Rethinking Risk

Rethinking Risk

Not all companies fared as well—or were as lucky or as prepared as NYSA. According to a CIO Insight poll of 258 IT executives conducted online Sept. 20-24, 27.8 percent said they now plan to back up data more regularly to off-site locations, and 50.5 percent said they also plan to do a better job training staff on what to do in the event of a disaster.

John McArthur, group vice president for storage research at International Data Corp., a research company, says it's hard to know at this point how well most companies' emergency recovery plans worked following the attack. "You don't get a lot of people raising their hands and saying they screwed up when you ask a question like that," McArthur says. Anecdotally, he says, it appears that many companies had problems, but McArthur says he doesn't expect this to lead to a wave of spending on IT emergency budgets. "A disaster like this tests the limits of anyone's disaster preparedness planning," he says. "But few companies can afford to protect against all eventualities. With companies already struggling for profits and market share, how much more can they spend on emergency preparedness?" McArthur suspects some companies will "go out and investigate the idea of having alternate sites on standby, and the answer will come back that most people don't have the money to do that."

For its part, NYSA has spent an estimated $36,000 on the WTC evacuation effort so far, and spends $72,000 annually just to maintain its disaster recovery plan—and is considering raising that budget to include additional backup tapes, new employee data reporting requirements and, possibly, a range of specific transportation options upon evacuation.

But Lepczyk insists that NYSA can't afford not to consider additional precautions. And now, Lepcyzk's problem is guarding against any over-confidence employees may have in their disaster recovery plans. The reason? "No plan is going to save you," he says. "You have to be calm, but it's dangerous to feel too calm."

Indeed, if anything has changed for NYSA, it's probably a new confidence that the company can handle whatever may be coming next. When employees got word of a bomb threat at their emergency site during the first day of emergency operations, Linda Hutchinson, a project manager who had fled the World Trade Center tower with the rest of the staff, says everyone was calm and collected. "We all figured: We've already seen our office collapse," she says. "What else can they do to us?"

Whatever it is, Lepcyzk says, he hopes NYSA will be ever-ready.

Dave Lindorff is a Philadelphia-area writer who has written for publications including The Atlantic Monthly and BusinessWeek magazine. He is the author of Marketplace Medicine: The Rise of the For-Profit Hospital Chains.

This article was originally published on 10-01-2001
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