Three Things That Make Your Disaster Recovery Plan Work
June 24, 2014
‘It Meant the World to Our Members’
This video shows how important it can be to work closely with your insurer in the aftermath of a disaster. After an EF5 tornado tore through Moore, Oklahoma, in May 2013, the only thing left of the Tinker Federal Credit Union branch was the vault, where the employees and members were taking refuge.
Eight months and a week later, it was the first completely rebuilt business in the area to reopen.
June 24, 2014
1. Practice the Plan—and Practice Adapting to Changing Events
If your employees have never seen and practiced implementing your disaster recovery plan, chances are it won’t work when disaster strikes. (See below for three effective training exercises.)
Your credit union’s disaster recovery plan should explain how to orchestrate the actions of all of your employees, board members, and key allies in a situation where normal operations are interrupted.
But for a moment, think about your plan through the eyes of a single employee, any employee.
What would that one person do if he or she was suddenly thrust into the role of carrying out a key part of the plan with little or no assistance? This is why practicing your plan must be more than walking through a set sequence of events. Help employees envision reacting to changing circumstances, because, in an emergency, any one of them may end up having to make quick, important decisions.
2. Set up an Emergency Communication Procedure
When disaster strikes and your insurance provider has been informed, your top priority should be communicating with employees to see who’s available and who needs help. Then you need to share the plan for restoring service.
This means that before disaster strikes, employees must have an idea how to get in touch with the credit union in these situations. Every employee should have a “cheat sheet” with them or at home that details the first steps to take. (See sidebar: The Disaster Recovery Cheat Sheet Every Employee Should Have.)
3. Work Closely with Your Insurer
Working closely with your insurer after a disaster can make a huge difference in the time it takes your credit union to recover. For an excellent example of this, watch this video about Tinker Federal Credit Union’s recovery after a May 2013 tornado destroyed all but the vault in which a branch’s employees and members had taken refuge.
Each year, review the coverages that relate to disaster recovery with your insurer. If your policy doesn’t provide 100% replacement value for property, be sure the credit union is prepared for the co-pay. Also, take into account any property improvements made since the last time you updated your policy limits.
Look closely at your coverage limits for extra expenses involved in providing member service during disaster recovery. It’s difficult to over-estimate what it will cost to run a credit union when a branch or main office has been damaged or destroyed.
Adequate “Extra Expense” and other coverage limits for buildings, business personal property, and data processing can be the major factor in how quickly and completely you can recover from severe damage and the indirect losses.
Three Disaster Recovery Training Exercises
Your disaster recovery plan isn’t ready to do its job until you’ve tested it and worked out the bugs. These three training exercises can do that, and also make the plan real for the employees who may be implementing it under difficult circumstances.
Consider conducting at least one of these three practice methods every year:
- Preliminary structured walk-through: Involve all the employees who play critical roles in conducting your credit union’s business interruption procedures. Read through the plan together, step by step. Note any issues that arise during the walk-through, and clarify them before moving on to the following simulations.
- Disaster simulation: The most practical type of simulation may be the “table-top” format, where the exercise is conducted in a conference room or series of rooms, where employees can gather in functional groups. It generally takes two to four hours. You need a credible disaster scenario fully written, including a series of events that happen in timed segments. A facilitator explains the hypothetical events as they happen, and employees must carry out key elements of your business interruption plan.
- Technical “hot site”: Your plan should include procedures for running operations from alternate sites. The term “hot site” refers to a pre-determined facility where the credit union will have access to its data, and the ability to conduct transactions. This is a demanding test to set up, but it provided critical hands-on experience. A hot site test should require employees to mobilize in the remote facility, establish communications with the necessary employees and vendors, and perform actual processing.
The Disaster Recovery ‘Cheat Sheet’ Every Employee Should Have
Every employee should have a cheat sheet at home, in a wallet, on a smartphone or other mobile device, etc. The cheat sheet should also include:
- The first steps: What to do first when a disaster affects your credit union. For example: who to contact; whether to come in to work (assuming it’s safe to do so); and alternate locations at which to gather if offices/branches aren’t accessible.
- Contact information: up-to-date phone numbers and emails of other employees. If your state league has a toll-free number for credit union employees to call in these situations, include that also.
- Phone trees: Phone and internet service may be knocked out in a disaster situation, but often some service will be available in certain areas, at least intermittently. On each employee’s cheat sheet, include the names and contact information of several other employees. Instruct employees to call each person on their list—they may get through to one co-worker who in turn has found someone else, and so on. Word about who’s available, who might need assistance, and what to do next can spread surprisingly fast this way.
Strategic Link is the NWCUA’s wholly-owned service corporation, using the power of aggregation to provide the Association’s member credit unions with exclusive high-quality, competitively-priced products and discounted services. Contact Director of Strategic Partnerships Craig Reed today to find out how Strategic Link can help your credit union save money while meeting its goals in 2014 and beyond.
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