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Connexus : Issue 36
loan and credit card repayments. There were also temporary waivers of transaction and term deposit break fees, and an across-the-board two-week waiver of ATM fees. Queensland Country Credit Union added a personal touch by writing individually to members in flood and cyclone-affected areas. The gesture was clearly appreciated, even by people who didn't make immediate use of the hardship provisions offered, says CEO Aileen Cull. Knowing what is available could still prove important for members working in the banana and sugar industries who may face prolonged periods of unemployment, she says. The credit union's staff could take two days of paid leave to volunteer for clean-up efforts, and Cull is proud of their fundraising which, with corporate donations, added $70,000 to the premier's disaster relief appeal. "The basketball club and entertainment centre raised more than $5,000 from ticket sales at a Townsville Crocodiles-Melbourne Tigers game, which we matched. Then staff helped build the total by collecting donations from spectators." Dowland says mecu learned a lot about dealing with disasters after Victoria's tragic bushfires in February 2009. The state's largest credit union had strong membership, three service centres and its national call centre in fire- ravaged Gippsland, and staff were told to do whatever was necessary to respond to people's specific needs. "We took the same approach this year after floods and ROB MACCOLL connexus 41 www.abacus.org.au Lessons in continuity A business learns something every time it goes through a significant event, and, for Brisbane-based mutual CUA, the lesson from the recent floods was that regular reviews of previous decisions need to be part of business continuity planning, says CEO Chris Whitehead. The mutual sector giant's two data centres were offline for about 18 hours when power to the Brisbane CBD and other areas was cut. "We had a well-developed and tested business continuity plan," says Whitehead. "People knew their roles, and the diversity of our infrastructure allowed business to continue largely unaffected, apart from that downtime. We were paying insurance and health insurance claims, and we didn't miss a single loan settlement anywhere in the country. "Our biggest concerns were to ensure that members knew all data was safe, that normal service would be resumed as quickly as possible and that this was something we had planned for. "What we didn't have was a process to regularly review whether previous decisions are still valid in a world that is more online, demanding and connected. "Previously, business continuity planning has largely been based around centralised events -- for example, the loss of a building through fire or localised power cuts. After the floods and the disasters in Christchurch and Japan, we now have to think about the possibility of events that affect a whole city. That will take our planning to a new level." At Queensland Country Credit Union, Aileen Cull says that, although branches in Brisbane, Bowen and the Townsville region were closed for varying periods due to floods and cyclones, the electronic network didn't falter. Business continuity reviews are likely to focus on communications, she says. "I think we did well given the circumstances. But perhaps we could have been quicker with online information about temporary branch closures. We also had problems checking on some of our staff after the cyclones because some phone networks were down. We had people's phone numbers, but we also need to know which network they are with." The experiences of the summer, and warnings from scientists that climate change will lead to more-frequent extreme weather events, mean all businesses must continually update their business continuity plans, says mecu's Rowan Dowland. "While you can't draw a direct link between climate change and a single event such as the Victorian fires or Queensland floods, all the evidence indicates that these types of events are going to become more frequent and more intense." "...we now have to think about the possibility of events that affect a whole city." NATURAL DISASTERS