Hurricane Harvey: Aftermath & Tips for the Next Big Storm
It’s been almost two weeks since Hurricane Harvey made landfall near Corpus Christi as a Category 4 hurricane. And while some areas are just now beginning a slow, painful recovery process that will likely take years, the outpouring of support has been incredible.
In the days before landfall, numerous organizations, including tech companies in the BCDR industry and beyond, stepped up to help Texas prepare in any way they could. Many of them are still providing assistance today, helping both residents and businesses get back on their feet after the devastation.
Like every disaster—natural and otherwise—Hurricane Harvey presents an opportunity to learn and improve upon procedures for both prevention and recovery. Let’s look at how organizations are responding to the situation, the aid they’re providing, and how businesses can further protect themselves from the next big storm (which may not be too far off).
BCDR Relief Efforts for Hurricane Harvey
Major U.S. companies have announced millions in financial support for Harvey relief efforts, including tech & media giants like Google, Facebook, Verizon, Comcast NBCUniversal, Facebook, Amazon and Microsoft.
In the world of business continuity and disaster recovery, several organizations have also joined in the efforts, sending both financial support as well as a physical presence to Texas.
Datto is one such company that sent its own disaster response team to Austin, Texas, to help its partners in affected areas. (Datto is no stranger to Austin, where the company has hosted its ongoing roadshow and will host DattoCon 18 next year.)
Datto’s response team brought a supply of SIRIS 3 devices to help companies with data backup and recovery. The team also came equipped with Datto Networking Appliances to provide routing and 4G LTE Internet failover, as well as switches and wireless access points for general networking connectivity. During this critical period of recovery in the immediate days following a disaster, Datto is providing these solutions at no cost to its partners in need.
Before the Storm
The company provided its backup technologies to those that needed immediate capacity to protect additional servers before the storm’s arrival. According to MSPmentor, Datto also implemented its special Disaster Recovery Protocol, which is designed to help managed-service providers prepare for the disaster, ensuring their clients’ data remains protected.
As of last week, Datto was working with 50 MSPs out of the roughly 120 that have been affected by Hurricane Harvey.
Datto plans to keep its response team mobilized in Texas for up to five weeks, according to TechRepublic.
Harvey: By the Numbers
As with any disaster, it’s important to study exactly what happened: the causes, consequences and depth of impact. This is a valuable aspect of continuity planning, as it paves the way for better preventative measures and recovery procedures.
Here’s what we know about Hurricane Harvey so far:
- Category 4 hurricane at landfall with sustained maximum winds of 130 mph (215 kph).
- First landfall at 10 p.m. Friday, Aug. 25, 2017, with the eye of the storm between Port Aransas and Port O’Connor, Texas.
- Second landfall Aug. 30, as a tropical storm, just west of Cameron, Louisiana.
- The first major U.S. hurricane landfall in 12 years – The last Category 3 or higher hurricane landfall was Wilma in 2005, a few months after Katrina.
- 71 feet was the maximum observed water level rise at Harvey’s landfall point (Port Lavaca).
- 28,949 square miles received more than 20 inches of rain between Aug. 23-30. More than 40 inches of rain dropped across 3,600 square miles.
- 51 inches of rain recorded on Cedar Bayou near Highlands, Texas.
- 70% of Harris County (including 130,000 structures) flooded by over 1.5 feet of water.
- More than 32,000 people were displaced to more than 200 shelters across the state.
- Damage costs could reach $190 billion. By comparison, Hurricane Katrina cost roughly $125 billion.
- 9,400 flights were canceled to/from Houston’s two airports.
- 300,000 homes lost electricity within the first 24 hours of Harvey’s landfall. In select areas, some may remain without power for weeks.
Business Continuity Concerns
For businesses outside of Hurricane Harvey’s path of destruction, these numbers should represent more than just eye-popping statistics. They should help paint a picture of how their own operations could be similarly disrupted by a catastrophic event.
Consider for a moment how some of the numbers above can be translated into questions about your own business continuity readiness:
- How much rain would it take to flood your facilities or your IT infrastructure?
- What if your building could not be used again for weeks, or not ever again?
- What if the majority of your employees couldn’t make it to work tomorrow?
- How would you access business-critical data if your servers were destroyed?
- How much downtime could your operations withstand before the losses became insurmountable?
On top of all the destruction and the human toll, it’s also shocking to think that many businesses will never open their doors again after Harvey. Statistically, businesses do not fare well after a major disaster. According to FEMA, roughly only 40 percent survive, and despite their initial recovery attempts, such businesses ultimately close down within two years.
This is why business continuity planning is vital, especially in the wake of a natural disaster like Harvey. If now isn’t the time to get serious about disaster recovery, when is?
Planning for the Next Disaster
Hurricane Harvey likely won’t be the last time we’ll see a major natural disaster hit the U.S. in 2017. Within the next week, another major hurricane—Irma—is expected to pummel the Caribbean and may then head toward the states.
So, how can businesses along the coast prepare for Irma? They should follow the same advice that organizations provided prior to Harvey.
Below are some of the business continuity tips that Datto provided two weeks ago, before Hurricane Harvey made landfall. Even if you are not located in an area that is vulnerable to hurricanes, most of these tips are applicable to every business:
- Create a phone tree for your organization and stay in touch.
Consider how staff will get updates about office closures or other critical announcements. Don’t leave employees in the dark.
- Have a plan and contingencies.
Create a long list of “what ifs.” Have backups in place for every scenario: office locations, emergency procedures and, of course, your data.
- Where will you go Monday morning?
- What do you need to take from your office?
- How will you support your customers, and from where?
- Send out the storm plan.
Creating contingency plans is useless if you don’t share them with anybody. Once you’ve got Plan B in place (and Plans C & D), communicate them to everyone: employees, customers, vendors and other third-party partners. Consider including a communications schedule—and if you do, stick to it. One missed announcement could create unnecessary confusion and chaos.
- Send an update to employees every few hours with what you know and don’t know.
- Send updates to customers with updates that affect them regularly.
- Communicate with suppliers and partners on which you depend to ensure you have what you need to get back to business.
- If your business cannot withstand a period of lengthy downtime, secure another facility for you and your employees, or ensure everyone is able to work remotely.
For hurricane areas, this means finding a location further inland. But for all other disasters, you should consider always having plans for quickly securing a backup location when needed. While small businesses may not be able to afford a second lease just for emergencies, they should at least have procedures in place for accessing one in an emergency situation (especially in the case of hurricanes, in which you generally have a few days’ warning before the storm hits).
- Hurricanes can put data centers out of commission. Make sure your business data, backups, applications, and server images are stored off-site.
In truth, lots of things can put data centers out of commission. You need to be sure that you’re not only backing up your data, but also storing those backups in a way that will allow you to access them quickly, from anywhere.
- Your IT professionals will be able to restore systems either virtually via the cloud or at the site where you’re resuming operations.
- If time allows, test the backups of crucial servers before the storm hits.
This list is a good start, but it barely scratches the surface of the disaster planning every business should be doing. For a more in-depth continuity strategy, check out this business continuity framework we posted a few weeks ago.
Protect your data, safeguard your business
Learn more about protecting your business with today’s best data-backup solutions from Datto. Contact our business continuity professionals at Invenio IT: call (646) 395-1170, email [email protected] or request a free demo.