Organizations are continually refining their disaster recovery and business continuity plans but for companies along the eastern seaboard, summer is a time for concern for tropical weather events. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) is predicting that of the potential 13 to 20 storms, somewhere between 7 and 11 of them could become hurricanes. Super storm Sandy awakened many in the northeast to the fact that such disastrous storms can retain their impact over many hundreds of miles at sea before striking land. So how has the mindset for the role mobile plays in recovery changed? A recent study by AT&T revealed some interesting statistics concerning small businesses and how mobile plays a role in security and continuity practices. A resounding 87% of the executives surveyed responded that they have a continuity plan to respond to security or disaster events. Almost two-thirds of the executives include wireless capabilities as part of this response.
The benefits offered by mobile devices in a disaster are huge. Voice can be leveraged to reach individuals in real time, applications to track storm progress, shelter information, GPS, etc. SMS messaging can be used in a variety of capabilities, and can be more reliable (the FCC recommends using SMS over non-emergency calls to help avoid network congestion). Messages prior to an event can keep employees informed about closings, procedures, etc. SMS can also update management on life/safety issues. At 3Cinteractive, one customer utilizes the SMS feature of our platform for calling tree purposes after an event. Their employees can respond to a short code with their ID number and status, without the need for a voice call (SMS can be more reliable than voice in a disaster). South Carolina’s Emergency Management Division has a simple yet effective page that expands the boundaries of conventional thinking for a mobile device. Use it as a flashlight, find other family members with GPS tracking, what are the current gas prices and traffic in your area, as well as how to perform CPR and administer first aid.
Mobile does however have some dependencies that are irrefutable. Power will always be an issue, so spare batteries and car chargers should be included in any employee toolkit. Infrastructure damage also remains a challenge. When hurricane Sandy struck, 25% of all cell towers were knocked down in ten states.
Bring-Your-Own-Device (BYOD) has also changed the recoverability window during a disaster. Where we once depended on corporate assets and office infrastructures to recover, the same devices used by employees at home are now in many cases their work assets. This shift can lower the priority of an office building recovery as long as the core data and applications can still be reached. Business can continue, but good backups of data and even temporary caching of critical data are necessary for the strategy to be successful.
Weather events are not what they used to be. As our populations remain dense, the impact and devastation can be severe. The good news is that our mobile devices offer access, communication, and most importantly real time information about assessing our respective current situations. If power sources and infrastructure can endure after life/safety issues have been addressed, business continuity objectives will continue to see lengthy recovery times decrease.
About The Author:
John Ceraolo is the chief security officer at 3Cinteractive where he directs the organization’s enterprise risk management, business continuity, and information security. Ceraolo has been leading security initiatives within global organizations for over 20 years.