disaster recovery

Disaster recovery planning is the driving force behind Triage Communications. Much more than a natural disaster event, the Year 2000 technology problem is a global disaster recovery event with unique challenges. This section briefly shows recent developments in the Year 2000 problem, also known as "Y2K". Listed herein are several recommendations that we believe are needed to implement an emergency backup communications strategy.disaster.recovery

Natural disasters were occurring throughout the world long before mankind started recording history. It is a virtual certainty that they will continue to occur throughout the world. However, during the 20th century, mankind introduced technological computer advances into our daily lives via potentially faulty embedded chip systems that are integrated into virtually every life-sustaining function that occurs.

Because of this integration,  there is no certainty which emergency communications networks will function properly when the Year 2000 arrives, because of widespread technical problems within the basic coding of computers and embedded micro chip systems. Unfortunately, we cannot predict the frequency or approximate regions where such phenomenon may occur.

We have some idea of who can respond, but we are uncertain about the reliability of their equipment. Is it Y2K compliant? Many organizations have been unwilling to repair their equipment in order to guarantee operations during times of crisis or extreme need. But replacements may prove difficult or impossible after the Year 2000 problem reveals itself. By providing state-of-the-art equipment manufactured with Y2K compliant components, and configuring that equipment with a portable capability, Triage Communications can provide communications reliability and flexibility, where it is needed the most.

Today, many telephone and wireless communications companies are working hard to assess and repair their Y2K problems. They expect to complete most of their "mission critical" repair work by late-1999, but actual results cannot be verified until Y2K critical/failure dates have come and gone. Moreover, many communications firms still need to spend many millions of dollars to correct their known problems.

It takes enormous technical skills, and available resources are already taxed to the limit. Although some firms claim that they will have the problem resolved, we won’t really know the results until sometime after the Year 2000. Globally, far fewer companies are serious about the Y2K problem. Research has revealed that only 25% of overseas firms are taking proactive steps to deal with their situation.

The following are excerpts from an excellent series of research papers authored by Paula Gordon, Ph.D. are included herein. Complete versions of Parts I, II, & III of her white papers are located at: http://www.gwu.edu/~y2k/keypeople/gordon/index.html

Excerpts from: A CALL TO ACTION: NATIONAL AND GLOBAL IMPLICATIONS OF THE YEAR 2000 AND EMBEDDED SYSTEMS CRISIS - Part I -Defining Y2K and Taking Action to Address the Problem

"The malfunctioning of computer hardware and software can render systems inoperative. The corruption or degradation of computer data can damage critical infrastructure. The degradation of data could drastically affect the electric power industry; the banking industry; the financial services sector; telecommunications; business and trade; transportation and shipping; manufacturing; public health and safety; essential public services, including emergency and fire services; the administration of justice; and food, water, and fuel supply and distribution."

Contingency Planning

"While since the latter part of 1998 there has been a heightened sense of need for "contingency planning," the meaning given the words "contingency planning" can vary greatly. In some persons' minds, "contingency planning" refers to a possible range of action that could be taken after a problem, emergency, or crisis occurs. Contingency planning may not necessarily include action steps to minimize risks. Contingency planning may simply be focused on considering different courses of actions that may need to be taken when and if the problem occurs.

It can be argued that waiting until failures, malfunctions, and problems to occur to take action is indeed an extremely shortsighted way of addressing a time certain period of potential crisis. Actions aimed at mitigating the risks should be given the highest priority. Waiting for this time certain period of crisis to occur when there are steps that can be taken now to minimize significantly likely impacts reflects a perspective bereft of commonsense and an absence of even ordinary self survival instincts.

