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Volume 32, Issue 1

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No one knew on Saturday, August 22, 1992, that Hurricane Andrew would turn out to be the largest natural disaster in the nation’s history. No one could predict that it would supersede Hurricane Hugo as the costliest disaster ever and cause over five times the damage of that 1989 storm.

At the IBM Business Recovery Services (BRS) “war room” in Tampa, Florida, activity kicked into high gear that Saturday. As one of the primary large and mid-range systems backup hot sites, Tampa would serve as the focal point for all customer calls, alerts and disaster declarations. A duty team of highly skilled specialists in various technical disciplines toiled through the night making technical assessments, plotting the path of the storm, evaluating options and planning for the various scenarios that were likely to unfold.

Recovery center staff created maps listing the locations of all customers in the storm’s path. They made contact with local emergency management organizations.

Subscribers started calling to advise IBM of their status and intentions or to put us on alert. Equipment, particularly network gear, was checked and packaged for shipment. Communication links were check out to the eleven other IBM Area Recovery Centers. Finally, key IBM executives were contacted and informed of the situation and status. Having done all that could be done by way of preparation, the teams braced and awaited the storm.

While BRS teams toiled to assist Florida customers already in the throes of business recovery, the storm raged across the Gulf of Mexico and teams of experts in Texas and Louisiana were completing preparation and contact for customers in those areas. The two hurricane landfalls were two major disasters, separated by less than 48 hours.

When it was all over, there were an estimated 33 declarations in the industry. The 17 customers that IBM serviced were from Florida, Louisiana and Texas. Many major industries were affected including banking, health care, financial, wholesale, chemical, transportation, data processing and travel.

As power was restored, the recovered customers returned to their home sites, wiser for the experience and more resolute in their efforts to assure recoverability in the future. Beyond the sheer magnitude of Hurricane Andrew, the business recovery lessons learned did not reveal any surprises.

Non-subscribers still endeavored to avail themselves of recovery centers and services at the last minute and, unfortunately, had to be turned away. Some customers regretted not testing and updating their plans more frequently and returned home determined to exercise their plans more vigorously in the future. While none of these problems turned out to be show stoppers, they made some recovery efforts lengthier and more complex than necessary.

The same lessons apply: have a plan and exercise it regularly. Be confident that your hot site vendor has the skills, experience and depth of resources to assure that you can successfully recover.

Andrew won’t soon be forgotten. It has again reminded us how fragile humankind is in the face of nature’s wrath. Even with warning, little could have been done to reduce the devastation. It is likely that building codes in south Florida will become more stringent in the future and that measures will be taken to assure a complete social recovery as well as to minimize the impact of a reoccurrence.

Companies in affected areas will mimic these actions in an effort to strengthen their own business recovery posture. They will be better prepared in the future for having suffered through Andrew.

But somehow I can’t help but feel that some, particularly those in unaffected areas, will again ignore the lessons of a recent disaster and do nothing differently. And there remains that bothersome and nagging feeling that there are far worse disasters awaiting us out there, somewhere in the future.

John E. Nevola is manager of the Business Recovery Services Center at Integrated Systems Solutions Corporation (ISSC). He started his data processing career in 1965 as a network systems programmer with Bell Labs. He was named site manager of the Systems Support and Operations function at IBM’s Franklin Lakes facility in 1982. In 1989, he was assigned to his current position.

This article adapted from Vol. 5 #4.

1992 has been a horrible year for disasters of all kinds. Earthquakes, riots, floods and now hurricanes have caused unprecedented damage. Unlike the Chicago Flood, business’ biggest disaster ever, Hurricane Andrew wreaked a terrible human toll. I visited south Florida recently, and was shocked to see many residential areas are still piles of rubble.

Although many businesses suffered physical and financial losses from the hurricane, the vast human crisis has complicated recovery plans. Even relatively unaffected companies with recovery plans in place have struggled because their employees were hit so hard by the disaster.

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.

Hurricane Bob sent us threatening signals, but Mother Nature spared the Virginia and North Carolina coast from major damage.

As veterans of “hurricane havoc” as recently as two years ago with the onslaught of Hurricane Hugo, everyone initiated prudent precautions to protect their assets. In the south, our recent experiences told us to prepare for the worst.

The crisis management procedures were dusted off, reviewed to determine if phone numbers were correct, vendors in place, and the backup computer tapes were stored in a safe vault.

Certain companies went as far as to elevate their computer disk drives to avoid flood waters, and many covered the tops of their computers with plastic to abate ceiling water damage.

Various hotsite vendors readied their facilities to receive subscribers that would be victims from power outages or building damage.

The companies that were contacted indicated that all remembered the wrath of Hugo and were preparing for the worst.

Most firms have taken steps to strengthen their contingency plans to address all facets of recovery.

With less than $1.5 million in property damage between the two states, our fortunate outcome was not the case in New England, where $800 million was the estimated total for the region.

Hurricane Bob gave us a good exercise to see how we improved our DR plans since our last scrimmage with destruction.

Jim Williford is Vice President of First Recovery, Inc., a Hotsite facility in Troy, North Carolina.

This article adapted from Vol. 4 #4.


"I know but...I never thought that my business would be impacted by a hurricane.”

Unfortunately, this statement made by a business owner impacted by Hurricane Andrew in 1993, is indicative of the reasoning by many businesses across the country. Although major hurricanes are relatively rare, they do occur and can be deadly. The only effective way that a business can mitigate or diffuse the effects of a hurricane is to prepare for it.

What are hurricanes? A hurricane is a violent storm that originates over tropical waters, with sustained winds over 74 miles per hour. Hurricanes are unique among natural disasters in that they are often preceded by some warning period. Unlike earthquakes or tornadoes which strike suddenly and unexpectedly, hurricanes are identified as they form over the ocean and their path and intensity can usually be predicted with some degree of certainty. This period of time before the hurricane strikes offers businesses an opportunity to prepare that is not available with other calamities. Taking advantage of this can mean the difference between business survival and corporate death.

The main hazards caused by hurricanes most often involve loss of power, flooding, and the inability to access facilities. Businesses may also be impacted by structural damage as well. Precautions should be taken in the event that this occurs. Always prepare for the worst. The main effort, therefore, should be geared to assuring that your business can continue to function even though it may have experienced a prolonged power outage, flood, structural damage and/or the inability of employees to get to work.

OK. The storm is out there somewhere and it looks as if it is heading toward your area. What should you do to eliminate or minimize business interruption? Well, listed below are 10 recommendations for businesses in the path of a hurricane: