March 5, 2013

Lessons Learned - Sandy

Filed under: Disaster Recovery — houtkin @ 6:15 am

I had the pleasure of attending the latest conference of the Contingency Planning Exchange last week. The agenda was focussed on lessons learned for representatives of various sectors of the business, municipal and government entities. Net/net, the basic lessons learned, including new concepts for me included:

1. Use of the transit strike map
The idea here was that since it was a city-wide event, the team would utilize the transit strike maps which go into effect in time of an incident. No-one anticipated that that even these maps would not be of use because areas of the city were flooded.

LESSON: Meet with the city transit organization after an event to identify their updated transit recommendations/maps/tools for further planning.

2. Solar Phone Chargers

LESSON: No electricity results in a loss of the ability to communicate. Check this out. Its a great idea.

3. Communications: push, SMS, email and voice
An emergency communications company identified that their successful modes of communication in order of greatest to best effort were: push, SMS, email and then voice.

LESSON: Meet with your notification provider and ask them for statistics captured re: their service during SANDY, consider the results for use with your team, Company, Business and then reconfigure before the next event. Inform your User-base so that they know what to expect and Test, test, test.

4. Staff anxiety
Some entities identified a growing anxiety amongst “non-critical” staff who may not have been asked to come into the work-place or engage in work-related contingency process.

LESSON: Re-brand the concepts of “critical” and “non-critical” according to staff and identify, if possible, use of staff who may be closer and able to come to work. Educate.

5. Staff support and volunteering
Some companies organized teams of their staff, living closer to those who may be impacted, and provided, money, food, places to stay, and general hands-on support to ensure: accountability and availability of staff after an event. This was almost altruistic but very important for maintaining the company vision of the importance of staff. Staff retention is a very real concern after an incident. This support decreases the %.

LESSON: Look at your company’s vision and precepts and consider the opportunity of creating teams of volunteers in various areas as well as processes and procedures to help impacted staff. This also helps the staff anxiety concept identified in #4, above.

6. Use of VDI in support of your company’s resiliency objective.
One company used VDI to facilitate the time to build alternative workgroups in place of buildings that were impacted.

LESSON. Look at the VDI solution for the desktop as a resiliency solution. In this case, the impact could potentially be felt in the data center, ability to procure workstations as part of the solution; required workstation/laptop/notebook requirements for use with VDI, which build to utilize, if your company uses several and sites with wan connections already in place. Clearly, there are many considerations and this may not be appropriate for your company. But it is a great resiliency solution.

8. Manual procedures and non digital tools.
Although this discussion solicited some laughs from the audience, the old ways are still the best - in consideration of loss of electricity, technology, etc. After a regional loss of power, the phone systems supporting the land-line networks have 4-5 hours before their generators lose power. What differentiates land-line from cellular is simply, power. If you have a phone that uses the electricity powered by the land-line RJ14 connection, you can send/receive calls while the phone company powers this network. So, some old-fashioned phones could be of use.

LESSON: Look at the logistics of your plan, the mission critical business process and ways that they can continue without technology; e.g. forms, non-feature phones, trade books, etc. To this day, I always keep old business forms at the workgroup site in case nothing else is available. I also work through passwords, etc. with the other side so that they know who they are talking to. It’s a bit of work, a bit of thinking like a movie script-writer, but sneaker-net has been known to keep businesses in business.

That’s all for today.

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