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Entries in Disaster Preparedness (14)

Monday
Jul012013

Disaster Tip of The Week: Staying Safe In the Summer Heat

 

Heat is a major killer. In fact heat is the number one weather related killer. During a heat wave in 1980 there were 1250 heat related deaths. In 1995 during a heat wave 700 people in Chicago died. In 2003 during the EU summer heat wave 50,000 people died. In France alone the number of lives lost was about 15,000 people.

The temperatures in my area has been over 100⁰ F for the last week and looks to continue that way well into this weekend. While this is not out of the ordinary for where I live there is another factor that coupled with this can cause issues. As of today there is a major transportation strike and many more cars are out on the road.

During such times the National Weather Service will issue heat related warnings. These warnings are as follows:

  • Excessive Heat Watch - Conditions are favorable for an excessive heat event to meet or exceed local Excessive Heat Warning criteria in the next 24 to 72 hours.
  • Excessive Heat Warning - Heat Index values are forecasting to meet or exceed locally defined warning criteria for at least 2 days (daytime highs=105-110° Fahrenheit).
  • Heat Advisory - Heat Index values are forecasting to meet locally defined advisory criteria for 1 to 2 days (daytime highs=100-105° Fahrenheit).

Heat-Related Illness Symptoms and First Aid

HEAT CRAMPS

  • Symptoms:
    • Painful muscle cramps and spasms usually in legs and abdomen
    • Heavy sweating
  • First Aid:
    • Apply firm pressure on cramping muscles or gentle massage to relieve spasm.
    • Give sips of water, if nausea occurs, discontinue water

HEAT EXHAUSTION

  • Symptoms:
    • Heavy sweating
    • Weakness
    • Cool, pale, clammy skin
    • Weak pulse
    • Possible muscle cramps
    • Dizziness
    • Nausea and vomiting
    • Fainting
    • Normal temperature possible
  • First Aid:
    • Move person to a cooler environment
    • Remove or loosen clothing
    • Apply cool, wet cloths
    • Fan or move victim to air conditioned room
    • Offer sips of water. If nausea occurs, discontinue water. If vomiting continues, seek immediate medical attention.

HEAT STROKE (or sunstroke)

  • Symptoms:
    • Altered mental state
    • Possible throbbing headache, confusion, nausea, dizziness, shallow breathing
    • High body temperature (106°F or higher)
    • Skin may be hot and dry, or patient may be sweating
    • Rapid pulse
    • Possible unconsciousness
  • First Aid:
    • Heat stroke is a severe medical emergency. Summon emergency medical assistance or get the victim to a hospital immediately. Delay can be fatal.
    • Move the victim to a cooler, preferably air-conditioned, environment
    • Reduce body temperature with a water mister and fan or sponging
    • Use fan if heat index temperatures are below the high 90s
    • Use extreme caution
    • If temperature rises again, repeat process
    • Do NOT give fluids
Saturday
Apr172010

Business Continuity - An Overview

By Sam Neal

An Introduction to Business Continuity

Business continuity planning, encompassing disaster recovery, minimises the impact of an incident on an organisation by ensuring alternate processes are in place for key operational functions. Business continuity planning looks to preserve assets as well as an organisation's ability to achieve its mission, retain acceptable levels of productivity, customer service, and ultimately to stay in business.

Can an organisation be too small for business continuity planning? Business continuity planning is not consigned to large organisations; any provider of a service or product, whether it is financial, manufacturing, distribution or sales, is equally exposed to the effects of a disaster. Are you prepared if something goes wrong?

Surely a business continuity plan is not needed if adequate insurance is in place?

Quite simply insurance does not buy back lost business, it only provides money. If this is not received immediately it could adversely affect cash flow, subsequent profits and client goodwill. Studies suggest that typically only 60% of actual losses are covered. Could your organisation survive the loss? Disaster does not just occur following an incident on a grand scale. A small incident, over a short period, impacting a key process, could severely disrupt an organisation; for example, an incident in the local area that requires evacuation of the premises for hours or even days. Computers still run, phones still work and infrastructure is unharmed but there is no access to any of it until the incident is resolved. Interruption threats come from multiple sources; some more likely than others. Premises may be substantially flooded, destroying servers, or an organisation may be the victim of theft. A business continuity plan examines the likelihood of this happening and considers a response relative to the risk.

