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How to prepare your data center for natural disasters

How to prepare your data center for natural disasters

Hurricanes, tornados, floods, fires, earthquakes–they’re all possible, and each can pose a unique problem for data-driven businesses. Here are some tips for preparing for the worst possible scenario.

There are a lot of things to consider when it comes to keeping a data center in operation, and for many tech decision makers natural disasters are low down on the priority list. Then come hurricane seasons like the one that brought us Harvey, and is now bringing us Irma, Jose, and Katia.

Hurricanes aren’t the only thing to worry about, however. Wildfires are raging across the western United States, putting many businesses at risk. Earthquakes are always a potential for Silicon Valley, and plenty of low-lying regions can flood with little notice.

So while hurricanes are a huge concern, these tips for protecting data centers from natural disasters apply equally to everyone.

Be redundant

Businesses that host all their data in one center, whether locally or in the cloud, are only inviting disaster, Forrester infrastructure and operations analyst Naveen Chhabra said.

“Data should be redundantly hosted at multiple locations that are in different geographic risk regions,” Chhabra said. “These don’t need to be across the country,” he added, “but they do need to be far enough apart that a disaster in one center won’t impact another.”

Plan and test

It’s said that the best laid plans often go awry, but the chances of plans failing definitely decrease with practice and testing.

Chhabra says that having a disaster plan is essential, but even moreso is testing it regularly. “40% of businesses never run risk assessment tests, which leaves them vulnerable when the unexpected happens,” Chhabra said.

He added that only 19% of businesses test their emergency plans twice a year or more, which should be a bare minimum.

“Weather outages are becoming the norm,” Chhabra added, “and they don’t need to be.” Were businesses testing and preparing properly, he said, uptime could be much better.

Take physical precautions

In an ideal world your data center would be located in the center of a building, above the bottom floor, and away from any windows. If that isn’t the case you need to make quick decisions to protect your data center.

  • If your data center has windows, remove any light objects from nearby that could become airborne and shatter them.
  • If you are able to move any hardware to a safer location, do so. This varies by disaster type, of course. For example, if floods are possible, move equipment to higher floors, while those in earthquake zones should keep them lower.
  • If data center flooding is possible, be sure there are pumps installed to eliminate water before it can accumulate. Generators should be set up to keep pumps running if power goes down.
  • Make sure your fire suppression system is fully functional. If power doesn’t go out, it’s always possible there could be a fire.
  • If there isn’t time to send essential data to the cloud, back it up physically in a portable format and entrust it to someone leaving the area.

Be ready to improvise

If you don’t have solid disaster plans, haven’t tested the ones you do have, or are otherwise caught off guard by a coming natural disaster you need to be creative to save machines, protect data, and ensure continuity.

  • If time permits, clone servers to a cloud location. They don’t even need to be ready to run if you’re in a huge hurry, but ideally you’ll be able to transfer operations to those machines if something goes wrong in the data center.
  • Implement monitoring responsibilities and share them between team members. There should be at least one person monitoring equipment status at all times during a disaster situation.
  • If you have a repository or wiki of disaster recovery information (server settings, database info, etc.) give local copies to everyone who will be monitoring from off-site.
  • Be sure everyone involved in the disaster recovery change has multiple forms of communication at their disposal. You don’t want a key member to be unavailable if the worst happens.

Rod Mathews serves as senior vice president and general manager of the data protection business for Barracuda Networks. He directs strategic product direction and development for all data protection offerings, including Barracuda’s backup and archiving products and is also responsible for Barracuda’s cloud operations team and infrastructure. Prior to joining Barracuda, he served as senior director of business development for the backup recovery systems division at EMC, where he led strategic initiatives and acquisition activities.

2017 was the costliest year on record for natural disasters in the United States, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, with 16 events causing more than $1 billion each in damage. Combined, the hurricanes, floods, wildfires and other events caused $306.2 billion in damage, shattering the previous high of $214.8 billion in 2005.

Natural disasters have cost the United States more than $1.5 trillion since 1980, and scientists predict that the future will include more extreme weather as the climate changes and the planet warms. Over a 37-year period, 20 percent of the cost has been incurred in the last year alone.

While the main focus in the aftermath of these catastrophes is their impact on health, the economy and the environment — and rightfully so — they also should prompt every company and organization to examine how well their computer systems and data are protected if the worst happens.

The stakes are high. According to the Federal Emergency Management Agency, 40 percent of businesses do not reopen after a disaster. And yet, a 2012 study by Travelers Insurance found that 48 percent of small businesses lack a business continuity plan.

In our digital age, the cost of downtime has never been more daunting. A 2015 survey of 400 mid- to large-sized companies by analyst firm IHS found that outages caused by weather events, cyberattacks and equipment failures cost North American firms $700 billion a year in lost revenue and employee productivity. Many small businesses never recover.

Natural disasters take lives, destroy property and affect millions of people, even if they’re not direct victims. The 1-in-1,000-year flood from Hurricane Harvey came within a nerve-wracking fraction of an inch of flooding my brother’s family home in Katy, Texas, and swamped his company office, taking it offline for months. Friends of mine lost property and businesses in the Northern California wildfires.

It’s human nature to think that just because something bad hasn’t happened before, it won’t in the future. But at a time when natural disasters are increasing in number and intensity, businesses of all sizes must imagine the dangers of being taken offline and be prepared.

Here are four steps that companies of all sizes should take to safeguard themselves:

1. Stay Up and Running with a Business Continuity Plan

The continuity plan details the processes a company should follow in case of a major disruption, whether caused by a fire, flood, cyberattack, power failure or human error. It’s a sensible, proactive way to bring predictability to an inherently unpredictable situation and get the business back up and running as soon as possible. Don’t run a business without one.

