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Volume 30, Issue 3

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Floods (24)

The physical cleanup of the buildings and contents affected by the Chicago flood of Monday, April 13, 1992 was “restoration” in its most simplistic, yet detailed form. Simplistic in the sense that it was very labor intensive as compared to a high technology disaster, yet detailed in its attention to project management and proper health and safety procedures.

Have you ever wondered what it takes to restore a major metropolitan area to normal after a disaster like Hurricane Andrew or the Chicago flood? In any major city or rural township the list of restoration tasks is endless.

These disasters caused water damage from heavy rainfall or flooding. But water damage can also occur from fires, broken sprinkler systems, and frozen pipes that burst, and the specialists that meet this challenge must work quickly and skillfully to prevent further water related damage. The dehumidification business, under normal circumstances, requires dedicated, knowledgeable personnel trained to use and maintain a variety of drying equipment to meet the 24 hour-a-day, 365 days-a-year demand and, of course, in the event of a hurricane, tornado, or earthquake, these requirements are doubled.

Dehumidification of moist air is a somewhat new technology in the field of disaster recovery. In the past, most large-scale drying jobs were handled with open windows and blowers to dry out saturated areas. Tightly sealed buildings of today require a high tech approach to moisture removal. State of the art powerful commercial drying equipment can now convert a vapor (i. e. humidity) into a solid and remove as much as 200 gallons of water a day, saving a building and its contents with great success. Knowledgeable dehumidification specialists handle everything from modern high-rise commercial structures housing high-tech communications systems, computers and electronic storage media to historic mansions containing beautiful, old wooden floors and antiques, not to mention irreplaceable paintings, valuable documents and archives.

Let’s examine two extreme comparisons: an historic structure and a modern high-rise building. One might pose an argument that the methods for drying both are essentially the same. Not so. Although the equipment and instruments perform basically the same functions, the drying procedure is critical to the characteristics of the structure itself, and these characteristics warrant some discussion.

A good historical example is an antebellum church that suffered devastating water damage during Hurricane Hugo. Its architectural features—attics, crawl spaces, the areas beneath the altar and around the massive pipe organs became collecting pools for moisture and presented some particularly difficult dehumidification problems. Drying a modern building with synthetic carpeting, vinyl wall coverings, and sheetrock is one thing; it’s quite another to dry the framework around a stained glass window, ornate wood trimmings, and plaster that is more than a century old.

Each type of wood in the structure had its own unique density, grain, and porosity which affects the moisture content of the fibers. Aging and exposure to the elements also added to the difficulty of drying the wood in this beautiful old church. Therefore, special attention was given to restoring the wooden fibers to their own correct level of relative humidity, and this was done in precisely staged increments of time, which allowed the wood to shape itself “comfortably” and as naturally as possible in relation to its environment.1

Compounding the inherent material problems are aesthetic considerations and priceless historical value of the structure and its contents. Knowing what to do, and how, will determine the difference between restoration success and costly replacement. Therefore, it is imperative that dehumidification specialists be sensitive to the importance of preserving the original state of each item with which they are entrusted.

A modern structure, on the other hand, poses its own set of drying problems: steel instead of wood structural elements; floor and wall coverings of synthetic fibers and materials that may create toxic fumes when damp; and high-tech communications and electronic equipment which are often hidden in subfloors, walls and ceilings. Temperature and humidity as they relate to healthy indoor air quality and sick building syndrome is undoubtedly another major consideration.

The only constant in the dehumidification process is that moisture seeks, and will transfer to, a dry spot. This means, literally, that if there is any moisture at all in the environment, whatever is dry will attract moisture, (i.e. upholstery, carpets, walls, paper, etc.). The right dehumidification equipment, response speed, and constant monitoring, will insure the restoration success, and remove the threat of exorbitant replacement costs and an unhappy customer.

It is not surprising then that the demand for dehumidification services is rising. Here are some other important reasons why:
1) The cost of replacing building materials, furnishings, carpeting, wall coverings, and labor has increased dramatically, forcing builders and insurance carriers—particularly those who deal in large commercial structures—to consider other, less costly alternatives.
2) Dehumidification takes less time than replacement and frequently requires little, if any, disruption of the physical environment—a feature that is particularly attractive to businesses since lost wages are not covered by most insurance policies. Normal business activity can continue without interruption or can be resumed in a matter of a hours, not weeks.
3) Dehumidification reduces the risk of many of the health related problems associated with indoor air quality. Recent studies show that high humidity provides a favorable medium for the survival and rapid growth of such biological contaminants as bacteria, viruses, fungi, and mites, and that excessive moisture can create certain chemical interactions with substances that are used in building and decorating materials. These scenarios are potential time bombs that insurance companies, property managers/owners and risk managers must eliminate.

