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Disaster Recovery

We watched in horror as our neighbour’s SUV was pushed down the road by the flood. Having seen this kind of thing on screens before, witnessing it so close was a different matter entirely. There’s an instinct some people have to stick their hand into a burning flame to save a grain of rice. It’s primal, almost automatic, and unfortunately, can result in loss of life.

When I saw the SUV, stuck on the railing, I grabbed the rope. And my wife was like, where this man going with that? It wasn’t even the right kind of rescue rope. Just something I had at home for God-knows-what-reason. Those waters were not to be trifled with. Good sense prevailed and we waited for things to subside.

Sometimes, when it rains too much, too quickly, we lose power in the lines. I half-jokingly told my colleagues in a work meeting that I might drop off the call… moments later, current gone, current came and the SUV was rolling on down.

Thankfully, there was no one in the vehicle.

RTO

In my conversations with IT folk over the years, I learnt about setting the Recovery Time Objective (RTO) in disaster recovery planning. It’s a nifty concept. The RTO is that time it takes to go from state of disaster to normalcy. Depending on what system is down, it can require several subsystems to be restored before the main system is back up and recovery has been achieved. You can read up more about RTO and its sibling concerns of RPO and RTA, here.

In this given disaster, several “systems” went down.

The first that got restored was the road. As soon as the waters subsided, the guys from the hotel up the road, Courtenay Rooks et al, turned up with electric saws, a pick up and other implements. That log was removed in about an hour. People could now safely walk up to their homes, albeit in the mud.

By the time the fire services had arrived, it was to assist with hooking up the SUV to Rooks’ pickup so it could be towed out of the way.

Road now free, the fire tender proceeded up the road to assist others.

Normally when there’s a power outage, I call the electricity company, just to make sure that we’re going to be dealt with. Once my call connected, I was greeted with an automated “We’re aware of issues in St. Ann’s …”

I had no idea how long we would be without service, and it was getting dark. In the twilight, I saw the characteristic yellow of our power company’s service vehicle making its way through the mud. That was about two hours into the outage. It was a good sign. But with fallen poles, I expected it would be a wait. About 5 hours in, the lights came on.

I wonder if like the community response, T&TEC has a specific RTO in events like this. Perhaps 6 hours, maybe a day. Maybe it varies based on access, time of day, type of disaster. It would be good to know.

So, that’s two key subsystems – transport and power – back up in about 6 hours. There’s one other that most of us in the community would need to get normal again. The Internet. Thankfully, it would seem that I only had intermittent LTE outages throughout the period. But land-based Internet connectivity was down. During a lockdown that means we literally can’t work.

Of the two providers I’m familiar with here, Flow seemed to be back up in the morning. But Digicel – my provider. Gosh. I wouldn’t see bytes across my wire until the afternoon. That is, almost 24 hours later.

We need published RTOs for disaster recovery by utility service providers. Figures that they can be held accountable for. Now, more than ever, the mix of services we use at home are critical, as we’re still living under a pandemic, with several limitations.

I know there is a Regulated Industries Commission in Trinidad and Tobago. I think this should be something they treat with, for all of our benefit.