2. Use the Cloud to Store Data Off-site

Cloud computing offers many benefits: lower costs, greater scalability and increased flexibility, to name a few. No wonder the public cloud market was projected to grow 18.5 percent last year, from $219.6 billion to $260.2 billion, according to Gartner.

Another advantage of the cloud is how it helps with business continuity. The cloud means organizations don’t have to keep as much, or sometimes any, of their data on-premises. Cloud services can also provide backup and offsite replicas of data for those that do.

Despite all that, there are still “cloud laggards” out there. At a time when data faces so many threats, a wait-and-see approach is unwise. The cloud is your friend, folks.

3. Consider Geographic Redundancy to Protect Data

Large cloud providers ensure availability of business-critical data by replicating it to a secondary data center region far away from the primary one. So, if an unforeseen event takes the primary location offline, you’re still protected.

Keep in mind that some providers charge extra for this service. Businesses should weigh the costs and benefits, but they should opt in if it’s financially feasible.

4. Inventory Your Data Across Systems

Many organizations are all over the place with their data storage. Key business information may reside on disparate databases on siloed systems they have added through the years. Or quite often, it could be on someone’s laptop or a desktop machine or stranded server tucked away in the corner of the office.

It sounds elementary, but it’s important that businesses get a handle on what data they have and where it is located, so they can understand what data to protect.

The series of natural disasters in 2017 was a wake-up call that anything can happen, and that lacking a resilience strategy leaves a business exposed to potentially crippling consequences.

Preparation, before disaster strikes, is the best defense.

From the flooding in Texas a while back, to the volcanic eruptions in Indonesia, natural disasters threaten our cars from every angle. While everyone else is hurriedly rushing to the basement for shelter, or climbing on the roof to await helicopter evacuation, car guys are sobbing in the garage as they say a final farewell to their beloved automobiles. Hell, you don’t even have to be a car guy to suffer from the strife associated with knowing that those freshly detailed leather seats are about to get engulfed in flames.

So what are you to do when Mother Nature comes a calling, with Poseidon and Vulcan hot on her heels? Common sense tells you to get the hell out of town, but avoiding something like a tornado or a flash flood is easier said than done. In situations like that, car owners have to rely on instinct and whatever cheats they already have in place, and then just hope for the best.

Naturally, a garage is always a great place to start, but a roof and a rickety door aren’t going to protect that ride from every form of environmental malady. You need a special set-up, uniquely tailored around the kind of natural disaster your region of the world encounters.

In order to get the bottom of what works best we turned to the guys over at Hagerty, who specialize in protecting collector cars. The transit and insurance specialist says that drivers should first decide what kind of car shelter will best fit their budget, and whether it is best to keep your car in a remote location. Remember, there is no guaranteed way of protecting a vehicle from the wrath of the gods, you just hope that you can lessen the brunt of their blows with the following six cheats.

1. Tornadoes and High Winds

2. Wildfire

3. Volcanic Ash

4. Hurricanes and Floods

5. Hail and Ice Storms

Fox News reports that The Highway Loss Data Institute estimates the average claim for hail related damage is over $3,000, and figures at the time showed that nearly $800 million in claims were paid out in 2011. Fortunately, there is something called The Hail Protector, which is designed to both protect your vehicle and turn it into the world’s largest meatloaf at the same time. This revolutionary device runs on batteries, AC power, or a lighter socket, and comes with an app that sends you a warning when the local weather service detects a possible hailstorm approaching.

6. Earthquakes

There isn’t a whole lot one can do to prevent their car from being swallowed-up by a bottomless abyss. But for industrious car owners with small convertibles, a shipping container can serve nicely as an “automotive panic room” during earth-shaking experiences.

These massive metal containers can cost anywhere from a few grand to tens of thousands of dollars, and once modified are a great way to keep that classic from getting crushed. Once interior tie-down locations are located or welded in, park the soft top inside and hook the set of tightly stretched, heavy-duty tow straps to all four undersides of the car to prevent it from crashing around inside. It also wouldn’t hurt to install heavy-duty integrated locks on the doors in order to keep looters at bay. Just be sure to check your local zoning laws before buying one of these metal boxes, as it is against code to have shipping containers in residential areas for extended periods of time in certain municipalities.

Hurricanes, tornadoes, solar flares, oh my. What do all these have in common? Each year they’re the cause of data loss that can cripple any business and destroy personal property. But many of us are unaware of the, ahem, disastrous effects that forces of nature can have not just on our data, but our lives. Did you know, for example, that 70% of businesses that experience data loss go under within a year? This Disaster Preparedness month, we’re offering tips on how to keep your business running and digital possessions secure no matter what nature throws at you.

Take a look at some of the natural disasters that commonly threaten people’s data security:

  • Tornado/Hurricane
  • Flood/Electrical Storm
  • Earthquake/Fire
  • Solar Flare

That’s not to mention man-made disasters such as:

  • Viruses
  • Theft
  • Destruction of property
  • Liquid spills

Threats such as these can be just as devastating to our digital lives as they are to the physical property we own. If the device on which you keep your data is destroyed, your data goes with it. But if you backup your data to the cloud, it will remain safe from natural disasters and easily accessible on any of your devices.