It is vital to determine what would be addressed first following an incident. Who would be contacted first? How would staff be notified? To do this you need to examine your organisation, its people, its critical processes and how these are dependent upon considerations such as IT and infrastructure support, internal dependencies and suppliers.

Incident containment and recovery solutions are numerous and varied. If a flood for example, prevented access to your premises, could client service levels continue uninterrupted? The chance of this happening would be greatly increased by your staff logging in from home until full recovery is achieved. Without plans such as this in place how can you convey a level of operational confidence to your clients?

There are many factors and aspects of business continuity. It is important to be realistic and think sensibly about how your organisation would cope with a disruptive incident. Business continuity is about mitigating the impact of this incident by minimising financial losses and protecting your organisation's reputation.

The solutions are not just quick fixes but long-term considerations. It is possible to survive an incident, but not necessarily possible to recover from the long term impact.

Where do I start?

Business continuity concerns each and every organisation. Business systems must be resilient. If business continuity planning fails, so does that of an organisations clients. Not being able to access data, emails, and premises, or even make a phone call all have the potential to damage a business - and that is only the start. A second reason why business continuity is vital is that organisations expect IT support on demand. A business should commit to investment in failover systems in multiple locations, home working and standby power generation on-site, this way directors can be confident that a robust set of business continuity contingencies will be there.

The following pages highlight some key areas of IT business continuity that an organisation should consider. Business continuity is a huge area and this is by no means a definitive guide. What this section will hopefully do is stimulate thoughts and further questions about how you can implement cost-effective IT business continuity plans.

What options are there?

IT business continuity planning needs to address both the hardware and data contained within the system. This section highlights some of the ways you can build protection around your system. It is essential to ensure comprehensive planning is in place by using highly resilient servers, secondary power supplies, dual Internet connections, redundant storage and uninterruptable power supplies. As well as this it is recomended that companies use thin client technologies, such as Citrix and Microsoft® Terminal Services, for remote access, and virtual servers to provide both flexibility and resilience.

Resilience

You can build a lot of resilience into your IT system hardware. The aim when creating a resilient system is to remove any single point of failure. Hard disks used to store your applications and data are a likely point of failure, making them an area of risk and a key place in which to build resilience. You can build storage resilience by using a Redundant Array of Inexpensive Disks (RAID). By using RAID your system can lose a hard disk and still function without interruption, giving you time to replace the failed disk.

Another way to build resilience is to address the potential failure of power supplies. IT systems prefer clean power supplies; power outages or even dirty power can cause serious problems. You can build resilience into your servers by having hotspare power supplies receiving power from different sources. This way, if one source fails the other continues whilst the failed supply is fixed. As a minimum you should have all your servers on Uninterruptable Power Supplies or UPSs as they are more commonly referred to. UPSs continually clean and smooth the spikes out of power that is provided. In the event of a power outage UPSs keep servers running long enough to safely close them down or switch to an alternative power supply. If you cannot afford to have servers down, then you need to consider alternative power supplies like standby generators that kick in automatically if they detect a power outage.

Using more than one Internet Service Provider (ISP) builds added resilience into your communications infrastructure. If one communication link fails, the other can take over. However, just having different ISPs providing broadband connections is not always enough. A further consideration should be to ensure your links to the Internet do not use the same means of connection. ISPs often use the same cable and exchange, meaning that should there be a problem between your office and the exchange, it is likely you will lose both connections. To avoid this it is recomended implementing an alternative method of connecting to the Internet such as a radio link.

Virtual Servers

Up until recently servers were built and optimised for the hardware and operating system they were running on. Now with the availability of more powerful hardware these physical servers can host multiple operating systems. Each hosted operating system is known as a virtual server. These virtual servers run their own operating systems independently of the host and the other virtual servers. Because they are no longer dependant on the hardware they are running on, it is now very easy to transfer or replicate a virtual server from one physical host to another dissimilar physical host. For business continuity purposes, restoring a server onto dissimilar hardware is a long and complicated process, but with virtual servers the process is far easier and takes a lot less time due to their hardware independence.

