Essential Guide

Essential guide to business continuity and disaster recovery plans

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Consider off-the-scale scenarios in your BC/DR exercise planning

Examine off-the-scale scenarios in your BC/DR exercise planning by conducting extensive research to design situations based in reality and experience.

When planning a disaster scenario, it may also be worth examining what we call "off-the-scale" situations. These particular scenarios, which should be part of your business continuity/disaster recovery (BC/DR) exercise planning process, are based on events that may rarely or never occur, simply because the odds against them are so great.

When we think about the most unlikely events, we recall that nobody ever thought an airplane could fly into the World Trade Center (or any tall building). This possibility was considered in the original WTC design back in the late 1960s, but things had changed dramatically almost 40 years after the towers were completed.

Other-worldly events, such as an alien attack, are unlikely, but close encounters with meteors, comets and asteroids are quite a different thing. The frequency of such events occurring is astronomically large, but can we really ignore them in our BC/DR program?

Consider Yosemite National Park. Its huge volcano hasn't erupted in several hundred thousand years. Some experts believe a major eruption is long overdue. Would that make a realistic scenario? In our BC/DR exercise planning does it make sense to consider a massive earthquake in the western U.S. that threatens to create a huge new island off the California coast? And if a huge earthquake were to hit the eastern U.S., the destruction would probably be worse than anyone could imagine.

If you decide to go all out and build a "super scenario," do plenty of research so you can design BC/DR exercise planning situations that have a basis in both reality and experience.

Scenario Description Why Use It
Jet engine falls off the wing of a commercial airliner, crashing into a building and injuring dozens of people These situations occasionally appear in the news, and could be the result of faulty aircraft maintenance or a catastrophic equipment failure If your organization is located near an airport or along or near commercial aircraft flight paths, this may be a useful scenario
Yellowstone National Park's volcano erupts with a major discharge of dust and gas (fortunately, not the "big one"), causing a huge cloud to cross the nation and circle the earth, resulting in months of atmospheric disturbances and global cooling Yellowstone's volcanic history and the size of its caldera mean that an eruption of any size cannot be completely ignored The last major eruption of Yellowstone's volcano was tens of thousands of years ago; some volcanologists feel another major eruption is long overdue
A series of underwater volcanic eruptions in the Antarctic region causes significant melting of ice and an unusually rapid rise in the global water level, resulting in massive flooding and destruction With at least two active volcanoes and over 30 mostly extinct volcanoes, Antarctica has the potential to become a major global threat if its active and extinct volcanoes erupt and cause melting of Antarctic ice sheets Since most of the world's ice is located in Antarctica, concerns about any kind of warming in that region acknowledge the potential for melting ice to cause global sea levels to rise
Greater than usual sunspot activity, plus a series of huge, never-before-seen solar flares disrupt electronic equipment worldwide, resulting in massive communications outages While sunspots are a normal occurrence on the sun, about every 11 years there is an increase in sunspot activity, which can affect the performance of radio equipment Unusually large solar flares could release huge amounts of energy across the entire electromagnetic spectrum, potentially disrupting radio communications worldwide

 

This was first published in July 2013

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Essential Guide

Essential guide to business continuity and disaster recovery plans

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