7th CDM Conference: Telecommunications and Disaster Resilience

Montego Bay, Jamaica, December 5th, 2012, (Panos) - It is important to be close to the companies handling the disaster.. Andrew Fazio of Columbus Communications was presenter at the Caribbean Disaster Emergency Management Agency (CDEMA)’s  7th Caribbean Conference on Comprehensive Disaster Management on Wednesday December 5, speaking during feature a plenary session with the discussion topic ‘Building Resilience-CDM responsibility in Action’.

The following is a summary of his comments: 

Any data loss impacts a tremendous  amount of people so we take what we do seriously. Hurricane Ivan in 2004 took Jamaica off the map for four days. There were ships in the sea could not come in cause no connectivity to rest of the world. The impact of Ivan resulted in direct and indirect losses costing  billions. We must stay connected to world but we live in a world very challenged. We got hit again with hurricane Katrina. Not much damage occurred but the storm  took out the cable cutting connectivity for three days.

During recent  severe floods in Trinidad, we worked with ODPEM, mobilising  communications. We provided  access to processes so they could respond quickly  and get the country back online.

If there is a loss of data and can’t recover in ten days 80 per cent of companies will never recover. It is important therefore to have a recovery plan.

After 2004, our network, through acquisitions increased to a ring of 22 countries, many of whom had systems which we  revamped. Then in 2008 an additional two optic fibre cables were added to the  network. Since then,  we have never gone off-line.

A recent hurricane near Haiti took down one cable,  but because there was another,  we were able to remain connected. It is now the best network in the region with over one billion dollars invested. The chance of Jamaica ever going off line again is very small. This we have done in five short years.

On-island connectivity was also improved as we  deployed over very challenging terrain a network which now  allows companies to do business continuously.

We recognise  we will always be at risk in Jamaica. So, we established a  data centre in Curacao outside of the hurricane belt. We put our data somewhere safe. We have over 300,000 customers, we cannot afford to go offline. It is a 40,000 square feet, tier three facility.

In our approach today, we look at pre-event as well as post event strategies, working with key agencies such as the power companies and ODPEM to meet issues and bring the country back to normalcy. The big issue is to say very close to power company to respond  to any report.

Sandy caused a lot of damage. It was our  being in the room with JPS  and ODPEM which allowed us to provide critical support services. We have what are called post event swat teams. These are engineering technical operatives. There were also people sleeping at the call centres. Once they receive  the all clear, engineers are deployed to get everything fixed. Shared responsibility  is what is needed  to be able to effectively combat disaster.

Continuity plans make sure that power company is on the same page when it comes to what needs to be done to survive disaster. Data centre allows operations from that location as well. Our cloud facilities back up as well, a second level of resiliency.

It is important to be close to the companies handling the disaster, as we provide them with access to the facilities which enable them to do what they need to do.


Source: Avia Ustonny, Panos
Blog: http://cdmconference.wordpress.com/2012/12/05/telecommunications-and-disaster-resilience/ 

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