 The Skills and Competencies Needed by Administrators, Managers, and Other Professionals Addressing Y2K

"Y2K is a time certain period of crisis. There are no administrators, managers, or leaders who are used to managing an organization which must operate in the face of time certain challenges and threats such as those posed by Y2K. No one has experience dealing with a time certain global crisis of this potential magnitude. Relatively few people have even had experience helping prevent, mitigate, or helping deal with local, regional, or national crises ~ time certain or not. Thus far, no public figure with high visibility who has such experience or who has demonstrated such a capacity for leadership appears to have recognized the gravity of the present challenges and threats and none has come forward with a full time
commitment to assume a responsible role."

"A group needs to be assembled of highly motivated individuals who have an in-depth understanding of the nature and scope of the problem or who can quickly acquire such understanding. They need to adopt collaborative, knowledge-utilizing, approaches to problem solving similar to those that contributed to the success of mobilization efforts in World War II, the Manhattan Project, the implementation of the Marshall Plan, the NASA Mission to the moon, the rescue of the Apollo 13 astronauts, the Federal response to the energy crisis of the 1970s, and the execution of Desert Storm in the 1980s.

They must be able to plan and orchestrate the delivery of technical assistance and they must make provision for the dissemination of information and of needed education and training. They must assemble and make available information concerning best practices, policies and approaches, while also facilitating the actual adoption and adaptation of such practices, policies, and approaches. "

An Initiative to Reduce Hazards Posed by Specific Sites, Plants, Systems, Facilities, etc.

"There is as yet no visible effort in place at the highest levels of the Federal government that is focused on identifying, remediating, testing, working around, or taking other necessary steps to ensure the safety and prevent the malfunctioning of the full range of sites, plants, facilities, pipelines, and systems that pose a decided risk to the public."

"The President's Council is apparently assuming that individual entities in the public and the private sector have responsibility for such remediation and will take actions accordingly to address such risks. This perspective appears to be based in the assumption that the nature of the problem, along with its solutions and its likely impacts if not effectively addressed ~ are all fully grasped by all of those in roles of responsibility in the public and private sectors. Of course, this is not the case.

The Federal government's failure to assume its proper role of responsibility may well reflect an absence of understanding on the part of leaders at the highest level concerning the totality of Year 2000 technology threats and challenges. Particularly missing is attention to and understanding of the embedded systems problem. (The embedded systems challenge is dealt with in detail in Part 2 (formerly the "Summary". See http://www.gwu.edu/~y2k/keypeople/gordon/. "

"It is beyond understanding why so little attention was paid to a problem which could well prove to be the greatest threat ever to face mankind. Efforts may be constrained by simple ignorance of the nature and scope of the problem. There do not appear to be any persons on the staffs of the President, the Vice President, or the President's Council who have technical expertise in the area of embedded systems. This fact alone could explain why Federal efforts have taken the form they have. Unless this aspect of the problem is fully comprehended, the full scope of the threats posed by Y2K cannot be grasped.

Sources of expertise that the President's Council has turned to in January of 1999 had a background in information technology and not embedded systems and have apparently provided the Council with some questionable estimates concerning the scope of the embedded systems problem. These questionable estimates are far more conservative than even the Gartner Group's revised (but nonetheless highly concerned) estimates." See: http://gartner12.gartnerweb.com/gg/static/itjournal/gspecial1.html

"The Washington Metropolitan Area could become dysfunctional, as could the Greater New York Metropolitan Area, as could all other major metropolitan areas in the United States. Such dysfunctionality could be expected to result from infrastructure disruptions (black outs, brown outs, problems with telecommunications, transportation problems, fuel distribution problems for vehicles, buildings, and homes; food and water distribution problems, water purity problems, wastewater disposal problems, etc.) possibly coupled with technological disasters, such as radiological disasters, hazardous emissions from plants, sites, or facilities, gas pipeline explosions, etc., etc.).

If either or both of the Washington Metropolitan Areas or the Greater New York City Metropolitan Area were to become dysfunctional, the Federal government would not be able to function and the national and global economies will be in jeopardy.

Regional task group efforts designed to address a spectrum of infrastructure concerns, begun in late 1998, do not provide a basis for a much more optimistic prognosis. Those working on this problem in the region do not have the resources and the full-time, dedicated manpower with the competencies and expertise needed to implement viable action plans in a timely way.

