Friday, April 23, 2010

New disaster scenarios....

Life, nature and things super-natural never cease to surprise. The BCP/DR domain came face to face with a new scenario - Volcanic ash !

Just goes to show how incidents can be man-made or natural and may or may not be in our backyard but still the kick in the butt is as strong as being in the epicenter of a10 Richter strong earthquake.

Over the past few weeks a volcano in Iceland with a difficult name has made life difficult miserable for airlines and travelers worldwide. Ash from the volcano has been carried over Europe making it dangerous for aircraft to fly resulting in the closure of airports across UK and Europe. Due to this closure, thousands of passengers have been stranded at airports and cities across the world.

The financial losses are tremendous and mount by the day ! Airline companies had to provide layover facilities to stranded passengers and this has burnt a big hole in the operational budgets. Aircraft are idling, parked at the airport(s) and unable to move, so there is the additional fees payable every day. Companies selling fuel, services, food etc are also losing money - if the aircraft do not fly who is buying ! Tour operators have to deal with extended stays since they are unable to get their clients back home and then are unable to send out the new.

The British Government sent out naval frigates to bring back their citizens but how much of a difference will this make. According to reports, about 30,000 or more people are waiting in India to fly out.

While planning Continuity or Disaster Recovery this is a new phenomenon to be added to the list of disruptive incidents. Earthquakes, tsunamis, pandemics, wars, terrorist acts etc have already shown their ability to disrupt business across borders, but now we have volcanic output.

And how does one assess the risk of disruption when the volcano is on another continent. I mean should I factor the risk of a volcanic eruption in Japan when planning in India ? It seems that (now) this is necessary - even if I am not doing business with Japan. And for a US corporation it will be important to factor this risk if they are doing business in India.

To recap, we visit a few 'new age' disasters where boundaries are meaningless...

- Terrorist attack : 9/11 changed the world and the aftershocks continue till date. Closer home in Mumbai 26/11 brought about a sea change here in India. Then there are numerous threats and warnings everyday at airports and installations across the world that keep security agencies on their toes, and continuously disrupt life and business.

- Tsunami: the big one in South Asia brought about enough havoc that the reverberations were felt worldwide.

- Earthquakes: These keep happening and data center planners talk loudly about fault lines and the risk of siting in so called 'zones of potential disaster'. While I do not profess building in such areas I do want to raise my voice against doomsday pundits. Earthquakes may happen far away but can affect the well being of the country as a whole and result in a lot of hardship for the company - foreign exchange value higher prices etc

- Volcanic eruptions - the new babe on the block. I have see if anyone had identified such an event as a major global disaster.

- Pandemic: bird flu or avian flu, swine flu H1N1 and even things like heat-stroke !

- Many other scenarios emerge when one thinks ... fire, floods, rain, outages, cyberattacks etc etc.

The world is shrinking - this is for sure. And we thought it was just the digital world but even the real world has become smaller.

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