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New York, New Jersey financial sector well prepared for Hurricane Sandy

Lucas Mearian | Oct. 29, 2012
Lessons from 9/11 have helped ensure the financial services sector in New York and New Jersey is prepared for disasters, and even shorted the time to recover when regional events happen.

Most weather models have hurricane Sandy making landfall along the Mid-Atlantic and Northeast Coast between Monday and Tuesday.

According to, hurricane Sandy's winds will be strong over a large area and capable of downing or damaging many trees and "possibly blowing out windows in skyscrapers." The storm may also bring three to 10 inches of rainfall in along the coast.

Forecasters across the Northeast have said the storm could cause billions of dollars of damage to public infrastructure, businesses and private residences.

Walter Dearing , vice president of recovery services and customer resources support at SunGard, said customers are already executing portions of disaster recovery plans.

SunGard, which provides remote business continuity and hosting services, operates two types of facilities on the East Coast: one houses data center equipment that can be turned on and accessed by user companies; the others are "mega centers" where employees can go to work where desks and computers are readily available and pre-configured to go.

"Our philosophy is we encourage customers to test and test frequently just for this type of situation," he said.

Hurricanes, Dearing said, actually offer better preparation time than other natural or man-made disasters that come without warning. Dearning compared forecasts of hurricane Sandy to Irene in 2011, which is the fifth costliest storm in U.S. history and 1991's Hurricane Bob, which at the time was among the ten costliest hurricanes in the U.S.

Hurricane Irene struck in Aug., 2011, brushing along the Mid-Atlantic until making its final landfall Brooklyn. Irene caused massive flooding and widespread wind damage, causing 56 deaths and leaving millions without power. It was estimated to have cause around $15.6 billon in damage.

In July 1991, after brushing past North Carolina's Outer Banks, Long Island in New York, Hurricane Bob made landfall on Rhode Island, and eventually caused $1.5 billion in damage to the upper Northeast including 17 deaths.

SunGard has hosting centers in Orlando; Atlanta; Herndon, Va.; Philadelphia; Carlstadt, N.J.; Queens; and Boston.

According to Marc DeCastro, an analyst with IDC Financial Insights, the impact of a hurricane is always two-fold: The impact to IT systems and business infrastructure; and the human element. What employees should be preparing to work from home or getting hotel rooms near a disaster recovery site, and who should be manning data centers during the storm.

"All those plans are being dusted off and reviewed by executives already and they're being communicated to employees," DeCastro said.

Advancements in mobile technologies will no doubt also play a key role, as they have in the recent past, in keeping communications up during and after the storm, DeCastro said.

"Especially in banking, there are so many electronic channels available. Maybe we don't have electricity, but maybe I can still communicate with my mobile phone," he said. "I can charge off car battery, and if I need to transfer money or make a payment, I can still do it with my mobile device."


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