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SAFE CU: Agility Recovery Proves it's the Right Partner to Have in Time of Disaster
Thursday, May 1, 2014 6:55 AM

This week, parts of the Midwest and South have been ravaged by tornadoes, leaving dozens dead and wreaking massive destruction through parts of Arkansas, Oklahoma, Kansas, North Carolina, Iowa, Alabama and Mississippi according to reports by The New York Times. Knowing that disaster can strike at any moment, the preemptive steps taken by organizations, especially those as vital as credit unions and other financial institutions can set the stage for recovery.

Agility Recovery – a business partner of Credit Union Resources - helps businesses, including about 650 credit unions, prepare for such disasters and knows too well the importance of disaster preparation--not only to credit unions but also to the members and communities they serve.

"Members are expecting (their credit unions) to be up, they have their trusted source ... and they expect they will always be there for them," Paul Sullivan, vice president/general manager of Agility, said in an interview with NewsNow yesterday.

If you're not prepared, "you may recover, but the chances of your business being the same after that are probably pretty slim," he told NewsNow readers.

SAFE CU in Beaumont, Texas knows all too well the criticalness of being there for your members after the storm. In September 2005, Hurricane Rita pummeled the Texas and Louisiana coasts. SAFE CU was not prepared.

“Hurricane Rita caused extensive damage to our facility and we were out for two weeks,” SAFE CU Vice President Molly Handy tells the Leaguer. “As a result, we did lose members. But we also learned the importance of being prepared. Because of the area we are located, you never know when a hurricane is going to hit.”

SAFE CU signed a contract with Agility Recovery just two months before Hurricane Ike barreled into Southeast Texas in September 2008. Once again, SAFE CU’s only branch experienced extensive damage. It took about two months to rebuild the branch, but Handy tells Leaguer readers that they were up and running within a few days, and they didn’t lose any members’ business as a result of the branch destruction. Hurricane Ike hit on a Saturday, and on Sunday, the credit union contacted Agility Recovery. By Monday a portable building was delivered to their location, and by Tuesday they were open for business.

“Our relationship with Agility is a critical one,” Handy tells the Leaguer. “It’s important that our members know and have confidence that their credit union will be here for them at all times, but particularly in times of disaster.”

Drawing from 25 years of experience - delivering modular offices, repowering offline facilities, offering satellite connectivity and more, Sullivan recommends many ways credit unions can prepare for that worst-case scenario.

One of the most important steps, he tells NewsNow, is diversifying suppliers. For credit unions, that means cash and the vendors that deliver it to the member-owned institutions.

Sullivan says relying on several vendors can bolster the supply chain and ensure that credit unions can accommodate members who may be looking for cash in times of an emergency.

"Look at having two vendors that supply cash," Sullivan told News Now. "We all know that during a major event cash is always king. You may not always be able to use cards because services could be down."

Further, credit unions should develop--and test--an overarching crisis communication plan that can guide decision making if a disaster occurs. The plan should include creating a phone tree, assigning responsibilities to employees, and making sure employees know what to do and where to go in the event of an emergency, among other things.

Credit unions can even host workshops to teach employees, members and their families about what to do should a disaster occur, Sullivan said.

"The ones that have exercised their program, made sure their communications program was set, the right phone tree (was) in place, really assessed the risk, educated their employees--you could see the difference," Sullivan said. "Typically (they) can recover in half the time as an organization that is unprepared."

Sullivan also suggests considering an alternate branch location should main facilities be damaged, so that members can still access their accounts.

Credit unions have the unique ability to offer members access to their accounts at other credit unions through shared-branching networks, often supported by credit union service organizations, when branch access is limited or unavailable.

Sullivan also said that mobile branches work well.

"What do (credit unions) have in place to be able to restore the business?" Sullivan tells NewsNow. "Do they have an alternate location they can go to? Other branches that can take over the business? Using a third-party business (can be) a great solution."


Helpful Resources:

Shared branching: Shared Branching is a cooperative network of credit unions that give your members access to their accounts from thousands of locations nationwide. Through the cooperative power of Shared Branching, you can leverage the strength of the fourth largest branch network in the country, allowing your members the ability to conduct financial transactions (deposits, withdrawals, transfers, loan payments and much more) where they live, work, or travel.

In addition to shared branching, other remote transaction services include CO-OP My Deposit, CO-OP Mobile, CO-OP ATM, CO-OP Sprig, and CO-OP Member Contact Center.

Agility Recovery’s Prepare Your Organization for Hurricane Season webinar: Being offered May 29, at 2 p.m., this program addresses the best preparedness steps any organization can take to prepare for hurricane season. The May 29 webinar is free; however, registration is required.