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GREENSBORO, N.C. – Providing peace of mind to members on cash access turned out to be one of the key lessons in credit union disaster recovery during Katrina, a group of Carolina risk managers were told here. “We had members who came back to the credit union just about every day to get money” as a way to feel their funds were protected, recalled Laurin Avara, executive vice president of Navigator Credit Union of Pascagoula, Miss. Members need that comfort level to know “they have cash in hand” Avara told the quarterly meeting of the Risk Management Council of the North Carolina Credit Union League. The meeting, held in a Greensboro hotel, produced a record crowd of 130. In summing up essential items in every CU disaster plan, Avara cited ensuring protection of electronic data and paper documents plus taking care of the personal needs of employees. Apart from the financial calamities that befall employees, Avara said CUs must consider employee “stress” factors. Hurricanes Katrina and Rita completely disabled the credit union’s IT infrastructure, said Avara. In addition, many of Navigator’s 100 employees evacuated before the storms hit and then had to deal with the loss of homes after the storms departed. Another theme at the conference centered on the need for disaster plans to be constantly re-evaluated. Frances Bradshaw, vice president of information services for First Carolina Corporate Credit Union, noted: “Our disaster plan is never finished in the sense that it is constantly being updated as data systems and other processes change. It’s not enough to merely develop a plan and then let it sit on the shelf and collect dust.” Scott Earl, CUNA’s director of disaster recovery and preparedness, remarked that, “Hurricane Katrina redefined what the worst-case scenario was” and he stressed the need for CUs to form a “buddy system” in the event of calamities. Under a buddy system, CUs in different areas of the country with similar structures or membership can partner together to provide back-up support in case disaster strikes. -

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