Another week has gone by and we’ve been inundated with news about more disasters.  As CNN reported, Dominca has been ‘knocked to its knees by Hurricane Maria’s might’.  Communication towers have been snapped in two, preventing information from coming in and out of the country.  Blue and Green have changed to Muddy Brown.  People with relatives there are desperate for information about relatives and family.  The only power is coming from generators and car batteries.  A key headline stood out to me: ‘First Responders Cannot Get Out There’.  The same is happening in Puerto Rico, an island almost ‘completely without power’.

And, in Mexico, over 200 are already reported dead as a frantic search continues for survivors from the second major earthquake this month.  Overwhelmed first responders are trying their best to help as many as they can.  While advance planning and preparation can’t address every situation, it can help families, neighborhoods, and businesses to survive until help can arrive.

You won’t have time to ‘Dust off the Plan’

I wrote a little about the risks we face in Week 1 of 4, and provided some FEMA links that can help you identify the risks particular to your state.  The major earthquakes that affected Mexico this month fall along the same plate boundaries for the entire west coast of the Americas.  We’re all at risk, and my personal feeling is that earthquakes are the worst.  They can hit so hard, and so fast.  There is no warning that they are coming, and if they exceed a 6.0, destruction can be near-immediate.

On a recent flight, I sat next to an Air Force pilot.  The next day, I was scheduled to speak about the importance of testing Disaster Recovery Plans for an IT event.  I asked him what kind of near-disasters he had been through and we talked for about 2 hours about close calls he had been through.  I then asked how much practice, and how much of his training was focused on what to do when something goes wrong.  His answer was ‘very likely over 75% – training is very, very extensive’.

When something goes wrong at over 1000mph, you don’t have time to ‘dust off your plans’ and figure out what to do.  You need to know what to do.  And that only comes from practice and training.

It’s highly unlikely most of us have even 10% of our time to spend practicing and preparing for a potential disaster, but September’s National Preparedness Month and the awful disasters occurring at the same time are a sober reminder.  You may have heard ‘if you fail to prepare, you’re prepared to fail’.  We need to know our risks, develop a plan, and practice the plans we have previously prepared.

Practice Makes Perfect

Practice helps to reinforces what we’ve learned.  It can reveal weaknesses in our plan or gaps in our understanding of the plan.

In the event of a serious disaster, families, businesses, and emergency services face immediate disruption.  Likely, you (a) won’t be able to find your plan, (b) won’t have time to read your plan, (c) won’t have first responder help available, (d) might not be able to communicate with phones or computers.

Practicing your plan now has the potential to save a life, prevent a serious injury, or save a business.  You can have fun doing it.  And, you and I share how we’re doing with others, it can encourage them to do the same.

How?  For our company, this coming Friday, we planned a company BBQ and Happy Hour.  We’re going to be displaying emergency kits that different employees have prepared.  We’ll be sampling dehydrated foods (not as bad as it sounds!  I recommend Mountain House which lasts for 20 years) and sharing pictures of families with their kits prepared.  We dug up some old fire extinguishers and we’ll be showing employees how to use them just in case they have to.  We’re also handing out lists of critical necessities that each family should have, such as this one:

Do You Have What You Need?

Disaster management organizations urge families to store and annually update emergency supplies. Of course, needs will vary according to your location and circumstances, so check with local emergency management services for recommendations that could be applied in your area.

In general it is recommended that you keep at least three gallons (11 L) of water per person and three days of nonperishable, ready-to-eat foods.

Also, some families have prepared “go bags” with such items as the following: *

  • Blankets, complete change of warm clothes, and sturdy shoes
  • Flashlight, radio (battery or windup), and spare batteries
  • First-aid kit and a whistle to signal for help
  • Eating utensils, can opener, pocket tool set, and waterproof matches
  • Dust masks, waterproof tape, and plastic sheeting for shelter
  • Toothbrushes, soap, towels, and toilet paper
  • Child-care supplies and special-needs items for seniors or the disabled
  • A waterproof container with needed medication, copies of prescriptions, and other important documents
  • List of emergency contacts and meeting places and a local map
  • Credit cards and cash
  • Extra set of house keys and car keys
  • Paper, pencils, books, and games for children
  • Bible

AllConnected’s Focus: Test Your DR Plan

We work closely with every client to understand, design, and plan IT availability.  This requires contingency plans for people, process, and technology.  As often as I can, I personally meet with current or prospective customers, encouraging them to ‘Test Their Plan’ or reviewing how their last test went.

 “Quite simply, a plan which has not been tested cannot be assumed to work” – FIPS Pub 87

Our industry has many cloud service providers who provide Backup as a Service (BaaS) and Disaster Recovery as a Service (DRaaS) as cloud offerings.  Yet I am often surprised that while such services may be utilized, very few customers using these services actually test them.  The reason?  It’s not always easy, and the time to test dozens or hundreds of Virtual Machines that service hundreds or thousands of users must be pulled from other competing activities.

Our advice is that whether your data or applications sit in your own server room, in a public cloud, in a private cloud, or a combination of all three, always have a Plan B.  And test it.

Practice Well,

Alan McDonald
CEO, AllConnected