Storm Warnings


The Cleanup

Several days after Ivan had passed over the Cayman Islands, Cummings returned to the British Caymanian Insurance building. He then enlisted the help of British Caymanian Insurances single IT staff member to quickly assess the damage and move "some of the key equipment out of the computer room to another room that was somewhat drier." As an added precaution, he also called a Bermuda-based IBM* office to tell them to have a backup AS/400 or iSeries server ready to go if he needed it. He then brought two staff members from the Bermuda-based Colonial Group to further assist in the disaster recovery.


Together, Cummings and his three teammates moved not only the AS/400 server, but also the other IT equipment to a temporary business-continuity location. This description makes the move, which took place a week after the storm had hit, sound much easier than it actually was. Because power remained out until 10 days after the storm, they had to work in the dark, carrying the equipment down four flights of unlit stairs. "And at that time of the year, it was pretty hot and sticky," Cummings says, adding that "It was pretty tricky getting anything out of the building, including yourself." Cummings estimates that he and his crew made "a couple hundred trips up and down those stairs."


Using the tools they had access to, they created a makeshift cradle consisting of an inflatable mattress someone in the building had used to weather the storm and two pieces of plywood for the AS/400 server. As Cummings explains, "We put the mattress on the bottom and the plywood on top. This created a V-like shape that we could nestle the AS/400 in. I put two people on the front and two on the back, and we slid the AS/400 down the stairs on the mattress. So the plywood gave us a bit of support and the mattress cushioned the AS/400's ride down the stairs."


The team then put the AS/400 into the back of a car and took it to a drier location, which Cummings characterizes as "commandeered" space in another building in George Town, the islands capital. (Note: At the time this article was written, the company was still occupying this location during the rehabilitation of its storm-ravaged building, a task Cummings has been charged with.) Cummings then removed the AS/400's skin and allowed it to dry for 24 hours before attempting to power it up. Fortunately, it came immediately to life once Cummings hit the switch.


He attributes this successful booting to several fortunate issues, including the robustness of the AS/400 architecture and the quick thinking of his onsite IT administrator, who also wired the companys new location for networked computing. Regarding the former, he says, "There's no question the AS/400 is the most reliable piece of equipment I've ever worked with." And to the latter, he says, "Our local IT guy had the presence of mind to drape a garbage bag over the top of the AS/400 at some point during the storm. I'm sure that helped a great deal."



Jim Utsler, IBM Systems Magazine senior writer, has been covering the technology field for more than a decade. Jim can be reached at

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