Here are a few ways IDrive can keep you afloat during data disasters:

  • Universal Backup : IDrive users can backup all of their data from any smartphone, tablet, or computer into a single IDrive account, and restore any data right from the cloud. This ensures business continuity, as well as personal peace of mind knowing all of your precious family photos and other important files are safe no matter what happens to your devices. IDrive is compatible with the Android, iOS, Mac, PC, and Linux platforms.
  • Security and Privacy : Any data backed up using IDrive is automatically secured with military grade 256-bit AES encryption. IDrive users also have the special option of choosing a private key that only they know, so no one, not even IDrive, can unlock their data. With IDrive, your data is safe from deliberate threats such as theft and viruses in addition to natural disasters.
  • Automated Backups : Data is constantly being accrued on your devices, and it can be a challenge remembering to backup your new files. That’s why IDrive lets you schedule your backups, so new and updated data is backed up as soon as possible. You’ll be secure without having to manually back up your new data before disaster strikes.
  • Mobile Backup: The average household owns at least 5 devices, including smartphones and tablets. IDrive offers award-winning mobile apps for iOS and Android, allowing users to backup and restore their cell phone data from anywhere. If disaster strikes, chances are someone in your family or office will lose their phone or tablet. With IDrive, you can restore any data to a new device in the disaster recovery process.

This Disaster Preparedness month, secure your data with IDrive .

Meghan is an associate editor with EdTech. She enjoys coffee, cats and science fiction TV.

Whether it is the dead of winter or hurricane season, unexpected and severe weather can spell disaster for school data centers.

Thankfully, disaster recovery planning, which combines using technology and other preparatory measures, can help K–12 schools ensure that their data is safe no matter what inclement weather — or other crisis — is thrown at them.

From cloud backups to backup generators, these four steps can give school administrators enough confidence to weather any storm:

1. Leverage the Cloud for Safe Storage

Ensuring that vital data is safe during an emergency takes precedence in any disaster recovery plan. The cloud is the perfect DR backup solution for schools because it is often cheaper than emergency storage options.

“Leveraging the cloud for DR saves costs compared with traditional methods because compute and network resources are consumed only during an actual event,” writes Neil Bright, a research scientist and chief high performance computing architect at Georgia Institute of Technology, on EdTech.

Bright does caution that IT teams should consider the physical location of a cloud provider. If it’s located in a different geographic area from the school, it likely won’t be hit by the same weather.

Acronis Backup to Cloud is one option for a DR software that is intuitive for IT staff. It’s also versatile, since it can capture pretty much anything a school needs from operating systems and applications to specific program data or other folders.

2. Invest in Technology that Protects

Some companies have taken disaster proofing so seriously that they have created storage servers that are nearly indestructible. For example, ioSafe, a resilient storage provider, recently released the Server 5, which includes systems that can withstand 30 minutes of direct flame and spend three days underwater.

“Server 5 was designed to help organizations faced with increasing demands and limited resources to better protect their data, and can be used to build a complete disaster recovery and business continuity solution that ensures data is 100 percent protected and can be restored anywhere, anytime with or without an internet connection,” said Robb Moore, ioSafe CEO, in a DatacenterDynamics article.

Other companies, such as Turtle, have created waterproof and fireproof storage cabinets perfect for data centers.

3. Back Up More Than Your Data

While data can be backed up efficiently on the cloud, other precautions in the physical data center space can boost operability during a natural disaster such as a hurricane or blizzard. Data Center Knowledge suggests that IT staff make sure their physical data center is connected to a backup generator.

“Hurricanes or large storms don’t typically wipe out infrastructure, but they can cause widespread power outages for significant periods of time,” writes Clayton Costello, operations manager at CK Power, in the article.

Costello also recommends that IT staff make sure the backup generator is serviced regularly so it will operate without a hitch.

4. Think Outside of Tech for Recovery

For Beaverton School District in Oregon, one of the most vital components of its DR plan has nothing to do with technology.

As part of its holistic backup approach, the district created a big, red binder containing the backup plans for every department in the district. These binders, along with a flash drive of the same information are kept safely in the homes of school leaders.

If the worlds CO2 emissions went down to zero, it would not change the worsening frequency of natural disasters. No matter where you live, fires, hurricanes, tornados, drought, and floods are becoming more prevalent and dangerous.

Don’t wait until it’s too late to safeguard your personal information and possessions. In the event of a disaster, the last thing you should be concerned with is losing your family’s important documents. This article provides a list of the most important documents to protect from the threat of natural disasters.

Being Prepared for the Worst

Even if you live in an area that is prone to natural disasters, no one thinks it will happen to them. But, isn’t that the irony of life: if you bring an umbrella with you, then you won’t need it. The same proactive readiness applies to your important documents and possessions.

If the fire is at your doorstep, or the carpet is already waterlogged, then it is likely too late to protect your personal documents. When it comes to possessions, such as family heirlooms and antiques, emergency movers will get your stuff to safety

But what about your documentation? Drivers licenses, social security cards, birth certificates, and more can easily be overlooked in an emergency.

Be preemptive, no matter where you live or the likelihood of a natural disaster to strike. Protecting your important documents is the only way to ensure your ability to pick up the pieces of your life after a natural disaster.

What do you Need to Protect Documents

In order to ensure the integrity of your personally sensitive documentation, you need a fireproof lockbox, as well as a secure cloud storage account.

You might not have time to safely retrieve your documents in the event of a house fire. A fireproof lockbox will ensure that your personal documents remain safe until the fire has been put out and you can retrieve your possessions.

A lockbox is only as useful as your ability to retain it. In the event of a flood, such as Hurricane Harvey, a lockbox will drift away with the current. Don’t rely purely on physical security measures.

Cloud storage allows you to keep records of all your important documentation in a non-centralized location. Anything backed up to a cloud storage account is accessible with your personal pin from anywhere with internet connectivity.

Which Important Documents to Protect

Water and fire are the most destructive forces for homeowners. If your house floods, documents may be rendered as useless as if they were burned. In addition to the FEMA Preparedness Checklist, it is essential to safeguard the following important documents:

Vital Identification Documents

First and foremost, safeguard your personal identification, such as driver’s licenses, birth certificates, Social Security Cards, passports, etc. Take digital photos of these documents and upload them to your cloud storage account.

