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Spring Journal

Volume 31, Issue 1

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More than a thousand contingency planners who gathered at our recent disaster recovery symposium received an extra learning opportunity as Hurricane Floyd headed toward the Florida coastline. Our attendees were able to witness contingency plans being implemented as public and private sectors dealt with the hurricane's potential threat.

Over 1200 attendees were gathered at the 11th International Disaster Recovery Symposium and Exhibition at the Hyatt Orlando on September 12 - 15, 1999. As the conference kicked off its first session on Sunday afternoon, Hurricane Floyd was located 500 miles off the Florida coast.

As it turned out, the hurricane did not bring its fury into the Orlando area, but initial reports indicated the storm could turn that way. Therefore, state, regional and local governments began to prepare. Evacuations were ordered along the coastline and local businesses began initial contingency plan implementation. At the Hyatt Orlando on Tuesday, attendees were briefed by the hotel's general manager as to what plans the hotel had in place for the guests' safekeeping. This was not only informational for attendees at the time, but also provided them with an insight into how a hotel's contingency plans are written and implemented.

The symposium's purpose is to provide contingency planners with information on preparedness, recovery, and awareness. And this show definitely went above and beyond that purpose. Many of the conference sessions, including workshops, general sessions and breakout sessions, covered emergency management, planning issues and preparedness techniques. The attendees were able to take this knowledge directly from the sessions and see it implemented in preparation for Hurricane Floyd.

While the hurricane preparations were big news at the conference, there were a variety of other events that were informative and helpful for the attendees.

One feature was the Cyber City Cafe which was sponsored by Comdisco. This area was filled with PCs, allowing attendees a chance to link to the internet to check email, news or even Hurricane Floyd's coordinates.

Another event was a Welcome Reception held in the exhibit hall on Sunday evening. This hospitality provided attendees a great way to network in a relaxed atmosphere.

Several exhibitors hosted private hospitalities. On Monday evening, Rental Systems hosted a pool-side hospitality. On Tuesday evening, Comdisco stepped in at the last minute to provide a hospitality for the attendees. Comdisco's hospitality replaced an earlier one that had been cancelled.

Pre-conference courses that were offered on Saturday were also a big draw for attendees. These classes included "Comprehensive Exercise Development and Implementation", by Harris Disaster Recovery Associates; "Project Management", by PruSpeak Consulting and Seminars; and "Fundamentals of DR Planning and EM Practices", by Private and Public Businesses Inc.

On Sunday, the conference officially opened. Following onsite registration, workshops were held in the afternoon. The sessions offered were: "Situation Management Teams"; "Strategic Stakeholder Alliances: Keeping the Reservoir Full"; "Print and Mail Recovery Capabilities"; "Business Impact Assessment How To"; and "Telecommunications: The Missing Piece in Data Recovery Plans".

The sixth session that was offered on Sunday afternoon was a Mock Disaster Exercise hosted by Telcordia Technologies. This session provided attendees a chance to experience a simulated disaster and the subsequent recovery efforts. This exercise proved to be a great introduction to the real-life disaster exercise that would come in the following days.

On Monday, motivational speaker Michael Broome kicked off the day with an informative and entertaining general session. His topic was "A Humorous Look at Personal and Professional Success."

The second general session of the day turned out to be extremely timely. John Copenhaver, Federal Emergency Management Agency director for Region IV, addressed the attendees on "Nature's Fury - Disasters in the Southeast". He updated the audience on Floyd's coordinates and gave information on past hurricanes and the damage they caused.

Following lunch and a break to tour the exhibit hall, afternoon breakout sessions began. Three afternoon time slots were each filled with six different breakout sessions, making a total of 18 sessions offered during the afternoon. Attendees could choose one session in each of the time slots.

All of the sessions were led by experts in the contingency planning issues. The topics included: the Year 2000 issue, developing the business impact analysis, terrorism, insurance, emergency power restoration, distributed databases, web site hackers, emergency operations center and many others.

On Tuesday morning, the day forecasters were predicting Hurricane Floyd would near the Florida coast, two more general sessions were held. Prior to the first session, Mel Bettcher, the hotel's general manager gave his address to the attendees on the hotel's contingency plans. He told the attendees that guests would be evacuated to the Paradise Ballroom if winds reached 65 miles per hour. The main reason for any evacuation would be to protect guests from flying glass. He also explained that the hotel had adequate supplies on hand and that, if necessary, some staff would be housed on site to maintain services.

Though most of these preparations turned out to be unnecessary, it was very interesting for the attendees to learn about the hotel's preparations.

Following Mr. Bettcher's address, the first general session of the day began. It was given by John Jackson of Comdisco. His topic was, " The Weakest Link in the Chain." The next general session was "After 2000....Heroes or Villains?", presented by Gerald Smith of Corporate Response Group.

Following Tuesday's lunch, the final breakout sessions were held. The six sessions in this track were held from 1:30 - 2:30 p.m. The topics included determining business process priorities; project management; cyber terrorism and information wartime; partnerships in the trenches; communicating during a crisis; and exercising and maintaining the plan.

At 3:00 p.m., workshop sessions began. These sessions offered a chance for in-depth study on one of the following subjects: "Ready, Set, Exercise" by Steven Goldman; "BIA Beginning to End," by Barney Pelant, MBCP; "Designing and Managing Your EOC", by Regina Phelps; "Challenges of Technical Leaders", by Barry Pruitt; and "Developing Business Unit and Technology Team Recovery Plans", by Steve Piggott.

Following the close of the conference, Disaster Recovery Institute International offered certification courses and examinations to those attendees who chose to enroll.

In the end, Hurricane Floyd did not unleash its full fury on Florida. However, Floyd's lesson was indispensable for the contingency planners gathered at the conference.

Janette Ballman is a Senior Editor for the Disaster Recovery Journal.