators, prepared for a storm surge and stocked up on canned goods.
What I forgot to do was to get some extra cash before the storm hit. I often brag that I never carry cash. In this case, some cash would have been a wise move.
Banks and credit unions were off the grid Saturday through Tuesday morning and access to cash was very difficult, if not impossible.
Some financial institutions were able to open quickly, but their systems or networks were unresponsive. Few, if any transactions, went through.
Card readers were down at 95% of the area merchants, evident by all the "cash only" signs. Need to buy an extra extension cord for that new generator you bought for the storm? Sorry, not today. Drive 20 miles to a gas station with that had power? Sorry, cards not accepted today.
I am happy to say, at this time, most systems are returning to normal.
Social media played an important role through my ordeal. Because cell service worked rather dependably, clients, family and friends were able to get regular updates.
In my neighborhood we have a Facebook group page that provided a constant flow of info. While power to our homes was down, smartphone uses could receive constant update updates. The entire Hampton Roads community seemed to be on Twitter as the storm hit, providing real time updates on road closings, storm surge and emergency info.
Lessons learned? Communication in a crisis offers comfort. Having a little cash on hand, would have too. With a little luck, power at the Clagett household will return this afternoon.
Bryan Clagett is chief marketing officer for Geezeo.