As one insurance CIO said shortly after 9/11, "The disaster recovery plan is that thing that sits on the shelf and collects dust. You hope you never have to use it."
Unfortunately, on Tuesday, September 11, 2001, a number of insurance companies that had offices in or around the World Trade Center had to begin the process of restoring operations for business by enacting their business continuity and disaster recover plans.
EDITOR'S NOTE: For more on the experiences of some of the insurance companies that were directly impacted by the events of September 11, please see the October issue of Insurance & Technology, online at https://www.insurancetech.com)
In the case of last year's events, disaster recovery and business continuity took on a whole new meaningit was more than an issue of reloading software onto a server, it was locating the entire staff, making sure everyone was OK, locating new equipment and office space. "Kemper had 225 employees located in World Trade Center One," says Ron Roecker chief information officer, Kemper Casualty Company, a division of The Kemper Insurance Companies. "We started relocation efforts by 10:00 a.m. EST on September 11. Employees were temporarily housed in Kemper's New York area facilities, including our offices in Princeton and Berkeley Heights, NJ, in Melville and Hauppague on Long Island, and in Elmsford, NY. Employees had access to a telephone and computer on Monday, September 17." By the end of October, Kemper had secured space on the 11th and 12th floors of 30 Rockefeller Center in midtown Manhattan.
Overall, the logistics of many DR/BC plans were put to the test. "The major challenges we faced were much more logistic than technicaldeploying equipment, deploying technical personnel, cabling for the equipment, and electrical supply," Roecker adds. "We were able to dispatch 200 desktops from our Long Grove, IL, facility, and get immediate delivery of 100 laptops and 200 monitors from our vendor. LAN printers and fax machines were also express delivered directly from our vendors. Professional computer and telephone technicians rented a van in Illinois and drove through the night to arrive in New Jersey on September 13. They brought tools and equipment with them, including telephone switch parts and server components. Wiring connections and simple switches were installed quickly where needed, so that everyone displaced by the attack was up and running within a very short time."
Another new concern for carriers that became painfully evident for some companies after the attacks was dealing with disruptions or gaps in the chain of command due to injured or missing workers and senior executives. At Empire Blue Cross Blue Shield, which had its corporate headquarters in the World Trade Center, COO David Snow says that the chain of command in the BC/DR plan ran smoothly, considering the circumstances. "Actually, we have not revisited it because the chain of command worked very well," he says. "People were able to operate independently and I think that is because the management discipline throughout Empire empowers people to act. There were people that had offices in the World Trade Center that could not re-engage, by e-mail or phone, for 48 hours, but there was no confusion. The people that were connected knew what decisions they could make and they made them. We were pleased with the readiness of the policies and the organizational structure."
Luckily, Snow says, out of Empire's 1,900 employees in its former offices in the World Trade Center, only 11 perished in the attack. Empire will have a permanent memorial to the employees it lost in its new offices located in the Metrotech center in Brooklyn, NY, scheduled to be completed in the fall of 2003. Currently, Empire's employees are in temporary offices in New York City and in the surrounding suburbs.
Greg MacSweeney is editorial director of InformationWeek Financial Services, whose brands include Wall Street & Technology, Bank Systems & Technology, Advanced Trading, and Insurance & Technology. View Full Bio