Authorities are now exploring if, and how, the severity of natural disasters will intensify in the wake of such catastrophic events as the eruption of the Mt. Pinatubo volcano. Recent studies suggest the effect on the United States of the volcanic ash cloud formed by Pinatubo’s volcanic debris can precipitate a cooler winter, resulting in frozen pipes, thereby producing water damage situations.
Weather related disasters, the daily mix of broken sprinklers, fires, and floods, the increasing focus on sick building syndrome2 and the importance of clean, healthy air present many possibilities for the application of dehumidification services. Each and every person must take an active part in learning what constitutes a healthy environment for ourselves and those who follow. Awareness to the benefits of dehumidification services clearly defines the difference between a planned program of preparedness and an unhealthy disaster.
These observations lend significant weight to the claim that there is more to the business of drying than meets the eye. In this business there is no template; the conditions dictate the approach, and the conditions are like the New England weather: wait five minutes and things may change.

Thomas Zoll is founder and President World Wide Drying, Inc., a Massachusetts-based corporation providing dehumidification and restoration services. He has over 25 years of experience in dehumidification, disaster recovery and business continuity planning. His current specialization includes the complete dry-down of electronics, telecommunications systems, computer systems, books and documents.

This article adapted from Vol. 5 #4.

Monday, 29 October 2007 03:16

Disasters Can Happen To Anyone

Written by

Comdisco Disaster Recovery Services (CDRS) has always been proud of its industry leadership position. In that role, we continually strive to raise corporate awareness of the potential for catastrophic events to occur.

We have learned that these situations, usually unforeseen, occur in the most unlikely of circumstances often crippling an organization’s ability to function effectively. We ourselves are not immune to these unpredictable events, as we found out on October 31, 1991.

CDRS has led the industry in supporting customers who have had disasters which required invocation of recovery plans and operations.

We have learned a great deal from supporting the recoveries of more than 66 actual disasters and more than 13,000 subscriber tests. One of the benefits we provide our customers is the sharing of experiences gained in supporting these recoveries.

In the mid-1980s, CDRS began sponsoring seminars and subscriber briefings to share the experiences learned in supporting the most publicized disaster to date: the Montreal fire at Steinberg Corporation’s headquarters. When the industry experienced its first multiple disaster, as a result of the Chicago floods in 1987, CDRS continued sharing information through a similar set of seminars and briefings.

In 1989 and 1990, the San Francisco earthquake and New York power outage produced unprecedented concurrent declarations, eight and 12 respectively, for CDRS.

Once again, CDRS provided speaker platforms at our user conference and supported industry conferences on the subject of experience. We have, and will continue to learn, along with our customers, during these situations.
Each event, or set of events, continues to mature the industry. The Chicago floods demonstrated that a commercial vendor could support multiple, concurrent declarations.

The Hinsdale fire at the AT&T switching station provided insight into the importance the communications industry plays and the impact of an external disaster. San Francisco and New York dealt with user area recoveries in conjunction with or separate from data processing outages.

CDRS recoveries in Paris, London and Singapore highlighted the global nature of our industry. A 203 day customer occupancy of our Cypress, California facility demonstrated the viability of outfitting and using a cold site for an extended period.

Throughout these events, CDRS has continued to focus our subscribers on the fact that disasters do in fact occur and that everyone is vulnerable.

During the last several months, the industry has learned that “everyone” includes vendors. This situation also confirms that a vendor strategy of multiple centers and transportability for networking is a critical selection criteria.
October 31, 1991, (Halloween) was an especially frightening night for CDRS’ Carlstadt, New Jersey complex.

The Carlstadt complex is made up of two separate buildings, interconnected for channel connectivity. Building A, located at 430 Gotham Parkway, houses our Continuous Availability Services (CAS) products. Building B, located at 480 Gotham Parkway, contains our traditional computer Recovery Centers (hot sites) for IBM and Tandem users. Let’s take a look at the events that occurred.

