The 2017 Hurricane season began on June 1 and goes to November 30. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), Colorado State University and the Weather Co. are all predicting an above normal hurricane season. That being said, are you prepared?
Weathering Four Major Disasters
AAA Ambulance Service, based in Hattiesburg, Mississippi, has survived through four major disasters; and our IT Design enhanced after each one to protect our data, our hardware, and most importantly, to help protect our communities. In this blog post, I’m going to walk through all four disasters and share our lessons learned.
- Lightning Strike. In July 2011 AAA Ambulance Service experienced a direct lightning strike to our 150-footcommunications tower directly connected to our communications center and offices. This knocked out communications and network capabilities to our nine-county service area. We were unable to communicate with any of our ambulances via normal radio procedures. The loss of communications far surpassed the loss of any hardware. No data was lost.
- Fire. A few months later in November 2011, AAA Ambulance Service suffered a catastrophic fire event in the office that caused a complete evacuation of the entire building. The fire damage caused us to have to relocate to temporary offices for dispatch, business office and administrative personnel. Within 30 minutes of the fire, our dispatch was operational on a limited call taking and dispatch basis, but never the less working. The next chore was to be able to communicate to all of our 10 counties and three companies affected. Imagine not being able to use your CAD, radio systems, mapping systems or even a computer to dispatch a call for six hours. Within the next six hours, we had assembled radio over IP (ROIP) communications to all of our units and counties. Next came the 911 and computer systems. Over the next 48 hours, we accomplished a complete office set-up with 911, CAD and billing systems all operational with absolutely no loss of data.
- Tornado. In February 2013, our community was devastated with major damage from an EF-4 Tornado through the main sections of Hattiesburg and Petal. There was enough damage to effectively knock out all the communications to our radio systems that protected our 10 counties, three companies and our citizens. We were only out for 30 minutes, but that put us down to our fourth level of redundancy for communications.
- Another Tornado. Then recently, in January of 2017 we had another EF-3 Tornado that followed essentially the same path through the city of Hattiesburg, just slightly more south. This not only caused major structural damage, but unfortunately also caused the loss of four lives. By this event, we were relocated into our current facility; we’ve certainly learned from the previous events the importance of being prepared. We suffered no loss of communications or any other loss of data.
What Did We Learn? Preparedness and Testing Works
We have tested and proven facilities for our communications, data, network and backups. We test all of these on a routine basis, with most on a weekly schedule.
Everyone everywhere has there disasters whether they are natural or man-made, we have to have backups and redundancy to compensate and keep the business operating. ENOUGH IS NEVER ENOUGH… Keep adapting to your disasters and test the systems you have in place so that you are prepared to protect your communities. Questions? Contact me at email@example.com
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About the Author
Andy Geske has been serving with AAA Ambulance Service now for more than 28 years, in various roles within the company; he currently is the Chief of Information Technology and Communications. Geske still functions as an EMT-Paramedic.