The unpredictable weather this spring would test the nerves of even the most weathered storm chasers. Phenomena ranging from unprecedented flooding to tornadic outbreaks to an explosive cyclogenesis were enough to send Thor, Aqua Man and The Hulk scurrying under their beds for safety.

In fact, the explosive cyclogenesis, or bomb cyclone, that impacted the state of Colorado in mid-March was the most powerful on record – rivaling the power packed in a category 2 hurricane.

Wait – back up. What on earth is a bomb cyclone? Popular Science describes it as an occurrence “…when a low pressure system’s central pressure falls 24 millibars in 24 hours or less.” A low pressure system is an area where the pressure of the atmosphere at sea level is lower than the immediate area. As winds meet in that spot, they spin in the same direction as the Earth – which can cause a cyclone to form in the center of the region. The rotation within the system makes air move up higher into the sky, where moisture in the air condenses and forms rain or snow.

Bomb cyclones usually occur in winter but can occasionally develop in summer. The most recent one, Winter Storm Ulmer, stopped travel and activity throughout the Midwest and produced power outages from Denver to the Texas panhandle, delaying hundreds of flights and triggering evacuations in multiple states.

How can communities and businesses prepare for such devastating events? One way is to ensure their power grids are safe, since electrical power ensures not only the functioning of lights and heating/air conditioning, but the ability to communicate with emergency response teams. When a storm of any level threatens the area, power is one of the first things to go. Homes and neighborhoods go dark, infrastructures fail, businesses can’t function, and travel is compromised.

Due to the instability of the public electric utility grid, Sungard Availability Services (Sungard AS), a leading provider of information availability through managed IT, cloud and recovery services, recently conducted a critical test of its Storm Anticipation Procedures during Winter Storm Ulmer. These procedures transfer power from the unstable public utility grid to Sungard AS’ own redundant emergency standby generators to protect customers’ equipment.  

During Ulmer, the Sungard AS Data Center Operations (DCO) teams ran their data centers on generator power for 12 hours. When they were certain the storm conditions had subsided and there was stable power on the public utility grid, they seamlessly transferred power back to the public grid.

Such testing can validate that businesses will be able to operate during catastrophic events, enabling them to recover quickly and get back to “business-as-usual” while putting people at the center of their efforts to ensure true business resiliency.

Since systems are programmable and predictable, disaster recovery exercises are essential to give employees the level of understanding and confidence they need to efficiently recover the business. Exercises should:

  • Test recovery communication capabilities and messages.
  • Cover transportation and logistical requirements.
  • Introduce employees to offsite work environments, such as data centers or mobile workstations.
  • Review online access and virtual workstations.
  • Ensure that family members understand recovery communications and procedures.
  • Walk through the entire BC/DR plan, in whole and in part.

As power utility and other technology testing grows, business resiliency will increase multifold, providing businesses with a holistic approach to meet challenges with greater resiliency — and success. In other words, an explosive cyclogenesis doesn’t stand a chance against a resilient infrastructure. And since the 2019 Hurricane Season is right around the corner, that’s good news.

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