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Tuesday, 30 October 2007 06:19

The Worst Snow Storm Of The Century

Written by  Factory Mutual Engineering and Research
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The “Blizzard of ’93" also known as “the worst storm of the century” blanketed the east coast with 22 inches of snow. One of the many casualties from this blizzard was Electronic Data Systems Corp.’s data center in Clifton, N.J.

On March 13, 1993 at 4:20 pm EST, a 100 foot section of the roof collapsed under the weight of the snow, buckling the walls of the 35,000-square-foot data center. The facility supported a large installation of fault tolerant Tandem Computers which supported 5,200 of the some 87,000 automated teller machines (ATM), or six percent of the total ATMs nationwide.

Fortunately, there were no casualties from the collapsed roof, giving EDS the necessary time to do a controlled shutdown of all systems, while evacuating the 30 on-duty employees from the facility.

Obviously EDS had a well executable I/S disaster recovery plan. Despite the conditions, EDS experienced no data loss or damage.

“All financial data is intact.” says EDS spokesman Jon Senderling.

Thanks to the I/S disaster recovery plan that EDS exercises annually, Senderling said “relocating to an alternate site went very well, faster than anticipated.”

EDS was able to occupy a temporary data recovery facility in Franklin Lakes, N.J., and within 48 hours was able to relocate operations one more time to a more permanent site in Rochelle Park, N.J.

EDS had arranged for more than a dozen regional ATM networks to perform stand-in processing until the company could get its own network up and running. Despite the inconvenience, 98 percent of the card holders were able to access their accounts through alternate ATMs by March 23, 1993.

Local authorities condemned the EDS facility in Clifton, N.J., preventing EDS access to the site for four days. While processing at the Franklin Lakes, N.J. location, a recovery team was hastily gearing up the Rochelle Park, N.J. facility with the necessary Tandem equipment and communication lines.

Senderling went on to say “It was a real team effort. Due to the very high morale and commitment of EDS employees from North Jersey and across the country, and outside vendors such as Tandem, IBM, & AT&T. Over 400 people came to help out in whatever way they could. Everyone was dedicated to ensuring quality service to the card holders during this inconvenience.”


The “dust” from the Chicago floods hasn’t even settled yet, and now we need to determine the impact of the WTC bombing. In any event, disasters of this magnitude have focused the general public, and hopefully, corporate management on the importance of disaster recovery planning and what your organization must do to survive in the 1990s and beyond

  • Move backup generators for emergency power, perhaps generators should be on upper floors, as opposed to the lower levels of high rise complexes. Or, even in an adjacent building to your original facility. Re-route all emergency electrical services.
  • Install battery powered emergency lights and communication systems.
  • Exhaust or ventilation systems for stairwells that aren’t pressurized. When evacuating 40,000 people, pressurized stairwells would soon lose their effectiveness. (Whatever happened to good old fashioned fire escapes?)
  • Due to the bi-state affiliation, The New York Port Authority was immune to compliance to the local municipality codes. What is the code for your high rise? Who’s in charge of security?
  • Public parking garages should have sprinkler systems, pressurized stairwells or similar systems or barriers that would prevent fires from spreading to adjoining buildings.
  • Train employees on what to do. Many employees walked into toxic smoke. Use wet towels to cover nose and mouth as a filter to thick smoke.
  • Second level risk -the possibility that a company’s backup arrangement will be “full.” We need to plan for a secondary backup site. Whenever there is a disaster like the World Trade Center or any other type of regional crisis, you should be calling your disaster recovery provider to see if you are at risk.
  • Obviously LAN recovery plans are essential. The World Trade Center alone housed thousands of islands of networked workstations.
  • Identify vital records especially “work in progress.” When some employees were finally allowed back into the WTC to get vital equipment and records, due to limited emergency lighting, it was difficult to identify what was what. Perhaps file folders that have night-glow tags? Or, even colored folders. Red for high priority; green for second level priority, etc.
  • 8,371 calls to 911 jammed the communications lines between 12:30 and 4:00 pm., twice the normal volume serviced by NYC Telephone Company. This is another example that communications are vital and should be well planned for in any crisis.

Richard Arnold would like to thank the staff of the Disaster Recovery Journal for the hard work and dedication in preparing the Special Report. Janette Ballman and Mike Beckerle, Editors, and Patti Fitzgerald, CDRP, Advertising Editor for Disaster Recovery Journal.

This article adapted from Vol. 6 # 2.

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