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Subject:Business Continuity and disaster recovery plan
Communications and power infrastructure are critical to managing the complex, dynamic operations that evolve in disaster environments. The impact of Hurricane Katrina destroyed the Communications and power infrastructure within the New Orleans metropolitan region, leaving emergency response personnel and the public with little capacity to exchange information vital for coordinating response actions. The loss of Communications and power proved especially damaging, given the size of the geo-graphic region and the number of people affected. The authors used content analysis of news reports to identify the network of organizations that emerged in response to Hurricane Katrina, and network analysis to examine patterns of interaction among the organizations. The patterns reveal significant asymmetry in information among organizations at different levels of authority and responsibility in the disaster response system, a condition that contributed to the collapse of coordination in disaster operations. Conversely, well-designed communications and information infrastructure can contribute significantly to the resilience of communities exposed to recurring risk(Comfort, 2005)
The communications infrastructure needed to support intergovernmental decision making to enable communities to respond effectively to such a wide-ranging, rapidly moving, destructive storm was not in place.The need for interoperability of communications systems in disaster response is a well-known problem. It has long been identified as a primary requirement for increasing performance among first-response agencies (Comfort, 2005)
In Entergy’s headquarters city, New Orleans, the damage was catastrophic. Thousands were dead or missing; tens of thousands were homeless. Electrical power was virtually nonexistent; the gas distribution system was inundated with corrosive saltwater; 1,500 displaced Entergy employees were scattered across the nation – from Los Angeles to Boston – after the company’s evacuation on August 27. It was hard to know where to begin.
In the hours after the winds subsided and the scope of the damage became clear, Entergy faced multiple challenges. The company had to assemble the largest restoration workforce in its history to safely begin repairing the worst damage ever incurred to its system. To do this, Entergy had to address the logistical needs of its workers, providing a constant supply of food, water, and medication. It had to find shelter for the workforce, many of whom had lost homes. Entergy improvised a system to get workers their paychecks and to communicate with them in the absence of cell service, computers, and other traditional channels. In addition to meeting these basic human needs, Entergy needed to continue to manage its business, despite the fact that its corporate headquarters was shut down.
Maintaining employee morale during the restoration process was a major objective. Many employees had lost family members and friends to the storm. Their homes and possessions were damaged or destroyed by the winds and flood waters. These same men and women were being asked to work 18-hour shifts in hot, humid conditions, surrounded by unimaginable tragedy and destruction.
Slowly, conditions for the restoration force began to improve. By September 7, the company had set up tent cities in seven locations throughout Louisiana and Mississippi equipped with cots, food, water, and medical supplies for all of its workers. Entergy continued to pay workers until it found them jobs within the firm because it recognized the need to offer devastated employees incentives to come back to work.
Entergy has learned a number of lessons from the Katrina restoration that have aided in the further development of its disaster response protocol. The company better understands that employees are its most important public, surpassing even customers. Entergy was reminded of the importance of having detailed operational, communications, and business continuity plans and learned that they should conduct frequent drills to test these plans. When a major storm is approaching, it is vital to get communicators to a pre-equipped command center quickly.
Finally, the company learned the importance of taking calculated risks, especially in dealing with the media. By opening its doors to the media and demonstrating the tangible steps it was taking with both employees and customers, Entergy was able to restore trust that had been damaged in the immediate aftermath of the storm. The focus on one voice, the accessibility of key executives, and the recognition that its employees were the most critical public for communication all enabled Entergy to emerge from the chaos of Katrina and Rita and regain its footing as a profitable and sustainable organization.
Comfort, L. K., & Haase, T. W. (2006). Communication, Coherence, and Collective Action: The Impact of Hurricane Katrina on Communications Infrastructure. Public Works Management & Policy, 10(4), 328–343.
Russell, P. R., & WRITER, B. (2006). Entergy Corp. is raking in millions supplying power to New Orleans’ suburbs and three other states, so why can’t it use that money to help out its customers in Katrina-devastated NO?. The Times-Picayune.