Large amounts of funding and significant technical assistance need to be provided not only to these regions, but to state and local governments and emergency management agencies throughout the country. "

Part 2: The Embedded Systems Crisis: Immediate Actions Needed by Paula Gordon, Ph.D.


"The Year 2000 technology crisis involves computer software and hardware, date sensitive embedded systems, and connectivity and interdependency concerns. Those addressing Year 2000 challenges have typically focused on information technology aspects of the problem and have too often failed to fully understand and acknowledge the challenges and threats posed by date sensitive embedded systems. Efforts to address the technology crisis have also tended to be based on a limited awareness and understanding of the interconnected nature of the crisis, and the potential for the cascading of failures and problems. Efforts to understand and address the threats have too often overlooked the implications of the crisis for domestic stability and national security, not to mention global stability and security. "

Embedded Systems

"Embedded systems failures can trigger technological disasters which can impede mobilization efforts to deal with infrastructure disruptions. Infrastructure disruptions could in and of themselves be expected to tax emergency response capabilities to the limit. "

"Current efforts to address Year 2000 computer software and hardware problems and embedded systems problems are grossly inadequate nationally and globally. In addition, efforts to address these problems tend to be based on a limited awareness and understanding of the nature and scope of the crisis. The problems are being poorly and unrealistically defined. Even the efforts to address the problems as presently understood are falling far short of the mark.

Indeed, efforts to address the problems have begun and are beginning much too late. The problems are widely understood as primarily involving computer technology, information systems, data processing systems, and communications technology. Resolving these problems involves making needed diagnoses and taking corrective action. Those who tend to define the problem in this narrow way are greatly underestimating the nature and the scope of the problem. There is an increasing chorus of others who see the problem as being much broader. They see the potential impacts as being much farther reaching. They see the societal infrastructure being significantly affected."

"Why has so little attention been given to problems relating to date sensitive embedded systems?

The reasons can be simply stated:

In our highly specialized world, relatively few people even know about the existence of date sensitive embedded systems. Of those who do, fewer still understand the complex technology. Those who understand the technology best are software, firmware, and hardware engineers and programmers who specialize in embedded systems."

Certainly, political leaders, policy makers, and others in roles of public responsibility cannot be expected to readily understand the technical intricacies of software, firmware, and hardware engineering and programming as these relate to date sensitive embedded chips. In addition, they do not always have on their staffs, individuals who have such technical expertise.

For all these reasons, very few public officials in any branch or at any level of government have readily grasped the significance that date sensitive embedded systems have in the context of the Year 2000 technology crisis.

Persons in key policymaking roles in emergency management may also lack the kind of technical background that would allow them to recognize the nature of the threats posed by the failure of date sensitive embedded systems. They may therefore fail to see the potential for technological disasters and may consequently fail to undertake necessary preparedness and mitigation measures. There in fact has been an apparent absence of sensitivity of the emergency management community to Year 2000 technology problems."

"Technological disasters combined with infrastructure disruptions such as these could make the difficulties of recovery formidable. No one in the world will be immune from harm if the present level of understanding and if the present level effort are not exponentially increased as rapidly as humanly possible. This calls for leadership of a type that is rare. This is owing to the fact that one of the gravest concerns in this crisis is the possible dissolution of the social fabric, which must be kept in tact if we are to work through the crisis.

Possible approaches are many. Commonsense dictates that there needs to be an immediate prioritization of what needs to be done to minimize our risks in to the extent humanly possible."

Part 3: Call for the Establishment of a Special Action Office for Y2K- Paula Gordon, Ph.D.


Specific Actions That Are Needed

"The nation's attention and resources need to be marshaled in a way that is comparable to the public preparedness efforts that took place during World War II. This should include taking actions that would focus on the following areas of concern: ~ Taking Immediate Mitigative Steps to Prevent Technological Disasters."

