[ISN] Post-Isabel, IT managers say preparation paid off

From: InfoSec News (isn@private)
Date: Sun Sep 21 2003 - 23:59:34 PDT

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    Story by Lucas Mearian 
    SEPTEMBER 19, 2003 
    Hurricane Isabel dissipated today, leaving behind at least 17 people
    dead and more than 4 million people without electricity. It also left
    in its wake a slew of IT managers grateful that the storm wasn't any
    worse.  In Washington, in an area hit hard by flooding, Ned Ingraham,
    senior IT manager at the District of Columbia's Emergency Management
    Agency, reported that electricity remained on and computer systems
    kept working in his bunker throughout the hurricane's worst blows
    Ingraham was forced to bring in additional laptops for members of the
    Federal Emergency Management Agency who used his office as a command
    center, but with the exception of a "few minor problems," things went
    smoothly. In fact, Ingraham was particularly proud of a geographic
    information system that allowed IT personnel to plot the location of
    about 300 downed trees, broken power lines and power outages, which in
    turn allowed emergency workers to respond with greater efficiency.
    "The Department of Transportation and Public Works used the maps to
    determine problem areas and used routing software to direct their
    vehicles," he said.
    Ingraham said he was also glad he had performed a major test on the
    agency's emergency backup generator last week, which allowed him to
    call in technicians to connect several circuits that should have been
    on the power grid but weren't.
    Meanwhile, Martin Colburn, chief technology officer at the National
    Association of Securities Dealers Inc. in Rockville, Md., said his IT
    systems, which support 5,300 brokerage firm members, were up and
    running on backup generator power and a skeleton crew this afternoon.  
    "We got hit pretty hard. We've had flooding and significant power
    outages [in the area]. But our administrative facility came up very
    clearly. We've not had any missed transactions," he said.
    Colburn's advice for other IT managers: prepare, prepare, prepare. "We
    started preparing several days ago to ensure we had our business
    continuity plans in place," he said.
    Farther north, Ralph DeSantis, a spokesman for the Three Mile Island
    Generating Station, the Exelon Corp.-owned nuclear plant in
    Middletown, Pa., said officials at the plant braced for the storm.  
    Backup power supplies for several network communications servers were
    on standby during the storm but weren't needed. And extra staffers
    were brought in just in case of high winds and large rainfall amounts.  
    "But the storm never got that severe," DeSantis said.
    Although there were prestorm worries about mobile communications,
    Atlanta-based Cingular Wireless said its Mobitex network was operating
    well today, with just one site affected in Virginia. Some sites are
    operating on battery backup in North Carolina and Virginia, however,
    the company said in a statement.
    In the Washington/Baltimore area, about 95% of Cingular's wireless
    sites are operational, with just 1% running on batteries or generator
    backup due to the commercial power outage. In the
    Philadelphia/Delaware area, all Cingular switches were fully
    operational with no cell sites down.
    Verizon Communications was also keeping some 200 telecommunications
    switching stations and offices in the Virginia/Delaware area up and
    running, according to Eric Rabe, a spokesman for the company. "As long
    as we keep the diesel fuel in generators filled, we'll be fine. We
    obviously know there's a lot of damage from the storm, and we will be
    surveying it ourselves and do what we can to restore that today," said
    He said no major circuits were knocked out by the storm, which was
    headed into Canada late this afternoon.
    Todd R. Weiss contributed to this report.
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