At 5:00 a.m. Thursday, October 31, 1991, extremely high tides, as a result of a tropical storm off the Eastern Seaboard, caused flooding in the Carlstadt area, including the parking lot adjacent to CDRS’ Carlstadt, New Jersey complex. These tides were the highest level recorded in the past 30 years.

The flooding was a direct result of a failure in a water control system. Essentially, an earthen dike used to contain and divert tidal waters was damaged prior to the storm and allowed flooding to occur. Subsequent repairs and comparable tide levels confirm that repair action has eliminated the problem.

As a result of the flooding, dual commercial power fed into the CDRS Carlstadt Complex were interrupted. At no time did water enter or threaten to enter either CDRS building.

However, on the outside of the 430 Gotham Parkway building, externally mounted electrical switch gear was damaged by water.

Within five hours, commercial power was restored to CDRS’ 480 Gotham building, which houses our dual IBM 3090-600 backup offering, obviating the need to utilize diesel generators as originally planned. The 430 building was restored with diesel power by 11:00 p.m. Thursday and converted back to commercial power on Sunday, November 3, 1991.

Immediately upon identification of the problem, CDRS implemented its own recovery plan. Such plans exist for a potential interruption to any CDRS facility as an acknowledgment that no facility, customer or any vendor, is exempt from a problem.

As part of the plan, CDRS’ CDRS NET architecture initiated instantaneous, automatic rerouting of the backbone network around the affected facility, ensuring integrity of the any-to-any facility linkage.

We also rerouted the CDRS disaster declaration hot line number and other Carlstadt phone lines to our North Bergen, New Jersey facility for uninterrupted phone coverage.

Also, CDRS’ immediate steps included the declaration of a disaster for our CCSC business unit, which provides the CAS services, into one of the four recovery centers in the 480 building. This action, as with the 66 previous customer disaster declarations, necessitated rescheduling five customer tests. This was in full accordance with long-standing CDRS policy.

Separately, our remaining recovery facilities were continuing to support testing and stood ready for customer disaster needs. CCSC officially removed itself from disaster status on Sunday, November 10, 1991, returning the utilized hot site to full testing and recovery availability.

Following an in-depth review, CDRS has committed to undertake significant steps to ensure against a potential reoccurrence. We believe the steps we will undertake to be at a level of redundancy and protection commensurate with the criticality of our services.

First, a documented plan to construct a retaining wall with sump pumps completely isolating the property has been initiated. This will be a fail safe backup to the earthen dike.

Second, we will institute our own program to ensure that proper monitoring and maintenance procedures for the tidal control system are documented and followed by the appropriate owners. Discussions are underway and 100 percent cooperation has been assured. This will allow us to ensure we are in control of the situation at all times.
Third, a secured, waterproof enclosure to the power system is being constructed as an additional fail safe measure. This enclosure, including dual sump pumps on battery backed up power, will ensure protection to the switch gear. In addition, a water detection system will be added as an early warning and protection capability.

We also believe we, and the industry, learned a valuable lesson: No one is immune to an unplanned outage.

Finally, a solution for adding diesel power generation will be implemented. Engineering studies and preliminary local zoning approvals have taken place, paving the way for an expeditious completion.

These steps, we believe, will ensure that a reoccurrence is a virtual impossibility. We have already begun construction of these fail safe steps. Due to varying construction schedules, completion will take place over the next few months.

It is important, we believe, to step back and consider the experiences we have gained from supporting ourselves and our customers during these disaster recovery activities.

First, we have learned that clear, concise communications to an organization’s customers and the press is of paramount importance. As is often the case, several trade journals quickly picked up on our disaster recovery story. In spite of our attempts to accurately portray the situation to the journalists, a great deal of contradictions and inaccuracies were reported. This even resulted in one of our subscribers being grossly misquoted in terms of their opinions and plans following the event. This subscriber has been extremely helpful in assisting us with other customers who were concerned about the out-of-context comments printed in the trade press.

Second, we were gratified to see the value of our CDRS NET Any-to-Any architecture. We believe this strategy enhances our ability to sustain an outage in the system with minimal subscriber impact. It should be noted that the Carlstadt recovery center utilized to support the disaster only represents 15 percent of our North American supply of capability, leaving more than adequate protection for our remaining subscribers. Our philosophy has been, and always will be that numerous, geographically dispersed facilities ensure one outage could never cripple our business and/or unduly expose our customer base.

Third, we have reconfirmed the value of having a documented, tested plan for recovery. The ability to relocate and restart our CAS products was directly related to their preparatory steps.

