How Your CU Can Ensure Your Disaster Plan Doesn't Prove To Be A Disaster

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Two experts on disaster recovery, including a CU that was hit by the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, had advice and suggestions for CUs at CUNA Mutual's Discovery Conference. Mike Retelle, CUNA Mutual Disaster Team Leader, and Gerard Herrling, VP-deputy chief of staff at Municipal CU, New York, stressed an updated disaster plan is a must for all credit unions, but a plan itself does not guarantee a successful recovery, particularly when unexpected events occur following the initial disaster.

Even the best-written disaster plan may need to be changed on the fly, said Retelle. "You've got to be prepared for the unexpected." Case in point: Hurricane Katrina.

"Staffs were decimated, and even those employees that wanted to work couldn't get in, plus many had no place to live."

Retelle recommended setting up a Designated Assessment Team and a Designated Recovery Team with defined roles and the authority to act. He also advised credit unions to establish good long-term relationships with various vendors, contractors and services providers, because at the same time the CU needs their services, so do others.

In recounting experiences from the 9-11 attacks, Herrling said one of the hardest lessons learned was that you can't depend on others to come to your aid. Municipal Credit Union was located across the street from the World Trade Center. "The magnitude of the loss was just enormous, and the authorities were dealing with their own disaster situations. They were suffering just like everyone else," Herrling said.

In developing a disaster plan, Herrling recommended: develop a plan based on various loss scenarios; keep the plan up to date and conduct practice drills.

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