Prepare for disasters, big and small
Remember staff needs when creating disaster recovery and business continuity plans, say Jeanne Pickens, Rogue CU; Katelyn McManamon, Penn East FCU; Amy McGraw, Tropical Financial CU; and moderator Casey Boggs.

Prepare for disasters, big and small

‘Train for smaller-scale disruptions and drill for the big stuff,’ panelists tell conference attendees.

March 13, 2018

Effective disaster recovery and business continuity plans will help credit unions address both large and small disruptions to minimize the impact to the credit union, staff, and members.

That was one lesson from a panel discussion on disaster preparation and communication at the 25th annual CUNA Marketing & Business Development Council Conference Monday in San Francisco.

Panelists addressed how to plan for disasters big and small, deal with events in the moment, and recoup after the disaster has passed.

“Crisis management is 99% preparation and 1% execution,” says Casey Boggs, moderator and president of Merit, a crisis management company. “You don’t want to have to call a PR guy at the 11th hour when your house is already on fire.”

Perhaps the most important element of crisis preparation is staff training, says Jeanne Pickens, chief operations officer for Rogue Credit Union, Medford, Ore.

“You need to train for the smaller-scale disruptions,” she says, “and drill for the big stuff, such as tsunamis and earthquakes. Training makes you more nimble as an organization, and develops the team’s capabilities. This reduces risk and member impact.”

The executive team at Tropical Financial Credit Union in Miramar, Fla., drills twice a year as part of its disaster preparation, says Amy McGraw, vice president of marketing.

“We’re in South Florida—the hurricane capital,” she says. “One nice thing about hurricanes is that you have a lot of time to prepare.”

One practice many credit unions forget is to move critical staff and their families to safe areas. “Pay for the family to go, too—even the pets,” she says.

During the event, stop all marketing—“no one is thinking of buying a car,” McGraw says. “And remember, this is no to get collections involved.”

The recent school shooting in Florida and bombings in Texas drive home the changing face of disasters.

“We’re all ready for robberies and natural disasters,” McGraw says. “But how many of us have gone through active shooter training? We do it every six months, but it still doesn’t prepare you. But it’s important that you be nimble to help members and your community.”

After a disaster, “take control of the story,” advises Katelyn McManamon, marketing and business development manager for Penn East Federal Credit Union in Scranton, Pa. This has to start well in advance.

“Reach out to your local media and introduce yourself,” she says. “You want to be their resource and you want to have a plan to follow.”

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