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BICSI and the Katrina victims

As we went to press with this latest issue of CNS, the streets of New Orleans remained submerged in contaminated water and the city was a seething wasteland....

September 1, 2005  

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As we went to press with this latest issue of CNS, the streets of New Orleans remained submerged in contaminated water and the city was a seething wasteland.

It will take years and billions of dollars in government funding to get the Big Easy and many other areas of the Gulf Coast back to normal, but first there is the more pressing issue of helping human beings.

To that end, Donna French Dunn, executive director and CEO of BICSI should be applauded for initiating the Katrina Impact Zone, an information portal on the organization’s web site that provides a communications pipeline for the estimated 300 members and hundreds more information transportation system professionals effected by the tragedy.

As with any close knit group, Dunn writes on the BICSI site, when times get tough, competition often turns to cooperation and suddenly competing for the best grade on the RCDD exam becomes secondary to helping neighbors around the world.

“These members may well need the help of other members for everything from simply sharing stories of the storm to technical and professional advice on how best to start the restoration process required after Katrina. The first, and one of the most critical part of this help, is a convenient method of reaching the membership at large.

“Any member may log in to the Katrina Impact Zone and seek advice, input or simply share information with any other member. This forum will remain active as long as there is a need.”

Katrina’s devastation has been both varied and widespread. In the first week of September, Bell South issued an update in which it stated that while it is too early to project the total magnitude of destruction, the initial estimate is a cost of US$400-600 million, including both capital and expense, for network restoration.

From an ITS perspective, Katrina has also brought the importance of having a sound disaster recovery program in place.

Among the tens of thousands of words that have been written on the subject, was a column written by Judy Bell, president of Disaster Survival Planning Inc. that ran on the web site of Disaster Recovery Journal

“Remember 15 years ago, when our profession thought that being able to restore critical systems and telecommunications within 72 hours was acceptable? In those days, we defined what we did as “disaster recovery” instead of “business continuity,” wrote Bell. “Then our industry began to shift its thinking as we realized that it would be far better to continue operating than to recover from interrupted operations. In order to comply, critical businesses like banks and utilities were forced to change their critical processes to ensure continued operations. In the area of life safety, they invested in advance to purchase provisions for employees, to make sure their basic needs would be provided for if they are trapped at work.

“That is the lesson we must all learn from Hurricane Katrina. The 72-hour rule requiring citizens to be self-sustaining on their own is no longer realistic. Disasters of the magnitude we just witnessed will continue. When it comes to human needs, we must create solutions in advance that will provide continuity for life-sustaining necessities, and this continuity must persist until organized relief can arrive. Everyone should take action now, whether we’re in the public or private sector, to be a part of that solution. The phrase “plan today … survive tomorrow” has never been truer than now.”

A special electronic report on the tragedy has been posted on our site at