Lessons learned from Gustav

Nov. 9, 2011
It would have been just too cruel — too coincidental, too unjust, whatever you want to call it — if the people of New Orleans were hit with another

It would have been just too cruel — too coincidental, too unjust, whatever you want to call it — if the people of New Orleans were hit with another devastating hurricane just three years (almost to the date) after Katrina wrecked havoc on the area. When Gustav was downgraded to category 2, you could almost hear an entire nation brief a collective sigh of relief. Louisiana had been spared, for the most part. While there is still considerable damage that must be dealt with, it seems minimal compared with what happened in 2005. The images are still ingrained in our heads of homes and businesses being destroyed, families being forced to live in football stadiums, and the help that took much time to arrive.

But this time, things were different, and not just because the storm was — thankfully — a lesser version than what was feared. This time, people were better prepared. Evacuations happened sooner, and the levee system that was rebuilt after Katrina managed to hold off the waters. It was clear that much was learned from the tragic events of three years ago. According to a news report, New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin has said that residents can begin to return to the city later this week; three years ago, some didn’t return home for months, and some not at all.

It’s a world of difference from 2005. And while it is true that this was a much less aggressive storm this time around, it’s still pretty evident that this time around, effective contingency plans were in place.

For me, the timing was particularly interesting, as I’m currently researching for an article that will look at how prepared hospitals are for disastrous events. As cliché as it might sound, the events of this past weekend helped put things into perspective for me. They served as a reminder that the reason why it is so important that IT systems can quickly recover and business continuity is maintained during a tropical storm or a flood is because there are patients who need to be treated. It isn’t business continuity that’s most critical, but care continuity.

If there are any CIOs out there who have had to weather a particularly brutal storm, I’d love to hear your story and gain your perspective on the importance of being ready for interruptions, whether it is as seemingly minor as a computer virus or as major as a flood. Please add a comment below and let's start a discussion.

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