GENEVA, Switzerland (6/12/09)--The World Health Organization (WHO) has declared a swine flu pandemic--the first global flu epidemic in 41 years--and U.S. credit unions are prepared. The move came as a result of WHO officials meeting in Geneva, Switzerland, with flu experts who gathered to deal with a steep uptick in cases in Australia--which reported 1,263 cases Thursday, and a rising number of cases in Britain, Chile, Japan and elsewhere. In a Wednesday report, WHO said 74 countries reported 27,737 cases of the disease, and 141 deaths since the outbreak began in April (The New York Times June 12). WHO said in a statement to member countries that it decided to elevate the pandemic alert to Phase Six from Phase Five, indicating a global pandemic outbreak, the newspaper said. However, WHO officials--in attempts to avoid causing panic--emphasized that the flu has resulted in mostly minor cases and is not more deadly, now that it has been declared a pandemic. Several state credit union leagues and credit unions, as well as their service providers, have been reviewing their pandemic planning operations since the outbreak was reported in April. The California, Ohio, Kansas and Texas leagues all reported working on their operations to News Now (April 28). Money FCU, an $82.3 million-asset credit union, based in Largo, Md., said it successfully performed an entire disaster recovery test in pandemic mode last month, in which it assumed that no one could physically be at the credit union’s regular location or back-up facility. “We were able to help Money One recover all of their critical information technology systems 100% remotely in a matter of a few hours,” said Hugh Smallwood, chief technology officer for Ongoing Operations, a provider of business continuity and disaster recovery solutions to credit union clients nationwide. Money One found the situation to be a learning experience. “We took a fresh look at our plan given recent events,” said Susan Wilhelm, Money One vice president of Information Systems and Technology. “We quickly realized that under this scenario, we have two issues. The first issue is accessing physical media and systems. How can we continue to accomplish critical business functions for our members if we are physically distant? The second issue is do we have enough trained staff to perform the daily functions?” The Credit Union National Association (CUNA) has a long-term business continuity plan (BCP) and has created a BCP Committee, an internal staff committee that addresses the key components of a pandemic or business interruption, Harley Skjervem, CUNA senior vice president of human relations and company pandemic response organizer, told News Now in April. It also has placed resources for credit unions on CUNA’s websites and recently conducted a webinar on the topic. For more information, use the links.