and concrete poles rather than wooden poles since the transmission infrastructure is so critical after a disaster.
With regard to guiding principles, the first such principle is the need for safety. “Safety will always trump speed,” said Grillo. The second such principle is to prepare for the worst and hope for the best. Preparation requires weather monitoring and damage predictions to determine resource needs. It also requires planning and drills to prepare for different kinds of disasters in addition to hurricanes, such as ice storms or earthquakes.
Logistics are critical following any disaster, said Grillo, including backup plans if initial plans fail or need to be modified. This requires a clear command structure. It also requires the ability and willingness to make quick decisions and take risks. “There are always those Monday morning quarterbacks who will second guess what you did. We make the best decisions we can with the information we have at that time, and we think we’ve done a good job so far.”
COMMUNICATIONS: FRANK WISE
Business continuity and disaster recovery are also part of Verizon’s “DNA,” said Frank Wise, executive network director for Verizon Wireless in Florida. “We aren’t the cheapest provider out there from the wireless service perspective, so we pride ourselves on being the most reliable.”
Wise agreed that logistics are critical, even before a disaster strikes. Critical elements of infrastructure need to be moved out of harm’s way. Redundant systems and backup facilities need to be designed into infrastructure. Multiple providers of services and equipment ensure diversity if something goes wrong. For example, Verizon tries to have backup generators at its cell sites in case primary power is lost.
Many employees who are critical in a recovery effort can be emotionally wrought in an event as dramatic as Katrina. “Some of them were transfixed, watching the constant stream of media that portrayed this disaster almost to the point where it was hard for them to focus.” Verizon brought in people from outside the area in the immediate aftermath of Hurricane Katrina to give its employees time to take care of their personal affairs before they returned to work.
Good communications among federal, state, and local authorities are essential during an emergency, Wise said, but during Katrina the chain of command sometimes broke down. Wise added that government entities also need to work well with each other to provide consistent and useful information that others can use to respond to an event and recover.