MADISON, Wis. (9/4/09)--September is National Preparedness Month, and the No.1 thing credit unions can do to prepare for a disaster is test their preparedness plans, according to the president/CEO of Agility Recovery Solutions. “Most credit unions have a written plan in place for disaster recovery,” Bob Boyd, president/CEO of Agility, told News Now
. “But they really need to ask questions: What would happen if a piece of infrastructure didn’t work? Does that plan help? Who will do what?” To help credit unions with disaster planning, Agility is hosting several free webinars:
* Pandemic Planning--How to Prepare Your Business for the Upcoming Flu Season, Sept. 16 at 2 p.m.; * Social Media--What Role Does It Play in Business Preparedness, Sept. 23 at 2 p.m.; and * Creating a Culture of Preparedness, Sept. 30, 2 p.m.
Agility Recovery Solutions, a CUNA Strategic Service provider, also has partnered with the Federal Emergency Management Agency to encourage disaster preparedness. Credit unions’ apprehension about a possible H1N1, or swine flu, pandemic is increasing. However, most credit unions’ disaster plans don’t deal with swine flu. Boyd suggested credit unions prepare for a pandemic by cross-training staff and giving them the ability to work from home. Credit unions won’t hurt their business by preparing for swine flu. And while many credit unions may think that testing disaster plans is expensive, it doesn’t have to be, Boyd added. “There are steps [credit unions] can take today,” Boyd said. “If they don’t do it now, they will be behind the gun, and that’s when mistakes happen.” Most credit unions find ways to improve each time they test a plan, he added. The Massachusetts Credit Union League posted a message on its website encouraging credit unions to prepare for a possible epidemic. “Whether the H1N1 flu virus will worsen with symptoms this fall or winter remains to be seen, but the Center for Disease Control reports that this is a new flu strain with little immunity amongst the citizenry,” the league said. “As a result, at the very least, businesses should expect many more of their employees and members to come down with the flu this flu season.” Last week, a presidential advisory group of the nation’s leading scientists and engineers released a report assessing the Obama Administration’s preparations for this fall’s expected resurgence of H1N1 flu and outlined key steps officials can take to minimize the disease’s impact on the nation. The report concluded that the H1N1 flu is unlikely to resemble the deadly flu pandemic of 1918-19. But in contrast to the benign version of swine flu that emerged in 1976, the report says the current strain “poses a serious health threat” to the nation. The issue is not that the virus is more deadly than other flu strains, but rather that it is likely to infect more people than usual because it is new and few people have immunity. This means doctors’ offices and hospitals could fill to capacity, the group said in a release. Individuals should wash their hands frequently, and stay home from work when sick. “Workplaces could liberalize rules for absenteeism so employees don’t feel pressured to come to work when sick,” the group said. Since it’s hurricane season, credit unions and leagues also are preparing for potentially dangerous storms. The Texas Credit Union League (TCUL) added a storm tracker system with scrolling updates concerning weather developments on its website. Users can access storm preparation resources by clicking on a “Disaster Preparation” banner on the TCUL website. Disaster recovery is also needed during power or phone outages, regardless of whether they are triggered by a natural disaster. Schools FCU, Los Angeles, recently experienced a phone outage, which prevented the credit union from accessing the Internet or its account database. “The phone line went down on a Friday--payday--creating a potentially troublesome situation for our members who were likely to move thousands of dollars among their accounts,” said Barbara Abraham, Schools FCU operations manager. Although members could not conduct transactions at Schools’ physical branches, they could make deposits and withdrawals through shared branching. While the phone line was being repaired, PSCU Financial helped credit union members conduct transactions through its call center and also helped staff maintain a transaction log. “It is hard to forsee when a crisis will disrupt regular credit union workflow, but there is no need to reinvent the wheel in adverse scenarios to ensure effective and continuous service,” said Peter Schmitt, PSCU Financial Services executive director. The U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) posted a message Tuesday on YouTube with Administrator Karen Mills reminding the public about National Preparedness Month and the effects of a disaster. She encouraged everyone to develop and implement preparedness plans. “There’s a tendency to think that a large-scale disaster is not going to happen ‘where I live,’” Mills said. “We should all realize that storms, floods, earthquakes, fires and man-made disasters can strike at any time and anywhere.” SBA’s suggested disaster prep includes:
* An emergency response plan; * Adequate insurance coverage; * Copies of important records; and * A disaster survival kit with a flashlight, portable radio, batteries, first-aid supplies, non-perishable food, bottled water, a basic tool kit, plastic sheeting and garbage bags, cash and a digital camera to take pictures of damage.
The Credit Union National Association also offers disaster preparedness resources, including archived Agility webcasts on pandemic planning. For more information, use the links.