Once they are safely stored digitally, place the originals in a fire and flood proof lockbox, and forget about it. Using a digital storage service lets you access your documents anytime, without the possibility of misplacing the original.

Medical and Insurance Documents

In the event of a natural disaster or emergency, you need to have access to your loved one’s medical records and insurance information. Just like a car accident, you want to let your insurance provider know about the damage as soon as possible to ensure maximum coverage.

Be sure to back up your immunization records and information on any prescribed medications. If you live with any senior citizens, be sure to safeguard any wills and power of attorney documentation.

Financial Records and Information

Finally, be sure to take pictures of your credit and debit cards, and back them up to your cloud database. In the event of natural disasters, your financial identity is at risk of theft. The only way to protect your finances from the chaos of displacement is to immediately inform your institution.

Retain the account numbers and transaction history form your bank accounts in order to prove your account ownership and identity. Backup the first two pages of tax returns from the previous year, as well as any stock or bond documentation.

Cloud storage enables you to access your data from anywhere with internet. You can access passwords, address books, and any stored documentation from your phone, computer, or tablet.

A disaster causes chaos for individuals, communities, and infrastructure. If your community is experiencing mass displacement from wildfires or floods, register for federal disaster assistance.

Final Thoughts

Make sure that any cloud storage accounts you have are secured with a strong password. Outside of the essential information, like proof-of-identity, begin the process of storing all of your family’s photos and heirlooms in cloud storage. In the event of a natural disaster, all you should worry about is the safety of your loved ones – not your possessions.

If this article, on important documents to protect from natural disasters, was helpful then share it with others on social media. And, subscribe to our blog for the most recent posts and updates on disaster preparedness. Thanks for reading!

Proper planning allows companies to protect data, systems, and people while keeping the business operational during a disaster.

The recent devastating hurricanes to hit the mainland United States and Caribbean countries and territories destroyed entire communities. Families, businesses, and governments were left reeling, forced to pick up the pieces, where possible.

The catastrophic impact of the recent storms reinforces the importance of having a sound business continuity and disaster recovery plan. Creating such a plan allows companies facing a natural disaster to follow a deliberate set of actions. In a time of chaos, having clearly defined contingencies can help leaders and employees weather a storm.

Business Continuity Defined

Business continuity plans allow a company to continue providing essential products, services, and customer support. In some industries, these tasks are critical for the company’s short-term viability, customer safety or meeting legal requirements. Disaster recovery plans, a subset of business continuity, often focus on recovering IT assets.

Business continuity includes the plans and arrangements that ensure that the essential products, services, and support can be provided, which allows the company to recover its property, data, and assets. It’s also a means to identify the employees, equipment, data, infrastructure, counsel, and accommodations that support business continuity.

While the recent hurricanes are the most recent, visible example of why business continuity is important, they are not the only incident where such plans are needed. Other actions that can prompt the launch of a business continuity plan include:

  • Other natural disasters such as blizzards, fires, earthquakes or tornadoes
  • Sabotage
  • Accidents
  • Power or energy disruptions
  • Environmental disasters such as spills, contamination or pollution
  • Communications, transportation or safety infrastructure failures
  • Cyber attacks and hacks

Threats and Trends in Disaster Recovery Preparedness

There are many threats, perceived or actual, that can shape a company’s disaster recovery planning. Here are some of the leading issues companies are considering:

  • The increasing number of natural disasters worldwide. A New England Journal of Medicine study indicated that the number of climate-related natural disasters increased by 300 percent from 2000-2009 compared to 1980-1989. The scale of these disasters has also grown and now affect more than 200 million people each year.
  • Disruptions may be more predictable. With massive amounts of data, often generated by connected devices in the growing Internet of Things, there’s an opportunity to predict some threats. With more advanced information, companies have more time to prepare for the disruptions, test plans and deploy resources accordingly.
  • Malicious cyber attacks continue to persist. The massive Equifax hack is just the latest in a litany of attacks where data is being stolen or held hostage.
  • Cloud computing offers an excellent defense. The growing use of cloud-based tools, data storage, and applications, gives companies more options when it comes to data recovery. Cloud providers usually have built-in safeguards for their services, including multiple data backups, universal access via devices and locations, and physical and digital protection systems.
  • Disruptions are the norm. The preponderance of natural disasters and rogue agents means businesses have no excuse for not having disaster recovery plans in place. Organizations need to embrace business continuity and disaster recovery as a cost of doing business.
  • Communications are expansive and expected. In the digital age, customers, employees, and the general public expect to have access to updated information about companies and services, even in the direst situations. Fast communications and frequent updates are the norms today and companies need to incorporate communications into their planning. Fortunately, the ubiquity of mobile devices and social media platforms means it’s relatively easy to disseminate key messages.

A Closer Look at Disaster Recovery

Disaster recovery may vary depending on the industry and company but generally, focuses on a few core areas. Broadly, it’s the work a company does to maintain or recover access to data, software, and hardware needed to resume or continue critical business areas.

In addition, a disaster recovery plan needs to consider the human assets necessary to ensure continuity and ensure that the right people have the tools to ensure disaster recovery plans are acted upon. In some cases, those people may be dealing with their own personal issues in the throes of a disaster, so redundancies in personnel are important.

One key element of a successful disaster recovery or business continuity plan is the need to practice. Drills and scenarios should be developed to test systems, responsiveness, and efficacy.

