MADISON, Wis. (8/23/11)--Residents of the southeast U.S.--including credit unions--this week are keeping a close watch on Hurricane Irene, which is expected to hit Florida early Friday. Irene gained hurricane status Monday morning, pelting Puerto Rico with as much as 12 inches of rain and winds of about 75 mph, which makes it a weak Category 1 hurricane (PropertyCasualty360 Aug. 22). It is expected to get stronger the next five days. Agility Recovery, a CUNA Strategic Services provider, has been in contact with credit unions since Sunday evening, according to Marketing Director Scott Teel. In a tropical storm/hurricane situation, communication with clients runs both ways, Teel said. Agility contacts its clients to ensure they are prepared for the storm, and clients contact the company to be on alert for a possible emergency situation. Agility shares two pieces of advice with all clients: review the company’s hurricane preparedness checklist and have a communication plan in place. “The checklist has proven to be a simple and effective tool to look at when a storm is bearing down,” Teel said. “It provides a step-by-step process during a very hectic time.” The communication plan between credit union leadership and employees is essential to keep the credit union running or get it back online after a hurricane hits--and having financial institutions are critical to a community’s recovery in the wake of a hurricane, Teel said. “Grocery stores, gas stations and financial institutions are the three main businesses that need to get back on line to serve the community,” Teel said. “That said, cash is king at this time. We stress that credit unions have ample reserves and some means to operate their ATMs at this time, if possible.” Credit unions should also have a communication strategy in place with their core processors, Teel said.