Special Report
by Richard L. Arnold, CDRP, EDITOR-IN-CHIEF

Wednesday April 19, 1995 started like any other day for the residents of Oklahoma City. People were just beginning their daily routine when suddenly, the unimaginable happened. At 9:04 a.m. CT a bomb was detonated in front of the nine-story Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in downtown Oklahoma City. The sound from the blast was heard up to 15 miles away, but the repercussions of what had happened traveled around the world. The worst act of terrorism on U.S. soil had just happened deep in America's heartland.

The bomb was a two to three ton device made of ammonium nitrate fertilizer mixed with combustible fuel oil. It was placed inside of a rented Ryder truck, which was then parked in front of the north side of the building. The blast destroyed one-third of the building from roof to ground, leaving a crater eight feet deep, and 30 feet wide.

The building housed several federal offices including the Drug Enforcement Agency, the Bureau of Alcohol Tobacco and Firearms, U.S. Customs Service, U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, Veterans Administration, Social Security Administration and several others. There was also a day-care center located within the building. In all, 169 people were killed and several hundred were injured, some severely.

The design aspects of the Alfred P. Murrah building were not particularly remarkable. Its cast-poured concrete and glass structure can be seen replicated in many downtowns across the country. To prevent overheating by the sun, architects had shielded the south half of the building Wednesday April 19, 1995 started like any other day for the residents of Oklahoma City. People were just beginning their daily routine when suddenly, the unimaginable happened. At 9:04 a.m. CT a bomb was detonated in front of the nine-story Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in downtown Oklahoma City.

The sound from the blast was heard up to 15 miles away, but the repercussions of what had happened traveled around the world. The worst act of terrorism on U.S. soil had just happened deep in America's heartland.

Several buildings surrounding the Alfred P. Murrah building sustained damage also. The Oklahoma Water Resources and the Journal Records Buildings directly across the street sustained heavy damage to windows and offices. Parts of the federal building were actually blown into the face of these office buildings. The YMCA was also badly damaged from the blast as well as the First United Methodist Church, which suffered severe structural damage. The Federal Courthouse located directly behind the blast face of the Alfred P. Murrah building had several windows blown out.

For the first week following the blast, an entire eight-block radius was closed to the general public. Since it was considered a crime scene, security was very tight in this area. This made it difficult for recovery teams to try and assess the damages that awaited them. The offices of Kerr McGee and Conoco were in this secured zone.

Soon after the bomb was detonated, around the country, city after city, people wondered if it could happen in their town. Bomb scares ranged from Boston, New York, Washington and Nashville making residents feel jittery and vulnerable.

Less than 48 hours after the blast, FBI agents, with the help of state and local authorities, had apprehended and charged the first suspect in the bombing. Timothy James McVeigh was already in police custody when evidence pointed to his involvement with the blast. The search for the second suspect is intensifying as the days pass since the blast. The government is offering a $2 million reward leading to his arrest and conviction.

What was a shock to the majority of people was that these were two caucasian American's from the Midwest. These actual suspects were very different from preliminary beliefs that there was some sort of Middle-Eastern involvement in the bombing. The initial belief that a Middle-Eastern group was responsible was probably a response from the World Trade Center bombing on February 26, 1993, where six people were killed and more than 1,000 were injured. Four Middle-Eastern men were convicted in that incident and a fifth is awaiting trial.

As the story behind Tim McVeigh's background unfolded, attention was drawn to his involvement with militant militia groups that have a great deal of animosity towards the U.S. Government. Militia groups have existed since the Revolutionary War. However, many Americans are unfamiliar with groups of this nature and their particular beliefs or ideals. In response to the bombing, politicians are pushing for strict regulations of ammonium nitrate, a very common fertilizer. In Europe, where people have suffered far more terrorist bombings than the United States; they have been better protected from easily accessible fertilizer-based bombs like the ones used in Oklahoma City and the World Trade Center bombings. Ammonium nitrate has been tightly regulated in Western Europe since 1980 and is sold only for use as an explosive to people with special permits. In the U.S., by contrast, six million tons of ammonium nitrate are produced annually for fertilizer and sold openly in major farming communities. If it becomes highly regulated, it could drastically affect the agriculture industry in this country.