Another advantage of virtual servers is that it is possible to run more than one virtual server on a physical host server, thus taking advantage of any spare processing capacity on the server. Also, in a business continuity scenario it is possible to have a few powerful physical servers hosting a number of virtual servers at a remote location, be it a branch office or a hosting centre. Virtual servers can be easily replicated or restored onto these hosts at the other location ready to be enabled in the case of a business continuity scenario.

Thin Clients

For a number of years now it has been possible to access systems remotely as if you were sitting at your computer in the office. Typically you would have a Citrix server, or servers, hosting thin client sessions for each of your users. Users might be sitting in the head office, at a branch or even at home, and can access a server via the Internet. Thin clients offer great advantages in business continuity planning; for example if Citrix servers were used at both the office and the branch office or hosting centre and an incident occurred it would be easy to redirect Citrix thin client sessions to the other Citrix server. This would allow the workforce to carry on working unaffected by the incident.

Replication

In order to reduce the time it takes to recover a server or data, replication should be considered. There are a number of different ways of replicating servers and data to other storage devices or servers. By using other storage devices data still has to be recovered. However, if data is replicated to other standby servers it is simply a case of enabling the servers, meaning you can be up and running again quickly using a recent copy of your data. Ideally these standby servers, with the replicated data on them, would be housed at a different location, be it a branch office or a hosting centre.

What about my data?

Having considered your hardware, you also need to address the challenge of protecting your data. Both traditional solutions and new emerging technologies play a key role in comprehensive data protection.

To ensure internal data is protected it is desirable to have implemented a series of solutions. In addition to traditional tape backups many organisations have implemented technology such as Microsoft® System Centre Data Protection Manager (DPM). Due to the massive business benefits DPM offers, it is considered it a key part of any comprehensive business continuity plan.

Traditional Tape Backup

Tapes have traditionally been the most widely used form of backing up data on an IT system. During off-peak hours, the system is backed up to tape. Tapes should then be checked to see if the process has been successful and then taken off-site. This off-site location ensures protection of the data should an incident such as a fire occur.

Backup tapes are a great form of cost-effective backup, but it is important to be aware of associated limitations. A large amount of data can be backed up onto one tape with the process typically being performed out of hours. This in itself might not suit some companies as off-peak hours are less common due to flexible working. Because of the way data is backed up onto tape, recovery times can be quite lengthy as the data has to be located on the tape before it can be restored. In addition, if an incident occurs at the end of the working day, the recovery point back to the last backup would be the night before, meaning that you could lose an entire day's work.

Continuous Data Protection

Continuous data protection is a solution where, as the name suggests, a system's data is continually being backed up. This removes the issues associated with traditional tape backups in that downtime is not necessary as your data is being backed up continuously as changes are made. In order to enable this type of solution, adequate disk storage is required to store the most recent revised data. A snapshot of this data can then be taken periodically; for example daily, and the snapshots can be backed up to tape for longer term storage at your leisure.

Microsoft® System Centre Data Protection Manager (DPM) is a solution based on near continuous data protection.

DPM constantly monitors protected servers and only copies changes saved to the protected server to a DPM server. A major advantage of only bringing the changes across is the significantly reduced bandwidth required to protect the server. Because of this reduced bandwidth it is possible to protect servers in branch offices across a wide area network. DPM is also Microsoft® application aware, meaning that it is compatible with applications such as Microsoft® Exchange and Microsoft® SQL and can therefore protect these accordingly. By using snapshots and by being application aware, DPM can restore Exchange or SQL to within the last 15 minutes. It can also provide up to 512 recovery points by creating periodic snapshots. Snapshots can be created as often as every half hour if required but typically they are created at least once a day. Performing one snapshot a day and capturing changes every 15 minutes means you could have nearly 50,000 recovery points and potentially be able to recover data to any 15 minute point in time over the past year and a half. Realistically though you would normally have two weeks' to a month's data on disk and then offload this to tape for long term protection. DPM has been written with ease of use as a priority. Unlike recovering items from traditional tape backups it is very easy to use the DPM console to find the item you wish to recover, view all its potential recovery points and then recover it to its original location or copy it to a new location. This process takes far less time than it would to recover information from tape. If enabled, it is even possible for users to view previous versions of files and recover them without having to involve their IT departments

