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Winter Journal

Volume 30, Issue 4

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Learning from another country’s disasters may provide lessons to North American disaster planners today. A case in point - From August to September 1994, a series of massive oil pipeline leaks occurred in rural Northern Russia, nearly on the Arctic Circle. The nearest town to the major spill location was Usinsk, just 30 Km from the nearest spill area. The impact from the spills and outcomes of the resultant containment, cleanup and mitigation activities may be of interest and provide information for Disaster Recovery Journal readers -both for the lessons learned and for use in future planning. While the Russian pipeline leak may be unique for its sheer size - it provides North American agencies many examples and lessons. Smaller pipeline leaks occur regularly in North America, a response planner or provider must understand this type of technology accident.

Everyone agrees, upper management commitment is key to DRP/Business Continuity program success. However, no one tells you how to generate those first critical attention-getting conversations to get that support and preliminary funding. It takes resources to build a proposal, yet in these days of increasingly limited corporate funds, you have to convince someone senior that there is an exposure before you can get the resources.

This “chicken & egg” problem is particularly tough in the case of DRP & Business Continuity because impact analysis and risk assessments, while they yield exposure insight, are typically executed well after project cycle is approved and underway. So what is key to getting senior staff permission when you haven’t done all the ground work? What’s the “missing link” in Business Continuity planning and is the forgotten chapter in most “how to” courses?

First, Think Like the CEO

To start with, don’t follow your instincts! By that I mean, don’t start building an exhaustive listing of all exposures you can think of, even if they are real and potentially serious. While this is the way we’ve all been taught to do a thorough job, it’s also one of the quickest ways to get dismissed as irrelevant. You’ve probably got zero resources and no time so you need a shortcut to initiating an ongoing dialog with the key decision makers. What you need are a few well-drawn attention getters, ones that get juices flowing, and some preliminary funding.

Start first by thinking tops down, not bottoms up. Look at your company from your CEO’s point of view. What are the key business drivers? What is the most important work going on in the company, today...right this minute? Are a few, identifiable pieces of the business generating most of the income or margin? Is there something new and big brewing? Is there a new product, acquisition, merger, stock offering, plant, process coming online? What’s being discussed at the CEO’s staff meeting every week? At the Board Meeting? In the press?

Again, this isn’t about being complete or getting all possible risks covered. You’ll revisit that later and with help if you get funded. This is about making a point about the company’s key issues and their vulnerabilities. Do that and you’re on your way. So don’t let your personal peeves dominant your thinking. Recognize that, from the CEO’s point of view, most day-to-day “disasters” can be survived. Skip the small stuff.

When a 6.8 magnitude earthquake struck Seattle and the Pacific Northwest area on February 28, 2001, damage was held to a minimum, thanks to a decade of earthquake preparation and a fault located deep inside the Earth. The earthquake struck at 10:55 a.m. and was the worst to hit the area in more than 50 years.

The earthquake crumbled some buildings, buckled sidewalks and injured nearly 400 people. Officials estimate damage will exceed $2 billion dollars, but experts say the total could have been much worse if it weren’t for the depth of the fault and the efforts made by area officials to prepare for quakes.

The earthquake occurred on a fault located about 33 miles underground - a fact that saved the region from intense damage. According to the U.S. Geological Survey’s hazards team, the temblor’s energy had to travel 30 miles in every direction from its point of origin before it hit the surface. The epicenter was located about 35 miles southwest of Seattle and 11 miles northeast of the state capital, Olympia.

The quake was very near the location of a magnitude 7.1 earthquake that occurred in 1949 and a magnitude 6.5 tremor that hit in 1965. In terms of energy released, the 2001 quake was only about one-third as strong as the 1949 quake.

Earthquake magnitudes are calculated according to ground motion recorded on seismographs. An increase in one full number - from 6.5 to 7.5 for example - means the quake’s magnitude is 10 times as great.

Experts have said the quake’s depth spared the Northwest catastrophic damage. Earthquakes that occur on faults closer to the earth’s surface have a much greater potential for damage. For example, the 1994 Los Angeles earthquake (often referred to as the Northridge quake), with a magnitude of 6.7, caused an estimated $40 billion in damage and killed 72 people. That tremor struck on a fault located just 11 miles underground.

When a 6.8 magnitude earthquake struck the Pacific Northwest on February 28, buildings swayed, bricks crumbled and glass shattered. Employees who had been working inside these buildings were suddenly forced to run for cover. When the shaking stopped, the employees were evacuated. They poured out onto the streets, sidewalks and parking lots, as they surveyed the damage around them. For some businesses, only minor damage was evident. For others, the destruction was more major.

In this article, you’ll learn what problems businesses encountered and how vendors in the contingency planning industry helped in the recovery.

As companies adopt enterprise-wide applications to help facilitate operations throughout their organizations, ensuring availability of these systems is absolutely essential. Applications that were once discrete to a location or a particular business function can now be critical to the overall business and to thousands of employees that rely on immediate use and access to these applications to serve customers.

This is the situation that The Dow Chemical Company, Midland, Michigan faced when it migrated its mainframes to an SAP environment running on mainframe DB2 databases. Dow, which, together with its affiliates, has more than 40,000 employees and presence in more than 150 countries, depends on the SAP environment to handle all its critical enterprise financial and supply chain information worldwide.

“Our mainframe SAP environment houses our most critical data, it’s relied on for the entire supply chain all over the world, including tracking inventory, shipping, sales, order entry and invoicing,” said Bill Worsley, business continuity manager for Dow Chemical. “Not having access to this application would have a devastating impact on us, bringing operations to a standstill.”

Additionally, because the system is highly integrated, the loss of any data could have a ripple effect on the rest of the environment.

“If we try to reconstruct data from the previous day’s backup, we wouldn’t know where we left off because a day’s worth of data would be lost,” explained Worsley.