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ANAHEIM, Calif. – Joe Villa admits that no disaster recovery plan could have foreseen the horrific events that unfolded on Sept. 11 from terrorist attacks on the U.S. “Can you imagine the planner that could worst-case the events that happened on the 11th of September?” he asked. “Can you imagine a planner who would have said, `I’ve got the plan for 5,000 possible deaths and four times that number in casualties. I’ve got the plan for $30 billion of loss. I have the plan for 285 businesses going out of business in one hour. I have the plan for one-fifth of the financial district of New York City to be obliterated and no longer usable.” While such a terrorist suicide mission may be unfathomable, Villa said other disasters – which can directly affect credit unions – need to be carefully planned for. Little more than one month after the attacks in New York City and Washington, D.C., Villa found himself discussing disaster recovery planning at the California Credit Union League’s annual meeting and convention here. “While we will be talking about events that can happen at your credit union that will disrupt your business, may even injure some people and may cost you some money, they’re going to pale beside events that happened a month ago,” he said. Even so, he stressed that credit unions need to develop a disaster recovery plan to address possible disruptions, whether man-made or natural. The key, he said was to have a plan in place, to keep it updated and not leave it sitting on a shelf, and to “practice, practice, practice.” “Any plan is better than no plan,” said Villa, president of Human Resources Initiatives. “You need to know what your mission is and everybody needs to know what’s expected of them.” Villa said that a disaster recovery plan can be as large or as small as the credit union requires. It should be based on the likelihood of service being disrupted, through such events as an earthquake, tornado, civil disturbance, fire, robbery or electrical outage. Even such things as embezzlement, fraud, accidental loss of member financial records, and threats against employees can all be part of the plan, he advised. “I will readily admit that you cannot provide for every eventuality,” Villa said. “You need to think about these things. At least give them some thought and make a conscious decision whether or not you want to follow up on them. “You can start it as a checklist,” he added. “It can develop into a smaller plan and then can develop (into a large-scale plan). What people need to know is, `What do I do?’” Villa said it was important for everyone in the credit union to be involved and trained in disaster recovery. A planning committee, composed of a management team, business recovery team, departmental recovery team and computer recovery team should all be appointed, he suggested. He also said that mock drills should be a regular part of the process, including once a quarter training in how to respond to a robbery and holding practice fire drills two to three times a year. The plan, itself, should be updated at least twice a year. Among the elements that he said should be in a plan were: * A clear understanding of who is in charge and an order of succession. * Location of command posts. * Establishment of off-site communications for staff and board members, as well as off-site storage for financial and business records, equipment and business supplies. * A vendor list including telephone numbers and addresses. * Insurance identification and telephone numbers. * Trauma control and counseling and support. “People need to be consoled and told everything will be all right,” he said. To aid in the recovery effort, he suggested credit unions purchase cell phones and/or pagers for their employees and install on-site disaster kits (i.e. flashlights, food and water and first-aid kits). Villa said up until Sept. 11, most people didn’t give much thought to planning for a disaster. “I think it’s an event that we don’t worry ourselves about too much until something occurs like what occurred a month ago,” he said. “Then we get into a frenzy about it and try to do the things that are right. Then we kind of forget about it again. “To be successful, you must continue to focus on what you have to do to bring the credit union back to vitality and protect its assets and your staff and members,” Villa said. [email protected]

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