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A Year After Sandy, Do You Approach Disaster Differently? 230

Posted by timothy
from the beef-jerky-and-running-shoes dept.
A year ago today, Superstorm Sandy struck the northeastern U.S. The storm destroyed homes — in some cases entire neighborhoods — and brought unprecedented disruptions to the New York City area's infrastructure, interrupting transportation, communications, and power delivery. It even damaged a Space Shuttle. In the time since, the U.S. hasn't faced a storm with Sandy's combination of power and placement, but businesses have had some time to rethink how much trust they can put in even seemingly impregnable data centers and other bulwarks of modernity: a big enough storm can knock down nearly anything. Today, parts of western Europe are recovering from a major storm as well: more than a dozen people were killed as the predicted "storm of the century" hit London, Amsterdam, and other cities on Sunday and Monday. In Amsterdam, the city's transportation system took a major hit; some passengers had to shelter in place in stopped subway cars while the storm passed. Are you (or your employer) doing anything different in the post-Sandy era, when it comes to preparedness to keep people, data, and equipment safe?
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A Year After Sandy, Do You Approach Disaster Differently?

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  • by metrix007 (200091) on Tuesday October 29, 2013 @12:21PM (#45270277)

    Summary is misleading.

    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Summary is misleading.

      Was it really misleading, or did your ability to assume really stoop to that level of ignorance in thinking there are actually lung-breathers here on earth who think a storm is large enough to escape the very atmosphere it thrives in to damage an object in orbit...

      ...and that said lung-breathers congregate here.

      Thanks. Appreciate that.

      • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday October 29, 2013 @12:56PM (#45270691)

        Summary is misleading.

        Was it really misleading, or did your ability to assume really stoop to that level of ignorance in thinking there are actually lung-breathers here on earth who think a storm is large enough to escape the very atmosphere it thrives in to damage an object in orbit...

        ...and that said lung-breathers congregate here.

        Thanks. Appreciate that.

        Go home Aqua Man you're drunk.

    • by Rxke (644923)

      even worse, Enterpise isn't even a real shuttle, it's a full scale glorified mock up, to do glider tests et. c.

      • Although that's what Enterprise ended up being, the original intention was to refit Enterprise to be fully spaceflight-capable [wikipedia.org], but changes to design specs during the late 70s meant a teardown and rebuild was too costly.

        So we have the irony where Star Trek fans successfully campaigned to rename the first shuttle, which ended up never actually going into space.

    • Not to mention, how many "storms of the century" have there been in the past 5 years?
    • It damaged a decommissioned space shuttle on earth
      Summary is misleading.

      It is pretty "rare" for oceanic / atmospheric events to reach into space. Besides, all of the space shuttles are decommissioned.

  • So, uh, I live in Arizona, so we're pretty much still not bracing for any sort of natural disaster other than it being hot again this summer...

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by i kan reed (749298)

      Actually, as much as you personally are intellectually lazy, has elaborate plans in case of drought. and severe floods aren't unheard of either [azwater.gov].

      • whoops, got a tag improperly ended in there and lost some text. Not crazy, I promise

        the second link:
        http://geochange.er.usgs.gov/sw/impacts/hydrology/state_fd/azwater1.html [usgs.gov]

      • Re:Arizona... (Score:4, Insightful)

        by mythosaz (572040) on Tuesday October 29, 2013 @12:40PM (#45270507)

        Two quick things:

        Actually, as much as you personally are intellectually lazy,

        You're a dick.

        These "disasters" aren't. We regularly have flooding (localized, due to rains, not rivers or levees), excessive heat (110+ for weeks straight), and drought. That's normal here, benign, and we're not doing anything differently because of disasters elsewhere, because we're mostly immune from anything other than what passes for a curiosity story on CNN/Fox when we hit 118 in the summer.

        • Re:Arizona... (Score:5, Insightful)

          by i kan reed (749298) on Tuesday October 29, 2013 @12:46PM (#45270595) Homepage Journal

          Oh come on, you're a dick too, patronizing people who suffered extraordinary disasters with your post.

        • by geekoid (135745)

          Theya rent a dick. I'm sorry you don't like being confronted with the truth, but that doesn't make the poster a dick.

