WASHINGTON -- Information on disaster preparedness and recovery has been flowing from federal officials to both credit unions and their members since Hurricane Katrina focused attention on the need to anticipate problems and react appropriately.
The start of another hurricane season on June 1 and a major wave of tornadoes and flooding in the Midwest has underscored the urgency of such efforts.
NCUA's Office of Examination and Insurance indicates there has been significant progress. They especially applaud efforts credit unions have made to update their disaster preparedness plans and train staff to implement those blueprints.
NCUA also points to another challenge it says credit unions are addressing--getting ready for any possible pandemic, which would raise an additional set of concerns.
After Katrina, the Federal Financial Institutions Examination Council and the Conference of State Bank Supervisors issued a report on the lessons learned from Katrina. The analysis highlighted the major issues financial institutions in the affected areas faced including, communication outages made it difficult to locate missing personnel; access to restricted areas and reliable transportation into those areas were not always available; lack of electrical power or fuel for generators made computer systems inoperable; many facilities were destroyed or sustained significant damage; some financial institution branches and ATMs were underwater for weeks; and disrupted mail service for months in some areas.
The lessons stemming from that situation, according to the report, include disaster drills should include all critical functions and areas; anticipate disruptions in communications, possibly for extended periods; take into account the fact critical staff may not be able to reach their assigned recovery location; replacement supplies may be difficult to obtain; alternate facilities may be needed; back-up sites need to be located far enough away that they aren't affected, and be prepared to operate in a cash-only environment.
In March this year the FFIEC issued an updated business continuity planning booklet, which stresses the importance of anticipating problems whether systems are provided in-house or through third parties. The publication also includes statements on pandemic planning.
Consumers as well as financial institutions are being incorporated into regulatory agencies disaster preparedness efforts. NCUA Chairman JoAnn Johnson announced in May that a National Hurricane Center link, providing consumers with information on safe money management incase of a natural disaster or other emergency, is now featured on the "What's New" section of the MyMoney.gov Web site.
NCUA has also been supporting the U.S. Treasury's GoDirect direct-deposit initiative.