Disaster Preparations

Are you prepared?

Aftermath of Hurricane Katrina

  • Communications outages made it difficult to locate missing personnel.
  • Access to and reliable transportation into restricted areas were not always available.
  • Lack of electrical power or fuel for generators rendered computer systems inoperable.
  • Multiple facilities were destroyed outright or sustained significant damage.
  • Some (Bank) branches and ATMs were underwater for weeks and
  • Mail service was interrupted for months in some areas.

 

“Business continuity plans generally worked very well in enabling institutions to meet these challenges and to restore operations swiftly. However, the unprecedented magnitude and duration of the effects of Hurricane Katrina caused major disruptions that exceeded the scope of the disaster recovery and business continuity plans of some institutions. Many institutions had to adjust plans and improvise responses to successfully address unexpected complications. For example, financial institutions adapted procedures to facilitate cashing cheques for non-customers. Overall, institutions prevailed in very difficult circumstances through advance planning and preparation, and by working together.”

A disaster like Hurricane Katrina, although infrequent, may require institutions to implement their disaster recovery plans and to improvise creative solutions to address unforeseen difficulties quickly. You may want to reassess how well your institution is prepared for reasonably foreseeable threats across all levels of the organization, not just from the perspective of recovering your information technology.

 

How much planning/preparing is enough?

You cannot prevent or anticipate all disasters, so you should prepare and practice for them. Knowing where to go and what critical functions need to be restored can provide confidence to you and your employees when responding to a disaster. Identifying potential threats, assessing their potential impact, assigning priorities, and developing planned responses are the basic principles of sound business continuity planning. Such reviews often categorize threats on a scale from high to low, according to both their probability of occurring and the impact each could have on the institution.

The impact rather than the source of the threat should guide the development of disaster recovery and business continuity plans. You should implement reasonable safeguards to mitigate the range of risks that realistically may confront your institution. Developing, implementing, and regularly testing disaster recovery and business continuity plans to ensure their continued effectiveness for responding to changing business and operational needs takes time, resources, and money. You should consider how to strike a balance between addressing the threats your institution faces with cost-effective measures to mitigate those risks and recognizing areas where it may be either cost-prohibitive or impossible to alleviate your institution’s exposure.

 

Where should the backup site be located?

In the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, data recovery efforts for some institutions were hampered by limited access to back-up sites that were in close proximity to the primary location. Institutions with back-up sites reported that they found them most useful when they were located sufficiently far away so as not to be affected by the same infrastructure and other risk elements as the primary operations centre. If you have a back-up site, you may want to reassess its location and the probability that it may be affected by the same risks thatthreaten your primary locations.

 

CYCLONE PREPARATIONS

Steps to take to secure your computer systems in the event of an impending cyclone, storm surge or flood.

 

Consider the following:

  • Do not place yourself or any of your staff at risk
  • Your data is the most important component of your system
  • Hardware and software can be replaced

 

Do the following as a minimum

  • Ensure you have a current series of backups on removable storage – tape, external hard drives, DVDs etc.
  • Ensure that you have more than one backup – relying on one backup to restore your system is not advisable
  • Ensure that your backups are stored off-site in a secure and dry location – take ALL of your backup media off-site and ensure that it is protected from the elements (refer to our document on “System Backup”)

 

Think about the rest if you have time

  • Turn off and disconnect all electronic equipment
  • Secure important documents
  • Make sure you have an up-to-date list of assets
  • Should you wish to move your servers off-site, move them to a more secure location and don’t relocate them to where your off-site backup is – it is better to have your data in more than one location
  • Wrap your servers in plastic to protect them from moisture – make sure you turn them off first
  • If your server is mounted in a data cabinet, add further protection by wrapping cabinet in plastic
  • Secure your Internet router / modem from exposure to the elements
  • Leave workstations until the last – in most instances your workstations will not have any data stored locally

 

After the event

  • If your servers or computers have been exposed to water, DO NOT attempt to dry them out and turn them on – please seek advice beforehand
  • If your system has been damaged beyond repair then it may
    be necessary to restore your data to a temporary system until
    replacement hardware can be arranged
  • Take plenty of photos of the damage

 

Chaptechs’ role

Depending on the nature and severity of the disaster, Chaptech will do everything within it’s power to ensure our clients’ systems are protected and have the best chance of a speedy recovery to being fully operational as soon as possible.

Within reason, Chaptech will undertake to do the following:

  • Make contact with our clients to ensure they have secure backups off-site
  • Closely monitor our clients’ systems to ensure they are shutdown and secured well in advance of an impending, predictable disaster
  • Provide technical and physical assistance after the event to get systems operational again
  • Attend to any paperwork in relation to valid insurance claims
  • Provide alternative options for internet and system access in the case of urgent operational situations

Cyclone Ului (22nd March 2010) could have been worse and Mackay was very fortunate it didn’t face the full force of that Category 4 event. Power and telecommunications restoration proved to be the biggest hindrances to the resumption of business in Mackay and the affected region.

Pamphlets on “Preparing for Cyclones” for the home owner are available from the Queensland State Government here.

And a “Business Continuity Plan Template” is available here.