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ATLANTA – Hurricanes Katrina, Rita and Wilma last year not only drove flood waters ashore, they also pushed credit unions to sign up for shared branching as many members in the stricken areas relocated throughout the United States. Eyeing predictions of another busy hurricane season this year, Credit Union Service Corporation is enhancing its shared branching capabilities. Laura Pizzarelli, CUSC vp/corporate communications, recalls the wave of credit unions that sought help in serving their members hundreds and perhaps thousands of miles from home. “We have actually brought on about 200 credit unions since January of 2005,” Pizzarelli notes. “Many of those we can directly correlate to Katrina, Rita or Wilma. So many members were displaced and not sure how to get in touch with their credit unions, not sure how to get access to funds. “We still see heavy activity coming from Texas, Louisiana and Mississippi. We’ve been getting increased calls from credit unions trying to prepare for this hurricane season.” When members did discover they could use a service center, “they were thrilled,” Pizzarelli says. CUSC was able to get some credit unions into shared branches within days, or even hours. She says CSE Federal Credit Union in Lake Charles, La., was on board in two hours instead of the six to eight weeks usually needed. Service centers were available to Jefferson Parish Credit Union members in two days. What’s new this year is Credit Union Recovery. CURe offers credit unions two options to continue serving members after a disaster. Credit unions can either submit a positive balance to CUSC on a regular basis or use a secondary Virtual Private Network device in place at the credit union’s hot site. The positive balance file gives service center tellers the ability to see member information similar to that in a normal shared branching transaction. Each credit union can set parameters for number of transactions or dollar amount a member can access. The technology is there. The challenge, Pizzarelli says, is getting the word out to members. “As we reflected on the lessons learned, one thing we noticed was credit union members who had relocated didn’t know how to find a service center. We were getting a lot of calls,” she says. “So we’re trying to better educate people about the locator services we have. We had a Web page members could go to, but in a lot of cases members didn’t have Internet access and they needed phone support. We recently came out with a toll free number, 1-800-919-CUSC, members can call to find the service center closest to them.” It’s important, she stresses, that credit unions educate their members ahead of time on how to find a service center. [email protected]

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