With Hurricane Sandy poised Friday to begin its expected turn towards the East Coast, the credit union industry was bracing for the storm.
CUNA Mutual Group said it has activated its Property and Casualty Claims Disaster Team and was contacting credit union leagues in North Carolina, Virginia, Maryland, the District of Columbia, Delaware, Pennsylvania, New Jersey and New York.
- SANDY NEWS Oct. 26, 2012 NCUA Issues Warning, Pledges Help
- SANDY NEWS Oct. 26, 2012 CUNA Mutual, Leagues Brace for Storm
- SANDY NEWS Oct. 26, 2012 NC, RI, NY Leagues Warily Eye Sandy
“We will provide them with the names and contact information for our P&C claims staff members who will be ready to assist them. We will also ask they notify us of credit unions that have been or may be impacted by Sandy,” said CMG spokesman Phil Tschudy in Madison, Wis.
Forecasters expect the storm's greatest impact to be Tuesday into Wednesday. The hurricane already has killed 30 people in Haiti and Cuba and is expected to combine with a wintry front coming from the western states and frigid air from Canada to bring perhaps unprecedented conditions to the affected states.
"It's looking like a very serious storm that could be historic," Jeff Masters, meteorology director of the forecasting service Weather Underground, told CBS News.
"We don't have many modern precedents for what the models are suggesting," NOAA forecaster Jim Cisco told the Weather Channel. What Cisco termed the "Frankenstorm" follows last year's freak Halloween snow storm that pummeled the northeast states just weeks after Hurricane Irene brought record rainfall and widespread flooding.
Tschudy said credit unions can reach CUNA Mutual Group's toll-free disaster hotline at 800-637-2676 anytime day or night.
Credit unions in Connecticut also are on the watch as Hurricane Sandy makes its way over the weekend, its league said.
"The league … has taken proactive steps for our credit unions to be as prepared as possible for this impending weather event. We have also taken steps to ensure our credit unions can contact us if they need to," said Tony Emerson, president/CEO of the Credit Union League of Connecticut.
The storm is expected to bring heavy rain and winds and possibly widespread power outages, authorities said, and could wreak havoc on the electronic infrastructure credit unions depend on to serve members.
"Hurricanes like Sandy can cause credit unions to lose valuable data and key systems as well as the ability to serve its members," said Matt Gerber, CEO of IT-Lifeline, a Spokane, Wash., provider of disaster recovery and testing solutions with a client list that includes about 40 credit unions.
"To reduce risk and ensure continued service for members,” Gerber said, “credit union executives can take the following steps prior to the arrival of a storm; confirm that your credit union has sufficiently backed up the most recent copies of important data; make sure your IT team has the ability to recover key IT systems within 24 hours at a protected location; contact disaster recovery facilities so that they are prepared; and activate the disaster recovery response team to start implementing the first steps of your disaster recovery plan."
The storm is expected to have a major impact in some of the nation’s most populous venues, including the capital.
“We’ve implemented our inclement weather policy,” said NAFCU spokesman Patty Briotta. “Should the federal government close, we’ll follow suit to ensure the safety of our employees. But we’ve ramped up our remote working capabilities to ensure that our members are minimally affected, if at all.”
She added, “Our advice to credit unions in the path of the storm? Simply we hope that they weather the storm safely. We know they’ve built their own plans, which we expect that they’ll put in place. Should they need help or assistance, we stand by ready and waiting.