- Published on Tuesday, 30 November 1999 00:00
The Human Side of Hurricane Recovery
by Richard L. Arnold, CDRP Editor-In-Chief, Disaster Recovery Journal
1992 has been a horrible year for disasters of all kinds. Earthquakes, riots, floods and now hurricanes have caused unprecedented damage. Unlike the Chicago Flood, business' biggest disaster ever, Hurricane Andrew wreaked a terrible human toll.
Although many businesses suffered physical and financial losses from the hurricane, the vast human crisis has complicated recovery plans. Even relatively unaffected companies with recovery plans in place have struggled because their employees were hit so hard by the disaster.
The hurricane missed the Miami business district by 20 miles, sparing many businesses from the destruction. South Florida's residential areas, however, have been completely levelled. Many residents are homeless, even more have been stripped of basic resources.
These victims are understandably more concerned about their families and their survival than they are about their jobs. People are looking for a place to live; most are too traumatized to do anything else. This vast regional disaster underscores the responsibility companies have to their employees when developing contingency plans.
Rodney Hargroder presided over a successful recovery at Premier Bank in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. Hargroder learned, We had a basic assumption in our disaster recovery plan that staff would be available for recovery, but we had some no-shows at the Emergency Operations Center. At one point, we had one person staffing our data center.
For companies in south Florida, personnel problems were worse. Organizations could not communicate with or even locate many employees. Bell South's first priority after the disaster was finding employees and helping their families recover. By mobilizing corporate emergency resources, Bell South tried to meet the survival needs of its employees, providing food, supplies and crisis trauma counseling.
Two civic groups who provided assistance were the Brotherhood Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention of Memphis, Tenn., and the Texas Baptist Men of Dallas, Texas. These two groups were already moving into Florida and Louisiana preparing relief efforts as the hurricane was approaching and later responded to the devastation in Hawaii. These relief and recovery teams used Global Water Technologies water purification systems and power generators in conjunction with mobile kitchens to provide for people in emergency situations.
A growing number of organizations are developing corporate-wide contingency plans which address regional disasters and personnel emergencies. A safe data center is of little use if no one is there to run it.
The other articles in this special report come from other members of the disaster recovery community who were involved in the recovery from Hurricane Andrew. Lessons learned from yet another disaster can help us all to be better prepared for the future.
Nation's Costliest Disaster
By Mike Tobin, CDRS
By almost any traditional measure, Hurricane Andrew was the worst natural disasters in disaster recovery history. In addition to the staggering human cost, the valuation of destroyed property was the largest in United States history. At the time of this special report, thousands of individuals and families remain homeless, with no prospects for returning home within weeks; it may be years before life returns to normal in this stricken area.
From a business continuity perspective, Hurricane Andrew ranks among the major recovery events in history. A large number of companies lost computing capability and many had to relocate to recovery centers in order to continue business operations. In at least one way, however, Hurricane Andrew was not as devastating as it could have been. Its point of landfall in Florida lies a mere twenty miles south of the heavy concentration of large data centers in Miami. Had Andrew struck Miami directly, the damage to computing capability would have been far greater.
As it was, CDRS received nine disaster declarations from seven companies, ranking Hurricane Andrew the third largest multiple recovery event in the company's history. One major customer, John Alden Life Insurance Company, ran its processing from a recovery facility for 15 days. While it was challenging, this recovery typified the advantages a well prepared, well tested company has in dealing with such events. John Alden had in place a well detailed hurricane recovery plan which provided for the forwarding o f data and people to a recovery site prior to the storm impact. The recovery ran smoothly for its entire 15 days.
Another factor which may have softened the business impact of Hurricane Andrew is the predictability of hurricanes relative to other types of disasters. Many of our customers undertook advance preparations for the storm, aligning people and data away from the projected impact area. While most of these companies never actually switched their processing to the recovery site, they were able to effectively run in parallel for the duration of their crisis.
Running parallel operations was more prevalent in the storm's second phase in Louisiana and Texas, where the damage was substantially lower. Experiences from previous hurricanes (Hugo and Gilbert) proved valuable for recovery vendors and subscribers alike.
Of course, there was a human side to the recovery as well. Many of those individuals involved in the recovery spent time away from their homes and families during a time of extreme psychological uncertainty. The performance of these people under fire was truly admirable. In several cases where customer staff were physically unable to relocate due to the impact of the storm, they were replaced on site by CDRS staff, to insure successful recovery.
CDRS wishes to salute the entire South Florida business community for their effort and resilience under very trying circumstances.
Wind, Water & Devastation
Restoration Priorities Meet Hurricane Andrew
By Pat Williams Moore, BMS CATASTROPHE
"The best laid plans of mice and men..." would find it a struggle to deal with Andrew's wrath and the damage it left in its wake. The psychological and financial scars will be felt by the people who suffered its effects for many years.
As our physical operation centers in threatened areas were "battening down the hatches" in addition to preparing to respond to customer needs, our BMS CAT Catastrophe team moved into northern Florida on Sunday, September 23. Knowing from past experience that airports and highways would soon be closed, our Team took emergency and restoration supplies and moved into these outlying areas so that response time would be minimized.
Our supply trucks carrying generators, fuel, radios, cellular phones, emergency lighting equipment, ladders, chain saws, dehumidifiers, corrosion control kits, restoration chemicals, drinking water, emergency supplies of food and first-aid kits rolled out to supply and distribution points in selected areas so that they could move in as quickly as possible.
Once the storm moved out and it was safe to drive further south toward Miami. Driving south we saw uprooted trees, twisted road signs, broken billboards and intermittent roof damage. Once we reached south Miami, the devastation was much worse, roofs torn off, road signs missing completely, landmark building locations blown away and power lines down. Even the concrete poles holding the main power lines were snapped off.