Fourth, all organizations should investigate the option of having cellular phones available to facilitate communications. With no power, and a commensurate loss of our PBX, cellular phones provided a valuable communications lifeline.

Lastly, CDRS, in conjunction with its consulting team, has developed and implemented a set of procedures to evaluate all of the physical components of each recovery facility.

These procedures, included in our Prevent! product, are thought to be the most exhaustive proforma in the industry, incorporating over a decade of personal experience and in-depth collaboration with clients and vendors concerning areas of uniformity and compliance.

The objective is to provide an extra level of protection for each facility and produce a risk analysis and a set of physical specifications down to CAD based floor plans and schematics for all hardware and power components. This will enable the development of a preventative program that minimizes the likelihood of a disruption and reduces the impact of a disaster.

In summary, CDRS believes the interruption to our Carlstadt Complex was an unfortunate circumstance. We believe we responded with swift and effective actions and minimized CDRS customer exposure. We also believe we, and the industry, learned a valuable lesson: No one is immune to an unplanned outage.

John A. Jackson is executive vice president of Comdisco Disaster Recovery Services, Inc.

This article adapted from Vol. 5 #1.

Monday, 29 October 2007 03:15

River Pours Through the Levee

Written by

On the morning of July 30, 1993, at approximately 7:00 a.m., employees of the Chesterfield Bank were getting ready to go into work as usual. Little did they know this wasn’t going to be a typical Friday at the bank. Bank officials had already been contacted by the Chesterfield authorities that a potential for a disaster existed.

The underground flooding that paralyzed the Chicago downtown business district in mid-April was little more than a drop in the bucket for organizations with tested business resumption plans in place.

While many companies were unprepared for such a disaster, quite a few organizations, with tested recovery plans in place and crisis management teams ready to act, managed to keep their heads above water during the industry’s biggest crisis to date.

The flooding, which caused local utilities to cut off power to a 12-square-block area of businesses in Chicago’s “Loop,” and forced the evacuation of dozens of major buildings, prompted seven SunGard subscribers to declare disasters.

Five of these subscribers successfully recovered their applications at SunGard’s Chicago, Philadelphia, and San Diego MegaCenters, and two of these customers employed SunGard’s end-user recovery facilities. Two of the seven subscribers later decided that the problems they incurred did not warrant their use of an alternate processing site.

An additional 10 customers placed SunGard on alert during the course of the disaster situation, and their status was monitored throughout the crisis until downtown Chicago’s power instability problems were solved.

While the pace at SunGard was hectic, the situation remained firmly under control throughout the recovery, which began 7:30 a.m. on April 13, and lasted until midnight, April 27, when the last subscriber officially left the recovery facility. Effective crisis management, based on planning and teamwork, was the key.

Monday, 29 October 2007 03:10

The Drying of Chicago

Written by

The now “infamous” tunnel system found under the heart of Chicago’s business center—the Loop—was first planned in 1899 as a four foot bore to carry telephone cables and protect them from interruptions in service caused by downed telephone poles.

In 1903 the City Council granted a franchise to expand the tunnel to its current size, seven and a half feet high, six feet wide at its widest part, and five feet wide at the bottom. It had a flat-bottomed oval shape to enable electric locomotives to haul freight, coal, ashes, etc., throughout its 62 mile length. Also, the tunnel has a one foot thick unreinforced concrete lining.

The City of Chicago became the owner of the tunnel system in 1959 when the last firm to operate the tunnel, Chicago Tunnel Company, went bankrupt. The maintenance was the responsibility of the City News until 1962 at which time it too was assumed by the City.

Trends may start on the east and west coasts (i.e. Hurricane Hugo and the Loma Prieta Earthquake of 1989) in our country, but when it comes to doing it bigger and better, don't count out the midwest. On Monday, April 13, 1992 began what has become the biggest business disaster to face us yet.

The story began last year when contractor Great Lakes Dredge & Dock Company of Oak Brook, Illinois installed new pilings around the Kinzie Street Bridge along a branch of the Chicago river that wraps around downtown Chicago. Speculation is that the new pilings, which were driven down into the muddy depths of the river at an unapproved location, ruptured a turn-of-the-century tunnel system. Investigation of the causes will continue for months.

The 62 mile tunnel system was built to support rail and coal supplies to the many buildings of the city. Today the tunnel is used to distribute various cable systems, however the older buildings of Chicago have bulkheads accessing the system.