How to Plan the Plan

How should a company begin the process of business continuity and disaster recovery? Here are a few key tasks:

  • Develop a risk assessment. Having a clear idea of the likely and unlikely risks and having specific plans for each possibility is an important first step. What natural disasters are likely in your area? What cyber attacks or events would have a significant effect on your business?
  • Detail the impacts. Once a threat is identified, play out the potential impacts of that scenario. Which customers would be affected? Which employees? Would inventories, documents, systems, services be impacted? What are the long-term risks to your customer base and your business?
  • Create the continuity plan. For each identified threat, a plan needs to be established, including the systems, data, people, and communications necessary. While some of these contingencies may be the same for multiple threats, each one should have a clearly defined plan.
  • Prep the people and technology. If key personnel is expected even in disasters, they need to be notified and trained about how they will be notified, where they need to report and what tools they will have. Employees should also be aware of how to exit buildings safely in an emergency and have access to emergency stores of water, food, radios, chargers, and flashlights. Services and data should be migrated to cloud solutions, backup facilities and alternate media well in advance of a disaster.
  • Protect the business. You should check with your insurance provider to make sure you have the right coverage and protection to keep your company whole when disaster strikes.

Time dedicated to planning can ensure that your business not only survives but thrives when facing daunting challenges.

Free GIS Data – Natural Disasters Data

Natural Disasters Data

  • Natural Disaster Hazards : Hazard Frequency, Mortality and Economic Loss Risk as gridded data for the globe. Covers cyclones, drought, earthquakes, flood, landslide, volcano and a combination of them all (‘multihazard’).
  • USGS Earthquakes Database : KML files of all earthquakes recorded by the USGS (across the whole world) from 1973 to present. Available as one dataset or grouped by magnitude or year.
  • Global Seismic Hazard Map : Gridded data showing hazard risk of seismic activity across the globe.
  • IBTrACS : Hurricane and tropical cyclone tracks, including attributes such as minimum pressure, maximum winds.
  • NOAA/WDC Historical Tsunami Database : Location information of tsunami sources and run-up events, including many attributes (eg. maximum water height, travel time). Available in TSV format which can be imported into GIS systems.
  • Global Burnt Area : 1km resolution map of areas of burnt vegetation across the world. Aggregated products at 0.5 and 1 degree resolutions are also available.
  • MODIS Fire Detection Data : Frequently updated data (including last 7 days of fires) in 1km grid format, derived from thermal anomalies from MODIS data.
  • Lightning and Atmospheric Electricity Dataset : Wide range of data on lightning activity, including average flashes per grid cell per year.
  • NOAA Historical Hurricane Tracks : Hurricane tracks for all North/Central American hurricanes.Data can be exported by clicking the Download button on the top right.
  • Natural Disaster Hotspots : A wide range of geographic data on natural disasters (including volcanoes, earthquakes, landslide, flood and ‘multihazards’) with hazard frequency, economic loss etc.

Many of today’s companies are reeling after a series of natural disasters swept the nation. Hurricanes Harvey and Irma did significant damage to many areas, making it impossible for those businesses to operate normally. Whether your business is in the middle of a flood zone and you’re looking for ways to make the entire process easier next time or you’re simply worried about overall disaster preparedness and how to protect your company in the event of any type of natural disaster, moving to the cloud can offer several advantages for your company.

Get Back Up from Anywhere

When you run your servers, backup, and desktop as a cloud service, you can bring your business back up to full operational capacity no matter where your employees are located. This means that you can create a secondary operations center following a natural disaster, get your employees back to work even if your primary place of business is shut down completely, and keep your business running smoothly even when Mother Nature appears to have turned against you. Following a natural disaster, one of your primary concerns is getting your business back up and running. The more time you spend unable to operate, the more money you’ll lose–not just immediately, but long-term, as customers take their business elsewhere in an effort to find companies that are better prepared to weather natural disasters. With cloud services, on the other hand, you’ll be able to get your company back up and running no matter where your employees are located.

Keep Customer Service Running

In many cases, following a natural disaster, your company will struggle to access vital data–or at least, it would if your data was stored in a building that was destroyed or that is inaccessible due to downed power lines, flooded streets, or other problems. Fortunately, your customer service doesn’t have to depend on the condition of your building. With cloud services, you can:

  • Have immediate access to all of you data, including customer records
  • Keep customers informed about everything the company is doing to protect them, their funds, and the products or services that they’re waiting for
  • Be proactive about contacting customers in the wake of the disaster
  • Know as much about your customers as you were if you were sitting in your office

It’s interesting how customers will respond in the event of a natural disaster. Some of them focus on inconsequential things in an effort to take their minds off of the greater scope of the damage done throughout the disaster–and if that inconsequential thing happens to be an order from your business or a service that they need to postpone until they’re able to return home, you want to be able to soothe their anxieties and let them know that your company will continue to take care of their needs.

Cloud services allow you to continue providing the excellent customer service that your business is known for–and that means that customers will not only keep their trust in you, they’ll increase it! Customers are looking for businesses that are willing to go above and beyond in order to ensure that their needs are met. Staying fully functional following a natural disaster lets your customers know that they can count on you no matter what might happen around them–and that means that they’ll be more likely to bring you their business in the future.

Get Your Business Running Again Faster

Following a natural disaster, your physical place of business may be in shambles. You can’t guarantee what equipment will still be functional, whether the building was ravaged by fire, flood, or tornado. Thanks to cloud technology, however, it doesn’t matter what equipment is still functional–or even if you’ll have to go out and purchase new equipment to fill in the gaps in your ability to operate smoothly. You can reinstate your business’s functionality immediately, without any need to wait for your facility to be back to normal operational capacity. This means that you’ll be functional again much faster: you won’t have to wait for the facility to be restored or data reloaded from your backups, just find a machine that will allow you to access the cloud and log in.

