OKLAHOMA CITY, Okla. (5/22/13)--
Only the safe deposit box vault of Tinker FCU's Moore, Okla., branch was left standing in the aftermath of an EF4-scale tornado that hit the area near Oklahoma City. Fourteen staffers and eight members were inside the vault and escaped with no injuries. (Photo provided by Tinker FCU)
For nearly two dozen staff and members of Tinker FCU's branch in Moore, Okla., Monday afternoon had its moment of reckoning. A half-mile wide tornado bore down on the branch and they took cover in the credit union's safe deposit box vault. After it was over, they were safe and sound, and the only thing left standing was the vault.
"The branch is destroyed," said Matthew Stratton, senior vice president of marketing at Tinker FCU. "But the staff and members were safe inside the safe deposit box vault." He noted that 14 employees and eight to 10 members had sought shelter in the vault, "and everyone survived, with no injuries."
After the tornado ended, the building's debris blocked the vault door from opening, but first responders--who arrived within minutes--helped the employees and members get out. Because new storms were on the way, the group took cover a second time in a basement across the street until family members arrived, Stratton said.
The credit union had someone stay on site to keep the credit union's vault secure until 10 p.m. Monday, when the cash in the vault was removed and the safe deposit boxes were secured.
A second branch, the Northeast Oklahoma City branch, is also closed until power can be restored.
Tinker FCU's human resources department is now gathering information for assisting employees directly impacted by the tornado.
"All staff have been accounted for, and they're OK," Stratton said. However, about 25 employees have some damage to their homes, and four employees' homes were destroyed.
"We've set up an account for donations and financial assistance, but have not yet set up a mechanism for donating property or things," Stratton said. The TFCU Employee Relief Fund, account No. 8599883, is set up to receive funds mailed to:
P.O. Box 45750
Tinker Air Force Base, OK 73145-0750
He noted that the Oklahoma Credit Union Foundation is also developing assistance for credit union employees and the American Red Cross is already on the scene.
"We've secured the safe deposit box vault and the branch's computer system is secure," Stratton said. "The branch's system doesn't hold any information. Its computers are more a connection conduit into the core system, which is located elsewhere. Members don't have to worry about their confidential information being housed in a damaged computer."
In addition to securing the cash and vault, ensuring employees are well, Tinker FCU is also offering members a disaster relief loan program. However, he noted that the credit union typically works one-on-one with members through any crisis. "This is just a bigger version."
(See related stories in today's News Now, "Oklahoma League On Tornado: 'We're Prepared To Get Through This,'" and "NCUA Activates Disaster Relief For Oklahoma.")