Robert Arnold, Kevin Kraff, Patti Fitzgerald and Janette Ballman of Disaster Recovery Journal contributed to this report.

Terrorism Hits The Heartland

by Lloyd R. Smith, CDRP
Eyewitness Account

Around 9 a.m. on April 1995, I was getting ready to leave the Myriad, our convention center, when I felt a terrific blast. I thought we had experienced an earthquake except that the ground was not vibrating.

The shock wave from the blast was so powerful that many building occupants miles away thought that their building was the victim of a disaster.

I rushed up the street about six blocks to see that our nine story Murrah Federal Building had the front half completely blown off and the majority was gutted with only a shell left. It was a mass of twisted steel with dense smoke caused by car fires in the parking lot across the street. There was glass all over the streets for blocks and businesses several blocks away had some or all of their windows blown out.

The Need For Planning

The bombing is the most devastating terrorist event of recent history, the greatest on U.S. soil, and proves that no area is safe. Regardless of our location, we are all vulnerable to terrorists and should include this threat in our business and mission recovery planning.

Prior to the bombing, I had been in the destroyed building several times. Many of the businesses housed in the federal building had no total business/mission recovery plan. As frequently happens, other priorities got in the way and planning for business recovery was deferred.

One organization, a single-site operation, had most everything destroyed by the bomb. Eighteen of their 33 employees were listed as dead or missing. Fortunately their data was offsite and they were able to return to business quickly. I have a client in a building about 150 feet from the destroyed building. They were committed to recovery planning, and we were already in the process of developing a recovery plan. After the area was sealed off because of the bombing, we were able to arrange for them to get back into their building for a short period.

The inside of the building looked like an earthquake, tornado or hurricane had struck. Doors were blown off, ceilings were down, lights and cables were either down or hanging and files and debris were all over. Shattered glass was everywhere. Computer and special office equipment

Observations and Recommendations

Most of the lessons learned are basic, but need to be reiterated.

Have a current recovery plan that will cover both personnel safety/evacuation and business or government operations. The plan should include recovery from appropriate or multiple locations. In the Oklahoma City situation, many downtown premises, including supply and service sources, were inaccessible or off limits.

Consider that your personnel may not even be able to get to alternate locations for operations or supplies. Organizations should have recovery plans with several options and a well trained staff to maximize recovery effectiveness.

Accountability of personnel has been a problem at the Oklahoma City bombing site because basic planning was not done in many cases. Have a marshaling area, some distance from your building where all employees are told to go.

Develop a list for the marshaling area and have each employee give their name and sign in before they are permitted to leave. Those who assist the injured in evacuation should provide names of the injured and attempt to ascertain which medial facility will be used.

Those in glass buildings are more vulnerable to injury and damage from storms, earthquakes, and bombings.

If you are in a facility with a lot of glass, either stock plywood and tarps or get them immediately to cover open or damaged areas. Protect your facilities and equipment from further damage.

I know of one facility manager who has had all his glass pre-measured and has the measurements stored in a glass company's computer.

Also, have a way of providing effective security, especially after a disaster.

Have shut off locations for all utilities identified in your plan. Non-engineering personnel should also be trained in utility shut off procedures. I suggest a sign or instructions, posted discretely, for a few key personnel.

Fortunately, in Oklahoma City, the gas company was able to turn off the gas and prevent more explosions. There was also water problems because several pipes were severed during the explosion.

I recommend each employee keep a plastic bag in their desk drawer to facilitate removal of purses, jackets and "work in progress." Obviously one should not jeopardize safety, but, following the bombing, many employees in nearby buildings had time to take a few things with them on the way out. Remember, you may not get back into a facility for some time or ever once it is sealed off or declared off limits.

It is important to get a positive message on your incoming phones as soon as possible. I recommend you have several sample messages and the mechanism/procedures set up in advance to do this.

State that your organization has been impacted by a disaster. All essential data and information were backed up and stored offsite. Explain that you have implemented your business recovery plan and expect to restore essential operations shortly, or by a certain day. You should also take the initiative to notify major customers via phone, fax, overnight letter or newspaper ads. It is also important to assure your customers as well as those who may have outstanding financial obligations that all records are safe.

