HOUSTON: Spokespeople for PULSE, an electronic funds transfer
association, worked overtime to create goodwill, despite millions of
customers in 22 states being unable to use their ATM cards for three
days because of Tropical Storm Allison.
As much as three feet of rain fell on parts of Houston, knocking out
both primary and secondary power to PULSE's main processing station.
The company turned to its PR firm, Austin's GCI-Read Poland, for
external media relations, while internal staff focused on keeping Web
site information fresh and sending blast faxes to banks and other direct
PULSE's marketing EVP Cindy Ballard said she even woke the company
Webmaster at 2am one morning to update the site.
Julian Read, chairman of GCI-Read Poland and a longtime spokesman for
PULSE, said he initially strove to convince harried AP reporters of the
problem's magnitude so customers wouldn't be surprised when their cash
cards didn't work. He said reporters generally were sympathetic.
The disaster provided a rare opportunity for PULSE to reach mainstream
media with the message that until the deluge, its reliability record had
"This serves as a reminder to us how much we depend on our ATM cards,"
The system serves some 60 million cardholders and 2,700 financial
institutions that operate nearly half a million ATM and
point-of-purchase terminals from Florida to Colorado and Texas to