          It means that you need to stop being so intellectually lazy and take 2 minutes to see if your view holds any factual water, so to speak.

          "That's normal here"
          So? They are still disasters.

          "benign"
          no, people die, infrastructure gets damaged and so on. Those disaster have a minimal impact becasue, ready for it?...they have a disaster plan. duh duh duuuuuuh!

          • by mythosaz (572040)

            What death and destruction do you think "disasters" have wrought in Phoenix? We don't have "disastrous" flooding, drought and heat. It's hot. It floods a little when the monsoon is in town.. Sometimes water is low. Those aren't disasters.

            Here's the skinny on what actually happens here:
            http://www.fcd.maricopa.gov/education/history.aspx [maricopa.gov]

            Every once in a while, we flood the ground floor of a home in a wash or ravine, close an airport runway, or wash out a bridge. Sometimes a moron drives through a wash and

        • by MarkvW (1037596)

          As the water table in Arizona drops deeper and deeper, year after year . . ..

      • by TWiTfan (2887093)

        Wouldn't drought in a desert be considered normal?

        • by mythosaz (572040)

          That's the point.

          We've got disaster plans for all sorts of things, but they're all just things we live with every year.

        • No, it wouldn't. Drought is defined by abnormal lack of water. it can still have catastrophic consequences for say, cattle ranchers, whose business models depend on a very specific distribution of desert flora(really).

    • by mcgrew (92797) *

      Indeed, Superstorm Sandy only affected people in the eastern seaboard. As to do I approach disaster differently? Not since Sandy, since March 12, 2006. [wikipedia.org] Fo or folks down in St Louis it was 1994 when they had a 500 year flood. Folks in Louisiana with Katrina. And what about the folks in Oklahoma, who go through worse than the tornado I was in almost every year? How about Colorado with its fires and floods?

      Hell, what about the British RIGHT NOW. I hear they're having some really shitty weather, that people hav

  • My employer and I are still located in the Midwest, and still do nothing to prepare for hurricanes.

    • by epyT-R (613989)

      What about tornadoes?

      • by CitizenCain (1209428) on Tuesday October 29, 2013 @12:51PM (#45270637)

        No tornadoes here either. (Ohio Valley, Central Ohio). We don't get any natural disasters... I guess God figures that living in Ohio is punishment enough.

        • by geekoid (135745)

          Are you being funny? Central Ohio does get tornadoes.
          Also, disasters can e man made. To train cars pulling dangerous chemical(Chlorine, etc) move through central Ohio? if so then their should be a plan in case of derailment.

        • by hawguy (1600213)

          No tornadoes here either. (Ohio Valley, Central Ohio). We don't get any natural disasters... I guess God figures that living in Ohio is punishment enough.

          Are you sure?

          http://www.accuweather.com/en/weather-news/tornadoes-wreak-havoc-in-the-o/62353 [accuweather.com]

          Destructive storms tore through the Ohio Valley Friday producing numerous large and devastating tornadoes and carving a path of destruction that left dozens of people dead.
          There was a total of 107 tornado reports across 11 states on Friday. At least 39 people were killed by the massive tornado outbreak.

          And don't forget about the floods:

          http://mrcc.isws.illinois.edu/1913Flood/awareness/materials/TalkingPoints1913.pdf [illinois.edu]

          Heavy rainfall, equivalent to two to three months
          worth, fell across the Ohio Valley between March
          23 and March 27th of 1913. The resulting runoff
          produced cataclysmic floods and damages never
          before seen over such a large area extending
          from Indiana, Ohio, Kentucky, Pennsylvania,
          New York, and later communities along the Mississippi River

          Maybe that was just a freak 100 year storm.... but it was 100 years ago.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    It's only called "Superstorm Sandy" because of the pathetic response of government and the self-centered hubris of nor-easters. It was just a hurricane; the Southeastern US getting far stronger storms much more often.

    • Pretty much this.

      Central Europe recently had a few earthquakes. They sure made the news I tell you. Damage? C'mon, I felt them, but that's about it.

      I bet the average Californian wouldn't even have woken up.

      • by geekoid (135745)

        Not really that simple.
        Using your example: A 6 point earth quake would be interesting in CA, but devastating in other parts of the world.