An important requirement for the contingency planner is to develop several alternatives to both voice and data communications backup.

The disaster in Oklahoma City provided an opportunity to show that backup communications are important. Sometimes cellular worked and other times it didn't or was busy.

To improve cellular communications, one of our cellular providers was able to give priority to certain numbers that had been pre-identified through a local business and government emergency management organization. They even brought in a portable cell site on wheels to place in the high cellular traffic area. This provided additional communication routes for the cellular phones. Regular phone service was available to some and others experienced difficulties such as dead phones, instant busy or recordings. Portable phone banks and other emergency services were provided.

Have computer equipment checked by professionals after damage from debris, dust, soot, fire or water.

Recovery planning should list all skills of employees that could be useful in responding to or recovering from a disaster. One organization in the Oklahoma City area found the services of an employee who is also a reserve sheriff deputy to be valuable. He was able to get past the barricades and into the damaged building to bring items, equipment and information out and could coordinate with other law enforcement personnel for special requirements.

Further, those who were trained in first aid or had EMT and paramedical training were of great service in the initial treatment of injured employees.

There is no absolute protection against sabotage and terrorism. However, a current business/mission recovery plan is a must. There are certain vulnerabilities that can be avoided as well as ways to make an operation less attractive to a terrorist or saboteur. Because large scale terrorist attacks frequently cause regional disasters, even those businesses that are not a target need an effective recovery plan which can allow their operation to continue or recover.

Mr. Smith is president of Business and Government Continuity Services in Oklahoma City.

The New Face Of Terrorism
By John Nevola, ISSC

The bombing at the World Trade Center signaled a significant change in the tactics of international terrorists. It should have provided a serious warning about the potential dangers of the calculated detonation of an explosive device in a large office building. It is not clear, however, that the pure and simple impacts of such a demonstration of violence were fully appreciated and acted upon. The most likely reason for this, perhaps, is that the most significant business impact of the Trade Center bombing was denial of access. Once that problem was resolved, many companies had little difficulty in resuming normal business. The April 19, 1995 bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City, on the other hand, was a very different incident. It was similar only in the fact that the explosion was caused by a terrorists' bomb. Almost every other aspect of Oklahoma City differed from the World Trade Center incident.

First, the World Trade Center bombing was a true disaster, but the Oklahoma City bombing was an American tragedy. The loss of life was appalling and the impact on the community was devastating.

The World Trade Center bombing was the work of international terrorists; Oklahoma City was a homegrown event. Some people viewed the Oklahoma City bombing as a stab in the back from an unexpected sector of the population.

The World Trade Center bombing in New York city was intended to make a political statement in the darkest terms. Choosing to do this in the media capital of the world was neither a accident nor a surprise. Terrorists wage psychological warfare and frighten and intimidate by the threat of action as well as the action itself. This usually results in attacks on highly visible, high profile targets. It is this technique that the terrorist employs to gain the most widespread publicity. Oklahoma City changed all of that. These fanatics chose an obscure target, perhaps deciding that its obscurity made it that much more vulnerable. And they decided to make it a particularly savage attack; apparently to assure the notoriety that might otherwise be absent in Oklahoma City.

The message is clear; there is no place, however removed from the mainstream, that is invulnerable to a terrorist bomb. This event has significantly raised the stakes!

Finally, there is a substantial difference to the business impact between the World Trade Center and Oklahoma City. There was a disruption of one day, a Friday, on February 26, 1993 when the WTC was bombed. Most of the 900 businesses were ill-prepared as they found it necessary to return to their offices to recover critical records and files. Thankfully, in this case, most companies were able to resume normal business because they were able to locate and retrieve data and equipment. We were even able to witness, through the miracle of live television coverage, many businesses disaster recovery contingency plans in action. Unfortunately, some of these plans consisted of nothing more than an old coffee cart piled up with personal computers, floppy disks and peripherals as they were wheeled continuously out of the lobby of the World Trade Center throughout the weekend. There would be no such luxury in Oklahoma City. Destruction on this scale leaves no margin for error or forgives any omission in a disaster recovery plan. Everything in the building was destroyed and anything needed for business resumption, especially data, had better have been backed up someplace else.

