Don’t Forget Telecommunications in Your Disaster Plans

By Paul F. Kirvan, FBCI, CBCP, CISSP
Paul Kirvan photo.JPG
Suppose your phone system suddenly failed. What would you do? Who would you call? First, you need to determine if either the system failed or there was a problem in the network, or both. Many years ago, it was possible to make one call to resolve the situation. Not so today; many players affect your voice and data communications, and it’s important to know which one to call in an emergency.
Unless you have technicians on staff who understand voice and data networks and can diagnose network outages, your first call should be to the company that services your phone system or network components. Often they can remotely diagnose the problem and correct it without a field visit. If you find yourself calling the local telephone service provider, be aware that they may claim that the problem is in your equipment, and may also charge you for this information. If possible, try to obtain direct numbers for the telco repair office as well as repair supervisors, as they may be better able to assist.
To ensure that your voice and data communications assets are protected in a disaster, keep in mind the following tips:

  1. Locate the equipment in secure and locked rooms; release keys only to authorized staff and vendors.
  2. Within the equipment room, provide a protective cover with a lock that protects the phone system equipment cabinets; do this also with the network connecting units, called connecting blocks.
  3. Provide locks for equipment rack cabinet doors; release keys only to authorized staff and vendors.
  4. If possible, mount voice and data equipment modules above the floor so that they will not get damaged if the room floods.
  5. Back up your phone system’s data base and store extra copies in secure areas.
  6. Build network diversity where possible, so that network services do not require a single entry point.
  7. Ensure that critical electrical outlets are properly grounded.
  8. Locate fire detection and suppression equipment to optimize their performance.
  9. Ensure that the equipment area has sufficient HVAC resources for proper equipment operation.
  10. Maintain a supply of spare components, and rotate them periodically into the production system to ensure they function properly.
  11. Keep equipment areas clean and free of debris that could become a fire hazard.
  12. Replace floor tiles when not in use to prevent injury.
  13. If the office must evacuate, have an emergency number employees can call for information about the incident.
  14. Program cell phones, Blackberrys and other devices with emergency numbers.
  15. If possible, consider obtaining network services from a second service provider.
  16. Ensure there is sufficient network bandwidth that employees can work at home.
  17. Consider a service in which the primary phone number (or 800 service) can be re-directed to an alternate location.
  18. In remote areas, it may be beneficial to have at least one satellite phone.
  19. Look for and eliminate single points of failure in the infrastructure.
  20. Test emergency plans regularly to ensure your primary and backup systems work.

Paul F. Kirvan serves as secretary to the BCI USA Chapter.
With more than 20 years of consulting experience in business continuity and risk management for the technology sector, Kirvan has played an instrumental role in over two dozen comprehensive consulting projects for a variety of clients.