WASHINGTON -- The CUNA Board has adopted a national disaster preparedness plan for credit unions to manage future responses to major disasters.
"I think the heart of this plan is how the system communicates and works together to assist credit unions in the time of a disaster," CUNA Director of Disaster Recovery and Preparedness/Vice President of League Relations Scott Earl said. He pointed to the 877-CU-LOCATE number where credit unions can leave a message for members to find out about its operations during a major disaster. But the plan also offers the Adopt-A-Credit Union program for credit unions outside the affected area to assist those hit the worst, such as after Hurricanes Rita and Katrina.
"After Katrina, we found that we were stumbling over ourselves a little bit. Everybody wanted to help and there were offers coming in from all kinds of different directions and this plan will help direct that," Earl explained. For example, he said in-kind contributions of used computers were not very helpful because of software compatibility issues so there will be more of an emphasis on cash donations.
The plan outlines the partnership of CUNA, the leagues, credit unions, the Corporate CU Network, the Federal Reserve, CUNA Mutual, the National Credit Union Foundation, regulators, and strategic business partners. In particular, CUNA Chairman Juri Valdov, president/CEO of Northwest Federal Credit Union said, the plan is aimed at ensuring continued service to credit union members, and providing "uncompromised confidence" in credit unions and the system at large. "Our hope is that this plan will be embraced by the credit union movement, as the plan presents solutions to lessons learned through past tragic events, and encompasses how players both within and outside of the credit union movement can work together to ensure the needs are met of credit unions, their members and their staffs in the aftermath of a disaster," he said.
Florida Credit Union League President Guy Hood chaired CUNA's Disaster Preparedness Committee that developed the plan and said the plan will be updated based on future disasters. "We consider this to be truly a living document," he told the CUNA Board.
Key lessons learned as identified by the committee:
o A coordinated plan for disaster assessment that triggers "next step" activities is essential, including a triage team.
o A communications plan that includes designated and coordinated responsibilities must be established and used including a toll-free number and an up-to-date national credit union database with names, main office locations, branch, data processor for credit unions, as well as executive staff contact lists.
o "Cash is King." Credit unions must be prepared to have additional cash on hand and methods to disburse it.
o Alternate communication and operation sources are critical, particularly for credit union staff, and for continuing operations from alternate locations.
o While the primary response mission of credit unions is to ensure meeting financial needs of members, donations for humanitarian needs (clothes, hygiene products, housing) for employees at credit unions is necessary.
o Further, an on-line system to raise funds to aid credit union people and move cash efficiently to them is crucial
o Regulators must adopt policies and procedures to assess the short- and long-term financial impact to credit unions and to insurance funds.
o Additional strategic business partners should be identified for emergency needs following a disaster. --email@example.com