Keep Your Data

The sinking feeling in your gut as you survey the damage done by a natural disaster is hard to get past. You know that your business–like the rest of your area–is going to be a long time in recovering. One of the biggest losses for many businesses, however, isn’t in the physical items that were destroyed. It’s in the data! When you use cloud-based servers, backups, and desktops, however, you don’t have to worry about data disappearing along with everything else in the middle of a natural disaster. You might lose your business’s physical location, but you won’t lose your data along with it–and that means a lot of advantages for your company.

Allow Employees to Work Remotely with Full Productivity

During a natural disaster, especially one with plenty of forewarning (as in the case of Hurricane Irma), your employees may quickly scatter in an effort to preserve their lives, their families, and as many of their possessions as they’re able to move out on short notice. Those who evacuate the area entirely won’t be able to get in to work under normal circumstances–but if they take a laptop with them or have access to a computer at their destination, they’ll be able to continue working remotely. When you use cloud services instead of storing your data on a local server, you’ll find that your employees can work just as effectively remotely as they can when they’re at the facility in person–and that means that no matter where the natural disaster takes them, they’ll be able to keep working at least part of the time.

Not only that, following a natural disaster, there is no knowing how many of your employees’ homes will be destroyed or how long it will take them to be able to fully return home. While you can’t help them turn their homes from rubble into what they once were, you can provide them with jobs that will allow them to keep working throughout the natural disaster–a serious concern for many hourly employees. Being able to work remotely will also allow your employees to support your business from afar, keeping productivity up and keeping you from losing as much money throughout the recovery process. In some cases, you may even be able to keep doing business throughout the disaster, with only a few breaks in the productivity chain to allow employees to take care of personal responsibilities, evacuate the area, or wait for power to return to their area.

Natural disasters can quickly destroy the area you live in, bring down your building, and leave you scrambling to keep operating at all. They can take your employees out of the area, leave your customers in the midst of a sea of destruction, and provide you with more questions than answers. When you opt for cloud services, however, you can rest assured that the vital data that keeps your company running every day will still be accessible and that your business will be able to continue to provide for your clients’ needs. If you want to learn more about cloud services or you’re ready to make the transition to the cloud, contact us today to learn how we can help.

Author

Reader in Coastal Engineering, University of East London

Disclosure statement

Ravindra Jayaratne received funding from UK Daiwa Anglo-Japanese Foundation and the Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) scheme of Kansai University, Japan.

Partners

University of East London provides funding as a member of The Conversation UK.

On the morning of August 29 2005, one of the deadliest Atlantic hurricanes hit the US Gulf Coast. With sustained winds of up to 140 mph, Hurricane Katrina killed over 1,800 people and caused $160 billion worth of damage.

The government at the time was criticised for its slow response, particularly its failure to involve local communities in decisions about preparing for and responding to the disaster. Almost 15 years to the day, another major storm bore down on the region. Half a million people in Texas and Louisiana evacuated to escape Hurricane Laura’s “unsurvivable” storm surge and, at the time of writing, and at least six people have been killed.

I study natural disasters in order to better understand how to save lives. One of the most important strategies for reducing the risk to everyone in a community is to engage with local people at every stage of decision making.

Communities in disaster-prone regions have developed strategies over generations for dealing with extreme weather. They’re more likely to spot the warning seasons early and know how best to respond.

The impacts of natural disasters can have a lasting effect on the lives of those in affected regions too, as anyone who has lived in New Orleans over the last two decades could tell you. It’s vital the input of these communities is taken into consideration if there is to be lasting trust in the institutions that organise disaster preparation and relief efforts.

Early warnings

Some of my research has compared how academic experts and people living in disaster-prone areas think differently about these events. While experts studying natural disasters tend to focus on intense but infrequent events like tsunamis, there are communities around the world which have adapted to milder but more common problems like flooding.

We wanted to visit communities in both the UK and Japan, to compare how their community leaders and engineers developed counter measures to protect their local areas. These were categorised as “soft” countermeasures, like evacuation plans and early warning systems, and as “hard” solutions, such as flood defences and embankments.

Communities facing high-impact but low-frequency disasters, like tsunamis in Japan, tend to have strategies that prevent or reduce the scale of the damage with hard engineering, such as sea walls. For communities subject to low-impact but high-frequency hazards like flooding, such as those we studied in the UK, adaptation is what characterises most countermeasures, including community networks that keep vulnerable people alert to any threat.

The Joukumachi community in Hita City of Oita Prefecture, Japan was affected by torrential rain in 2017 and 2018. Though government measures were slowly enacted, with some residents evacuated to shelters and higher ground, it was interventions by local residents that allowed the community to recognise the risks early and respond quickly.

Most notably, local people used handmade rain gauges with loudspeakers that could broadcast alerts to monitor the approaching danger. This early warning system helped people prepare before the government could launch a response.

Preparing for the future

But what makes an effective response to future disasters? Our research in Sturmer, a flood-prone village in Essex, England, showed that dedicated community organising is the best defence.

Sturmer was swamped with heavy rainfall in 2001 and 2014, causing floods that wreaked a lot of damage. But these events paled in comparison to the catastrophic storm surges that devastated the region in 1953. As climate change threatens more severe rain storms in the future, the community has developed its own ways to stay prepared.

Following the floods in 2014, a flood action group was formed in the village. The group is led by members of the community and it communicates flood risk through meetings, magazines and flyers. To keep local residents aware of flood alerts, some in the group are responsible for constantly checking the daily weather forecast, as well as flood depth gauges deployed in the stream. When flooding seems imminent, the houses most at risk are provided with portable flood gates that can be deployed as and when they’re needed.

This ongoing, bottom-up approach looks very different to a reactive disaster response led by central government agencies – which are often based far away. Even the best examples of top-down management are unlikely to possess the breadth of experience and local knowledge that makes communities so effective at preparing for natural disasters.

