Fires Threaten California Businesses - InformationWeek

InformationWeek is part of the Informa Tech Division of Informa PLC

This site is operated by a business or businesses owned by Informa PLC and all copyright resides with them.Informa PLC's registered office is 5 Howick Place, London SW1P 1WG. Registered in England and Wales. Number 8860726.

Business & Finance
05:48 PM
Connect Directly

Fires Threaten California Businesses

Some rethink the role of generators in business-continuity planning

This time, it was the West Coast's turn. Wildfires last week put business-continuity plans to the test in Southern California, just two months after a massive blackout shut down businesses on the East Coast and forced business-technology managers into disaster mode.

Cliff Rittel, director of IT at document-imaging company ADCS Inc., came into work on Sunday, Oct. 26, to secure his data center from the approaching Cedar Fire. As the fire destroyed San Diego Gas & Electric Co.'s power lines and facilities, power to Rittel's data center was fluctuating, with emergency backup batteries filling the gaps. "I counted 54 fluctuations Sunday," Rittel says. That same day, employees were on the roof of the Poway, Calif., company with garden hoses, dousing embers dropping from flames shooting 30 feet in the air just outside the property line."There were no fire vehicles in sight, they were stretched so thin," Rittel says. "Our facilities guys were awesome. They fought the fire off."

ADCS was fortunate that the power stayed on and the flames never reached the building. As the fire approached the area, San Diego Gas & Electric shut off the natural gas lines that fed Rittel's backup generators, making them useless.

ADCS's experience raises questions about the role of generators in business-continuity planning in areas prone to wildfires. Says Rittel: "In our post-disaster analysis, we've asked: Do we build our own gas storage tank? Do we want 10,000 pounds of gas next to the building in the next fire? At what point, with a fire approaching, would you release the gas? That's something for us to think about."

California wildfires

As wildfires raged in Southern California, IT executives tried to secure data centers from possible disaster.

Photo by Newscom
Accredited Home Lenders of San Diego, which stores diesel fuel in a sealed tank, cut its data-center operations to backup generators on Oct. 26, as the Cedar Fire approached within three miles of its San Diego headquarters. CIO Jim Pathman was concerned his systems would be affected by voltage spikes from the beleaguered grid. "We still haven't heard from San Diego Gas & Electric that the potential for spikes has abated," Pathman said last week.

Meanwhile, fire departments had to rely on an aging computer infrastructure, with some pieces dating back to the 1980s, to help them manage the disaster. The California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection is still using quite a few DOS applications.

"California does have budget woes, and we have to respond to those needs," says Ronald Ralph, CIO of the department, which was coordinating firefighting efforts. "A lot of our systems are aging, and we are aggressively upgrading them as we speak." Despite concerns, the department's IT systems were handling the increased activity without problems. Its IT infrastructure also includes Microsoft Windows NT and 2000, wireless technology, and geographic information systems.

More than 12,000 firefighters and support crews were fighting fires that had claimed 20 lives, burned 750,000 acres, and destroyed about 2,800 homes as of the end of last week.

We welcome your comments on this topic on our social media channels, or [contact us directly] with questions about the site.
Comment  | 
Print  | 
More Insights
State of the Cloud
State of the Cloud
Cloud has drastically changed how IT organizations consume and deploy services in the digital age. This research report will delve into public, private and hybrid cloud adoption trends, with a special focus on infrastructure as a service and its role in the enterprise. Find out the challenges organizations are experiencing, and the technologies and strategies they are using to manage and mitigate those challenges today.
AI Regulation: Has the Time Arrived?
John Edwards, Technology Journalist & Author,  2/24/2020
Fighting the Coronavirus with Analytics and GIS
Jessica Davis, Senior Editor, Enterprise Apps,  2/3/2020
IT Careers: 10 Job Skills in High Demand This Year
Cynthia Harvey, Freelance Journalist, InformationWeek,  2/3/2020
Register for InformationWeek Newsletters
Current Issue
IT Careers: Tech Drives Constant Change
Advances in information technology and management concepts mean that IT professionals must update their skill sets, even their career goals on an almost yearly basis. In this IT Trend Report, experts share advice on how IT pros can keep up with this every-changing job market. Read it today!
White Papers
Twitter Feed
Sponsored Live Streaming Video
Everything You've Been Told About Mobility Is Wrong
Attend this video symposium with Sean Wisdom, Global Director of Mobility Solutions, and learn about how you can harness powerful new products to mobilize your business potential.
Sponsored Video
Flash Poll