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CUs take precautions as Hurricane Irene draws near
MADISON, Wis. (8/26/11)--Although Hurricane Irene’s arrival to the U.S. mainland was still in question late Thursday, credit unions in several states, including North Carolina, were preparing for a possible landfall. The first hurricane of the season, with winds up to 115 mph, as of Thursday afternoon Irene was a Category 3 storm on a five-point scale. The storm has caused flooding and power outages across the Caribbean, and U.S. officials have warned Irene could cause damage along the east coast as far north as Maine. Agility Recovery, a CUNA Strategic Services provider, is offering, “Hurricane Irene: Current Threats & Practical Steps to Prepare, a webinar to help credit unions prepare for this weekend at 10:30 a.m. ET today. The webinar will provide an update on the threats Irene presents and the potential impact to businesses. The presentation will address the factors unique to Irene and practical steps for preparation in advance of the storm. Credit unions within range of Irene’s potential path were making preparations of their own on Thursday. At $682 million asset Marine FCU, Jacksonville, N.C., the credit union’s emergency engagement group is meeting daily to review the threat posed by the storm and plan ahead accordingly. The credit union announced Wednesday that all branches in North Carolina would be closed Saturday. Marine FCU President/CEO Craig Chamberlin said the primary focus--if and when Irene hits the area--will be setting up a command center at the credit union’s headquarters. “Our primary function isn’t to see that our branches or our ATMs are OK, but to make very certain but our people are OK,” Chamberlin told News Now. “Bricks and mortar can be replaced. People can’t be replaced.” Chamberlain said he and his senior staff were in Phase 2 of a five-phase disaster preparation preparedness plan on Thursday morning. He expected the plan would be elevated to Phase 3 by today. He estimated he and his staff had been through six hurricanes since 1995. While a Category 3 hurricane presents real danger, he said residents would leave the area if the storm elevates to “a strong Category 4.” “The biggest blessing, providing nothing changes, is that we’re on the west side of it, not on the east side,” he said of Irene. With branches in each of North Carolina’s 100 counties, $23 billion asset State Employees’ CU, Raleigh, has also prepared for Irene’s arrival. The credit union has sent extra cash to every branch east of Interstate 95, according to Leigh Brady, SECU’s senior vice president of education services. “Quite frankly we’ve already seen an increase in members coming to get extra cash,” Brady said. “I think some of it is accommodating people who are leaving the affected areas already.” Brady said the credit union has no plans to close branches early today. SECU branches are not open on Saturday. “We’ll make whatever accommodations we need to make for employees,” Brady said. The North Carolina Credit Union League (NCCUL) staff reached out to credit unions in the eastern part of North Carolina on Wednesday. “We wanted to ensure that our credit unions had all the resources and information they need to properly implement their disaster preparedness plans and get ready for the storm,” said NCCUL President/CEO John Radebaugh. “All credit unions that were contacted reported that they were carefully following their disaster preparedness plans while carefully monitoring the movement of Irene.” After passing over North Carolina, Hurricane Irene is expected to remain a hurricane alongside of Virginia, Maryland and Delaware, heading through New Jersey to the New York metro area and New England through Sunday (Property Casualty 360 Aug. 26).
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