On January 14, 1992, two cable workers from Chicago Cable Television came across the visible cave-in that was occurring in the tunnel at the Kinzie Street Bridge. The concrete was breaking away and mud and silt were coming through the openings. They recorded this on video and attempted to get through the bureaucratic offices of the city to notify the Department of General Services.

The cost to repair the cracked opening was estimated by city officials at around $10,000, but actual repair bids exceeded that amount. Consequently, additional estimates were being requested, and ironically, a meeting to review what should be done was reportedly scheduled to take place a day after the tunnel ruptured.

Days after the disaster struck, the city remained crippled by the slow process of draining millions of gallons of water from the tunnel system and two to three stories of basements that support many of the high-rise buildings in the city. It is here that we find the power distribution, cooling and boiler plants essential to the functioning of the buildings. Tons of materials, including broken concrete, mattresses, gravel and "rapid set" concrete have been dumped into the river atop the opening to try to stop the flow of water. But all of this was of little help, as the water continued to rise in the buildings. The city was declared a federal disaster area as federal, state and local officials are working feverishly to solve the problem.

For the many businesses in the downtown area with major corporate computer centers, it brought the biggest declaration of disasters yet to hotsite recovery vendors.

This was the largest disaster ever for Sungard Recovery Services, which had its first declaration of disaster at 7:30 a.m. on Monday. Seventeen Sungard customers were affected.

The greatest financial impact was felt by the Chicago Board of Trade, which shut down completely on Monday, and resumed trading only at small volume in subsequent days. An estimated 25 billion in trading of the 36 products handled by the CBOT were lost on Tuesday, before limited trading was re-instated on Wednesday.

Although CBOT still had water cascading into its basements on Thursday, it was conducting limited trading with darkened corridors and a limited number of elevators and computers. This impact was felt world wide.

The biggest financial issue yet may be insurance, as this is not being considered an “act of God” flood, eliminating coverage for many organizations. Estimates are ranging in the $100's of millions in losses.

Business recovery centers like MEDS in Chicago were in immediate use as emergency operations centers for key operations. On Thursday, McCormick Place, one of Chicago's largest conference centers, offered its entire conference space for one month as a free business recovery center for affected businesses.

The Chicago Transit Authority transit system of subways that support the city have been closed down, with re-activation not expected for weeks. A parking ban was placed on the entire downtown area to allow the access needed by the many emergency vehicles being used to provide temporary power, and to pump out water into the storm drains.

Several city blocks went without power for the first couple of days, however by systematically cutting off the circuits to the flooded buildings, other buildings have been brought up. Two of Chicago's largest department stores, Carson Pirie Scott and Marshall Field's were both affected. The 3,000 hourly employees at Field's and the 2,000 at Carson's were paid for work on Monday if they were scheduled to work, but won't return to the payrolls until the stores reopen. Employees at Filene's Basement have been laid off until the store reopens.

The recovery in Chicago will be tentative for a long time to come. Simply stopping the flow of water has been a major engineering challenge, and removing water from the tunnels and basements has stopped until the primary problem can be resolved. Complete blocking of the ruptured tunnels may take 10 days from the initial disaster, and draining the tunnels will probably take an additional two weeks.

This article adapted from Vol. 5 #2.

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.


In 1899 the city of Chicago started work on a series of interconnecting tunnels located approximately forty feet beneath street level. This series of tunnels ran below the Chicago River and underneath the Chicago business district, simply known as The Loop. The tunnels housed a series of railroad tracks that were used to haul coal and to remove ashes from the many office buildings in the downtown area. The underground system served Chicago well through the 1940’s when other power sources replaced the coal furnaces. These tunnels went forgotten until April 13th, 1992.

Construction workers had been working along the Chicago River for some time. One of the projects included placing support pillars into the Chicago River bottom.

It is theorized that during the placement of one of these pillars, a portion of the turn-of-the-century coal delivery system was damaged. A hole the size of a large automobile formed in the bottom of the river and punctured the tunnel ceiling.

Exactly when the rupture took place is unclear, but on the morning of Monday April 13th several Loop office buildings began to report significant amounts of water in basement and sub-basement facilities. The flooding was caused by massive amounts of river water pouring into the maze of underground tunnels. The tunnels led directly into the basements of many of the older Loop buildings.

