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Sat 14 Apr 2007 04:00 AM

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A matter of time?

Iran has suffered a number of devastating earthquakes in recent years; recently geologists have discovered the Iranian faultline also runs through the Arabian Peninsula. NME asks if it’s time to update that disaster recovery plan.

|~|iran2001.gif|~||~|Last month the UAE felt earth tremors in the east of the country – they caused no real damage, but served as a reminder that Arabia is near major seismic faults.

According to a number of geologists, the risk could be far worse than previously feared. Since a devastating earthquake hit Iran three years ago, impacting the UAE and the edge of Arabia at the same time, researchers have looked into the geological situation under the peninsula for the first major survey in some time.

What geologists have discovered is that Iran is sitting on top of a major fault line – a fault line that runs through the Middle East, down into the heart of the UAE.

“Arabia could experience another major earthquake at anytime,” explains Dr Ali Oncel, seismologist at the Earth Sciences Department of King-Fahd University of Petroleum and Minerals. “In order to have a better idea of when it could happen we need detailed monitoring of seismicity to detect active faults, something which has never been carried out in this region. Until this happens we have to assume that another major earthquake within the next few years is probable.”

Aside from the other major considerations which come from living in an earthquake zone, organisations need to research how their IT systems will cope with any quake – with particular reference to data loss. With large numbers of surveys pointing out that severe data loss is often a
death knell for any business, ensuring that critical information is safe should be at the top of the priority list.

Enterprises in the region need to be aware of all the potential hazards when it comes to power loss and disaster recovery – that is half the battle. The next step is preparing the IT defences.

“If you’re at a company that relies on data as its lifeblood you need to protect yourself upfront by focusing on business continuity,” Avinash Advani, CIO at Latitude Systems, explains. “Say you have a data centre in Dubai and you’re smart and don’t just think that earthquakes happen in California, or any natural disaster for that matter, you will take all your data and replicate it through standby systems.”

Compared to other regions of the world, where earthquakes are much more a fact of life, the Middle East has no real plans when it comes to how to recover from the effects of a quake – and how to mitigate the risks of damage in the first place. Even countries such as Switzerland – not known for its seismological activity – have comprehensive earthquake strategies in place.

For Middle Eastern organisations, now may be the time to up the priority of disaster recovery planning, with the chances of a major quake in the near future higher than thought.

Max Wyss, Wadati professor for seismology at the Geophysical Institute at the University of Alaska, says: “Larger earthquakes can wipe out all power supplies. At the very least, if I had a business that depended critically on uninterrupted power supply, I would install a generator.
“Each dollar spent in preparation for disaster significantly reduces the potential losses that a business may suffer once disaster strikes,” adds Wyss.


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