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Volume 32, Issue 1

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By almost any traditional measure, Hurricane Andrew was the worst natural disasters in disaster recovery history. In addition to the staggering human cost, the valuation of destroyed property was the largest in United States history. At the time of this special report, thousands of individuals and families remain homeless, with no prospects for returning home within weeks; it may be years before life returns to normal in this stricken area.

From a business continuity perspective, Hurricane Andrew ranks among the major recovery events in history. A large number of companies lost computing capability and many had to relocate to recovery centers in order to continue business operations. In at least one way, however, Hurricane Andrew was not as devastating as it could have been. It’s point of landfall in Florida lies a mere twenty miles south of the heavy concentration of large data centers in Miami. Had Andrew struck Miami directly, the damage to computing capability would have been far greater.

As it was, CDRS received nine disaster declarations from seven companies, ranking Hurricane Andrew the third largest multiple recovery event in the company’s history. One major customer, John Alden Life Insurance Company, ran its processing from a recovery facility for 15 days.

While it was challenging, this recovery typified the advantages a well prepared, well tested company has in dealing with such events. John Alden had in place a well detailed hurricane recovery plan which provided for the forwarding of data and people to a recovery site prior to the storm impact. The recovery ran smoothly for its entire 15 days.

From a business continuity perspective, Hurricane Andrew ranks among the major recovery events in history.

Another factor which may have softened the business impact of Hurricane Andrew is the predictability of hurricanes relative to other types of disasters. Many of our customers undertook advance preparations for the storm, aligning people and data away from the projected impact area. While most of these companies never actually switched their processing to the recovery site, they were able to effectively run in parallel for the duration of their crisis.

Running parallel operations was more prevalent in the storm’s “second phase” in Louisiana and Texas, where the damage was substantially lower. Experiences from previous hurricanes (Hugo and Gilbert) proved valuable for recovery vendors and subscribers alike.

Of course, there was a human side to the recovery as well. Many of those individuals involved in the recovery spent time away from their homes and families during a time of extreme psychological uncertainty. The performance of these people under fire was truly admirable. In several cases where customer staff were physically unable to relocate due to the impact of the storm, they were replaced on site by CDRS staff, to insure successful recovery.

CDRS wishes to salute the entire South Florida business community for their effort and resilience under very trying circumstances.

Mike Tobin is Vice President of Marketing with Comdisco Disaster Recovery Services.

This article adapted from Vol. 5 #4.