JACKSON, Miss. – As Magnolia FCU here discovered in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, a disaster recovery hot site isn’t of much value when all transportation is shut down. The credit union found itself without power. To make matters worse, with all airports closed, there was no way to get their backup tapes to the recovery site. Nevertheless, the credit union improvised a unique, temporary plan to make sure its members got what they needed. Specifically, the members needed cash. Due to the power outage, Jackson had temporarily become an all-cash economy. The credit union had the cash, but no way to know anyone’s balances. According to credit union CEO Steve Pollman, the executive team quickly assembled to take inventory of what resources were available. “We realized that if we at least had a trial balance, we could open our doors and deal with members on a one-on-one basis,” said Pollman. “We just had to figure out a way to get that trial balance.” The executive team soon discovered that one employee still had power at her house. The question then became one of how to make use of that power. Pollman said they considered bringing the server from their core system to the employee’s house to run a trial balance, but that seemed a little risky. “Then we realized we had backup information on our COWWW server,” added Pollman, referring to the credit union’s document management system provided by Open Solutions’ COWWW Software. The COWWW system also resided on a smaller server, so moving that server to the employee’s house seemed much more manageable. With their COWWW server and a laser printer in hand, the management team made its way to the employee’s house. On the first try, the server wouldn’t come up, so they got someone from COWWW technical support on the phone. “The server was waiting to be assigned an IP address from the network,” explained John Beauchamp, director of operations at COWWW. “Once we had them assign a static IP address, everything was fine.” Using the trial balances printed from the COWWW system, Magnolia FCU was able to open its two branches for limited cash withdrawals. Pollman said the credit union hired extra guards and limited two or three members inside the branch at any given time. The credit union also imposed a $100-per-day limit per member on cash withdrawals. “We ran into a few sad stories about people who needed extra cash,” said Pollman, “so we made exceptions to the $100 limit when we needed to.” He added that the credit union experienced only a few cases of people withdrawing more than they really had available, and that virtually all of those situations were resolved by the time the credit union was able to post its next ACH. During the power outage, all transactions were recorded using simple pen and paper. Pollman said that after power was finally restored, it took two employees about a half a day to post all those manual transactions. He concluded by noting that the experience has forced the executive team to reconsider its disaster plan, and that Magnolia FCU will definitely be better prepared if and when there’s a next time. In the meantime, Pollman said he’s thankful that the COWWW system, as well as the company’s employees, were able to come through for the credit union and its members. [email protected]

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