Winter Storm Stella hit the Atlantic coast from Maryland to New England, leaving between three and five feet of snow in some areas over a three-day span. Weather-related emergencies paralyzed major metropolitan areas, including New York City and Boston, knocking out electricity to more than half a million homes and shutting down airline travel for much of the country. Businesses were at a standstill in some areas, causing corporate disaster recovery procedures to be put into effect.

Disaster recovery policies are put into place by corporations throughout the world to enable business services to continue uninterrupted even through emergency situations. In some cases, these services can be vital to the public’s well-being. Financial institutions, healthcare providers and public services are just some of the sectors that are needed in an emergency. Typically, disaster recovery policies help assure that service level agreements are met and customers are provided with the uptime and service they expect. Winter Storm Stella was responsible for activating these procedures for many organizations throughout the Northeast.

Pipkins, a 34-year-old workforce management software company located in St. Louis, Missouri, noticed the need to assist in disaster recovery procedures when customers began to call before and during the onset of the storm. It quickly became apparent that due to travel and other safety issues, companies were going to need to shift the way they did business. Staffing requirements were changing and the number of staff needed suddenly fluctuated outside of the normal business-as-usual parameters. These changes can be a monumental task when dealing with large corporations who have thousands of employees on staff. Labor laws, among other guidelines, remain a concern throughout the emergency. Often, the complexity of the requirements for shifts can be complicated and tediously mathematical, as workload forecasts and schedules must be recalculated based on emergency conditions.

As the storm hit, it forced many corporations to test their disaster recovery policies. Lessons are learned during these types of situations. Response time is critical when putting in place emergency procedures. “Within two hours we were able to generate the rosters and schedules to fill work shifts as needed by our customers,” said Jim Hogan, Director of Customer Care for Pipkins. Vendors and service providers must be ready to aid in disaster recovery in a quick and efficient manner. Often the unsung heroes of an emergency are the men and women who work around the clock supporting the disaster recovery efforts. With these policies in place and companies responding appropriately, the services needed by the public were still able to be provided. Disaster recovery policies are put in place with the hope that they are never needed, but Winter Storm Stella did not get that memo.