Marshall Field’s flagship store, located on State Street in the heart of the loop, reported flooding in sub-basements two and three with water levels reaching 40 feet. With heating and electrical systems located in these basement areas, not to mention a substantial amount of valuable inventory, the threat was significant.

Most of the City and County governmental buildings are also located in the Loop. As with the Marshall Field's building, the City/County utilities were threatened by extensive flooding. Valuable assets were also in jeopardy, but in this case the assets took the form of valuable government records. The records existed in hard copy and microfiche form and contained a wealth of historical information about the nations third largest city.

Chicago’s financial district, including the Chicago Board of Trade and Chicago Mercantile Exchange, was also threatened by the torrent of water. The threat of the flooding came not so much from the water itself, but from the impact the flood could have on the extensive electrical and computer networks.

It doesn’t require an advance degree in electrical engineering to imagine the potential safety risks to office buildings, some over 100 stories high with thousands of tenants, if the electrical system is compromised. By mid-day, the entire loop business district was evacuated.

CHI/COR Information Management’s corporate headquarters is located in the heart of the loop and was also affected by the flooding. Located in the southwest corner of the loop, adjacent to the Sears Tower, its offices were on the outer edge of the affected area.

The first order of business for the Executive Committee was to determine what business processes were threatened, and based upon a business impact analysis, initiate the appropriate recovery steps. The Executive committee highlighted the following recovery processes:
1) Evaluate The Threat To Personnel
2) Activate Customer Support Network Procedures
3) Prepare Off-Site Facilities
4) Back-up And Secure Information Systems
Here is how each of these areas was addressed.

Evaluate The Threat To Personnel

It was determined that the threat to personal safety was minimal at the time of disaster declaration, though it was decided that eventually complete evacuation would be a necessity.

The buildings elevator system was scheduled to be shut down by 1:30 p.m. To help avoid a bottleneck at 1:25, all “non-essential” personnel were evacuated in stages as their recovery functions were completed.
All employees were kept informed of evacuation alternatives and timeframes. By following the predefined evacuation procedures and routes, all “non-essential” personnel were evacuated well before the 1:30 deadline.
This orderly evacuation helped make the subsequent evacuation of the emergency staff quick and efficient when the time came.

Activate Customer Support Network Procedures

After all personal safety issues were addressed, the Customer Support Team went into action. Their first order of business was to re-route all customer support lines to a cellular telephone network. Once these cellular channels were in place, the Customer Support Team worked in tandem with the Off-site Facilities Team to ensure that support personnel would have continuous access to their various support tools and databases.

Prepare Off-Site Facilities

Our plan called for the availability of personal computers at several off-site locations for members of the support and development teams. Many support and development personnel have access to PCs at home. The Customer Support plan called for the staggered dispersion of personnel to off-site locations. This tiered approach to the evacuation helped to maintain continuous availability of all support functions, as no time was lost because personnel was in transit. The transportation of support personnel was coordinated by the Facilities Evacuation Team.

Back-up and Secure Information Systems

The Data Center Team immediately instituted the necessary back-up and protection of critical business applications and data. The back-up of the entire day's activities was initiated and that information was available should the need arise to re-locate to the hotsite facility. All systems and equipment were then secured to protect against any threat caused by the flooding and possible electrical problems.

CHI/COR President Rick Effgen commented “We were fortunate in many ways. We had sufficient warning time, sufficient evacuation time, and the availability of all of our recovery teams. These factors, combined with extensive planning, allowed us to ‘practice what we preach.’ We were able to continue all major business functions during the crisis and return to full operations the following business day”.

The ramifications of this disaster, both physical and financial, will be felt throughout Chicago for a long time to come.

This article adapted from Vol. 5 #2.

During the past decade, floods accounted for nearly 1,100 losses resulting in more than $200 million in industrial property damage in the United States, according to statistics compiled by the Factory Mutual Engineering Association (FMEA). Based in Norwood, Mass., FMEA is a division of Factory Mutual Engineering and Research (FME&R), an organization that specializes in property loss control.

FMEA’s figures are staggering, but even more disturbing is the fact that much of this property loss could have been averted or minimized had early flood protection measures been implemented.

As a disaster management professional, these statistics should convince you that effective flood protection measures are an essential element of an effective corporate disaster management program.

“An action plan to minimize flood damage can, and should, be included in any property conservation program,” says Ray Croteau, FMEA senior vice president and chief operating officer. “Also, when a facility experiences several floodless years, a false sense of security can develop.”

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