JACKSON, Miss., and HARAHAN, La. (8/28/08)--The Mississippi Credit Union Association (MSCUA) and the Louisiana Credit Union League are preparing for the possibility of a hurricane this weekend as Tropical Storm Gustav makes its way toward the Gulf Coast. The area was hit three years ago tomorrow by Hurricane Katrina. Gustav reached hurricane force in Haiti Tuesday afternoon, killing 22, then weakened into a tropical storm. It was expected to strengthen as it crosses the Gulf. Its projected path is anywhere from the Florida panhandle to Louisiana. In Mississippi, MSCUA is preparing to support credit unions, if needed, and has requested up-to-date contact information for key credit union personnel. It provided credit unions with cell phone numbers for MSCUA staff. The association also changed its board meeting, scheduled for today and Friday, to a webcast format so board members can use the traveling time to prepare their credit unions and homes. The Louisiana league and the Louisiana Office of Financial Institutions (LOFI) activated Telspan, the telephone response system for credit unions, Wednesday. Sid Seymour, who represents financial institutions on the Governor's Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness (GOHSEP), will leave the first recorded message. The league encouraged credit unions to dial in for the most current information. The league's 800 number (800-452-7221) and its website (www.lcul.com) will be in effect. The league gave a number of emergency phone numbers:
* New Orleans and Tri-Parish credit unions should contact Mary Wolfe at 504-487-8147; * Baton Rouge, Lafayette and Lake Charles credit unions should contact Jim Phillips, 225-603-2642; and * Shreveport, Alexandria and Monroe credit unions should contact Susie Fair at 318-663-7766.
It provided other league staff phone numbers and a list of emergency contact numbers for regulators, CUNA Mutual Group and disaster agencies. If the storm worsens, News Now
will publish the full list of numbers on Friday. Credit unions along the Mississippi gulf coast also are busy preparing. “We are in full hurricane mode here already,” said Lora Michael, president/CEO of Jackson County CU, Pascagoula, Miss. “By Friday all preparations will be complete no matter what the predictions are,” she said. “We cannot risk a turn for the worse over the long weekend, especially being so close to the Gulf and with only one facility. We got prepared ahead of time for Katrina and it made a huge difference in the timeframe we were able to serve our members.” Singing River FCU (SRFCU), Moss Point, Miss., activated its hurricane preparedness plan Wednesday and also expects completion by close of business Friday. The plan includes, among other preparations, securing ample cash to meet post-hurricane member needs for up 10 days, as well the ability to operate manually for up to 10 work days in the event power is not restored. “As part of SRFCU’s disaster recovery plan, a satellite back-up system is in place, meaning credit union member information will be available, even if telephone lines are not restored,” said James Smith, SRFCU president/CEO. “Members will continue to have uninterrupted access to their accounts via home banking and audio response.” Other credit union preparations include plans to maintain communications with members, employees and vendors, activating disaster recovery teams and gathering emergency supplies and equipment.