TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – With Florida hammered by four hurricanes in only two months, the state's home corporate, Southeast Corporate FCU, has had to find creative ways to help itself and its members in any way it could. Southeast Corporate FCU President/CEO Bill Birdwell said the hurricanes forced SECORP to take flexibility to a new level. "I think we've met here about 28 times since August to talk about if we will go into contingency mode. We've switched operations from here (Tallahassee) and Jacksonville a few times," said Birdwell. Tallahassee is the corporate's main headquarters, while its item processing facility in Jacksonville serves as its back-up site, complete with generator power. One of the problems with planning for the 2004 hurricanes was the unpredictability of their paths. Birdwell said during some storms the corporate had hotel rooms reserved in three locations – Jacksonville, Tallahassee and Atlanta – because it wasn't sure what area the storm would affect. Birdwell said its two centers (Jacksonville, Tallahassee) are spread out enough and geographically positioned so that it's unlikely the same hurricane would hit both facilities. The locations are also just a few hundred miles away, so employees from each location can drive to the other. "I guess if there's an upside to it, we've had a lot of practice in contingency planning and disaster recovery. We've been through the drill a lot of times and we have a template now," he said. While that works for the corporate's operations, Birdwell said there is no single contingency plan to help members. The corporate has to assist CUs on a case-by-case basis depending on their unique needs. In one instance, SECORP went as far as setting up shop at one of SECORP's facilities for a CU that was forced out of their facility. Central Credit Union of Florida in Pensacola, whose processing operations were down due to Hurricane Ivan, moved its main to one of its branches in Jacksonville, however that branch did not have Internet access. To help out, SECORP worked with CCUF to deliver several days of ACH and share draft files and assisted CCUF's bill pay vendor so that bill payments stayed up-to-date. "When I walked into the Southeast Corporate office in Jacksonville, I noticed a banner hanging on the wall with their motto `Whatever It Takes' and through this experience – I can say without hesitation that they live up to their motto," stated Central Credit Union of Florida Jacksonville branch manager Shelly Pendexter. "They even set up a work station for us to utilize at their office. They bent over backwards to help us." In other cases it was vital for SECORP to make emergency cash available to credit unions for cash-strapped members. Birdwell said the corporate had higher levels of cash placed in strategically located vaults around the state. The corporate already had the relationships with the vaults as part of its coin and currency service. Birdwell said sometimes the best thing the corporate could do was to hook up credit unions in need with credit unions that were up and running. As the aggregator, SECORP had a good pulse on which CUs were hurting, and which weren't. "Overall for us it's been stressful. It's taken a toll on employees. Many lost power for extended periods of time. Some had damage to their homes and we put them up in hotels," said Birdwell, who coming from WesCorp was aware of the earthquake threat, but hurricanes are all new to him – he's hoping this year was an anomaly. [email protected]

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