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Volume 27, Issue 3

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Chicago Businesses Forced to Declare a Disaster

At 5:57 a.m. on Monday, April 13, 1992 a building engineer at the Chicago Merchandise Mart found water flooding the third sub-basement of the building. Little did he, or numerous Chicago Fire Department and City workers on-site by 6:10 a.m. know, that a hole the size of a car had ruptured in the restraining wall of a freight tunnel located under the Chicago River.

Fifty feet below Chicago’s streets and below the Chicago River, a 100 year old, 60 mile long freight tunnel interconnects the sub-basements of many Chicago office buildings. This tunnel, no longer actively used for freight, serves as a conduit for power, telecommunications and Cable TV cables. The rupture between the river bottom and the tunnel caused over 250 million gallons of water to traverse the tunnel into building basements, causing power to be shut off, buildings to be evacuated, and businesses to cease operations.

CDRS received its first declaration before 9:00 a.m. Monday. By mid-day, 12 firms had declared 18 individual disasters. The disasters included subscribers from the financial, brokerage, government and services/distribution industries. Additionally, by the day following the initial disaster, 17 alerts were pending for 13 additional customers.

Comdisco supported 8 customers at its Wood Dale, IL site, 7 in Carlstadt and North Bergen, NJ, one AS400 customer in Bridgeport, NJ, one customer in San Ramon, CA, and one in Alsip, IL.

Several subscribers utilized newly configured Workarea Recovery Centers to provide telephone, personal computer and office space solutions for displaced workers. For all vendors, this disaster called for more workarea recovery space than previous disasters, reflecting more comprehensive business planning, rather than just planning for data center recovery.

“This is the largest recovery in our history,” said Comdisco President Ray Hipp.

The disaster was essentially power related, as no actual computer centers were destroyed by the flood. Lights and air conditioning in the work areas are out, so personnel can not occupy the work space.

Once power is restored, many buildings will attempt to isolate themselves from the problems and pump out the water. Efforts to dig a connection from the freight tunnel to Chicago’s Deep Tunnel water retention system are projected at 8 days or longer.

The entire freight tunnel may be in some danger of collapsing, and a further investigation will survey the total infrastructure of the downtown area for other instability.

Unlike other disasters such as the San Francisco Earthquake and the New York power outage, this was not a brief event followed by restoration. This disaster could drag on for weeks. Just fixing the first part of the problem--stopping the flow of water--could take a week.


This article adapted from Vol. 5 #2.

 

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