Prelude In Retrospect - Contingency Planning For The 1996 Summer Games In Atlanta
By James E. McGraw, Jr., CDRP
Will Atlanta bask in the success of the 1996 Summer Games...or become the world's largest ever contingency planning and disaster recovery site? Hundreds of millions of dollars are now being spent to repair and rebuild both transportation and water management infrastructure in the downtown area now referred to as the Olympic ring. Will it be enough...and will it be in time for the coming mass of visitors? Will the newly rebuilt infrastructures work in unison with other infrastructures some of which are over 100 years old?
The Prelude - Preparing to serve the demands of current and coming population gridlock
The Olympic ring, covering less than two kilometers, will be the focus of most of the high profile Olympic events, such as the opening and closing ceremonies and the premier track and field events from July 19 through August 9, 1996.
Atlanta's current metro population of well over 3 million people, will be deluged with over 300,000 daily visitors superimposed on an already overtaxed and overburdened infrastructure.
Adding to this population nightmare, Atlanta has one of the highest concentrations of urban housing projects in the country; many of these projects surround the Olympic ring in downtown Atlanta.
Should weather induced infrastructures collapse and politically motivated demonstrations or civil unrest take place at the same time, the disaster consequences to the city would be considerable.
Nature's "Wild Cards" - Stifling Weather Conditions
While literally millions of dollars is being spent in preparing for man-made disasters, like terrorism and faulty high technology systems, the real threat to the summer games in Atlanta is some of the most notorious of all natural hazards...the horrific thunderstorms generated during the summer months down south with which ushers in the hurricane season. The intensity of these storms have been seen in both 1994 (worst flooding in Georgia in over 70 years), and 1995 (Hurricane Opal), with dozens of deaths and billions of dollars in damage.
The threat to telecommunications and the delivery of electric power are obvious. The greatest "trigger mechanism" to unraveling our current infrastructure fabric is the failure to manage the hundreds of millions of gallons of water runoff and sewage that could well block or collapse our aging sewer system.
During the first five years of my research on Atlanta's past and current transportation, water and sewer infrastructure, it became apparent that there are major problems that could well cause very significant problems to public safety and health, not to mention the political fallout and damage to Atlanta's image as an emerging center of technology and commerce.
With flooded streets and aging bridge and road infrastructures threatening the Olympic ring, telephone central offices and power generation facilities will be in harms way.
Natural Disasters...Then Terrorism?
With the occurrence of heavy summer rains, high temperatures (maximum apparent temperature of 104 degrees), and minimum apparent temperatures of 94 degrees (and 70% humidity), the likelihood of natural disasters impacts to the present crumbling infrastructure makes the possibility of terrorist or politically motivated threats all the more likely.
Most terrorist and politically motivated movements would most likely take advantage of the affects of the heavy rains on both power generating and telecommunications companies, along with public safety and security personnel.
The "Flip Side" of Heavy Southern Thunderstorms - Drought!
While Atlanta has suffered from the effects of the extraordinary summer flooding, the flip side of the problem is the occurrence of severe summer drought. The demand on local water supplies comes from two primary sources. One, is the Chattahoochee River which provides the central water supply for most of the metropolitan area. Two, Lake Lanier, which is also fed by the Chattahoochee River, acts as a major reservoir for both water to the city, and as a recreational resources for thousands of boaters and sportsmen.
"In Retrospect" - Documenting Past, Present, and Future Planning
In preparing a broad scope "orthodox" disaster recovery plan and implementing a contingency program to recover state data and telecommunications facilities, I have anticipated the coming 1996 Summer Games as an excellent test mechanism to see if state resources are protected under the very significant demands made on a large data/telecommunications center located at "ground zero" in a highly concentrated urban environment.
This extensive five year analysis in preparing a contingency plan for the State of Georgia has given me a unique insight and overview in preparing a disaster recovery plan for large metropolitan city data and telecommunications centers. The challenge to Atlanta's public and private sectors may well become the world's largest ever contingency planning test.
"Building on the Past"
With all the millions of dollars and the untold man-hours of preparation for the 1996 Summer Games in Atlanta, mankind's most challenging threat still comes from natural causes. I hope we have prepared our infrastructure in time to meet the challenges presented to us as one of nature's most awesome "wild cards."
James E. McGraw, Jr. is a disaster recovery planner for the Office of Technology Assessment (State of Georgia - Department of Administrative Services).
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