IT Planners' New Headache: Volcanoes

Your business continuity plan covers fires, earthquakes, hurricanes and maybe pandemics. But how about volcanoes?

It's time to update your crisis management plan, according to a report by Gartner Inc., since the ash cloud from the eruption of Iceland's Eyjafjallajokull volcano caused an epic disruption in air travel and stranded thousands of people last month.

"Take advantage of the publicity surrounding this event ... to raise internal awareness of your organization's vulnerability to transportation outages," the Gartner report said, noting that for the past 2,000 years, the larger Katla volcano has always erupted after Eyjafjallajokull.

The first priority is to help stranded employees find alternate transportation, accommodations and workspaces, the report said. And that requires a central system that tracks which employees are in transit.

Companies also need to figure out how critical work will get done when employees are out. Gartner suggested that a business process management system would help: "It could tell you what work is in progress, what the status is, and who was supposed to do it."

Technologies such as Skype, mobile devices and Web interfaces to company systems could make it easier for stranded employees to get work done. Telepresence rooms aren't widely available, but it might be possible for an employee to find a videoconference room that can be rented by the hour, the report noted.

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