Credit Union Community Unscathed By Irene

Hurricane Irene reminds us that preparation is crucial even when disasters don’t materialize.

 
 

Sure schools are closed and the power is out in many Washington D.C. area communities. Some stop lights still aren’t working, some gas pumps are still out, and a few cars are smashed with fallen trees. Otherwise, the D.C. metro area seems business as usual on this Monday morning.

At Callahan & Associates, tucked a few blocks north of the White House, it’s a normal Monday. We have a thick crowd at Starbuck’s downstairs, the guy with the megaphone is talking about the end of the world in Farragut Square, and the flower carts are displaying their usual array of bouquets. But we were braced for the worst.

We wanted ensure business continuity so we would be there as a data provider for credit unions no matter what the circumstances. So on Friday, our employees received another copy of the phone tree in case we had to close the offices today. They were reminded how our emergency phone system works and to keep the phone tree with them. We asked our employees to bring any crucial work materials with them over the weekend to prepare to work from home on Monday.

And we weren’t alone in thoroughly preparing for the disaster that never materialized. Credit unions and financial institutions all along the East Coast took cautionary measures so that they, too, could continue to serve members and customers if they lost critical infrastructure.

In North Carolina, where the Irene carried its "most powerful punch," according to the Wall Street Journal, State Employees' Credit Union ($23.1B, Raleigh, NC) implemented its emergency round-the-clock call center to meet member demands as it closed many of its branches. It also sent extra cash to its branches for the increasing members trying to get their funds as they evacuated.  Other credit unions like Marine Federal Credit Union ($682M, Jacksonville, NC) took similar measures, closing branches and setting up a call center.

Even Goldman Sachs Group in New York sent around an email reminder about the importance of business continuity, underscoring that the goal was to provide reasonable assurance to the business community in the event disruption to normal operations. The plan included preparing to perform critical tasks at another location if one location closed and preparing for data center closures with backup processing plans.

We wrote about the importance of business continuity in March, right after a barrage of winter storms hit the East Coast. In "Business As Usual,"our editor, Rebecca Wessler, gave us a few examples of how credit unions like Synergy Federal Credit Union ($155M, San Antonio, TX, formerly Valero Federal Credit Union), used alert systems to proactively keep their members up-to-date with business changes.

Some critics have said that the warnings about Hurricane Irene were over-hyped. They say that if you continue to treat every possible threat as a likely disaster, you’ll get numb to the threats and start to ignore them. But we’re going to continue to try to prepare for any possibility – big or small – of a threat to business. And we hope credit unions will also to prepare for the worst so they’ll be at their best.

 
 

Aug. 30, 2011


Comments

 
 
 
  • Interesting comments. I have a couple of thoughts to add.

    CASH IS KING. It isn't just getting cash prior to evacuating, its getting cash after the event. If comm lines are down and power is out, ATMs don't work, many stores can't take plastic. Getting vital supplies needs cash.

    Closed branches don't help. A small generator is a small investment to keep the doors open. Tellers can work off-line. But the members have access to their cash.

    The key to keeping the doors open is developing a great BC plan and exercising it so everyone is confident that it'll work.

    Unfortunately, events like Irene elicit great promises about getting the business continuity plan updated, but those promises tend to recede as fast as the water does.

    Too many business continuity plans are IT based, without consideration of the business requirements that should be driving them. A solid business impact analysis usually shows the most important thing to do is to make cash available to the members, but the actual plan usually doesn't reflect that.

    Ken Schroeder, CBCP, VP-Business Continuity @ Southeast Corporate
     
     
     
  • Interesting comments. I have a couple of thoughts to add.

    CASH IS KING. It isn't just getting cash prior to evacuating, its getting cash after the event. If comm lines are down and power is out, ATMs don't work, many stores can't take plastic. Getting vital supplies needs cash.

    Closed branches don't help. A small generator is a small investment to keep the doors open. Tellers can work off-line. But the members have access to their cash.

    The key to keeping the doors open is developing a great BC plan and exercising it so everyone is confident that it'll work.

    Unfortunately, events like Irene elicit great promises about getting the business continuity plan updated, but those promises tend to recede as fast as the water does.

    Too many business continuity plans are IT based, without consideration of the business requirements that should be driving them. A solid business impact analysis usually shows the most important thing to do is to make cash available to the members, but the actual plan usually doesn't reflect that.

    Ken Schroeder, CBCP, VP-Business Continuity @ Southeast Corporate