By George Gobla, Technical Service Delivery Manager
Like most other residents of the East Coast, I had been following the news about the approach of Hurricane Sandy vigilantly. As a New Jersey resident, my interest was even greater, as the storm the media dubbed “Frankenstorm” was tracking to make landfall on the evening of October 29 over the New Jersey shoreline and proceed inland.
When it became more likely that Hurricane Sandy would be as destructive as many experts were predicting, the storm was also becoming a concern from a professional standpoint. As the technical service delivery manager for the Northeast region for SunGard Availability Services, it’s my job to make sure that our facilities in Carlstadt, N.J. – a town about 15 miles west of Manhattan—are operational for our customers during any crisis.
A week prior to the hurricane’s arrival, SunGard activated its three-stage hurricane preparedness process. As part of the process, we carefully followed tested procedures to help keep our employees safe and our customer data secure, our facilities secure and our communications consistent. Along with personnel at other data centers that could be affected by the natural disaster, our on-site facilities team verified that all environmental and electrical gear was in full working order before the storm.
We felt well prepared in Carlstadt despite the fact that New Jersey would face the full power of Hurricane Sandy.
On Monday, October 29, the weather worsened throughout the day. At about 9:30 p.m., I started the one-hour drive from my home to Carlstadt. As I found out later, I was the last person to drive through the local area just before the hurricane hit.
After navigating several detours, I arrived at SunGard’s mega center in Carlstadt—home to two data centers and a business continuity site, which provides customers with a fully functional alternate work space for employees to use while in disaster recovery.
At our Carlstadt data centers, we provide advanced recovery, testing, advanced replication and hosting for customers. That night, my colleagues and I were working furiously to assist customers. Some customers initiated an orderly process of shutting down their equipment, and we were able to control the situation so there was no customer impact due to data center issues.
We also had a number of customers at our facilities and we communicated with them personally and kept them updated throughout the evening. Additionally, there were multiple notifications from our Service Desk and direct phone calls to customers.
As this was happening, at around 11:45 p.m., we had some unexpected visitors. The fire chief of a small nearby town, Moonachie, arrived in his SUV with three ladder trucks, two ambulance squad trucks, and a police cruiser in tow. Moonachie was being overrun with floodwaters from a storm surge caused by Hurricane Sandy, and the officials said they needed refuge and shelter for their own operations, and also for citizens that would be rescued throughout the night.
They asked if SunGard would open its business continuity site for this purpose, and I immediately said yes.
Within minutes, the fire chief had pulled his SUV to the front of the building, opened the back hatch and began using the area to respond to 911 calls and direct emergency operations in the field. Soon after, more emergency responders and the mayor of Moonachie, Dennis Vaccaro, arrived at the business continuity site, and the area became the command post for the duration of the night.
Those that were rescued from their flooded homes, and in some cases from the roofs of their cars, were taken to the SunGard business continuity center. Sheltered and comforted with sheets and blankets, they remained in safety while the hurricane and flooding lashed Moonachie.
In total, our facility provided shelter for approximately 60 residents rescued from danger, and 40 fire, rescue and police.
The Carlstadt facilities remained dry and operational throughout the storm, and I was extremely proud that we were able to assist the community in a small but useful way during Hurricane Sandy.