Hurricane Georges: A Special Report 2Written by Douglas S. Clauson Saturday, 17 November 2007 22:07
"This hurricane season was especially busy for us with three hurricanes predicted back-to-back, followed by a short break, and then Hurricane Georges," said Libby Salvucci, SunGard Technical Coordinator, and a key member of the Crisis Management Team. "We had 33 companies on alert for Hurricanes Bonnie, Danielle and Earl, averaging about 10 companies per hurricane, and then things got really interesting with 75 alerts for Hurricane Georges."
Bonnie lead the hurricane trio. She blew in August 19-30 and touched down at Cape Fear, North Carolina on Wednesday, August 26 with winds reaching 90 - 100 mph. Initial estimates of damage in North Carolina alone were in the $1 - $2 billion range, much of it to farms, with some of the worst damage to tobacco in fields. Hurricane Danielle kicked-up simultaneously from August 24 - September 3, but never threatened land. Hurricane Earl followed shortly thereafter from August 31 - September 3. Winds reached 100 mph and tens of thousands of people in Florida and Alabama were left without power.
Hurricane Georges began on September 15 and by far caused the most impact on SunGard’s subscribers in the South. Georges took a disastrous trek through the Dominican Republic and Haiti, before hitting parts of Southern Florida, then turning north westward and reaching land again in parts of Louisiana and Mississippi.
How does SunGard’s Crisis Management Team prepare for these monstrous storms? Proactivity is the name of the game – especially during hurricane season, crisis management’s busiest time. Salvucci indicates that the Crisis Management Team is linked to several Internet sites for weather alerts, including the Weather Channel site (www.weather.com) and customized forecasts from Wilkens Weather Technologies (www.wilkensweather.com). Wilkens creates a password-protected web site for SunGard based on the company’s preferences.
Any time there is a major hurricane alert, the team congregates and uses state-of-the-art mapping software, MapLinx Professional� from IMSI USA, to illustrate the predicted strike zone of the storm. The MapLinx software is integrated with SunGard’s vast subscriber database, allowing the team to print out customized reports of potentially affected subscribers. The SunGard team then contacts these specific subscribers and stays in contact with them throughout the duration of the hurricane. "It’s this type of constant attention that allows us to work through potential problems and minimize the number of disasters declared by our customers during hurricane season," said Salvucci.
"If our customers have to declare a disaster, we don’t have to scramble," added Paul Chiaro, Manager, Customer Support.
Disaster avoidance is the crisis management team’s modus operandi. "We know that subscribers want to avoid the anxiety naturally associated with relocating to a recovery facility," said Chiaro. "It’s the human element that we’re addressing. We want to avoid unnecessary dislocation and separation from family and loved ones. Plus, when customers declare a disaster and have to relocate to one of our MegaCenter� or MetroCenter� recovery facilities, it disrupts other customers who are testing at the particular center. Moving to a recovery facility or utilizing one of our Mobile Data Centers at a designated site is only half of the dislocation. The second part involves returning to the corporate data center — another major readjustment."
SunGard’s Crisis Management Team is comprised of technical and non-technical staff, depending on the situation and customer needs.The number of team members also varies from one situation to another. It may include any number of people from management, operations, systems, and telecommunication.
"The goal is to draw upon our collective experience to minimize disruption to our clients during volatile and emergency situations," said Cary Simon, Director of Midrange Operations.
Douglas S. Clauson is the Director of Public Relations for SunGard Recovery Services, Inc.