        Let me know when one of those little earthquakes shuts a city down for a week.

    • by Sique (173459)
      That's not a very good way to look at it.

      You are prepared only for the disasters you expect, and the expectations are different for each region. There is no point to prepare for a blizzard near the equator, and there is no point to prepare for avalanches in Louisiana. The Southeast is better prepared for strong storms, because they have historically happened several times in the Southeast. I guess, the disaster relief plan for a complete freezing of the Mississippi mouth for several months is not very goo

    • by cayenne8 (626475)

      It's only called "Superstorm Sandy" because of the pathetic response of government and the self-centered hubris of nor-easters. It was just a hurricane; the Southeastern US getting far stronger storms much more often.

      Yep...wait till a Katrina or Andrew hits your ass and then you can call it a "super" storm.

      I feel poorly for the NY/NJ areas that Sandy hit, it was a weak storm, but did damage. I'm torn between feeling sympathetic....but also remembering SO many calls, from people (especially in the NE of th

      • by khallow (566160)
        We need to keep in mind the two huge differences between NYC and New Orleans. Even if Sandy had hit in 2005, NYC would still have fared much better because a) it's above sea level, and b) because the local and state governments are much more competent and less corrupt than the Louisiana equivalents.

        For example, two key contributing factors (I'll consider them the biggest factors) to the Katrina deaths were waiting a day before declaring an evacuation of New Orleans. And second, failing to evacuate about
  • Tax dollars weren't used to relocate owners of expensive beachfront properties that washed away, instead they were used to rebuild the same beaches and homes.

    Which are already washing away again...

    Chris Christie stirred,
    Stared on the horses of the sea, and heard
    The cars of battle and his own name cried;
    And fought with the invulnerable tide.

    • Not really. Tax dollars aren't available to repair 2nd homes, and the amounts aren't really big enough to repair a high value home.

      The beaches are getting fixed, but that is the economic life blood of a coastal town.

      • If by "fixed" you mean the beaches are being "prepared for the next hurricane that will sweep them into the sea" then, yes!

        This sort of thing reminds me of the Great Stone Fleet.

        And all for naught. The waters pass--
        Currents will have their way;
        Nature is nobody's ally; 'tis well;
        The harbor is bettered-will stay.
        A failure, and complete,
        Was your Old Stone Fleet.

        • Beach replenishment from the action of nor'easters is an annual or nearly so thing around here. In fact they generally do more damage than hurricanes. It's one of the the things your beach tag pays for.

          Not a big deal. Think Sisyphus,

          And no, Sandy was not a hurricane.

          • I don't generally see Sisyphus as a model for good governance. :)

            I'd happily help the people wiped out by Sandy relocate to safer ground. I'll help them load their belongings into trucks and give them money, too. But if they want to stay I don't think the government should force me to subsidize that decision. It's fundamentally unethical of them to take my money for such futile endeavors; especially when cheerleaders for rebuilding Hello, Governor Christie [politifact.com] are ideologically opposed to spending tax doll

        • by geekoid (135745)

          SO? if the beaches bring in more revenue then the cost of repairing the beach then what's the problem?

          • "The problem" would be socialization of costs and privatization of profits.

            I pay for the beach rebuild, the people who are rebuilt (who are wealthier than I am) reap the profits, but my neighbors and I can't afford to visit the beaches anyway.
            Lather, rinse, repeat since the beaches are highly impermanent and might well move five miles inland over the next hundred years.

            Pretty typical post-Reagan economic setup, really.

            Chris Christie, Chris Christie
            Riding through the land
            Chris Christie, Chris Christie
            With hi

      • by stenvar (2789879)

        Not really. Tax dollars aren't available to repair 2nd homes, and the amounts aren't really big enough to repair a high value home.

        Second homes are insured under the National Flood Insurance programs, just like first homes. Since that insurance is heavily subsidized, tax payers are paying for rebuilding these homes. Only starting in 2013 did owners of second homes even have to start paying higher premiums than owners of primary residences, but they are still paying way below market rates. Yes, this is a bai

        • Second homes are insured under the National Flood Insurance programs, just like first homes.

          I wonder how many second homes were suddenly declared first homes, after the storm?