~ The Emergency Broadcast System.

The Emergency Broadcast System should be used to its fullest and the public should be made aware of its accessibility.

~ Widespread Dissemination of Hand-Cranked/Solar-Powered Radios.

Hand-cranked/solar powered radios for use during times of electric outages or communication failures need to be made widely available. The public should be urged to acquire such radios since they do not require electricity or batteries. They should be made available at no cost or low cost to those who would not able to afford them otherwise. Loans or other incentives and encouragement should be given to manufacturers to accelerate production. Another possible way of augmenting current inventories of such radios would be to urge that prison industries or shelter workshops mass produce them and possibly have the government subsidize such production.

~ Backup Emergency Communications Systems.

Fleets of wireless backup emergency communications systems need to be put in place along the lines proposed by The Triage Communications Group. Such a national fleet needs to be created "for hospitals, police, fire units, public utilities, and financial institutions". This would involve "building a fleet of portable network platforms" that can be described as "self-contained local-loop networks that can be deployed to areas affected by power grid failures, overloaded telephone switching, and overloaded circuits, as well as labor shortages and problems." For further information concerning such an approach, contact Christopher Storc at Triage Communications Group at : [email protected] 

~ The Electric Power Grid.

Actions need to be accelerated to ensure the functioning of the electric power grid. The continuing operation of related support systems must also be ensured, including the telecommunication system, fuel distribution systems, and the rail system. Fuel needed to operate back up generators needs to be stockpiled. Coal also needs to be stockpiled for coal-fired plants.

Contingency plans should be in place in the event a major problem becomes evident during the testing scheduled for April 9, 1999. The industry should, however, be strongly encouraged to hold test before or after April 9, 1999 since the "99 end of files" problem may well affect the test. Such skewing of test results could make it very difficult to ascertain the causes of the resulting problems and the pathways that would need to be traced in order to fix the problems.

~ Electrical Generators.

Owing to the current extraordinarily high demand with regard to electrical generators, steps should also be taken to ensure the augmentation of current inventories, including the possibility of using prison industries to manufacturer generators. The manufacture and use of "collars" to connect generators to the electrical systems in homes should also be promoted. (Pepco in the Washington, D.C. area is a power company which is the promoting the use of generators in the event of power failures.)

~ Resource Allocation.

This area of emphasis focuses on allocating resources for developing, implementing, and coordinating education, training (including trainer of trainers), information clearinghouse and dissemination functions, as well as technical assistance efforts (reactive, as well as proactive). This would likely entail extensive use of the websites of the General Services Administration and the General Accounting Office, and the materials and capacities of both. It could also entail utilization of the capabilities of Agriculture Extension Offices, the Federal Laboratories, and Universities and Colleges.

These resources should be used as feasible for training, technical assistance, knowledge transfer, and innovation diffusion. They should also focus on increasing awareness concerning the nature and scope of the problem and on the effective or promising approaches and policies that need to be put in place to help address all aspects of the challenges and threats posed by Y2K. One example of such efforts could be to convene a group of entrepreneurs who are at the cutting edge of a communications systems application such as the kind of backup emergency communications system described earlier.

Such systems could help a variety of sectors including public health and safety, emergency services, and banking . By bringing such groups together with personnel with emergency management responsibilities from FEMA, the Red Cross, the National Guard, hospitals, emergency dispatch systems, fire departments, and police; as well as individuals from banking , the pace of acceptance, adoption, and adaptation of breakthroughs in technology could be greatly accelerated."

~ Public/Private Sector Task Group Coordination.

This area of emphasis focuses on building on existing task force structures, as possible, to create an action- and crisis-oriented task force structures, composed of professionals working full time on Y2K concerns. One such task force structure should be aimed at facilitating the generation and implementation of public/private sector (including non-governmental organization) initiatives, collaboration, and involvement in addressing the threats and challenges posed by Y2K."

End - Excerpts by Dr. Paula Gordon                        [Home]