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“Call for the generator and kick into business continuity alert mode – a category 5 storm is expected to hit Naples on Thursday.” Word of a Hurricane spread quickly, but did not come from the National Hurricane Center or The Weather Channel. Rather, Gulfshore Insurance announced internally that “a three-day agency-wide disaster preparedness drill designed to simulate a major hurricane in our area” would be held May 24-26.
Life has taught us that practice makes perfect and that it probably is unreasonable to expect everything to be orderly, sane, and fully functioning during or after a disaster. That is why Gulfshore Insurance hosted a multi-day, department-wide, hurricane readiness drill to intensively prepare the agency to deal with the effects of a major storm. The exercise was in preparation for the start of the Atlantic Hurricane season, which began June 1st.
“In the past, we’ve done a very good job in responding to storm situations; however, it has been years since we have had to actually put our plan to the test. We needed to review and work through every detail of our Business Continuity Plan to ensure we are completely ready and able to serve our clients when they need us most.” said Jim Helton, VP of IT.
Gulfshore Insurance put together a team of associates from all areas of the agency to respond and plan as if any of our offices locations were in the forecasted cone of a category 5 hurricane.
Prior to the start of the disaster drill, the agency’s IT Team traveled to Orlando to install new hardware and increase the performance of their recovery network. The increased capacity allowed them to add new systems and resources that can be used during a disaster. Once in place, the team spent several weeks making sure everything was ready for testing.
The drill itself began on Wednesday, May 24th with a kickoff meeting of associates who learned the forecasted strength of the Hurricane and the anticipated areas for impact and potential damage. The next 48 hours were devoted to simulating how each associate would carry out responsibilities in their respective departments in order to complete every step of the agency’s detailed Business Continuity Checklist. Reports were run, data was backed up in our Orlando recovery site, systems were taken offline, supplies were checked, text alerts were sent, and much more! The participants ran through every detail of the plan to ensure they had their i’s dotted and t’s crossed.
“This exercise continues our commitment to ensure that our clients and stakeholders receive the timely, coordinated, and impeccable response they deserve when the next inevitable catastrophe hits” said Helton.
After the storm had passed and the company was able to survey the imaginary damage, the IT Team went to work bringing their most critical systems back online on Friday, May 26th. They outfitted their training facility with test workstations to simulate what an “after the storm” computer environment would function like. Team members worked on these terminals to test servicing capabilities following a disaster. Each department was given the opportunity to work on the systems and note any challenges or issues they encountered. After taking some time to review the process from start to finish, the team met collectively the following week to discuss takeaways from the exercise and to create a list of items requiring further action.
The takeaways and lessons learned prove just how important an exercise like this can be. Through this disaster recovery drill, Gulfshore Insurance is fully confident that their hurricane preparedness processes and procedures have been vetted, and they stand ready to serve their clients following a disaster such as a hurricane.
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