June 21, 2017
Tropical Storm Cindy a Reminder to CUs for Disaster Planning
Credit unions along the Gulf Coast are putting disaster plans into action as Tropical Storm Cindy bears down on the region Wednesday.
Tropical Storm Cindy formed in the Gulf of Mexico and was heading towards the Texas-Louisiana border Wednesday afternoon. It was expected to make landfall sometime late Wednesday before moving inland Thursday.
Areas of the south were already seeing significant rainfall Wednesday, but the most threatening element of the storm is the potential for inland flooding, says Scott Teel, vice president of organizational development with Agility Recovery, a CUNA Strategic Services alliance provider.
“This is a learning opportunity,” Teel says. “This is not a tremendously intense storm, so it’s almost like a practice. But it’s also a reminder that it only takes one intense storm in your areas to change the trajectory of your credit union.”
While the storm is occurring, credit union leadership can take the following steps:
Have regular updates throughout the course of the storm and afterwards, even if there is no news to share, Teel says, because it’s important for members, employees, and board members to know you’re handling the adverse effects of the storm.
Because there may be outages, have a plan that utilizes as many different communication networks and methods as possible. Identify employees who have different wireless providers, update your website regularly and be able to make the updates remotely, and use social media.
“Everything begins with proper communication,” Teel says. “You want to be communicating on a regular basis with all of your stakeholders.”
- In-branch preparations.
If conditions allow it, go to the branch. Raise or remove equipment off the floor, unplug electrical items, make sure sump pumps are plugged in and operational, or raise elevators to the second floor before turning them off. These steps can lessen damage and recovery costs.
- Remember employees.
Check in on employees to make sure they’re taking the proper precautions to protect themselves from the storm. “The bottom line is, if your employees are affected, they are far less likely to report to work afterwards,” Teel says.
Once the storm has passed and the recovery process begins, Teel says the top three priorities should be:
- Establish connectivity with your core processor. Without this connectivity, no credit union business can take place.
- Perform a damage assessment. Determine what infrastructure, equipment, and processes have been affected by the storm. Identify the critical processes that need to take place in order to serve your members. Does the credit union need to have an increased amount of cash on hand for members to carry out transactions because the power is out and merchants can’t process card transactions?
- Practice due diligence. When arranging for contractors to complete repair or restoration work, make sure they’re a reputable company. Also, understand a timeline for how long the work will take to complete so that you’re able to determine whether you’ll have to move employees to different branches, open temporary branches, or other steps.
While Tropical Storm Cindy will primarily impact the south, Teel says it serves are a reminder that all credit unions should have a disaster plan in place.
“Use this storm as your dry run. Don’t rest on your laurels,” Teel says. “Now is the time to prepare.”
Agility Recovery has a number of resources for credit unions: