Five Disaster Recovery Lessons from Hurricane Andrew

Today marks the 20th anniversary of Hurricane Andrew, a category 5 storm that swept a
25-mile-wide path of destruction across Florida’s Miami-Dade county. Andrew left behind $26.5 billion worth of damage. In all, 82,000 businesses were affected.

While some businesses were forced to close, Frank Gromling had the foresight to create an emergency management plan and was able to keep his business afloat in Hurricane Andrew’s wake. Gromling shares the story of his business’s recovery in a recent article on FlaglerLive.com.

From it, we’ve gleaned five important disaster recovery lessons to bear in mind for your
own business.

Designate a command center


“I wanted a meeting to implement our recovery plans, but had no place to hold it.”

Like Gromling’s business, your company may have a recovery plan in place, but it’s important that your business’s management designate a command center where, after a disaster, they can start implementing next actions specific to the disaster scenario.

Locate an alternate facility ahead of time.


“I knew we had to re-establish a Dade County office and realized that hundreds of other businesses struck by the storm also would be seeking space.”

During a large-scale disaster, any available office space will be immediately snatched up by businesses looking for a facility in which they can resume their business operations. To bypass resource shortages, contract a hot site facility or mobile office space in advance with a reliable business continuity provider.

Have a plan for giving your employees access to cash.


“About half of my people said they could not come back to work until they settled their personal situations. I knew this would be weeks or months. They needed housing, food, water, clothing, gasoline, and medicines. I realized that, most of all, they needed cash. With the electrical grid destroyed, banks and credit cards were useless in our half of Dade County.”

Access to cash is vital after a disaster, especially if there is an extended power outage, rendering electronic payments useless. Obtaining cash can be a difficult process if banks and credit unions are unavailable. Keeping a supply of cash on-hand to help employees stabilize their own recovery will increase the likelihood that they will return to work more quickly, ready to aid in the restoration of your business.

If you manage a bank branch or credit union, it is essential that your business continuity plan incorporate an alternate facility (see above) in the event that your primary facility is damaged by a disaster. The sooner your branch is able to reopen, the less likely your customers are to take their business to another branch. Depending on the level of damage to the area, some mobile recovery solutions may even allow your branch to reopen on your premises.

Obtain access to hardware for data restorations.


“Fortunately, our company had a policy of recording two copies of our computer files each day, with both disks going home, one with the office manager and one with me. From my international security experience with businesses and governments in high risk countries, I knew the value of having important records off-site. The only problem we had now was there were no computers onto which we could re-store the data. Ours were strewn about the office, rained on, and had ceiling mush blown into them.”

We can’t reiterate enough the importance of backing up data and storing it off-site. However, if you have no equipment to restore the data on, your backups are effectively useless to you.

Determine the type (computers, servers, hard drives, etc.) and quantity of hardware you would require in a disaster scenario. Either purchase the equipment or locate a provider that can deliver the equipment to you within your recovery time objective in the event of a disaster. Often, it’s more cost-effective to simply contract equipment from a disaster recovery provider for use upon a disaster declaration.

Have a plan.


“We had survived and, together, we were not just rebuilding our company but actually building a new company that would be better in every way for ourselves and for our customers. That is the major lesson we learned from Hurricane Andrew. That, and the importance of having a plan.”

The quote above says it all. Have a plan. Period.

Twenty years after Hurricane Andrew’s devastating landfall, Gromling has presented a timely reminder that business continuity planning can mean the survival of a business. To read the full article, click here.