First Liberty Bank of Macon, Ga., and its 25 branches are running full-tilt, even though most of Macon has ground to a halt.

The $729 million thrift, Macon's only savings and loan, had a contingency plan that worked like a charm, even though the plan had never anticipated a flood, according to Robert F. Hatcher, chief executive.

The plan kept the thrift running when the faucets ran dry, the electricity stopped and boats became the only means of transportation for much of the city.

Mr. Hatcher said the linchpin in the plan was phone trees, where in an emergency each person in a phone tree is responsible for contacting more people. First Liberty used the system to monitor its work force when the flood ripped through Macon last Friday.

Disaster Training

The phone-tree system, in which each person contacted was responsible for making sure different area's of the bank's operation would be safe in the event of an emergency, had been drilled into the employees brains through a series of mock disasters over the years.

"We went to work on Sunday with a skeleton crew," Mr. Hatcher said. "That crew kept the company up and running. That made sure liquidity problems didn't happen, item processing didn't stop and the lines of communication kept open."

For instance, First Liberty's downtown, 12-story office tower still has no running water, which nixed the air-conditioning because it runs on water-filled chillers.

"We had this old fountain in front of the building that wasn't turned on any more," Mr. Hatcher added. "We hooked a pump to the drain that runs to the air-conditioning. Tankers come in a few times a day and dump water into the fountain and now the air-conditioning works."

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