Contingency planners should be reevaluating their plans with Oklahoma City in mind, especially since the probabilities of a repeat event in the future just jumped off the scale.

What areas of contingency planning need to be reexamined in light of this increased threat? To start with, it is essential to review the equipment replacement provisions of the plan. Older equipment, particularly that which may be difficult if not impossible to replace must be identified. The used equipment market, leasing companies or brokers may be able to locate the required types and quantities. The contingency planner must then evaluate the cost case and either acquire the replacement gear or recomm end an upgrade to more modern, and therefore more readily available equipment.

Those companies that store backup tapes in that huge fireproof vault in the basement should rethink that approach in light of the nature of the Murrah Federal Building disaster. Everything in the lower levels was covered by over 25 tons of debris and, if not completely destroyed, could not have been accessed for an extended period of time, assuming there was a vault that was not crushed. Even the practice of keeping the latest backups on site while sending prior versions to an offsite vault should be reco nsidered. Recovery plans should also consider the use of an alternate site for office workers. Buildings damaged as severely as the Murrah Federal Building will never be repaired and reoccupied. Both temporary and permanent replacement quarters need to be considered in any plan. Alternate site vendors do provide office and end-user office space but in a case like this, it is probably a better bet to make arrangements for another facility reasonably close to the damaged site.

Had this disaster struck a building with a large computing center, the business impacts might have been cataclysmic. Presuming that there was an alternate site recovery plan for the data center, it was clear that many of the personnel would have been unwilling or unable to travel there for recovery purposes. Whether an alternate site recovery plan is in place with an outside supplier or with another data center within the same enterprise, a successful recovery would have been unlikely if it depended on people from the afflicted site. Therefore, prudent recovery planning and subsequent exercises should be designed to achieve business recovery and continuity without the on site presence of the client's recovery specialists.

Contingency planning managers are not the only corporate personnel who are compelled to rethink their plans. Security managers are also challenged by the higher threat of the probability of bombings in the United States punctuated by the Oklahoma City occurrence. They, more than most, realize that there were over 1900 bombings in the U.S. in 1992 (according to statistics from the ATF) compared to under 600 bombings in 1982. They also know, based on those same statistics, that bombings have increased every year since 1981. Compounding this bleak outlook is the considered opinion of most security experts that it is nearly impossible to prevent a bombing conducted by a determined, highly motivated and well backed radical group or individual.

It is questionable whether current structures can be made "bombproof" with retrofit building modifications. It is also highly doubtful that the architecture and design of many future buildings will be strengthened to better withstand a bomb. It is simply too expensive. Weight bearing vertical columns, however, will most likely be made round in the future (instead of square) because square columns are most susceptible to the pressure of the explosion's shock wave.

One way to prevent a future bombing is through better security. Security can be improved in most buildings by simply keeping vehicles away from near proximity to the structure. Any bomb large enough to damage a building would necessarily have to be carried in a car or truck. If these vehicles are kept away from buildings, damage would be minimized. The truck that carried the explosives in the Oklahoma City incident was allowed to get within 15 feet of the building by using a pull-in lane. This was close enough to rupture enough vertical support columns to start the "progressive collapse" of the upper floors. Keeping vehicles away from buildings is the most significant action that security managers can take to significantly reduce the risk of a building collapse should an explosive device be detonated.

Policies like this, if strictly enforced, may discourage terrorists from even attempting to bomb buildings that exhibit a careful, firm and comprehensive security posture.

John Nevola is a Site Manager for ISSC's Business Recovery Services Center

Oklahoma City Bombing
by Dave McDaniel, BMS Catastrophe

On Wednesday April 19, BMS CAT dispatched their advance command team to Oklahoma City. A BMS CAT Operations Manager and Team Leader assessed damage to four of the major buildings peripheral to the Alfred P. Murrah Federal building, and met with government officials at midnight to give them a damage report and recommend emergency mitigation procedures. The following day, BMS CAT Special Technologies Division and Senior Project Management personnel arrived to provide a technical assessment of the contaminants generated, to recommend restoration cleaning protocols for critical computer equipment, telecommunications equipment, and other critical contents of GSA buildings, and to plan the restoration projects to return the buildings to operation within the time frame dictated (four days) by the needs of the occupant agencies.

