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Be a Master of Disaster Planning

Business continuity requires a broader definition of 'disaster.'

December 13, 2010
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“Business continuity” is one of those euphemisms designed to keep people’s minds from leaping immediately to dire visions.

“Basically, it’s disaster avoidance,” says Julie Esser, director of new alliances for CUNA Strategic Services. “Many credit unions have a ‘it’s never going to happen to us’ view, partly because they see a disaster as something huge, like Hurricane Katrina or a wildfire. Part of what we do is broaden the scope of what they see as a disaster.”

Esser cites several examples:

  • A fire that destroys a branch or vital equipment;
  • A backhoe that accidentally severs a major phone line; or
  • A broken water pipe or water main.

“Maybe the tenant upstairs has a broken pipe that leaks overnight and creates extensive damage that isn’t discovered until the next morning,” she says. “Even after repairs, there’s the problem of mold and trying to dry out. Supposedly simple water damage turns into a long, drawn-out recovery process.”

Esser says many credit unions think business recovery is primarily an information technology (IT) problem. “But it’s not. There are a host of other concerns. How do employees get to work if there’s icing or flooding? Can they work from home?”

For credit unions that already have business continuity plans in place, Esser recommends updating and testing them at least annually. “Many credit unions won’t test their plans because of time constraints, cost, or fear of disrupting operations. One way around that is to test parts of the plan at night or on a Saturday if the credit union is closed on weekends.”

Credit unions won’t know if their plans will work until they test them, says Debbie Bergenske, CUNA Strategic Services alliance manager. “Also, you learn as you go along. One credit union tested its plan by taking two or three crucial people out of the loop and keeping them uninvolved just to see the effect: What will happen if there’s no backup? Who will step up to fill those gaps?”

CUNA Strategic Services has linked with Switch Communications Group to provide cloud computing services. “Instead of maintaining server racks and desktops, users can access software and apps on the Internet on a pay-as-you-go basis,” Esser explains.

Next: Plan components

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