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Blackout Lessons: Prepare, Then React

Even companies that planned well had to deal with surprises

One lesson from this month's blackout is that you can't prepare for everything. Another is that it's worth trying to.

Court Television Network LLC, which operates the Court TV cable channel from midtown Manhattan, had to move the servers that run its programming and advertising traffic system to its master control center, which was running off a generator owned by the building's management. But VP of IT Emil Freund says it was easier to focus on that problem because he didn't have to worry about E-mail--he could recover up to five days of messages from the company's anti-spam service provider, FrontBridge Technologies Inc. But Freund plans to make sure people know where to go and what to do in a disaster. "We've had disaster processes, but we need to solidify those processes and rehearse them," he says.

SchlumbergerSema, the IT services unit of Schlumberger Ltd., saw clients move operations--and 750 employees--to the vendor's business-continuity facilities in New Jersey. Companies came away convinced they should test backup plans at least twice a year, says John Kersley, VP of business continuity. For instance, one client hadn't contracted for backup Internet access but quickly found it necessary.

New York-area hospitals were better prepared because of steps taken since the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks. But spotty phone service made working through EDI-dependent supply chains a challenge. One hospital sent an ambulance to the New York Blood Center to pick up the blood officials thought they'd need, fearing busy phone circuits would prevent them from placing orders.

Fortunately, all hospitals in the area had 800-MHz shortwave devices and walkie-talkie phones. Plus, the potential supply-chain impact was minimized by the decision to stop elective procedures.

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