Tools to Prepare for Hurricane Season

New tools alert key workers and provide extra systems backup in case of another heavy hurricane season.

Three hurricane seasons ago, Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Florida implemented a tool to communicate with key staff in an emergency using cell phones, pagers or other handhelds rather than manual call trees.

Chris Gay, manager of disaster recovery, says such tools allow Blue Cross to “quickly, simultaneously and accurately get out a constant emergency message to key, mission-critical employees.” The Jacksonville, Fla.-based company uses MessageOne’s AlertFind emergency notification tool. The decision proved fortuitous during last year’s Hurricane Wilma. Blue Cross was able to contact hundreds of mission-critical staff to arrange emergency meetings and discuss issues such as hurricane damage assessments, office restoration initiatives, the rerouting of voice and e-mail traffic, and serving customers in damaged regions.

Last year’s Atlantic hurricane season—with 28 named storms, the busiest on record—and Hurricane Katrina’s devastation of the Gulf Coast region already had business continuity managers at organizations both large and small looking to beef up their arsenal of emergency communication tools and system backup. The National Weather Service predicts an 80 percent chance that this year will be an above-normal hurricane season. Tools added to the continuity arsenal for information systems include spooling e-mail, backing up data onto servers in remote locations and real-time data replication. Michael Osterman, president of market research company Osterman Research, says that 65 percent of decision-makers believe it’s important to integrate business continuity plans with e-mail archiving.

One of them is Chris Dodge, IT manager at Kushner LaGraize, a 50-person accounting firm in Jefferson Parish, La. Just days before Hurricane Katrina, Kushner LaGraize was forced to shut down for two weeks. The firm relied on Postini’s Spool Manager, a managed service that preserves a company’s inbound e-mail in a secure location during unplanned outages. Spool Manager simply archived the company’s messages until it was back in business. Says Dodge: “It was important that we not miss any communications from our concerned clients…. As far as they knew, the firm could have been under water.”

Copyright © 2006 IDG Communications, Inc.

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