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MADISON, Wis. – Although it may take weeks or months to assess the damage left by Hurricane Katrina, CUNA Mutual Group representatives have been standing by about 150 miles out ready to help. “We obviously adapt to each disaster. In this case for hurricanes we identify the areas that may be impacted and the potential losses early on so once an approximate strike area is identified we get the independent firms we work with in those areas and have adjusters sitting and waiting in an area outside of the strike zone,” said CUNA Mutual CU Protection Solutions Group Claims Manager Mike Retelle. “We try to umbrella not just the strike zones but surrounding areas as well because although Katrina came in at a category four and immediately dropped to a three, then became a tropical depression, it still spawned huge amounts of tornadoes not to mention the pure water surges. So it’s important to have groups ready to move in.” Once the storm passes, Madison adjusters are sent out to the areas as decision makers to help credit unions any way they can. “We keep them down there as long as they are needed. We generally don’t like to keep them out in the field more than seven to 10 days so sometimes they can be rotated, but we play it by ear depending on each situation,” said Retelle. “For example after last year’s hurricanes in Florida we didn’t leave for several months. Industry-wide there was a shortage of adjusters and supplies and there are a finite number of people that are trained and able to deal effectively with the sheer numbers.” Retelle says with Katrina, given the strike zone, he expects to deal with a lot more flood losses and water damage issues, which from a claims perspective is fairly straightforward. “There is a common misnomer that we just cut checks for damages. Generally speaking our goal is to help the credit union get up and running. So beyond the structural issues there is the data processing and other underlying issues that we help them resolve so they can serve their members,” said Retelle. “Structural repairs occur over time-you can’t do a complete repair on a roof in a week and it takes time to determine the true extent of water damage – so first and foremost we are here to help the credit union become operational as soon as possible.” In catastrophes like Katrina, Retelle says what remains most important is taking care of the people issues first, then assess the immediate needs. He adds that the biggest myth in the wake of such events is that nothing can be done before speaking to a claims adjuster. “Take care of yourselves and your employees-we want them to be safe first,” said Retelle. “Don’t sit and wait for someone. Hopefully you have strong business relations with data processors, contractors or plumbers to take care of the physical surroundings and you should get a hold of them immediately because the pecking order of life is first called first served, and they need to know you need assistance so call them right away. Obviously you don’t want to start major renovations, but they can start dealing with the computer repair or security issues right away. If we don’t hear from the credit unions, we’ll contact them, either by phone once the lines are up or we’ll send someone in to physically drive by.” Retelle says care must also be taken in what steps are taken first. For example, any records or paperwork that is under water will survive longer and has a greater likelihood of being recovered if it remains in its cabinet than if it is immediately pulled out of the water because mold can set in quickly rendering the documents useless. “Sometimes it’s not what you don’t do but what you do that can cause the most damage, so it is always best to ask,” said Retelle. “We’re ready to help so as communications come up and areas are cleared we’ll have a better picture of how we can best do that.” The CUNA Mutual Disaster Line, which is available around the clock, is (800) 637-2676. [email protected]

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