Thursday, September 8, 2011

September 2001

Art Spiegelman's 2006/2011 New Yorker magazine cover
I've kept a personal journal since 1981.  I went back to check my recollection of September 11, 2001 this morning.  I remember being at home in the kitchen, ready to leave for work, when word came over the radio of the first plane hitting the tower.  There was no employee alert notification system in place at the bank, so I got in my car and drove to work.  By the time I arrived, the second plane had hit the World Trade Center and the Pentagon was not far behind.  I think of this day as the beginning of my business continuity career.  It became apparent that we would receive no direction from the bank's executives, who were all cloistered in an emergency operations center across the street watching television news, along with my boss.  After fruitless attempts to reach my boss -- we later found out that none of the cell phones worked in the EOC --  I told my employees that they should make their own decision about whether to stay at work or go home. 

Ten days later, I was offered a senior vice president position in the new CIO's organization, in part because of questions I had asked about the bank's readiness to handle such events or even to get information on bank employees based in Manhattan.  A month after that I assumed responsibility for technology recovery operations.  It took several years to build a truly redundant technology infrastructure.  When another set of events overtook us in 2003-- the "slammer" virus -- the executives at the company turned over the business continuity side of the operation to me.  From that base, we gutted existing programs and rebuilt a comprehensive technology recovery, event management, and business continuity program under the umbrella of the Office of Continuity Assurance.  In the years to follow, we reduced outages to operations from natural disasters, terrorist threats, or from technology outages by over 50%.

And I committed myself to working on projects at a national scale that increased public-private sector emergency preparedness.  Today, my firm participates in several global risk projects that seek to ensure we are never again caught unprepared.

Every time September 11th rolls around, I remember the yawning gaps in the company's readiness to handle such an event and the trajectory that those events put on my own career.  It's not something I cover in Advice From A Risk Detective, but the point I'm making probably is made indirectly in the book.  Ten years later, we should be moving forward.  We should be personally more prepared to handle any type of contingency than we were then. 

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