By David F. Carr  |  Posted 2006-08-28 Print this article Print

One year after the Category 5 hurricane ravaged the southeast, information-technology managers in New Orleans who are still rebuilding backup systems hope they won't be tested again.

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For Graser, Katrina showed that West Jefferson Medical Center had to be prepared to be as self-sufficient as possible, for as long as possible. What he anticipated might be a 48-hour crisis turned into a 17-day one, during which the hospital had no access to its normal operational computer systems.

One problem was that the staff was out of practice doing business in a manual, paper-based mode. For example, sorting out the status of patients who had been transferred or discharged became a problem after the crisis, Graser says. Since then, the hospital has developed a completely manual system for tracking patients, as well as for disseminating test results.

During Katrina, West Jefferson's phone service was also interrupted. Because the hospital's backup generator wasn't powerful enough to run the building's air conditioning, the phone switching equipment overheated and wouldn't function.

The hospital addressed these shortcomings with a more powerful generator capable of keeping the entire hospital running, including elevators, air conditioners, and computer and phone systems, according to Graser. He has replaced the old phone system with VoIP equipment that, in addition to being more modern, is lighter and more practical to relocate if part of the building is damaged.

Graser also wants to move the hospital's computer room from the first floor to the fifth, as a defense against flooding, but construction is taking longer than he had expected. Overall, he says, "I believe we've done everything humanly possible, everything that was within our purview, to be better prepared."

David F. Carr David F. Carr is the Technology Editor for Baseline Magazine, a Ziff Davis publication focused on information technology and its management, with an emphasis on measurable, bottom-line results. He wrote two of Baseline's cover stories focused on the role of technology in disaster recovery, one focused on the response to the tsunami in Indonesia and another on the City of New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina.David has been the author or co-author of many Baseline Case Dissections on corporate technology successes and failures (such as the role of Kmart's inept supply chain implementation in its decline versus Wal-Mart or the successful use of technology to create new market opportunities for office furniture maker Herman Miller). He has also written about the FAA's halting attempts to modernize air traffic control, and in 2003 he traveled to Sierra Leone and Liberia to report on the role of technology in United Nations peacekeeping.David joined Baseline prior to the launch of the magazine in 2001 and helped define popular elements of the magazine such as Gotcha!, which offers cautionary tales about technology pitfalls and how to avoid them.

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