Emerging health threats test business continuity planning

Health threats test business continuity planning

Check your plan and make training a lifeline.

March 3, 2020

Whether it’s an emerging threat like coronavirus (COVID-19) or an ever-evolving challenge like influenza, a public health crisis can test your readiness to maintain operations.

Monitoring disease outbreaks, local conditions, and the status of your business continuity plan are essential steps to stay prepared.

Campus Federal Credit Union in Baton Rouge, La., is monitoring coronavirus reports as it copes with the spread of influenza among its workforce, says Jane Verret, president/CEO at the $660 million asset credit union.

The human resources team monitors absenteeism to spot health and wellness issues.

A chief concern for the credit union is the large number of employees diagnosed with Type A and B flu, which can take days or, in some cases, more than a week for full recovery, Verret says.

The credit union offers on-site flu shots to employees annually to reduce risk.

If doing business face-to-face became perilous in a pandemic, Verret says Campus Federal would rely on digital services that include online and mobile banking and interactive teller machines.

Check your business continuity plan

Kunal Keshav, assistant vice president/chief technology officer at the Illinois Credit Union System, says it’s critical to review and test your business continuity plan with tabletop exercises.

He suggests credit unions check their business continuity plan for pandemic readiness by:

  • Making sure the plan is “fluid” to respond to a wide range of threats.
  • Having a disaster team ready to respond.
  • Maintaining an employee contact list.
  • Documenting business critical functions, including backups.
  • Knowing where employees are traveling for business or personal reasons.

“The coronavirus is a reminder that anything can happen,” Keshav says.

He encourages credit unions to work together through chapters and leagues to create comprehensive business continuity plans.

The Northwest Credit Union Association (NWCUA) is providing resources for credit unions amid growing concerns about coronavirus.

Key concerns include the health and wellness of credit union employees and members, and the impact disruption of services may have in communities. 

“We recommend that our member credit unions review their business continuity plans, as well as the resources we are providing from NCUA and from health agencies,” says David Curtis, NWCUA director, compliance services.

‘The coronavirus is a reminder that anything can happen.’
Kunal Keshav

NWCUA recommends credit unions consider:

  • Enabling as many staff members as possible to work from home.
  • Replacing face-to-face meetings with video or teleconferencing.
  • Limiting access to lobbies and relying more on drive-thru windows to serve members.
  • Encouraging members using ATMs to wear gloves or use a pen when they touch the keypad.

The association shares links from the World Health Organization that provide protective advice and “myth busters” about the coronavirus.

Make training a lifeline

Investing time to train and educate staff about steps to take in a pandemic can create a lifeline for credit unions, says Mark Norton, test and recovery manager at Agility Recovery, a CUNA Strategic Services alliance provider.

Agility offers the Preparis emergency messaging platform and provides free educational resources on disaster planning.

“Having immediate access to educational resources such as an influenza preparedness checklist or a detailed tabletop exercise is a simple way to learn about what must be done right away,” Norton says.

Agility CEO Jon Bahl says if a pandemic occurs, it will be essential to implement proper hygiene practices in the workplace to limit the spread of disease, while communicating quickly about current needs.

“People may be unable to leave their homes or come to the office,” he says. “So it’s critical to promptly alert and notify them of any special instructions, and to make sure people are safe.”

Campus Federal’s ongoing work to keep its disaster plan current includes cross-training staff “to  provide excellent member experiences without interruption,” Verret says.

“Disaster planning, testing, and preparation are integral to ensuring Campus Federal not only survives, but thrives in the future.”

Coronavirus resources for credit unions