It was interesting in that, unlike the World Trade Center, here no explosion by-products were generated. An explosion is similar to a fire in that soot composed of oxidized organics, chlorides, nitrates, sulfides, and carbon is generated and spread throughout the facility. In Oklahoma City, the blast was external to the buildings so that was not a problem. Construction material particulates such as pulverized concrete, mortar, gypsum, and cellulose were the major contaminants measured, and no long term corrosive mechanisms which would affect the equipment reliability were found within these buildings.

The Federal Courthouse, the "Old Post Office", Federal Office Building, the Metropolitan Library Building, and the C.R. Anthony Building all had similar damage from the blast. Windows were blown out with the glass shrapnel widely spread through various rooms. Ceiling fixtures and suspended ceilings collapsed, plaster ceilings crumbled onto the contents of the room. Computer equipment was propelled to the floor, and book shelves overturned. In one case, building structural damage dictated the removal of all office furniture and computer equipment and relocation to a temporary location. To make matters worse, rain was imminent. Senior project managers began the emergency mitigation procedures to stabilize the environment and to protect the contents of several major buildings which had been severely impacted by the blast. Windows were boarded, glass and other debris were removed, and controlled demolition was done as required to allow restoration to proceed. BMS CAT worked around the clock to finish the restoration work, with over 90 management/supervisory staff and over 400 persons on the labor staff. Good organization was necessary in order to carry out an efficient and orderly restoration with over 530,000 square feet of buildings restored and all four of the previously mentioned buildings ready for reoccupancy on schedule Monday April 24.

With the extremely tight FBI security measures in place, ingress and egress of this staff of workers was a challenge in itself. During the first few days, all personnel had to report to the command center at 8th and Harvey each morning and get in line to be issued a 24 hour pass. The FBI finally went to a permanent color coded photo badge. Red badges were allowed inside the outer perimeter which was maintained by FBI and ATF agents. Getting all individuals approved for entry to the work site and photo b adged took several hours. Workers went on standby for several hours at the Federal Court Building to allow time for the FBI evidence team to clear the building for entry.

Dave McDaniel is a Chief Scientist with BMS Catastrophe

A Message For Our Readers....

In a tragic situation such as what occurred in Oklahoma City, it is often difficult to focus on anything beyond the terrible loss of life. We sympathize thoroughly with the families of the victims and agree that loss of life is definitely the most disheartening loss of all.

However, the bombing caused other losses which need to be addressed. Numerous businesses in the downtown area were affected - by structural damage, employee trauma, and the inability to access their business site. Their stories of triumph or trouble in this disastrous situation can help others - now and during future disasters, whether natural or man-made.

We feel it necessary to report on these losses. Though they do not compare in importance to the loss of life, these losses are critical. The contingency planning lessons learned from this tragedy can help protect future businesses - and possibly save lives.

For that reason, we have produced this special report on the Oklahoma City bombing. The articles contained in this edition focus on a variety of contingency planning issues. The special report was made possible by the following companies, who agree that furthering disaster recovery education is necessary:

Advanced Information Mgmt.
Aggreko, Inc.
Allen Systems
Auerbach Publications
Bell & Howell
BMS Catastrophe
Caroline Pratt & Associates
Comdisco Disaster Recovery Svcs.
Computer Conversions
Contingency Planning & Recovery
CSC Compusource
Di/Com, Ltd.
Digital Equipment Corp.
Disaster Management, Inc.
Disaster Recovery Institute
Disaster Recovery Journal
Disaster Survival Planning
Document Reprocessors
Exchange Resources, Inc.
Executive Compumetrics, Inc.
Fasteners & Things
IBM Business Recovery Svcs.
The Integrated Risk Mgmt. Group
J.R. Lukeman
Len Gilbert Assoc., Inc.
McGladrey & Pullen
NewEra Software
Pitney Bowes Recovery Svc.
Recovery Management, Inc.
Roberts Express
Rothstein Associates, Inc.
SafeSupplies, Inc.
Schwab Corporation
Simpler Life
Software Information Services, Inc.
Sungard Planning Solutions
Sungard Recovery Services
Weyerhaeuser Recovery Services

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