Author and volunteer firefighter John Paul Cook shares thoughts about disaster recovery in the aftermath of Hurricane Ike
One of our authors, John Paul Cook, a database and systems architect, has been involved with Hurricane Ike recovery efforts in the Houston area. He emailed me yesterday with a brief update: "Houston encircles about 20 small cities that have their own fire, EMS, and police departments. I live in one of those cities and am a volunteer firefighter in an adjacent city. I've made six runs today with the first being at 1:30 a.m. We are dispatched with the aid of computers. Power outages have made that very difficult. Small cities are generally not up to the standards enterprise-scale businesses are. Small cities are like the "S" in SMB."
Based on his experiences, John believes that the key aspects of disaster recovery planning that are often forgotten are the nontechnical parts of a plan--the human factors involved in a recovery.
"We can talk about technology, but disaster recovery plans are implemented by people. There's your problem. Although in a natural disaster people are quite willing to work under trying circumstances, what about their families and pets? You can't expect people to staff a datacenter without going home. By the way, I've heard people say that they wanted to be with the computers - the computers have air conditioning.
"At a fire station, I saw something that could apply to a corporate datacenter. The firefighters are staying on duty continuously until things get back to normal. They have their pets staying in cages placed in the engine room (i.e., the garage). Couldn't pets be kept in a corporate parking garage? (Remember that some people did not evacuate during the Hurricane Katrina mess because pets had to be left behind.)
"Although rare, there are cases of entire families staying at the workplace. If the family has no power and possibly no home, what are you going to do? I actually know of a case where a manager used petty cash funds to pay for toys for the children. He understood that the kids would be bored and needed something to keep them occupied. Wouldn't you like to work for this person? Would you mind working long shifts in the datacenter knowing that the boss gets it? We talk about business continuity and employees being assets, but if you don't provide for the family and pets, you might not have any continuity."
John's planning to write a article offering practical tips for recovery planning, using his experiences with Hurricane Ike to frame the discussion. Readers, if you've been through a disaster and have any real-world recovery tips to share, send them to me at firstname.lastname@example.org or post them in this article's reader comments.