Communications of the Association for Information Systems


On August 29th, 2005, Hurricane Katrina slammed into the Gulf Coast causing massive damage throughout Louisiana and Mississippi. Northrop Grumman's Ship Systems sector's facilities in New Orleans, Louisiana and Pascagoula, and Gulfport, Mississippi as well as most of the firms 20,000 employees located in the Gulf were directly impacted by the storm. One data center was destroyed and a second put out of commission for several days. Employees' homes were destroyed and those surviving the storm and their families scattered to safe harbors in neighboring states. Some would never return. Communication to and within the impacted areas was severely disrupted, and the near complete failure of other elements of public infrastructure further delayed the recovery and increased the chaos and suffering. This case looks at Katrina as a very real example of a business continuity disruption that far exceeded the assumptions built into the business continuity plan. It illustrates the essential role that public communication infrastructure plays in disasters such as these, and the risks associated with assuming that communication systems and other public infrastructure will be available in times of cataclysmic failure. The case also demonstrates the unique nature of leadership in a crisis, the problems of pulling together and providing resources to a work force necessary to respond to a crisis, and the unique problems of reassembling, almost from scratch, the necessary information technology infrastructure.