Traffic lights, dangling perilously close to the cars were not working, police barricades were everywhere and traffic was backed up for miles. Unless you could prove you had a hotel reservation, a security pass or an emergency contractor permit, it was almost impossible to get through security check points.
An important factor in disaster recovery plans, especially for dealing with a "community-wide" disaster, is to include directions to your facilities that do not necessarily depend on road or highway signs, because those signs may not exist after the incident occurs. Landmark buildings, such as a specific gas station on a corner where you are to turn right, may no longer exist. It may sound strange, but if the signs are missing, how do you find your client's building which may have the address sign missing? Getting to and from different locations could take hours due to the traffic and debris. Vendors and insurance adjusters who did not house their personnel early enough after the disaster had trouble finding hotel rooms, and some hotels had no power and/or no water for at least the first week after the hurricane. Those who were able to find hotels with power and water were usually as far away as Fort Lauderdale.
The initial stages of restoration involved removing debris, cutting away fallen trees, removing water and dehumidifying facilities. Generators and sufficient fuel were critical.
Restoring facilities and their contents damaged by Hurricane Andrew resembled a battlefield triage operation. Our normal access to affected electronics, telecommunications, documents and media were severely hampered by extensive debris, structural collapse, highly corrosive salt water, lack of power and negligible support services. Removing debris and water, acquiring emergency power, clearing corridors and lowering the relative humidity were our first priorities.
Compared to damage from fresh water, after which equipment can often be successfully restored, the pervasive salt water and high humidity could quickly reduce success levels. It was imperative to get to those areas of the building where critical equipment and components were in operation or stored, and to apply emergency corrosion control procedures as quickly as possible. Separating the equipment that could possibly be saved had to be done immediately. Prioritizing thousands of pieces of equipment was a cr ucial function for the project management team.
Innovative project managers removed equipment from the damaged area and temporarily erected a substitute clean room environment. In many cases where the machines were not restorable, the hard drives could be cleaned and the data retrieved. Archival documents, vital records and critical work in progress were scattered everywhere. Rusted filing cabinets, overturned racks and shelves, documents wadded up in blocks where the water had receded from them and bound volumes filled with debris and sewage were prevalent throughout the affected buildings. What was important and cost effective to save?
Even for those companies who had prioritized their records and work in progress, access to these documents and media was critical before mold and mildew appeared. Refrigeration trucks would serve as emergency freezing units, pending freeze-drying. Soon after Hurricane Andrew, a water main broke in New York, flooding basements and vital record storage areas, tornadoes devastated areas of Wisconsin, a major institution in the Northeast was heavily damaged by fire, and Hurricane Iniki hit Hawaii. These disasters have further tested contingency plans and recovery operations, adding to what is perhaps the worst year for disasters in history.
By John Nevola, ISSC
No one knew of Saturday, August 22, 1992, that Hurricane Andrew would turn out to be the largest natural disaster in the nation's history. No one could predict that it would supersede Hurricane Hugo as the costliest disaster ever and cause over five times the damage of that 1989 storm.
At the IBM Business Recovery Services (BRS) "war room" in Tampa, Florida, activity kicked into high gear that Saturday. As one of the primary large and mid-range systems backup hot sites, Tampa would serve as the focal point for all customers calls, alerts and disaster declarations. A duty team of highly skilled specialists in various technical disciplines toiled through the night making technical assessments, plotting the path of the storm, evaluating options and planning for the various scenarios that were likely to unfold.
Recovery center staff created maps listing the locations of all customers in the storm's path. They made contact with local emergency management organizations. Subscribers started calling to advise IBM of their status and intentions or to put us on alert. Equipment, particularly network gear, was checked and packaged for shipment. Communication links were check out to the eleven other IBM Area Recovery Centers. Finally, key IBM executives were contacted and informed of the situation and status. Having done all that could be done by way of preparation, the teams braced and awaited the storm.
While BRS teams toiled to assist Florida customers already in the throes of business recovery, the storm raged across the Gulf of Mexico and teams of experts in Texas and Louisiana were completing preparation and contact for customers in those areas. The two hurricane landfalls were two major disasters, separated by less than 48 hours.
When it was all over, there were an estimated 33 declarations in the industry, 17 of them handled by IBM Business Recovery Services. The customers that BRS serviced were from Florida, Louisiana and Texas. Many major industries were affected including banking, health care, financial, wholesale, chemical, transportation, data processing and travel.
As power was restored, the recovered customers returned to their home sites, wiser for the experience and more resolute in their efforts to assure recoverability in the future. Beyond the sheer magnitude of Hurricane Andrew, the business recovery lessons learned did not reveal any surprises. Non-subscribers still endeavored to avail themselves of recovery centers and services at the last minute and, unfortunately, had to be turned away. Some customers regretted not testing and updating their plans more freq uently and returned home determined to exercise their plans more vigorously in the future. While none of these problems turned out to be show stoppers, they made some recovery efforts lengthier and more complex than necessary.
The same lessons apply: have a plan and exercise it regularly. Be confident that your hot site vendor has the skills, experience and depth of resources to assure that you can successfully recover.
Andrew won't soon be forgotten. It has again reminded us how fragile humankind is in the face of nature's wrath. Even with warning, little could have been done to reduce the devastation. It is likely that building codes in south Florida will become more stringent in the future and that measures will be taken to assure a complete social recovery as well as to minimize the impact of a reoccurrence.
Companies in affected areas will mimic these actions in an effort to strengthen their own business recovery posture. They will be better prepared in the future for having suffered through Andrew.
But somehow I can't help but feel that some, particularly those in unaffected areas, will again ignore the lessons of a recent disaster and do nothing differently. And there remains that bothersome and nagging feeling that there are far worse disasters awaiting us out there, somewhere in the future.