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Disaster avoidance planning requires a wide perspective.

On Thursday, June 13, I was following my favorite golfer, Davis Love III, down the 13th fairway of the 1991 U.S. Open golf tournament at Hazeltine National Golf Club in Chaska, Minn.

A storm suddenly swept across the course. Two fairways away, lightning struck and killed one spectator and injured five others.

After the storm passed, play was suspended for several hours. Spectators had ample time to discuss what might have been done to prevent this tragedy. There weren't any good conclusions, at that time, that were economically or socially feasible for protecting 40,000 people standing in open ground.

As I listed to these discussions, I thought how closely they paralleled disaster-avoidance and disaster-recovery concerns in telecommunications. I hear many telecomm managers who seem to worry only about cable cuts and a redundant path through crowded city streets. They dismiss terrorism, natural disasters, and other disruptions as outside their sphere of control.

Terrorism has not disappeared. It has only quieted down temporarily as terrorists regroup after the strong showing of the U.S. in the Gulf War. Even in this country, there is an increased use of bulletproof glass to protect street-visible offices housing vital computer facilities and senior executives.

Telecomm facilities deserve equal protection. And most companies now are international, not national, with terroristic risks almost a daily concern.

There is speculation another el Nino, a warming phenomenon in the Pacific Ocean that generates destructive storms throughout the world, is poised to affect weather across the globe. El Ninos in 1976, 1983, and 1986 spawned tremendous storms in South America and along the California coast.

Add to these prospects the ever-present threat of earthquakes, in the U.S. and many foreign countries, and our crumbling infrastructure in most large East Coast cities, and the potential is high for constant disruptive disasters.

I'm certain no one in charge of spectator security at the U.S. Open in June expected the disaster that occurred. But it did occur, and dozens of articles have been written since that time outlining suggestions and solutions for partial or full protection of spectators at open-air events.

Some of these suggestions undoubtedly will be adopted for future events and certainly discussed and argued in court in the aftermath of this tragedy.

So it isn't enough to say, "I can't control earthquakes--or terrorism--or lightning--or even central-office software glitches."

If you study their impact NOW, not after they happen, you might discover some solutions for preventing their effect on your network or, at least, recovering from them more quickly.

I can't suggest specific tactics. If I was responsible for a network in today's demanding corporate environment, I would suggest looking beyond cable cuts and backup trunking as disaster perils and solutions.

Recently, I had the unfortunate experience of being trapped in an elevator for half an hour in the 35th floor of a 50-story building and riding in a two-engine jetliner where one engine failed shortly after takeoff. I would rate both of these experiences more disquieting than lightning. Yet the lightning storm produced the only fatality in this trilogy.

I think the lesson here is just what I have been attempting to point out: expect the unexpected!

Augie Blegen is a telecommunications consultant and executive director of the Association of Data Communications Users, Inc., P.O. Box 20163, Bloomington, MN 55420, 612-881-6803.
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Title Annotation:Datacomm User
Author:Blegen, August
Publication:Communications News
Date:Sep 1, 1991
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