News Analysis: The best way to improve the chances that your company will survive Hurricane Irene, or any other disaster, is to be ready when it happens.
With Hurricane Irene on a course that could wreak havoc on buildings and
infrastructure on the U.S. East Coast from South Carolina to
Maine, businesses should be
rushing to complete any last minute preparation to protect computer systems and
Some of us, including those in New York City
and people on Long Island in New
York, will get a direct hit by a hurricane that
started to lash the coastal Carolinas early on Aug. 26.
Here in Washington, D.C., the blow will
be less direct, but that doesn't mean that the storm will miss us. The
destruction will continue through New England, pounding Boston
and its western suburbs on the way.
Disasters come in many forms, and many of them come with a
warning. If you're in an area where disasters,
such as earthquakes, come without warning, then you need to always be
ready. Keeping in mind that the East Coast has had an eventful week, perhaps
it's time to mention some important steps that you should be taking now.
Review your emergency plan
immediately. Most likely it will need to be updated, at least to indicate
personnel changes. Make sure that the updated plan is distributed to all
Send all non-essential
employees home. They need to prepare to weather the storm, and they won't
be effective if they're worrying about their families, boarding up their
windows or making the traditional last-minute grocery store run for toilet
paper and milk.
Check the fuel levels in your
emergency generators now. If you haven't conducted a test run lately, this
is the time to make sure your generators work.
Start a full backup to your
off-site storage provider immediately. This will likely take some time to
complete, so fire it off while you still have time.
Check the status of your
communications environment. All cell phones should be
charged. All two-way radios (assuming you use those in your business)
should be charged, as should their extra batteries.
If you plan to staff your
office during the emergency, this might be a good time to make a run to a
place such as Costco or Best Buy that stocks FRS
radios since they may be your only means of internal communications. Get
plenty of batteries for those.
Check your emergency systems.
This includes those emergency lights on the ceilings and in stairwells,
and determine if there are any that don't work. Perhaps you can get them
repaired in time.
Remember to tell your staff
and employees that cell phones won't work for voice calls and they
probably won't work for Internet access. Make sure that you have the
necessary cell numbers so you can communicate with SMS text messaging,
which probably will keep working at least for a while even after voice service
If you have a smartphone,
that also means learning how to reach Twitter without using the Twitter
app that you downloaded. Learn to use it by sending your tweets to your
employees using a text message. Tell your employees to set their Twitter
accounts so that your tweets are automatically delivered to their phones.
Check the physical security
of your office. Make sure that windows are shuttered if that's possible,
that loose items outside the building are secured and that doors close
Check your building or
office to determine whether you're at risk for heavy rains or the storm
surge. If you have your data center in the basement, perhaps you will have
time to move the servers and storage to a higher location, but start with
the storage. In places where there will be a direct hit, this may mean
moving the equipment to the third or fourth floor, or loading it in a
truck and heading inland. You won't be able to get your business up and
running again if your data is underwater.
Check the status of your
disaster recovery contract, if you have one. If the contract has you
working from an off-site emergency operations center, make sure your
employees know where it is to be located, and any other details they may
need to know to get it running.
You've doubtlessly heard
this before, but it pays to hear it again. Have flashlights and batteries
on hand. Have a supply of clean water, which probably means bottled water.
Have emergency rations on hand since leaving the office to go to the store
is probably out of the question. Have a real first aid kit. Have a
landline telephone (you know, the kind that hooks to the wired phone network)
available so you can call for help. If you have a low-lying office in the
path of the storm, get the heck out of there. You can replace the items in
your office. It's harder to replace the people.
This list is a little different since they're things you can do at the last
minute while you still have time. The long-term items, such as setting up a
disaster recovery plan or engaging a DR services provider, are things you should
have already done. If you haven't, it's too late now.
Use the bullets above as a checklist and do what you can accomplish in time.
But leave plenty of time for you and your employees to get home or to some
other place safe from the storm. Then drop me a note next week and tell me how
Wayne Rash is a Senior Analyst for eWEEK Labs and runs the magazine's Washington Bureau. Prior to joining eWEEK as a Senior Writer on wireless technology, he was a Senior Contributing Editor and previously a Senior Analyst in the InfoWorld Test Center. He was also a reviewer for Federal Computer Week and Information Security Magazine. Previously, he ran the reviews and events departments at CMP's InternetWeek.
He is a retired naval officer, a former principal at American Management Systems and a long-time columnist for Byte Magazine. He is a regular contributor to Plane & Pilot Magazine and The Washington Post.