Another factor DPM addresses is human error. Traditional tape backups require someone to check the previous night's backup and swap the tapes. Quite often it is assumed that last night's backup happened without any problems and the tapes are duly swapped. If for some reason the backup failed and no one noticed, the tape would be useless. DPM can back up from itself to another DPM server in another location, across the Internet or a wide area network. This can happen automatically and does not require human intervention. Using this method an off-site copy of the system is automatically provided each day. Though tape backups are still recommended for longer term storage, this automatic backup reduces the need to rely solely on them.

In the event of a major incident at your main site, data on your second DPM server can be quickly and easily restored onto alternative servers meaning that you could be up and running quickly. Combine this with virtual servers and thin clients and you have a very cost-effective business continuity plan.

IT support & software reseller JMC is an IT & Communications company based in Manchester, UK. They are a Microsoft Gold Certified Partner & Pegasus Strategic Partner and specialise in business solutions for organisations of any size including some of the biggest sporting organisations in the world. They offer a complete range of tailorable IT products including Microsoft Dynamics GP, Microsoft Dynamics NAV, and Pegasus Opera II.

Article Source: http://EzineArticles.com/?expert=Sam_Neal

Monday
Mar082010

Disaster Tip of the Week: Don’t Forget to Incorporate Sanitation into Your Disaster Preparation

Let's face it, sanitation is one of those subjects we are never likely to discuss during our daily conversations. It is also something we take for granted, since we typically never have to worry about it. Even when it does become an issue, we just pick up the phone and call out friendly local plumber.

Yet during a disaster it is something that becomes very important. Where are you going to go? Is water available to flush? Will you be taking precious potable water for your sanitation purposes? Can you keep it away from your food supplies? What about the smell?

Again, not the most pleasant subject matter, but extremely important since this is something if not done properly can quickly spread disease compounding an already difficult situation.

Another important factor to consider is how many people you have, especially if you are in the workplace or anywhere you have a large number of people. For instance a good rule of thumb is one portable toilet for every seventy-five occupants.

If you are in a location such as your home, or small office and you do not have enough water to both sustain your daily water intake needs and your sanitation needs consider setting up the following type system.

Convert a 5 gallon bucket fitted with toilet lid. Use heavy duty garbage bags and double bag for each use. After using, if available add a chemical agent to both reduce smells and aid in braking down the waste to the bag, and close the bags to avoid spillage. Remove tha bags and place them into either a metal (preferred) garbage can with tight fitting lid or a heavy duty plastic barrel with a tight fitting lid. This will keep the smell levels low, and reduce insect and rodent issues.

Clearly mark the garbage cans human waste so that anyone tasked with removal can readily identify them without having to open the containers.

If you are in a workplace environment, or apartment complex they should as part of their contingency planning have a vendor lined up to bring portable sanitation in, and provide for its removal. This should be done ahead of time so that it makes for fast and easy response from the vendor.

One last thing. Make sure you get all these supplies and vendors lined up ahead of time, otherwise it will be too late if you need them and don't have them if a disaster strikes.

Monday
Feb222010

Disaster Tip of the Week: Keep Digital Backups of Important Documents on A USB in Your Disaster Kit

Last week I gave you the tip about keeping important documents in ziplock bags. This week I am recommending that you keep digital copies of these documents on a USB key in your disaster kit.

If you have to evacuate quickly due to a disaster or other event you may have a limited amount of time to gather important documents before you have to leave. In addition to limited time, it is also easy to forget something while you are preparing to leave.

While you are fleeing there is a good chance that items may become lost, damaged etc. Having the items stored digitally gives you an advantage of having the information at your finger tips to read off to someone, and in some cases you may have an easier time replacing the documents.

If possible store a digital copy of the document in pdf format and use notepad to enter important information about the documents such as ID numbers, and other important information for each document.

