A devastating tornado made Gary Duncan an expert on business continuity and disaster recovery.
Duncan was the president and CEO of the Freeman Health System on May 22, 2011, when a violent tornado ripped through Joplin, Mo., and killed 158 people.
It destroyed or seriously damaged thousands of homes and businesses in the southwestern Missouri city of approximately 50,000 people.
Duncan’s hospital was one of two major medical centers in Joplin and, although damaged, it was the only one still able to treat victims of the tornado. About 1,000 people were treated – in parking lots and lobbies as well as in hospital rooms – in the 18 hours that followed the storm.
Duncan has retired from the hospital system but he still chairs the Joplin Redevelopment Corporation.
On May 28, he shared insights on the tragedy in Joplin and its recovery with about 100 people at an Uptime University event in Sioux Falls. Uptime University sessions are informational presentations about technology issues that are hosted by SDN Communications.
He says the three keys to disaster recovery are, “leadership, leadership, leadership.”
The Joplin tornado packed winds of more than 200 miles an hour. To give the path of destruction a local perspective, he pointed out that, based on local weather patterns, a similar storm hitting Sioux Falls would destroy an area running from the Empire Mall to the downtown area and beyond. The institutional victims would include O’Gorman High School, Veterans Memorial Medical Center, Sanford Health, University of Sioux Falls, and Downtown Sioux Falls.
Duncan encouraged technology leaders at the luncheon to collaborate with employees and other businesses in their neighborhood. Companies should write down their business continuity and disaster recovery plans in detail and they should practice executing them in advance of disaster.
Typically, a tornado strikes only 10 minutes after a warning siren sounds, Duncan said.
“If you’re not prepared, 10 minutes goes like that,” he said, snapping his fingers.
Technical help available
The most recent session of SDN’s Uptime University also featured a panel of six business experts who discussed the technical elements of business continuity and disaster planning.
Kevin Dohrmann, chief technology officer and cofounder of Cosentry, acknowledged that in some companies, convincing executive leadership of the need to devote resources to continuity planning and services can be challenging because there is no immediate return on investment.
Cosentry provides data center space and related business continuity services in Sioux Falls, Omaha, Kansas City and St. Louis areas.
A key point to consider is how long a company can afford to be out of operation. If a company is down too long after a disaster, it won’t have to worry about coming back because it will be forced out of business, Dohrmann said.
Amos Aesoph, a technical sales engineer at SDN, said a Business Impact Analysis is a good place for a company to start its continuity planning. Determine what segments of your business should be the highest priority for immediate attention, Aesoph said.
“There’s a lot more than just putting in the hardware and software. There’s the people part,” Aesoph said.
For companies in fields such as finance and health care, staying in compliance with federal regulations provides a natural starting point for business continuity planning, experts said.
Curtis Stewart, a senior sales engineer with Nimble Storage, noted that that improvements in technology options have reduced barriers to implementing good systems for coping with disasters and protecting data. Equipment has become more scalable to needs, which makes it more affordable, he said.
The panel discussion was moderated by Dean Putnam, a technical sales engineer at SDN. He is among the experts on staff at SDN who are available to consult with companies and help address the challenges of business continuity and disaster recovery planning.
“We’d love to join you in that battle,” he told business leaders.
For more information about the advice, products and services SDN can provide to help small and midsize businesses keep their data secure in the worst of circumstances, visit the SDN Communications website or call 800-247-1442.