          . . . and how about that boardwalk? Rebuilt, only to be burned down again in an . . . "accident", in the Tony Soprano sense of the word.

          When there's lots of federal money being handed out someone's going to find a way to take advantage of it.

  • I wonder if anybody is thinking twice [stackoverflow.com] about having a datacenter on the 17th floor of an office building, in a city by the ocean? Unless there is some specific need for you to be close to Wall Street, It's probably a good idea to make sure your servers are hosted where there is minimal likelihood of natural disasters, and also in a place that is easily serviceable from the ground. Although having it on the ground would have likely been worse in some cases, being a lot further inland where flooding is prett
    • So data centers no close to people. It really does not work, latency is often a huge issue. This means data centers need to be physically close it's a physics issue. Sure if your DC is just say doing offsite backup sure you could put it on the moon. The biggest issue was gen sets / fuel flooding this was from a post 9/11 fire code that stopped them from storing fuel where they traditionally did.

      If your solely running in any DC or area you have a serious issue. Certain requirements might necessitate clo

    • I'm still using a NYC data center for my VoIP termination, because it's the lowest latency to me, but I'm also now prepared to move that termination to another PoP if a superstorm approaches NYC again. Though, frankly we got hit harder here by Irene than most people did by Sandy.

      I was even thinking about it this summer - I've been told to expect ever-worsening hurricane seasons and this year was rather disappointing in that regard. I was quite glad to not have to deal with it, of course.

    • by hawguy (1600213)

      I wonder if anybody is thinking twice [stackoverflow.com] about having a datacenter on the 17th floor of an office building, in a city by the ocean? Unless there is some specific need for you to be close to Wall Street, It's probably a good idea to make sure your servers are hosted where there is minimal likelihood of natural disasters, and also in a place that is easily serviceable from the ground. Although having it on the ground would have likely been worse in some cases, being a lot further inland where flooding is pretty much impossible would be even better.

      Depends what that datacenter is for. If you need it for day to day operations in that building, having the datacenter close to the employees that use it probably isn't a terrible idea. Just make sure you have a backup datacenter for the assets you need accessible outside the company (or needed for a skeleton crew to keep the company alive during a disaster)

  • by Anonymous Coward

    So many worse storm disasters have happened in the last few years, and people get worked up over Sandy?

  • by epyT-R (613989)

    Because the problem lies above me, with the move towards centralized control of everything. Power wouldn't've been a problem if the system was more decentralized. Same with communications. Cellphones were designed as dependent devices from the beginning, no p2p mode to be found. Same with the data centers. A lot less productivity would've been lost had people taken charge of their data instead of trusting 'the cloud' for everything.

    The rest of it is really just a case of shit happens. Most of the time

  • by kannibal_klown (531544) on Tuesday October 29, 2013 @12:33PM (#45270427)

    The week before Halloween on 2011 we had a freak snow storm on the East Coast. It came in the middle of a MILD Fall so the leaves were still green-ish. It was a a lot of heavy snow... so trees and branches went down all over the north-East. New Jersey was without power for a while... my town was without for a week, many longer. No power meant no heat for many, so it was a cold week.

    A year later, almost to the week, was Sandy... just before Halloween 2012. Obviously Sandy was a lot worse for the coastal cities because the water crept in and the wind tore up the boardwalk... but further inland it was the same s**t different year. No power or heat for a over a week, loss of many services, etc. This one was a big more wide-spread though, and getting gasoline was a BIG PitA. But otherwise it was the same pain for those more inland.

    As an ex-boyscout I try to be ready for these things anyway... I have plenty of flashlights and batteries, canned food, a couple gallons of drinking water, a lighter to start the stove, warm clothes on-hand, etc. I was able to deal with mostly everything fine except the gasoline situation. After a week most of us were running low.

    • by c0d3g33k (102699)

      You forgot Hurricane Irene, which came in August 2011 and did more damage in many areas than the freak Halloween snowstorm. A fair chunk of Connecticut was hit pretty hard because of the winds, since foliage was still on the trees in August. Flooding impacted pretty much the entire state of Vermont. The October snow storm was just icing on the cake. Sandy represented the triple-whammy for many in these regions, and the last straw for quite a few.

