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The swine flu outbreak kicked disaster preparedness plans into high gear among credit unions last week. Regulators and trade groups sounded warnings about the need to have proper communications in place and medical supplies on hand for employees and members should the emergency worsen.In Texas, where the first U.S. death occurred and cases started to mushroom, several border CUs were already handing out sanitizers and requesting employees to stay home if they felt sick.“We are also asking that if employees have flu-like symptoms to please seek medical attention as soon as possible,” said Allyson Morrow, president/CEO of Harlingen Area Teachers’ CU. “We are also asking them to use their hand sanitizer, which we already provided, and to wash their hands frequently with soap and water.”In California, also with a number of cases, The Golden 1 of Sacramento said it made advance preparations for any kind of health epidemic more than a year ago when it bought and distributed pandemic preparedness kits containing hand sanitizers, surgical masks and other supplies for immediate distribution to employees.“We are fortunate in that if this emergency worsens, we do have 700 of the kits that we bought for the Avian flu alert now already in our branches,” said Teresa Halleck, president/CEO of the $6.9 billion California CU.In an e-mail to managers at its 79 branches, the CU also cautioned about creating panic over the sight of surgical masks being worn by members.While The Golden 1 has a “no hats, no hoods, no sunglasses” policy to help reduce the potential for crime in its branches, “it has recognized the need for sensitivity in dealing with members and employees who may choose to wear surgical masks to help reduce potential exposure to swine flu virus germs,” said the e-mail.The California Department of Financial Institutions said it was “pleased to hear that California credit unions are prepared and responding to the swine influenza outbreak news.” The CDFI noted that all banks and CUs should have contingency plans all of which are reviewed by examiners, and that “includes pandemic planning by financial institutions as part of safety and soundness.”The agency noted that Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger proclaimed a state of emergency April 28.CUNA conducted its first all-afternoon swine flu Webinar April 29 keynoted by top health experts from agencies in Washington, Atlanta and Minneapolis, answering online questions from CU staffers.CUNA also scheduled a meeting of its Business Continuity Planning Group.CUNA Mutual said it, too, had communicated extensively with policyholders, sending out a “Risk Alert” April 28 regarding business continuity and disaster plans.–[email protected]

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