What We Learned from Hurricane Sandy about Disaster Preparedness – Part 1 of 3: The Problem

In this three part series, I will be reviewing some of the more significant lessons we learned from this particularly devastating event.

In the days leading up to landfall, several factors worked together to disrupt both large and small businesses. Most significant of these was human nature – our natural tendency toward optimistic expectations; ‘The storm may not turn west’, ‘We’ve lived through hurricanes before’ and ‘We have a business continuity plan, so we should be fine’.

Then reality set in. The sheer scope of destruction caused by hurricane Sandy had not been seen before by most people in our area.

First, Sandy caused much more damage than most people were expecting. Damage was both widespread and long-duration. Published power restoration estimates were fuzzy and difficult to read. Actual time-to-repair was difficult to predict.

Second, we lost the Big Three… power, communications and transportation. Losing all three of these concurrently was completely unexpected to most and caused an infrastructure cascade effect. Loss of each hampered the remediation of the other two. Power and communications could not be quickly restored due to transportation issues such as blocked roads and fuel shortages. Road-clearing efforts were hampered by communications issues due to downed lines and failing backup batteries in some cell towers.

Business continuity plans, for the most part, were designed around predictable scenarios of single-system failure, such as power, or strongly focused on things like server recovery, alternate telco providers and datacenters.

Failure to integrate the possibility of multiple interrelated and mutually interdependent failure points into business continuity plans left many mid-sized businesses unable to operate at even a minimal level.

In my next post, we’ll explore the business impact and what went wrong.

On to Part 2…

This article is by VelocIT, a fully managed service provider offering outstanding IT support and managed services to growing businesses.