NFC ready for Lili ? or any disaster

As Hurricane Lili raged toward the Texas and Louisiana coasts last week, John Ortego activated plans at the National Finance Center to make sure federal paychecks got out in time.

Ortego, NFC director, made sure nearly 100 personnel had plane tickets and were ready to fly out of New Orleans to an undisclosed location before the hurricane hit town. And he got ready to move key operations to an undisclosed recovery center out of state.

On Oct. 2 at 5:30 p.m. Central time, NFC employees turned off the lights and the electricity, shutting down the computer system for 24 hours. The NFC team was sent to the airport and left town. Iron Mountain Inc., a data storage company that provides secure housing of off-site data, airlifted NFC's latest backup data, on tape, to the undisclosed location.

In emergency situations, Ortego said, the team would "lay down the entire operating system at the alternative site, overlay the software into the temporary system and then load all the data."

But because the hurricane's intensity decreased and the storm hit 50 miles west of New Orleans, the electricity was turned on 24 hours later. And the normal operating timetable went back on schedule without setting up the alternate site.

"The system is up and running today, and you'd never know anything happened," Ortego said Oct. 4.

He added that NFC really needs a mirror center that has the same functions, equipment and staff but in another location. But that is costly, so "I do well with what we have," he said.

"We have always paid on time," he added, "because we have alternate plans."

Dave Krohmal, manager of the disaster recovery services program at the General Services Administration, said every agency must tailor its recovery plans to its own needs. "It is better to be proactive," he said.

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