Thursday, September 7, 2017

Hurricane Harvey and Emergency Preparedness: Ask Yourself Four Questions

By Michael McKinley

As we all turn our focus to the recovery that's underway after Hurricane Harvey, evacuations are underway in Florida and surrounding regions in the predicted path of Hurricane Irma. So, disaster preparedness is an active concern for many of the credit unions we serve.

Our Customer Disaster Response team deployed toTexas last Thursday, working its way up the coast and affected inland areas to help credit unions begin and continue their recovery from the damage Harvey left in its wake. Since recovery lessons learned from Hurricane Harvey may be useful to your or any credit union, we're sharing a few here.

We’ve collected a few of the many challenges we observed in Texas into four questions to ask yourself as you begin preparing for emergency conditions your credit union may face now or in the future:

How will you access and provide access to cash?
As people return home to survey, repair and recover after a natural disaster like Harvey, they'll need access to cash. Do you have contracts and plans in place with vendors to deliver it to your branch? Do you have a vendor who can bring in mobile ATMs? Activating plans like these quickly will make a vital difference for the people, businesses and families you serve.

Do you have an alternate location for serving members?
What if your branch or branches are so heavily damaged that serving members isn't possible? Do you have a plan for setting up shop somewhere else? Do you have contracts in place to activate a temporary physical location for your offices? Or, do you have agreements with another area credit unions to share branches? This can be key in preventing service interruptions for members who will need your help.

Can you activate alternate staffing?
In the case of a hurricane, it’s important to keep in mind that the people who work in and for your credit union may be personally impacted by conditions like flood damage to their homes. Do you have a plan for alternate staffing? This can be vital to your ability to serve members in the days and weeks following a natural disaster.  While working remotely may be an option for some employees, it's not a guarantee for all -- especially if their homes experience power interruptions or damage to their communications infrastructure. 

How will you communicate with members?
Knowing how you'll reach out and stay connected with members before, during and after a disaster is critical. Do you have a plan that maps out how and what you'll communicate? How will you let members know the ways they can access cash and funds? They'll need it to cover things like gas, food, lodging, cleanup supplies and more. Do you know how they can connect with relief efforts? This can be life-changing information for people and families faced with unexpected expenses.

For credit unions -- or anyone -- being prepared for a disaster isn't easy. But, there are plenty of people ready to help you prepare and recover when the unexpected happens. Our team is one of many, many work groups who has been working with affected Texans -- as well as credit unions who are anticipating what Irma will bring.

To help support credit unions, employees and members affected by Hurricane Harvey, The National Credit Union Foundation and the Cornerstone Credit Union Foundation activated last week. It’s raising money for credit union people affected by the storm and its aftermath. You can connect to donate or apply for relief funds here.

And, as we all brace for Irma, The National Credit Union Administration provides Disaster Recovery information and resources for credit unions and consumers in a dedicated site you can find here.

For the credit unions we serve, we also provide emergency preparedness training, information and bulletins through our Disaster Recovery website.