Prepare Now, Rest Later: Ready Your CU for Disaster

Assess critical business functions, be informed, and test your disaster plan.

May 19, 2011
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Other advice

Other suggestions for effective business recovery and continuity:

• Review your insurance coverage. Time after time, businesses assume their insurance coverage protects them from all disasters.

This was a popular assumption following Hurricane Katrina. Businesses and homes suffered significant flood damage only to find out their insurance covered the building structures, but not damage caused by flooding.

• Plan for an alternate location. The Federal government calls it COOP: continuity of operations. Make sure your credit union has access to another building or a contract for back-up space should any of your branch locations become uninhabitable.

Your members rely on your credit union being open, especially during their greatest times of need. If one of your branches is located in a low-lying area and gets flooded, where will move to? Will your members be able to conveniently access your new location?

You either need a building you can move into or have a vendor provide you with office space.

Preparing for a disaster can be an overwhelming experience even for large financial institutions focused specifically on the recovery needs of the company. Obtaining contracts for power generators, office equipment, information technology infrastructure, and satellite bandwidth to ensure communications can be a large and frustrating undertaking for small and midsized credit unions.

In fact, I’ve seen a lot of business owners steer away from disaster planning for this specific reason. Many credit union leaders lack the experience and time to develop their plans effectively and, therefore, should seek out a reputable business continuity solution provider to handle these needs.

One such provider is Agility Recovery Solutions. It can provide the four key elements of recovery—power, space, connectivity, and satellite—to credit unions for a nominal monthly fee. Over the past two years, Agility has responded to more than 560 disaster events and conducted more than 700 recovery tests across North America.

Being able to serve your members after a disaster depends on preparedness planning done today. Credit unions spend a lot of time, money, and energy to make their companies successful, yet sometimes little attention is paid to real disaster planning—a critical omission that could result in the demise of your credit union.

Taking the time to prepare now could be the difference in opening or closing your doors in the future.

David Paulison served as administrator of the Federal Emergency Management Agency from 2005 to 2009 following a 30-year career in emergency management and emergency service.

VP-Business Continuity

Ken Schroeder
May 19, 2011 9:48 am
Great Points. I go a little bolder, however. Even if you don't go the formal route and conduct a BIA (which you should), you need to ask yourself "What the most important thing to do in an emergency?". Once you take out all the parochial emotion for your department, the answer should come back to "Provide cash to our members in a crisis", yet that seems to be the last thing cu plans focus on.

So how do you do that? Ensure a supply of cash. Ensure a copy of latest trial balance. Ensure security. Ensure your tellers know how to operate off-line. Ensure recovery procedures work when IT and other services are restored.

It all boils down to People (you've got to have them to work), Places (you've got to have a place to work), and Processes (you've got to have backups to your normal processing mode).

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