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Kathleen M. Ireland used technology to keep IBM ahead of Superstorm Sandy

Posted On: Apr. 26, 2015 12:00 AM CST

Kathleen M. Ireland used technology to keep IBM ahead of Superstorm Sandy

Like countless other businesses in the Northeast, IBM felt the fury of October 2012's Superstorm Sandy.

But unlike many other enterprises, IBM stayed up and running throughout the monster storm, said Kathleen M. Ireland, IBM's vice president of global risk and insurance.

Ms. Ireland credits the company's “Deep Thunder” technology tool as one of the reasons for IBM's success in weathering the storm.

Deep Thunder allows IBM to use technology to take information that already is available on the Web — different weather feeds, different maps, elevations, different topography — and “put that together with storms that are coming in order to identify where there could be flooding events,” Ms. Ireland said. As a result of leveraging that information, Ms. Ireland's department can determine whether there could be a potential interruption at an IBM facility.

In the example of Sandy, IBM recognized that there were nine facilities within the path of the storm, she said.

“So rather than waiting to find out if they actually got hit and then if the power went out and then, in that case, start the generators, we went ahead and started the generators all the way up the line,” Ms. Ireland said. Although IBM's corporate headquarters in Armonk, New York, was without power for nine days, “there was no interruption because we started the generators even before the storm got here,” she said.

“The last thing you want to have happen is you have a generator and you wait to turn it on when the weather is raging and it doesn't work,” she said. “So we started them three days ahead of time just to make sure they're all working, and we just kept them working, because why else would you have them except to use them in a situation like that?”