Slideshow 10 disaster recovery and business continuity lessons learned from Sandy

  • November 13 2012, 9:38am EST

Utilize cloud service providers who have their facilities located in multiple geographical areas other than where you are:

With the extensive outages that occurred with Sandy, companies that had facilities in Manhattan found that back facilities in New Jersey did little or no good.

Assume your company will be the last one that will be back in operation:

Once the fanfare of everyone wanting to help wears off, many companies found that they were the last ones that government recovery agencies were able to help.

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Consider the safety and personal needs of your employees:

Once the event occurred, many of the employees had to deal with their own personal needs. This included medical, food and water issues—have a plan in place to address these necessities. For example, within three days of Sandy, FEMA ran out of water and had to wait several days for it to be shipped in. In addition, a number of hospitals in the disaster area had to be evacuated.

Have enough generating power to meet long-term needs:

Identifying your facility's critical loads is important. Understand the costs and risks associated with utility power interruptions, production losses and downtime. Plan for outages of a few seconds to extended outages of one to two weeks. While other back-up electrical supply alternatives may exist, they can often take longer to engage and have shorter supply capabilities, have higher costs, lower reliability or no reasonable refueling options during an event. With Sandy the outage was so extensive that facilities had to be evacuated.

Have sufficient fuel storage:

Diesel fuel's energy density and the engine's high efficiency allow for smaller fuel storage facilities compared to other fuels, which saves owners money. Still, it is important to make sure that you have sufficient fuel storage capacity on-site for an extended outage of several days, and contingencies for refueling during serious outages.

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Install standby generator in protected areas:

Work with qualified generator engineers to specify, locate and install generator units. Be sure that the units are properly sized to handle vital loads and installed by a certified electrician or power expert in accordance with all state and local fire and environmental operating codes. In Sandy with the storm surge, many generators were destroyed by the rising water.

Have an alternative source of food, water and fuel distribution, as well as a plan to get it:

If an outage goes over several days, supplies will be used up and generator fuel storage will need to be replenished. In the case of Sandy, so much of the infrastructure was damaged or destroyed that once the outages lasted more than one week, generators just stopped.

Have a source of fuel for your employees:

With an outage the size of Sandy many people could not get to work without driving and they had limited fuel. Public transportation was not available and there were few if any gas stations that were open and providing fuel in a timely manner. Now, consider the relief of having a stockpile of gasoline available to refuel employee vehicles.

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Frequently test readiness and keep equipment in top operating condition:

Business continuity plans, including standby generators, should be exercised periodically to ensure they will operate as designed in the event of an emergency. Proper maintenance and servicing are the key to reliability.

Contract for reliable providers of resources:

If installing your own standby generator is not feasible for your business, you might consider contracting a firm to reserve rental generator power for use in the event of an extended outage. In the case of Sandy, so many companies needed power that an instant shortage occurred. Even those who contracted this service were not able to get the equipment they needed.