Lessons Learned from Superstorm Sandy

Originally called a “Frankenstorm,” Superstorm Sandy has left permanent marks on the Northeastern United States; New Jersey’s Barrier Islands will never be the same.

Millions of businesses and people were left without power immediately following the storm, and more than two weeks later, power is still out to some 50,000 people and hundreds of companies still have not been able to move back into their offices due to mud, mold, and other contamination.

According to Netflix, viewership doubled on the East Coast, with major spikes in cities including New York City, Boston, Philadelphia, Baltimore and Washington, D.C., with an early morning increase in children’s titles being streamed.

And where homes did have power, cellphone service was out for days. Why? Because the carriers had successfully resisted Federal Communications Commission calls to make emergency preparations, leaving Superstorm Sandy survivors to rely on the carriers’ voluntary efforts. And we’ll probably never know why the companies decided not to install backup power, because the FCC has been blocked from asking — even though about a third of people rely on mobile service as their only telephone service.

You see, 5 years ago the FCC, responding to findings that communications companies had supplied too little backup power during and after Hurricane Katrina, moved to adopt rules requiring the companies to have emergency energy sources. In response, the companies sued, claiming that the commission had no authority over them. Hey, life’s tough all over, right?

Which brings up an interesting question; if your organization’s business continuity plan included working remotely, was it successful, or was  bogged down by lack of power, lack of cellphone service, or by everyone watching Netflix and other streaming services while schools and businesses were closed? Are you talking to vendors about shared or dedicated recovery space for the next “big one?” Please let me know in the comments.

Updated 20121124: Marco Arment, creator of Instapaper, wrote a blog on keeping your iPhone charged during a power failure.

1 Comment to “Lessons Learned from Superstorm Sandy”

  • Gene says:

    While on the face of it this seems logical, in a disaster nothing is certain. When we had a 5.6 earthquake here in San Jose – an event that caused almost no damage at all – the landline phones went down. As there was little to no infrastructure damage (even the power didn’t flicker), I can only surmise that the call volume took the system down. My mobile phone continued to work just fine, although circuits were often busy. SMS messages went right through.

    The point of your post stands: a diverse set of communications options is better than one.

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