Marriott International

Pin-to-pin and texting proved reliable during Katrina. So when Rita hit, employees were briefed and ready.

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Indeed, communication is an ongoing challenge. The team recently deployed MessageOne Inc.'s AlertFind service, which quickly notifies crisis team members via phone and e-mail in a matter of minutes. "We conduct tests quarterly and can consistently contact 90% to 95% of members in a half-hour time frame," says Al Sample, senior vice president of client services and head of the information resources crisis team.

Contact with key vendors, particularly telecommunications providers, was another component of recovery. "Everyone is competing for their resources, and you want to have those requests in," Petry says.

Having an executive-level crisis team leader who can make quick decisions "on the spot and with the right input" was a key success factor in recovering from Katrina, Sample says. As part of Marriott's formal governance process, the crisis team includes representatives from the human resources engineering, medical, legal and operations departments. The leader includes only those key people in decision-making meetings or conference calls, with extra input as needed.

"[Say] we need to buy supplies or have a security firm go in and secure a hotel. Most of those are financial decisions," so having an executive who can make that call is important, Sample adds.

"Don't plan for discrete scenarios," Fox advises. "Have processes that can respond to any event." You may think of disaster recovery in terms of tornados, floods or earthquakes, he warns, but your next disaster probably "won't be anything on your list."

Collett is a Computerworld contributing writer. Contact her at

NEXT: Estes Express Lines' systems soaked by Hurricane Gaston

Copyright © 2008 IDG Communications, Inc.

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