      • Yeh, that's true. I forgot to mention that... 2011 was a bad year. Fortunately my town (and the surrounding towns) weren't too bad... only out of power for 2 days. But maybe 10 miles West got slammed pretty hard somehow; some friends and co-workers were without for a week during that one too.

    • It's still astounds me when neighbors have 0 prep. 30 days of food is just regular grocery shopping.

      • It's still astounds me when neighbors have 0 prep. 30 days of food is just regular grocery shopping.

        LOL, yeh. A bunch of canned food will last a while, and some other dried food, and you're good for a while.

  • by OglinTatas (710589) on Tuesday October 29, 2013 @12:35PM (#45270457)

    I still flirt with disaster, but I'm not looking for anything serious.

  • I put a flashlight down there, batteries, a mattock to "break out" if necessary, and 2 cases of water. No food, but I figure if I'm down there that long, I've got bigger problems than eating.

    • by geekoid (135745)

      Hint: Many disasters could mean up to a week without food. And said disaster may destroy your hours and not impact your basement, depending on what kind of basement you want.
      I would recommend getting some extra bean or chili and storing them down there. The bring up a few cans at a time. this way you have a rotation of things you are going to use anyways. Besides, two days without food will make you pretty weak and may compromise decision making.

    • by hawguy (1600213)

      I put a flashlight down there, batteries, a mattock to "break out" if necessary, and 2 cases of water. No food, but I figure if I'm down there that long, I've got bigger problems than eating.

      A basement might not be the best place to stock supplies you may need after an earthquake or flooding.

  • Winter Storm Atlas (Score:4, Informative)

    by Macgruder (127971) <chandies.williamsonNO@SPAMgmail.com> on Tuesday October 29, 2013 @12:45PM (#45270573)

    Earlier this month Atlas struck the Black Hills of South Dakota. 4-8 inches of snow were forecast for the higher elevations (5000+ feet), but here on the foot hills at 3500', we got 31" of snow. It was a wet, heavy snow that snapped power lines and tree limbs. 60+ mph winds made for zero visability and took out a large number of power poles.

    Our little datacenter lost utility power Friday evening, and promptly switched to UPS, which had a lifespan of about 2 hours. Power was restored after 85 minutes, but the decision was made to power off all the servers in case we lost power again, with an eye towards starting recovery procedures in a day or two. The data center was restored to full functionality by Sunday noon, even though the businesses didn't re-open until Monday noon.

    We have a complete DR plan, so if the outage persisted for another day, we could have resumed operations at a sister site. The key takeaways here were backup validation for off-site replication, lines of communication between Operations and the affected managers, and validated, sequenced shut-down and power-on check-list. I was able to get on-site through the storm thanks to my big 4x4 and coordinate the shutdown and power-on processes. Without being onsite, we would have had some more challenges due to area wide loss of network connectivity.

    • by mjwalshe (1680392)
      You only had 2 hours fuel? of did the bad weather mean you could not have more tankered in. The standard for telecoms was 48 hours without power - from my 1948 era handbook of telecommunications.
    • by hawguy (1600213)

      Earlier this month Atlas struck the Black Hills of South Dakota. 4-8 inches of snow were forecast for the higher elevations (5000+ feet), but here on the foot hills at 3500', we got 31" of snow. It was a wet, heavy snow that snapped power lines and tree limbs. 60+ mph winds made for zero visability and took out a large number of power poles.

      Our little datacenter lost utility power Friday evening, and promptly switched to UPS, which had a lifespan of about 2 hours. Power was restored after 85 minutes, but the decision was made to power off all the servers in case we lost power again, with an eye towards starting recovery procedures in a day or two. The data center was restored to full functionality by Sunday noon, even though the businesses didn't re-open until Monday noon.

      We have a complete DR plan, so if the outage persisted for another day, we could have resumed operations at a sister site. The key takeaways here were backup validation for off-site replication, lines of communication between Operations and the affected managers, and validated, sequenced shut-down and power-on check-list. I was able to get on-site through the storm thanks to my big 4x4 and coordinate the shutdown and power-on processes. Without being onsite, we would have had some more challenges due to area wide loss of network connectivity.

