John Scaramuzzo

It’s hurricane/tornado/fire/flood/snow/ice/hail season; do you know where your people are?

Ever notice how most disaster recovery/business continuity articles seem to overlook a critical component of the plan – the people.  The best plans, the most technically advanced hot data centers, are of no value if you have no people to run your business.

There is plenty of information available on the internet on how to prepare for a natural or man-made disaster.  I want to share a few thoughts about the human side of a disaster.

Let’s say a hurricane or tornado has struck your region.  Your building survived, your data center is operational and you’re ready to get back to business.   Who is going to show up in the morning?  The victims of this disaster (your employees and co-workers) have just been traumatized by the loss of their home and are more concerned about the welfare of their families and their own survival than they are about their jobs.

Can your key employees travel (even if it’s to work at the same place)?  Are they willing to travel?  Given the choice to stay home, care for their families, and salvage whatever’s left of their house and possessions, how many will rush to their jobs instead?

Even if their families are safe and their homes secure and they are willing to get to work, can you contact them to find out?

Miles of telephone and power lines have been torn down by high wind.  Cell phone towers are out of service or so overloaded that few calls get through.  You need to reach them if only to find out if they’re all right.  What are you going to do?

Even supposing you can contact them and they’re willing to help, how do you get them from where they are to where they need to be?  Count on the roads being littered with trees, power poles, sections of roof, covered in water and generally impassable.  The street signs have all been destroyed.  How do you find your people?

Are you going to invest in redundant hardware, the most sophisticated backup solution, the most detailed disaster recovery plan and forget the people who have to implement that plan?

Think you don’t need to worry about it and that it can’t happen to you or your business?  On September 15, 1995, Hurricane Marilyn tore through St. Thomas and damaged 80 percent of the buildings, left roads closed for days and power disrupted for weeks.  Disaster Recovery teams used runners on foot to get information around the island.

Your may not remember Hurricane Marilyn, but I’ll bet you remember Hurricane Katrina.

Now, I won’t claim to have all the answers to these questions, in fact I don’t have any answers for these questions.  So…

What do you think?  How do you prepare your people and organization for a major disaster that can disrupt your business and your co-workers’ lives?

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