Dick Price, Verizon's wireline Chief Business Continuance Officer, on disaster recovery/business continuity

Disaster recovery is one of those issues, while relevant, most people take for granted until an actual event like a hurricane or plane crash occurs. One company that's serious about disaster recovery preparedness is Verizon, which recently conducted a disaster simulation at its Ashburn, VA campus. Verizon is no stranger to disaster recovery and HAZMAT chemical removal. Both segments were germinated in the early 1990s at the former MCI. FierceTelecom caught up with Dick Price, Verizon wireline Chief Business Continuance Officer, to talk about his new role and what lessons were learned during the recent disaster recovery exercise.

FierceTelecom: Dick, you just have been named Verizon wireline Chief Business Continuance Officer. To start tell us about that new title and role?

Price: Last year, we decided to merge the former Verizon Telecom and Verizon Business groups together in many respects, and one of those was in was in the area of disaster recovery/business continuity. We combined those groups into one and changed my title to Chief Business Continuity Officer to exemplify the fact that we elevated the role to have more significance to the company and to ensure that we had a wide cross section to cover what we do for our business continuity efforts. With that it's not just a domestic responsibility as it was with the telecom side, but it's an international responsibility.

Worldwide, my organization is responsible for all of the worldwide planned development and the annual testing of the business continuity plans. We're also responsible for coordinating the event that may need those kinds of plans to be invoked. We run a command and control type function where we orchestrate the assets of the corporation to assist the folks out in the field who may need extra generators or housing facilities if a facility has been damaged. We help coordinate that with the various groups inside the company. My part of the business is doing it worldwide except for the whole company except for the wireless part of the company, which is kept separate from the wireline side of the business.  

FierceTelecom: What were some of the lessons learned from the recent disaster recovery simulation event?

Price: This is the first time that we have done one of these where we involved all of the disaster discovery groups within the company. Every year we do an annual drill. Commensurate with that drill, we do the recertification of our internal HAZMAT team. This is the first time that we put all of the wireline assets together and also brought in our wireless guys to coordinate and some other assets we have in the company. This was a real challenge this time because it required coordination with all of those groups. In addition, we brought in various customers from almost 30 separate federal, state and local organizations to witness what we do. Quite frankly, it was very enlightening for me to hear from our customers what needs they have that we think we have available for them and could solve a lot of their problems in short order. 

FierceTelecom: The simulation encompassed not only various segments of the wireline divisions, but also IT and human resources. Can you give us a feel how you coordinated these groups for the event?

Price: I'll answer that in two ways. One, it was easy to do from a standpoint that we run an incident command-type process so all of our disasters or significant disruption events we run as if we're running a full scale disaster. The nice thing about that is we have pre-defined roles and responsibilities. We can expand the roles of the incident command team or collapse them depending on what's needed to manage an incident.

The other answer is we we're able to do it in a new environment using our new command trailer and with people that have never been exposed to that kind of a function in a close to real-life scenario. Most of the time people sit behind their desks, but this time we brought the command trailer onto the campus and made people get inside it. This meant we had someone from real estate sitting next to someone in IT sitting next to someone in human resources. That introduced some new dynamics of how they were able to interoperate with each other.