      Let your UPS tell the servers when to shut down when the batteries get low -- you can script any shutdown sequence you need. Then you don't have only 2 hours to drive your big 4x4 through 31 inches of snow and 60mph winds and risk becoming someone that needs to be rescued.

      • by Macgruder (127971)

        In theory, that's exactly what should happen. In practice, it's a little more problematic as the servers are doing various things and we need to ensure that those processes exit gracefully before the server closes down.

  • by EmagGeek (574360) <gterich@@@aol...com> on Tuesday October 29, 2013 @12:47PM (#45270603) Journal

    Sandy did not change my view of disasters. I still remain prepared for disaster, and when stuff looks like it is going to happen, I use my brain instead of burying my head in the sand and thinking things like "oh it won't happen to me" or "oh well Government will be there to save me," which is exactly what happened in New York.

    The entire city lived in a state of denial leading up to Sandy, and continued to live in that state for a week afterward, even having the nerve to attempt to hold the NYC marathon despite there being people in need of the resources that were being used for it. Marathon organizers had generators, clean water, gasoline, and everything they wanted, while thousands of people all over the city had no power, no water, and no means of transportation out of the city.

    Mayor Bloomberg is a disgrace.

    • by epyT-R (613989)

      butbutbut YES WE CAN!!

    • by geekoid (135745)

      SO it's the Mayors fault people weren't prepared?
      Or was it his fault he didn't forcible take other peoples stuff to reallocate as he saw fit?
      Or is it his caulk some people want to continue with their lives, but then decided not to do the marathon?
      OR maybe you are a hater ass?

    • They are city dwellers, living that dense never makes sense.

      My disaster shopping lists have been crafting supplies for my GF and stocking up on gas. Mostly because neither of those two things will keep in my home. Crafting supplies get used up and gas goes bad quickly.

  • Disaster recovery was already part of our operations. When Sandy hit, it took out a couple of branches for a few days, but operations were just DRed over to other geographic areas. We have fiber cuts all the time, and traffic just gets rerouted or DRed to another area.

    Pretty much when Sandy hit, everything happened exactly as it was supposed to.

  • Since Sandy, disasters don't approach me at all, actually....Its been about 12 months now, I think, since I was last approached by a disaster. They have given up I think.
  • DARPA X-Prize Project, build a multi use robot that can dismantle a Red Tagged home. Not demolish, dismantle. Pile everything up, neatly. Personal items in a pile. Building supplies in another. Because everyone knows what's going to happen When OSH, Lowe's, and Home Depot opens in the morning. Why not make this a War College exercise. And how does one dismantle a home one nail at a time? I hear that Katrina, and Sandy may have some interesting test sites here and there.

    Another thing, with 10 million under
  • Over the past two years I lost power for about 4 weeks.

    The last two weeks were miserable because it happened in early November when the weather was cold.

    So I spent about 5k for a good multi-fuel generator and installation of a manual transfer switch. So now a prolonged grid outage will at least not leave me freezing in the dark.

  • I have several customers on long island, and my customers were some of the quickest to recover (they just had to get themselves back online) as all data and POS systems are in the cloud. I keep 3 separate geographic locations of server clusters and a fourth backup at our office. Those IT guys who think data centers / companies are infallible have not been around long enough to see a data center go under financially, or have servers raided because the police don't understand what a virtual server means. M
  • by pla (258480)
    No. No, I don't view disaster differently, because I choose to live in one of the majority of places in the US that don't tend to get life-threatening disasters.

    No, because I don't live in a backfilled coastal flood plain and then cry to FEMA when my McMansion gets washed away.
    I don't live in tornado alley. I don't live in earthquake central. I don't live on the downslope side of the Rockies.

    Once a century a hurricane will come close enough to tear a few shingles off the roof. Once a decade a blizz
  • The storm that hit London does not even begin to compare to Sandy or other disasters. I don't know about you guys, but I don't count a storm that mostly doesn't more than inconvenience people (yes, I know, a few people died from having trees fall on them, but c'mon, that's more of a freak accident than anything.) There was a lot of bitching about disrupted commutes- not even entirely disrupted, just made more difficult- but man, I'm of the opinion that disasters require major consequences. If it's just busi

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