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Winter Journal

Volume 31, Issue 4

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Many of us in disaster recovery and business continuity have been faced with a dilemma. Is the distance between the home site and alternate site far enough away? Three miles? Twenty-five miles? Fifty miles? Typically, those generic guidelines we've all heard are old standards adapted from military specifications. If asked by your customer or manager, how will you say for certain that the generic standard distance will, indeed, be far enough in your specific case? You might err on the side of caution, and place your alternate site or off-site storage location hundreds of miles away. That strategy though increases the costs for transportation and the time required getting to it if needed. It also might eliminate viable, nearby, no-cost facilities, forcing you to lease or contract for far away facilities or services. This article will present a methodology that will allow a business continuity professional with a light to moderate level of experience to produce a map of hazards facing their site. A perimeter may then be created around the identified risks with reasonable assurance that sites outside the perimeter will not share risks with the evaluated site. Tools and sources of qualified information will be identified.

You should obtain several copies of current, good quality street maps for the area being evaluated.

Unannounced business disasters happen any time, anywhere and do not need to be the magnitude of a hurricane to cause serious problems. In fact, most disasters are caused by spontaneous mishaps in or around the work environment. Disasters can be something as simple as a lost file that was not saved or as large as a complete network failure. Consider some of these unassuming, yet potentially damaging situations:

- An employee is cleaning out the cabinets of a workstation and throws out installation backup disks.
- The only copy of the strategic business plan scheduled for presentation in the morning to venture capitalists is accidentally deleted.
- The building's fire sprinkler system shorts out -- water fills the inside of the CPU.
- A new employee in the Computer Operations department inadvertently erases critical files on servers containing web-based transactions, customer information, and the Call Center system files that control the automated telephone systems.
- A software developer discovers that hackers have compromised the company's new e-commerce on-line transaction processing web site.

An important aspect of business continuity planning is organizing and structuring the Plan. The most common approach is to develop and structure the Plan using various recovery teams. This article describes the roles and responsibilities related to several of the recovery teams.
Contingency Organization Structure

The structure of the organization during a disaster event may not have the same form as the existing organization chart. The contingency organization is often structured with multiple recovery teams with a relative flat structure. The goal of the contingency organization is to accomplish a rapid and smooth recovery process.

Recovery teams are operational groups responsible for restoring specific functions. The teams have specific responsibilities that allow for a quick and successful recovery process. Each team should have the authority to implement and accomplish the procedures contained in their section of the plan.

Within each team, a leader/manager and alternate should be designated. These persons provide the necessary leadership and direction to implement the plan and carry out the assigned duties and responsibilities at the time of a disaster.

During the evening of March 28, 2000, a severe weather outbreak across parts of north Texas produced eight tornadoes, including two strong tornadoes in and near Fort Worth (Tarrant County). The storms in Tarrant County seriously damaged six commercial buildings, destroyed 171 homes, and damaged over 1500 others. All tolled, damage estimates ranged between $400 and $450 million. Five people were killed, and dozens injured.

The National Weather Service (NWS) Forecast Office in Fort Worth has considerable experience in dealing with severe weather. Located in the southern Great Plains, the area serviced by the Fort Worth office experiences sometimes-violent thunderstorm events. Tarrant County, in which the cities of Fort Worth and Arlington are located, experienced major hailstorms in the springs of 1992, 1994, and 1995. However, the county had not suffered a tornado-related fatality since before 1950.

No one in Syracuse and Central New York will forget the powerful storm that swept through the region on the morning of Labor Day, 1998. In less than 20 minutes the storm left in its wake thousands of customers without electric service, hundreds of homes damaged and destroyed and a tragic loss of life for two workers at the New York State Fairgrounds.

Like many other essential service providers, Niagara Mohawk Power Corporation, the local utility, relied on the National Weather Service's NEXRAD system to track storms as they moved through the region.

NEXRAD provides an accurate but limited picture of approaching weather. The system depends on three Doppler radar units located in Binghamton, Buffalo and on the Tug Hill Plateau east of Lake Ontario. Syracuse is on the fringe of each of the Doppler ranges. Because radar beams travel in a straight line and the earth is curved, at distances of more than 150 miles the radar image is less meaningful especially when looking for 'street level' information. Additionally, NEXRAD data delivered to users must first be routed through a third-party data provider before it is delivered. This step takes from seven to 15 minutes. The data displayed, therefore, is not real-time data but a picture of events that have already taken place.