Even those who predict the weather know enough to plan for the worst—just ask Barry West, CIO at the National Weather Service (NWS). With 122 weather forecasting offices and more than 400 radio transmitters all over the country, the NWS is more vulnerable to weather disasters than even the largest company. According to West, all of those data centers function with the help of the organization’s continuity of operations planning.
This planning effort is designed to minimize hardware loss in the event of natural disasters of any kind. The effort incorporates weather forecasts into a plan to dismantle the expensive radio transmitting facilities when the weather itself threatens their existence. When flames threatened a radio transmitter station during forest fires in Arizona in June, for instance, the strategy kicked into full gear, and NWS technologists rushed into the hills to dismantle the station.
“We have too much invested in these sites to run the risk of letting Mother Nature destroy them,” says West. “We provide weather data to just about everyone in the country, and if our system goes down, the whole network falls apart.”
The NWS has embarked on a drive to strengthen its continuity plan even further, investing millions into a backup site for the organization’s telecommunications platform nationwide, according to West. The site, a satellite-based system, is designed specifically to respond to every weather threat whatsoever, including hurricanes, twisters and even dust storms. Once live, the backup site can be used to run telecommunications and data monitoring, and switch systems at a moment’s notice. West says the NWS will test it regularly, as frequently as once a week.