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Godzilla El Niño: Are The Networks Prepared This Time?

Ten years ago, Hurricane Katrina landed on the Louisiana coast and devastated large parts of the coastal area of the Gulf of Mexico, including New Orleans. Katrina’s wake led to many outages in the region’s communications infrastructure.

Extreme weather patterns like Katrina are expected to occur more and more in the future. The strengthening El Niño in the Pacific Ocean has the potential to become one of the most powerful on record. As warming ocean waters surge toward the Americas, they are setting up a pattern that could bring once-in-a-generation storms this winter to drought-parched California. And soon after, Europe could be hit as well by heavy rain or snow storms.

The US National Weather Service’s Climate Prediction Center said that all its computer models are predicting a strong El Niño that will peak in the late fall or early winter. “This definitely has the potential of being the Godzilla El Niño,” said Bill Patzert, a climatologist with NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in La Cañada Flintridge, California.

After Katrina, a lot of research has been done to assess the total damage and to gain insight of the consequential damages. One of the findings revealed that physical infrastructure remains the Achilles’ heel of networks in disaster situations. During the hurricane, getting enough power was a major issue for the Gulf Coast telecom providers, as was keeping basic infrastructure running and providing physical security for workers and equipment. Equipment failure during natural disasters is nothing new, but the extreme damage that Katrina inflicted offers insight into how to increase network reliability.

How can we communicate?

Hurricane Katrina illustrated that a widespread disaster can strand employees without access to working land-line or cellular telephone services. To avoid this, you may want to develop alternative ways for locating and communicating with employees and customers. Less-traditional communications methods might include two-way radios, cellular telephones with out-of-state area codes, satellite telephones, or personal data assistants (PDAs). Employees could use these less-traditional communication methods to report their location and obtain current information.

In addition, you may want to establish a central point of contact outside the potential disaster area and make pre-established toll free telephone numbers available for employees and customers. Building a redundant network may ensure that your network operations will be able to cope better with extreme circumstances. And make sure that the connectivity at your backup locations has enough capacity to handle large volumes of data and communications. Just be prepared!

Want to know how to make your network more resilient against the effects of extreme weather conditions? Please, contact us!

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