How your credit union can PREPARE for natural disaster

Last week, I had the pleasure of visiting Louisville, Kentucky to speak at a compliance workshop. While meeting with Kentucky credit unions is always great, my travel experience was not. After seven hours of delays and cancelled flights between the Des Moines and O’Hare airport I rented a car to drive the remaining five and a half hours south from Chicago.

What should have been a simple process was complicated by torrential rain and flooding streets. While on a rental car shuttle, I passed a financial institution that was precariously close to a flooded street and I started to think about how difficult it can be for credit unions and their members to deal with severe weather. When I finally arrived at the car rental shop only to have it hit by lightning, I also realized how difficult it is to identify resources when you are in the midst of severe weather.

My experience led me to compile a few of my top resources for credit unions to use when preparing for severe weather. A great place to start for credit unions who have not reviewed their disaster preparedness plan recently is an acronym NCUA put forth in a letter to credit unions a few years ago:

Planning – Ensuring Financial Services to Members
Resources – Allocating Sufficient Equipment, Supplies, and Facilities
Evaluation – Testing of Contingencies for All Critical Systems
People – Maintaining Readiness of Staff and Officials
Alliances – Establishing Relationships with Other Organizations
Review – Updating Internal Plans for Effectiveness
Experience – Incorporating Lessons Learned

If your credit union is updating its policies and procedures related to disaster preparedness, I suggest that you review NCUA’s AIRES Disaster Preparedness & Response Questionnaire. After ensuring that you are meeting the examiner’s expectations visit NCUA’s Hurricane and Disaster Information webpage. This site has the recent press releases and Letters to Credit Unions issued by NCUA concerning natural disasters and can help credit unions learn from previous instances of disaster recovery. Finally, reviewing the FFIEC Business Continuity Planning booklet will also be a helpful guide to ensuring your credit union is ready for this season of severe weather.

I had plenty of time to consider my lack of resources as a small group of us were temporarily trapped in the car rental parking lot due to the power outage. So, don’t forget that your members may need assistance in learning about how they can prepare for severe weather. NCUA’s June Report contains suggestions of important items for members to know, such as identifying ways that members can stay informed on credit union announcements regarding operational issues like branch closings in the event of a disaster.

At the end of the day, it is important to ensure that your credit union has reviewed its disaster preparedness plan and made any needed updates specific to the growing complexity of your credit union. At your next staff meeting, I encourage you to review your credit union’s disaster preparedness plan with all employees to ensure that everyone within the credit union knows how to respond in a severe weather situation.

As was the case with my lack of a phone charger to use in a rental car while driving through back roads in the middle of the night; by the time we need it, it is too late to prepare. Make sure that you prepare early and often as we head into the thick of severe weather season.

My thoughts go out to those families and communities that have been severely impacted by natural disasters and did not just have a disruption in travel plans. Stay safe!

Erin O'Hern

Erin O'Hern

As Vice President of Strategic Initiatives, Erin O'Hern supports ViClarity's partnerships and projects through her experience in the areas of governance, risk and compliance. Erin has more than a decade ... Web: Details