A top official of the Louisiana Office of Financial Institutions urged banks Thursday to prepare for emergency operations if Tropical Storm Gustav strengthens and strikes the Gulf Coast early next week.

"You need to be implementing your disaster recovery plan at this point in time, making arrangements, making sure ATMs are fully in stock and, if you haven't done so already, have ordered extra cash for the Labor Day weekend," said Sid Seymour, the agency's chief examiner. "Be ready to activate that plan if we have an event."

The agency's commissioner, John Ducrest, invoked authority Wednesday to let financial institutions move their branches as needed to deal with storm damage. The agency has also updated its Web site, http://ofi.state.la.us/, to include information bankers may need.

Financial institutions along the Gulf Coast were thrown into chaos in 2005 when Hurricane Katrina struck. Mr. Seymour said the agency and the industry are better prepared now.

"We've had three years now to learn from mistakes that were made with Katrina and Rita," he said. "Our institutions know they have to have a disaster recovery plan, and we check that very closely."

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