Suddenly, the World Has Changed

Feb. 24, 2003
Contingency planning offers lots of new things to worry about

That's the title of CPM 2003, the Contingency Planning & Management 2003 conference and exhibit being held March 25-27 in Las Vegas. It refers, of course, to how your world has changed since Sept. 11, 2001. (For details, see

Reading a list of the seminar topics and tech papers shows that we've only scratched the surface of things to worry about in this new age of terrorism, biological and chemical warfare, nuclear saber rattling, desert wars, hackers, and "universal brouhaha," as Tom Lehrer puts it.

My first column after September 11 contained a laundry list of things you might consider doing to prepare yourself for future disasters ("Are You Ready for a Terrorist Strike?" CONTROL--Nov. 2001, p29). Boy, did we underestimate all the stuff you have to worry about these days.

First, let's get acquainted with some of the new acronyms and terminology of CPM/DR:

  • BCP: Business Continuity Planning
  • BRP: Business Reliability Planning
  • CPM: Contingency Planning & Management
  • Contingency Planner: Job title of person responsible for keeping the organization running (also called Disaster Recovery Coordinator and many other names bordering on euphemisms that deny the problem)
  • DR: Disaster Recovery
  • Hot Site: An online system that can take over immediately if the main system fails or is destroyed (we call these "hot backups"). Cold sites and mobile sites are also used for backup
  • PHA: Process Hazard Analysis
  • Worst-Case Scenario: Just like it says

Now let's look at some of the things you need to worry about these days. These are actual seminar titles at CPM 2003:

  • Bioterrorism Decontamination Processes and Agents: how to protect your facility from a biological terrorist attack.
  • Designing and Maintaining an Alternate Operations Center: Where do you go to begin recovery of your operations? Similar topics cover setting up hot and cold sites or relying on a third-party vendor.
  • Data Replication for Enterprise Systems: Apparently, there are many ways to replicate your data.
  • Planning for the Recovery of your IP Telephony Systems: Keep your IP system running.
  • How to Protect Your Web Site Against Hackers: Self explanatory.
  • Program Management Approach to Disaster Recovery: How to plan for disaster recovery.
  • Hazard, Security, and Vulnerability Analysis Techniques: How vulnerable is your plant? Here's how to find out.
  • Accounting for Disruptions: My favorite--how bean counters should deal with an emergency.
  • Disaster Domino--An Exercise in Third-Party Dependence: Your company farms everything out these days, from maintenance to systems integration. What happens if your supplier has a disaster?
  • Developing a Corporate Crisis Capability: As we pointed out last year, it could be you who must talk to the local press. Here's how to set up a plan.

Just like "ISO 9000 Quality Consultant" in the 1980s and "ERP consultant" in the 1990s, "Contingency Planner" might be a pretty lucrative job title these days. If you set up a CPM/DR plan at your plant, you might be able to parlay that into some lucrative consulting work afterward.

First, you'll have to convince your own upper management of the need for CPM. Alas, unless somebody bombs the chemical plant next door, upper management may ignore you--they tend to pooh-pooh anything that will cost them money.

Therefore, CPM 2003 has several seminars and tech papers that show you how to present the problem and justify the expense.

How serious is this terrorism problem anyway? We're not sure, but we know it can cost you money.

ComputerWorld magazine says "terrorism" is starting to creep into contracts for information technology (IT) systems. Control engineers are familiar with the force majeur clauses that exempt suppliers from problems caused by "acts of God," such as earthquakes and floods, and uncontrollable events such as wars and riots. ComputerWorld says force majeur is being expanded to include terrorism.

We did a quick survey a month or so ago to see if terrorism has crept into contracts for control equipment. We didn't find any, but that doesn't mean you are safe. If something happens to your plant, and that little word snuck into the force majeur section of your contract, you may be left without recourse from the control system vendor.

A private industry coalition, the Synthetic Organic Chemical Manufacturers Assn. (, met with the White House Office of Homeland Security to discuss new strategies. "We all need to move to vulnerability-based planning to protect our critical infrastructure," says Major General Bruce Lawlor of Homeland Security. He wants a partnership between business and industry that will provide adequate security without imposing unmanageable financial burdens on small businesses. Hear, hear!

And it's not just terrorism you have to worry about. Don't forget hackers and natural disasters, such as hurricanes, blizzards, and floods. Contingency planning has become big business. Maybe you should consider jumping aboard the CPM/DR bandwagon. For the sake of your company, if not your career.

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