The reason for this is you may not have access to a computer that can easily open the digital document, but you should at least be able to find a computer that will allow you to read the text based documents.

The main idea here is to speed up your ability to replace the documents should you need to do so, and proving it is you will speed the process up a bit.

If you can also include recent and updated photos of each family member in case you become separated.

Friday
Feb122010

How Safe Are Your Memories?

Recently I had the pleasure of working on a unique project co-authoring an article with someone I know that does scrap booking, and photo management. That person is Karen Siegel Fitting . I like projects like this not just because it forces me to think outside the box but also because it gets people to think differently about disaster preparedness.

That article is below in its entirety for your enjoyment and if you love scrap booking, photography or have lots of photos please take the time to visit Karen Siegel Fitting's website where you will learn plenty about the subject of photo management.

 

Photos, when lost, are often the one thing people wish they had saved. Homes, computers, furniture can all be repaired or replaced. It often takes a loss for us to realize how important it is to make backups. Here are some tips for implementing a system right now.

Keep your most cherished printed albums near the door so you can 'grab & go' in the event of emergency evacuation. This might be wedding or genealogy albums that are irreplaceable. Of course, there are great scanning solutions that are inexpensive and well worth the effort to have an electronic version - just in case.

Having a USB drive that contains current family pictures is a great safety measure. During a disaster, it will be important to show recent photos to aid in search & rescue, especially for children. Many mobile phones have space for a memory card - consider taking pictures of your family right from your phone and save it to that card. Remember though, the key is to have current day pictures so update them, at least quarterly, for growing children.

Backing up to CD or DVD and keeping them in a fire safe box might be considered common practice. Be aware. Paper burns at 400 degrees and standard fire safes are rated for 350 degrees. CDs, DVDs, and photographs melt and become destroyed at around 150 degrees. Depending on the importance of your images, there are safes on the market that will accommodate you though they are more expensive than standard fire safes. You will want to know how long they can survive in the heat as well as their temperature rating.

CDs and DVDs also have a limited use and actually wear down in time; even the ones that are not re-writable typically become worn down after using them about 1,000 times. If you decide to back up to CD or DVD make sure you make extra copies and store them in a safe place away from heat. One copy to use and another to store may be a good idea.

As an alternative, there are external hard drives and servers at reasonable prices that can withstand fire for at least 30 minutes as well as flooding. We are seeing the improvement of technology to help us keep our memories safe at a great price! In addition, it is worth considering the use of an internet based back-up solution for the most important images.... Just in case.

Now the question to ask is manual vs. automatic back up? Even though the manual backup may take longer, you have more assurance it is getting done. Using a trusted, reliable automatic backup will be more efficient; however it is up to you to make sure you double check that it is doing the job well. A blend of these options is your best solution to lessen the risk of potential loss.

Our computers are becoming the modern day shoebox for our photos and important memories. It is even more important today to make sure those memories last for future generations to enjoy.

Additional Info: Underwriters Laboratories. "Record Protection" http://www.ul.com/global/eng/pages/offerings/industries/buildingmaterials/fire/resistance/safes/ and Underwriters Laboratories. "Ten things you did not know about UL's safe testing" http://www.ul.com/global/eng/pages/corporate/newsroom/storyideas/urbansafetymyths/safes/ (both 16 Dec. 2009)

Karen Siegel Fitting has been helping her clients keep up-to-date with their photos for over 7 years. Since January, 2009 her clients have completed over 30 albums, hundreds of pages, and have maintained sanity in the effort of keeping their photos managed. Learn more about how to get your photos out of hiding and into your life at by visiting Karen at her website PhotosKeptAlive.

Keith Erwood is the Owner and Principal of Continuity Corporation a risk management business, specializing in business continuity, disaster recovery and emergency preparedness for business. Keith has also authored numerous articles on preparedness issues and writes the http://www.disasterpreparednessblog.com, he regularly speaks on preparedness as well. Keith is currently the President of his local chapter of ACP (Association of Contingency Planners - International) and recently started http://www.BRRF.org

Article Source: http://EzineArticles.com/?expert=Karen_Siegel_Fitting