Scott Teel

Reflecting on a year of major disasters

A Q&A with Scott Teel of Agility Recovery Solutions.

June 19, 2018

Last year’s spate of major natural disasters was a wake up call for many credit unions and other organizations across the country. 

During strategic planning sessions in 2018, credit union leaders are talking through their business continuity and disaster recovery plans.

To gather more insight, CUNA News asked Scott Teel,  vice president of organizational development for Agility Recovery Solutions (a CUNA Strategic Services alliance provider), to reflect on what credit unions can learn from the events of 2017.

CUNA News: How did the number of natural disasters in 2017 compare to previous years?

Teel: Overall, the number of actual events didn't break any records. But the severity and duration of some of the larger regional events broke records and forced us to consider a new reality for managing natural disasters in particular.

One big takeaway from recent natural disaster activity is that from 1980 to 2017, the average number of billion dollar events is 5.8 per year. But if you look 2013 to 2017, the average jumps to an astounding 11.6 events per year. Large-scale events are increasing in frequency.

The other big takeaway is that even though we experienced $100 billion dollar disasters in the U.S., the actual events to which Agility responds still leans heavily toward small-scale, isolated incidents affecting only one organization. That's about 30% of the total.

CUNA News: Did credit unions face certain challenges in common when they responded to natural disasters in 2017?

Teel: Because of the nature of some of the larger events last year which either destroyed physical facilities or denied access to those facilities, we saw many credit union leaders struggling with how to maintain branch operations.

They either couldn’t access the facilities due to flooding, evacuation orders, roadblocks, or damaged infrastructure. In these cases, we witnessed those organizations struggling with some basic functions that were critical to serving their members.

Many of these organizations never considered themselves in the threat area for flooding or wildfire evacuations, yet they were either directly affected or interrupted due to road closures and evacuations.

CUNA News: What advice would you offer credit unions to ensure they’re prepared for unexpected business continuity challenges?

Teel: First, make sure you have a plan to allow for complete loss of your primary facilities—not just your headquarters, but remote branches as well.

Second, the most common interruption to which we respond is long-term power outages; those that last days or weeks. In that event, you must know your generator requirements.

Contact an electrician to understand what type, style, and size of generator you need to restore full power to your offices. That way, you'll know exactly what you need to order from a supplier the moment power is interrupted.

Also, consider how a generator would connect to your facility. Oftentimes you’ll need an licensed electrician. Therefore, you may need multiple electricians on speed dial to assist if a problem arises.

Listen to an interview with Scott Teel on the CUNA News Podcast.