News Analysis: Emergency planning advice usually assumes that things will work as planned. The real secret to emergency planning is to assume that nothing will work as planned.
It's no secret that those of us who work on the U.S. East
Coast have been subjected to a cycle of major winter storms that have hit about
every four to six days. The Midwest has had a similar
cycle that seems to alternate between the upper and lower Midwest.
As those storms hit with blizzard conditions or with
sticky, wet snow, freezing rain and high winds, the results are basically the
same: Power goes out, employees get stuck in commuter hell, phone service is
spotty and cell service vanishes. The only real differences are in how skilled
the regions are in getting back online after one of these events.
Of course, other regions have their own emergencies. In
from June through November. In the West, there are massive
Pacific storms that bring mudslides, followed by droughts that bring fires. And,
of course, there's the occasional earthquake just to stir things up. But right
now it's the East Coast's turn to be pounded, and businesses around the region
are struggling to stay on top of the repeated, and relentless, attacks from the
What many IT managers are finding out is that their plans
for handling an emergency
. Whatever they've planned for, the eventuality is worse.
Power outages last longer, telecom services go down, phones are out and cell
service is available mostly to first responders.
To make matters worse, your employees can't get to work.
But they can't work from home, and they may not have anything resembling a
public WiFi location to work from even if your IT systems are running. In some
cases, your employees may not be available at all, either because they're
stranded by the thousands on the highways or because they are effectively
unreachable for other reasons.
So if it's really important that your systems stay up,
you have to do the best you can to make sure you have the triad of things that
are necessary to do that. This triad is Power, People and Communications. While
it can turn out that your disaster planning, no matter how carefully done, will
prove fruitless, you might as well maximize your chances.
Start with looking at your power situation. If you're
using two providers and two grids, then you double your chances that one of
them will stay up. But you also double your chances that one will go down. So
study the track record of each of your power providers for that specific