‘Double-disaster’ Preparation: Hurricane Season, Coronavirus and Us

hurricane
hurricane

The Coronavirus outbreak has swept over the world, causing businesses everywhere to reprioritize their attention. This is particularly the case in the United States, which now has the highest number of confirmed Coronavirus cases in the world. Knowing this, it’s easy to see how this single topic has come to dominate conversations – but this is something we need to be wary of.

Right now, it’s arguably more important than ever to think ahead, which also means preparing for events outside of COVID-19. In particular, we need to start looking ahead to the approaching hurricane season – which is widely forecasted to be ‘above normal’ this year. 

With the potential intersection between a harsher hurricane season and a worldwide pandemic, IT professionals need to be on their toes and prepare as best as they can. Read on to see the potential impact of hurricane season on data centers and the IT industry currently in the midst of Coronavirus, as well as the best ways to stay prepared. 

 

Hurricane Season is Coming

Around June to November every year, the Atlantic basin experiences sizable tropical activity – resulting in a hurricane season. Under normal circumstances, hurricane season would be an unfortunate reality that we in the IT industry need to make sure we’re prepared for. However, given the Coronavirus climate we have found ourselves living in, it’s a concern that preparation may be even more difficult. 

The existence of coronavirus and the unforeseen disruptions it has brought has increased fears over a ‘double-disaster’ situation once hurricane season hits. Only adding to these fears is the fact that the Atlantic hurricane season is forecasted to be above-normal for the fifth year in a row, with 25% – 50% more storms than average predicted to hit this time round. 

In this situation, timing and proper planning is everything. Fortunately for us, peak hurricane season in Texas is between August and September, which gives us enough time to prepare. 

 

Coronavirus Measures and Our Expectations

Like many businesses, we have had to make changes to cope with the effects of this virus, whilst ensuring the safety of staff and the maintenance of our facility. As predicted, Coronavirus has taken a foothold in Houston. In accordance with government guidelines and stay-home measures, social distancing measures have been undertaken at every level to ensure the safety and well-being of staff, and sustain the working order of the data center facility. 

In terms of hurricane preparation, the initial thought may be that these measures will make things slightly harder. However, looking at the current trajectory of the virus, we believe that the Texas hurricane season will come at the tail end of the virus’ 2 -3 month arc. So, by this point in time, we should be well on the way to recovery. But that’s not to say we should all sit back and relax. Successfully coping with disaster events in the IT industry relies on being pragmatic and timely with your responses. Should the arc of the virus become longer or risk of hurricanes become more immediate, it will be harder to react at short-notice.

 

Potential Risks

One of the largest areas of concern going around is the possibility of overlap between Coronavirus and hurricane season – creating the aforementioned ‘double-disaster’ scenario. The compounded risk of both coronavirus and hurricane season has sparked fears of a trade-off between adhering with government regulations and protecting your facility from storm damage. 

From our side of things, preparation on both fronts involves strategic planning-ahead. Disaster planning based on a thorough risk-assessment is crucial in these circumstances. Planning for the most extreme eventualities means that, in the event of a compounded threat situation, the measures we have already implemented during the Coronavirus outbreak can remain in place, but extra precautions can be added if the situation demands it. This is ultimately the best advice data centers can take during these unprecedented times – prepare now to save yourself in the future. 

Right now, we have around 4 months before hurricane season reaches its peak and starts to pose the largest threat to working data centers. It is therefore still looking hopeful that the two will not intersect in any massive way. Ultimately, the biggest risk as we see it isn’t so much a compounded risk situation, but rather the narrow window of opportunity that sits between the tapering off of the Coronavirus and the start of hurricane season. People need to allow themselves enough time to prepare for hurricane season, which is why undertaking some pre-planning right now in April and May is still the most effective step you can take to mitigate risks.

 

Best Practice for Hurricane Planning 

With high winds, storms and heavy rainfall, hurricanes. Hurricanes bring along the added risks of flooding and severe damage to vital equipment, increasing the chances of data outages – as was the case during Hurricane Sandy in 2012. The only good thing to be said about hurricanes is our ability to prepare for them at least a few days to  week in advance. The most serious damage would come from E3 and above tornadoes, like those which occur in Significant Tornado Alley, where Dallas is located. These natural disasters only allow a few hours of preparation and can have devastating effects. 

Thankfully, TRG’s data center is designed in such a way that the physical threat of natural disasters is low. Physically protecting your data center from natural disasters starts with its design. When thinking specifically about the threat of a hurricane, an effectively protected facility should have a category 3-5 hurricane-rated structure located in a position that is of low-risk of flooding. 

Coronavirus may be limiting access to data centers right now, so the key to hurricane preparation will be in prioritization. In a majority of cases, this will be to minimize downtime to protect mission-critical data from being lost. Hurricanes pose a threat to infrastructure in and around a data center so the biggest priorities should be ensuring the safety of data within the facility. This involves having strategic back-ups located away from high-risk areas, including having a backup power supply, a backup generator and data back-ups in a separate location.