Central governments must learn from them and ask how best they can aid relief and recovery, rather than try and impose a one-size-fits-all approach.

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The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association has come out with its 2015 Atlantic hurricane forecast, and while the number of predicted named storms is below the historical average, it only takes one to wreak havoc on your home—and your finances. Though we can’t stop the rain, we can provide you with some guidance to help you weather the storm.

Here’s how to safeguard your finances against a hurricane, flood, or any unexpected natural disaster:

1. Review your insurance coverage

Sure, it’s unglamorous to learn the nuances of your homeowners insurance policy—but diligence pays off. If you don’t understand your policy, a natural disaster could leave you with thousands of dollars in costs for damages you thought were covered.

For one thing, you should be aware that standard homeowners insurance won’t cover flood damage—and historically, most natural disasters in the U.S. have involved flooding, according to the Insurance Information Institute (III).

Homeowners in high-risk zones will be required by their mortgage lender to get a separate flood policy. But if you live near any body of water, you should think about getting coverage. Generally, people get basic policies through the National Flood Insurance Program, which covers up to $250,000 in dwelling and $100,000 in contents. If you’re in a high-risk area, also consider “excess” flood insurance, sold by only a few insurers. (Be aware that it typically takes 30 days after purchase for any coverage to kick in.)

As for your vanilla homeowner’s policy, the wording on how it covers your belongings could leave you holding a big bill. So take a look at whether it uses the phrase “actual cash value coverage” (which means it will cover the cost of your possessions minus depreciation) and more robust “replacement cost coverage” (which will cover the cost of replacing your possessions today). Replacement cost insurance costs 10% more on average, but offers more complete coverage for your belongings.

2. Make payments automatic.

In the stressful aftermath of a disaster, you don’t want to be chasing paychecks that were mailed to your home or finding out that you forgot to pay a certain bill. So if you haven’t already set your paychecks on direct deposit or your major bills to auto-pay online, do so now.

3. Safeguard important documents

In case you need to evacuate your home, you should have important personal and financial records collected in one place so that you can grab them on the run. “People who have to evacuate their houses often can’t get back in for several days,” says Robbie Berg, a hurricane specialist at the National Hurricane Center. “You need to make sure you have important information on hand.”

Key documents include your Social Security card, home deeds, medical insurance cards and stock and bond certificates. You may also want to save images of these documents in the cloud—password protected, of course—so that you can access them from anywhere. Or simply scan onto a flash drive, but keep the originals in a bank safe-deposit box, which is built to withstand with the elements.

4. Take an inventory of your stuff

If you end up needing to file an insurance claim for lost possessions after a disaster, having an inventory of the contents of your home—and particularly of expensive items like electronics, jewelry, and furniture—will make the process much smoother. “You don’t want to wait until a disaster hits to think about a home inventory,” says Loretta Worters, vice president of the III. “People are so devastated emotionally from something like a hurricane—going through and trying to figure out all the things you had is an added nightmare.”

Make your inventory as specific and comprehensive as possible—include the serial number on your television, for instance, and any receipts you have for high-ticket items. In addition to a written list, include photographs or video footage of your possessions. Install the free app from the III called Know Your Stuff, available for iPhone and Android devices, which helps you catalog your belongings.

5. Have backup cash

You should have an emergency fund saved up in a bank account—the general guideline is three to six months’ living expenses—for exactly this type of situation. (To determine how much of a cushion you need, use this calculator.) If you’re forced to rent a car after yours is damaged, for example, you’ll be able to draw on this money instead of racking up charges on your credit cards.

Additionally, you’ll want to have some actual cash on hand, especially if you know a storm is coming. “When power gets cut off, you don’t have access to ATMs to get cash,” says Berg. Research what it might cost if you’re evacuated for a few days in your area, including hotel and gas costs. Keep the money in small bills, since it might be hard to get change.

With any luck, all these tedious preparations will be unnecessary—but as those who’ve been through a super storm can attest, it’s better to be financially safe than sorry.

By Khristopher J. Brooks

August 24, 2021 / 2:37 PM / MoneyWatch

Three months into hurricane season, meteorologists say they expect potentially destructive weather to remain a threat for the rest of the year.

Protecting one’s home against natural disasters is becoming more important as extreme weather such as hurricanes and wildfires becomes more common due to climate change, according to researchers. There were 30 named storms along the Atlantic Coast last year, including Hurricane Sally , contributing to $60 billion in damage to businesses and homes.

“Now is the time for families and communities to ensure their preparations are in place,” said National Weather Service Director Louis Uccellini said in a statement earlier this month, adding that “these storms can be devastating.”

Researchers from the Insurance Institute for Business and Home Safety said there are simple ways a homeowner can protect their house from high winds and fire damage. One strategy: Keep scrub, bushes and other combustible vegetation away from a property That will help keep burning plants away from your home if fire breaks out.

“For five feet all the way around, it should be noncombustible,” the institute’s CEO, Roy Wright, told CBS News’ Bradley Blackburn.

Other safety measures include securing the shingles of your roof with special wind-proofing nails, as well as adding a water barrier to further protect the roof from heavy rain.

Alabama resident Matt Fetner had his roof tiles fortified with special nails and an added layer of water protection. The extra work proved invaluable last year when a record number of storms, including Hurricane Sally, tore through Alabama’s Gulf communities. Although the roofs were ripped off neighboring homes, his house was spared, the Orange Beach resident said.

“Standing in my front yard, there are one, two, three, four, five new roofs in the cul de sac we live in,” Fetner said in a video posted on social media. “Ours is the only roof that made it through that storm.”

The National Weather Service earlier this year predicted up to 10 hurricanes this season, including five major ones.

