North & South Dakota Credit Union Leagues

Disaster Experience Helps Credit Unions Meet Regulations for Planning and Testing

While most credit unions have some kind of disaster recovery or business continuity plan in place, many of them have not had the opportunity to test their plan in any way. “The National Credit Union Administration requires planning and testing,” said Doug Wolf, president and CEO of North Dakota’s Midwest Corporate Federal Credit Union, “which makes a session like The Disaster Experience attractive to credit unions around the country.”

The North and South Dakota Credit Union Leagues decided to offer their member organizations an opportunity to participate in Attainium Corp’s Disaster Experience to assist them in complying with current regulations for planning and testing. Audrey Kroll, Education/Publications Coordinator for the North Dakota Credit Union League, said that the groups felt it was a timely program, “especially based on all the hurricane issues this year and the fact that auditors always look for contingency plans now. Attainium’s program was highly recommended by another credit union, so we decided to work their session into our Fall Institute,” Kroll said.

“Although the session was consolidated into a brief time frame, it showed the endless possibility of things that can happen,” said Stu Higginbotham, president of the First Community Credit Union, “and that you have to choose those you can actually plan for based on priorities and resources. It’s a good, thought-provoking exercise.”

“Some participants may never have had to think critically in the way required by the exercise,” Wolf said. “Attainium reinforced the critical thinking required by leading up to the big events with minor things that most people have done before. You had to figure out what to do next and sometimes you simply couldn’t get the information you needed. For example, in the course of the scenario, a key person ‘went to lunch’ so we couldn’t ask him anything until he got back. Things like this make you realize that you really have to plan for every contingency… critical people should always be reachable.”

Wolf, who has worked in the credit union industry for many years, said that while he’s had to worry about weather, IT systems, and other things, he’s never gone through a program like this. “It made me think of some scenarios that might not normally be a big deal and consider what they could turn into.”

Session presenter Bob Mellinger, president and CEO of Attainium Corp, stresses that you can never know what will happen on any given day. “Little problems can turn into disasters if you haven’t planned for them… you just have to be prepared for as much as possible based on your knowledge of your own organization and surroundings. The Disaster Experience is geared toward addressing the unpredictability of events with thorough planning and developing the ability to respond rapidly and effectively.”

“The exercise was extremely interesting,” said Kroll, who worked with Attainium to help customize the exercise for the two credit union leagues. “When I read through the materials, I kept thinking ‘How is anyone going to get through this?’ There was a good mix of issues that definitely needed attention, plus some that had no relation to anything… you had to make critical decisions about which was which.”

“Everything was in the realm of possibility,” Wolf said. “In the exercise, as in life, things happen and you don’t know the cause until the end. The dynamics of the interactions were very realistic. The team format was interesting; you tend to miss less detail when you discuss things among several people than if you just handle them yourself.”

“It was an excellent training session and very eye-opening for a lot of people,” Higginbotham said. “Everyone worked together and came away with a good understanding of the planning process and of the importance of testing your plan.”

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