The Ultimate Disaster Recovery

Alex McGillivray - TF2

Sure Systems takes business disaster preparedness very seriously.  So much so that last year I decided that it would be a great idea to better understand Disaster Preparedness by learning from the disaster expects about the ultimate disaster recovery.  So, in June of 2014 I joined Canada Task Force 2 as a Logistics Specialist.

In February 2015, the Alberta Provincial Government held a three-day province wide emergency disaster exercise called “EMX15” to better prepare for future disasters.  Canada Task Force 2 was deployed to Thorhild, Alberta where there was a simulated structural collapse.  A decommissioned school was the site of the hypothetical disaster where 17 victims, all volunteers from the local high school’s drama class lay trapped.  The school was scheduled for demolition in the coming weeks and it had been prepared for our arrival by having floors and walls collapsed – it was such a surreal experience!

We knew there was going to be an exercise but didn’t know exactly when and where.  Well, early morning on February 24th, I received a call to report to Canada Task Force 2 base where we would receive a medical pre-screen and then begin loading equipment onto semi trailers for the trip up to Thorhild!  The next three days were easily some of the most thrilling days of my life and I learnt some extremely valuable lessons – both personally, and for my business.

  1. Be Prepared

    You need to have an idea of what you will do before a disaster hits.  It is imperative to have the right tools and the right people in place.  For my businesses and for my customers I will:

    • Not only ensure I have the right tools for the job, but I will ensure they are in proper working order and that I know where to find them in a moments notice.
    • Know how to get ahold of the right people when disaster hits.  You need to know who’s responsible for what.
  2. Expect the Unexpected.

    You can’t think of of every possible contingency beforehand, so  you need to be prepared that something you didn’t address could happen. That’s why it is so important to:

    • Have a good plan.
    • Have the right people assigned to the plan.
    • Have some flexibility built into the plan for the unexpected.
  3. People Matter.
    • You need the right people on your team before disaster hits to make sure you are prepared.
    • You need to have them assigned to the right jobs. They should focus on their strength and people placement should be very specific.
  4. Keep It Sweet And Simple.

    If something is too complicated, it’s likely not to work in a disaster recovery situation.  If it is to work well, it needs to be easy to understand and well documented. The simpler, the better.

  5. Test, test, test!

    I left the exercise amazed at how well things ran, but I also left with a long list of items that my team could improve upon. That is why it is good to run through the plan multiple times to test it – you’ll become more efficient and significantly decrease the amount of unexpected situations that come your way.

Overall, the most valuable lesson I walked away with was the importance of teamwork. I was amazed at how well this team, with such varying skills sets and disciplines, worked so seamlessly together.   Everyone worked hard, long hours with no pay, yet there was not a single complaint.  I think I know why.  Everyone on that team was there for the same reason.  Not for recognition, but for the knowledge that if there were a disaster, that they would make a difference with the ultimate disaster recovery.  Coolest team ever.