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WASHINGTON-Though the so-called “beltway sniper” has terrorized the Washington-metropolitan area for nearly a month now, business must continue as usual. Local credit unions, their trade organizations, and NCUA are no exception. The sniper has claimed 10 lives out of 13 people shot, leaving three wounded, with no end in sight. In the case of Navy Federal Credit Union, officials are ratcheting up awareness and security as the D.C.-metropolitan area sniper attacks hit close to home. Navy Federal’s Merrifield, Va.-headquarters is just five miles from the shooting in Seven Corners. Navy Federal President and CEO Brian McDonnell made an announcement over the public address system when the shootings reached northern Virginia acknowledging everyone’s anxiety over the shootings and stressing the need for strict enforcement of their safety policies, according to Spokesperson Loren Moeller. Everyone has been asked to wear their employee badges at all times in a highly visible area and employees should make sure their cars are properly registered and display the appropriate parking sticker. Navy Federal employees have been instructed to follow the established safety rules of the credit union and be extra vigilant in their personal safety. Additionally, Moeller noted that the security company is being “extra cognizant” in watching the grounds and specifically of the entrances and exits. While NCUA’s headquarters in Alexandria, Va. is about eight miles from the closest shooting, employees have still felt the impact of the shootings in their daily commute. According to Public and Congressional Affairs Director Cliff Northup, many of the agency’s employees who commute from the suburbs have been tied up in the traffic snarls resulting from the roadblocks that police have set up in hopes of catching the sniper. Understanding of the extreme circumstances, NCUA is allowing employees caught in these miles-long backups discretionary leave for time lost during the particularly grueling commutes, Northup said, which is occurring more frequently. Of course, some in the affected areas have figured out ways to avoid the roadblocks, much like the sniper has. HEMA Federal Credit Union Manager Tom Mather, who commutes from Olney, Md. up Georgia Avenue to Silver Spring, Md. where the shooting on the Ride-On bus occurred last week, said that he has so far been able to avoid the roadblocks by delaying his drive to the $5 million credit union serving Washington Hospital Center Employees. “It’s definitely quiet here,” he said, but added that the small credit union usually is around this time of year, so he would not necessarily attribute it to the sniper shootings. NCUA’s Northup added that the agency has been beefing up security ever since the terrorist attacks of September 11 last year. New security cameras have also been installed around the building and security guards man the front desk checking visitors’ identification. NCUA also has continuity of operations plans in place, he explained. As with many other employers, NCUA offers an Employee Assistance Program (EAP) for employees feeling particularly stressed by work, problems back home, or other reasons, which the Human Resources Department reminded employees of recently, Northup said. CUNA is one of those other employers that offer an EAP. Senior Vice President of Communications Mark Wolff said an e-mail from the EAP was recently circulated around the office calling employees’ attention to the counseling service provided by CUNA for employees experiencing stress. CUNA has offered EAP as an employee benefit for at least the last 15 years, he said. The service is free and confidential, available 24 hours a day, and run by an outside provider. The number of calls into the system is also kept confidential, Wolff said. CUNA’s Washington, D.C. headquarters has not stepped up security measures despite the barrage of attacks in the Washington-metropolitan area and is located several miles from the nearest one at a Washington, D.C. gas station. Wolff pointed out that most of the incidents have occurred in the suburbs of Washington, D.C. “We don’t have any additional security measures in place here, at least so far anyway,” he explained. NAFCU also has not changed its business operations, even though the trade organization is located just five and a half miles from the Seven Corners shooting. NAFCU President and CEO Fred Becker took time during the most recent monthly staff meeting to emphasize the need to be cautious, yet maintain proper balance between security and freedom. Vice President of External Relations Mary Lynn Stevens of Pentagon Federal Credit Union, located inside the Pentagon in Alexandria, Va., said the credit union could not comment on security measures due to the nature of the credit union’s location. Virginia and Washington, D.C. Credit Union Leagues President Rick Pillow told Credit Union Times that the league had not sent out any particular information pertaining to the sniper shootings and the possible effects on member credit unions to its members. However, the leagues are monitoring the situation, he explained, and if a specific threat is made public regarding financial institutions, they will be prepared to alert member institutions. Pillow said he had not heard a lot about the shootings from league members at this point. While the Virginia league headquarters are located in Lynchburg, safely out of range of the sniper activity so far, a shared service center located in Manassas, is in close proximity to one of the shootings, which shook many people up. Pillow commented that everyone is “just trying to stay alert to their surroundings.” Knowledgeable officials from the Maryland Credit Union League were unavailable for comment. -

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