There will be between 15 to 21 named storms this year, according to National Weather Service meteorologists. National Weather Service

“It’s as if Mother Nature, through climate change , has busted through the front door of American families,” Wright said.

ALWAYS CALL 911 if you are in immediate danger and need emergency help.

On this page:

  • Current storm forecast, from the National Hurricane Center
  • Hurricane response – fact sheets and information
  • EPA’s emergency response capabilities – general information

Prepare for a hurricane

See also: Flooding

Make any preparations that can minimize injury and property damage. Households, utilities, and businesses should plan for disaster before hurricane season starts, or make any possible preparations when a hurricane is predicted. Social media messages you can share from your own accounts.

Drinking water:

  • Make a kit of supplies. Keep at least a 3-day water supply per person and for pets, too.
  • What you can do to protect your household well.

Water and wastewater systems

  • Activities to help water facilities plan for emergencies and natural disasters.
  • Water resiliency planning tools for communities.

Planning for disaster debris:

Damage from a hurricane depends on the size, extent, and other factors. Damage debris can include destroyed structures, hazardous waste, green waste, or personal property. More about disaster debris planning. This guide highlights the need for communities to plan ahead for debris cleanup after a major natural or man-made disaster, plus case studies. Read a printable version.

Chemical or fertilizer storage:

Properly designed or modified storage facilities enhance worker safety and minimize the risk contamination.

Summary of regulatory requirements related to shutdown operations – For complex industrial processes, shutdown operations require special care beyond normal operations. Facility owners and operators are required to minimize chemical releases during process shutdown operations; and if reportable releases occur, they must be reported immediately upon constructive knowledge of occurrence. Read more about applicable regulations: Reminder to minimize process shutdown-related releases and report releases in a timely manner.

Recover after a hurricane

ALERT: Generator exhaust is toxic. Always put generators outside well away from doors, windows, and vents. Never use a generator inside homes, garages, crawlspaces, sheds, or similar areas. Carbon monoxide (CO) is deadly, can build up quickly, and linger for hours. More information. See also: Flooding

Report suspected spills, contamination or possible violations.

  • To report oil,chemical, or hazardous substance releases or spills, call the National Response Center 800-424-8802.
  • Report a suspected environmental violation on EPA’s reporting page.

Flooding

  • Limit contact with flood water. Flood water may have high levels of raw sewage or other hazardous substances. Early symptoms from exposure to contaminated flood water may include upset stomach, intestinal problems, headache and other flu-like discomfort. Anyone experiencing these and any other problems should immediately seek medical attention.
  • What do I do about water from household wells after a flood? Do not turn on the pump due to danger of electric shock. Do not drink or wash with water from the flooded well until it is tested and safe to use.Read more about household wells.
  • What do I do with my home septic system after a flood? Do not use the sewage system until water in the soil absorption field is lower than the water level around the house. If you have a home-based or small business and your septic system has received chemicals, take extra precautions to prevent contact with water or inhaling fumes. Proper clean-up depends on the kinds of chemicals in the wastewater. Read more

For water and wastewater facilities: Suggested post-hurricane activities to help facilities recover.

  • Mold cleanup: Mold can cause serious health problems. The key to mold control is moisture control. After the flood, remove standing water and dry indoor areas. Remove and discard anything that has been wet for more than 24-48 hours.
  • Mold cleanup in schools and commercial buildings. Information for building managers, custodians, and others who are responsible for commercial building and school maintenance.
  • Basic mold hazards. Cleaning up mold.What to wear
  • More about mold from Centers for Disease Control

Drinking water

  • To kill all major water-borne bacterial pathogens, bring water to a rolling boil for 1 full minute. Boil 3 minutes at elevations above 5280 ft (1 mile or 1.6 km). More information about emergency disinfection of drinking water.
  • Drinking Water Emergency Incident Information

Home or facilities wastewater

Pesticides, chemical and oil spills, hazardous waste:

  • Call the National Response Center 1-800-424-8802 (24 hours a day every day). For those without 800 access, please call 202-267-2675.
  • Industries and businesses that encounter spills or discharges in the aftermath should contact the National Response Center immediately. You or your organization may have legal requirements for reporting or for taking other actions, depending on the spill.
  • National Pesticide Information Center: 1-800-858-7378. Pesticide contacts
  • Report spills or environmental violations

Managing debris

Disasters can generate tons of debris, including building rubble, soil and sediments, green waste (e.g. trees and shrubs), personal property, ash, and charred wood. How a community manages disaster debris depends on the debris generated and the waste management options available. Burying or burning is no longer acceptable, except when permission or a waiver has been granted, because of the side effects of smoke and fire from burning, and potential water and soil contamination from burial. Typical methods of recycling and solid waste disposal in sanitary landfills often cannot be applied to disaster debris because of the large volume of waste and reluctance to overburden existing disposal capacity.

  • Managing Debris After a Natural Disaster – a fact sheet with guidelines to help make for a speedier removal process.
  • General information on disaster debris – planning for and management of debris is an essential but often overlooked component of an emergency response or disaster incident.

Renovation and rebuilding

Lead-safe work: By law, contractors need to use lead-safe work practices on emergency renovations on homes or buildings built before 1978. Activities such as sanding, cutting, and demolition can create lead-based paint hazards. Lead-contaminated dust is harmful to adults, particularly pregnant women, and children.

Asbestos: Anyone working on demolition, removal, and cleanup of building debris needs be aware of any asbestos and to handle asbestos materials properly. People exposed to asbestos dust can develop serious lung health problems including asbestosis, lung cancer and mesothelioma. Although the use of asbestos has dramatically decreased in recent years, it is still found in many residential and commercial buildings and can pose a serious health risk.