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Office of Governor Gary Locke
Contact:  Governor's Communications Office, 360-902-4136

Washington state's technology systems run smoothly after major earthquake

OLYMPIA Washington state's technology infrastructure continued to function normally during and after the recent 6.8 magnitude earthquake, despite the forced evacuation of the building in which the state's data center is housed.

"All of the disaster recovery planning and practice paid off," said Gov. Gary Locke. "The Department of Information Services did an excellent job, working calmly and quickly to keep the situation under control. The entire event demonstrates the value of planning and investing for the unexpected."

The state's telecommunications infrastructure -- including telephone switches, network centers, phone lines and operator services -- all performed as expected, though local wireless and landline telephone systems across the region were temporarily overburdened with the spike in call volume immediately following the quake. Telephone operators who answer the state's general inquiry number pulled phones out through open windows, set up card tables and resumed operations outside their evacuated building. Working from the lawn, the operators voluntarily stayed late into the evening answering calls and assisting the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

The earthquake did not impact the state's Internet portal, Access Washington, ( which carried valuable online information regarding state emergency response operations. Inbound Internet traffic to state agencies increased to approximately 200 percent above normal during the hours immediately following the earthquake.

The state's K-20 Educational Telecommunications Network -- which connects the state's 426 public education locations including community and technical colleges, baccalaureate institutions and K-12 school districts -- operated without interruption.

"The state's backup computing operations performed like clockwork and our recovery teams knew exactly what to do," said Locke. "Our employees did their best to overcome difficulties in order to continue performing their duties during the crisis."

Teleworking also proved to be an effective response strategy to the disaster.

For example, Dave Sjoding, deputy director of the energy program for the Washington State University Cooperative Extension, reported that its advance preparations enabling employees to work from home paid big dividends after the earthquake.

Focused on promoting energy efficiency and renewable energy, particularly in the commercial and industrial sectors, Sjoding said, "if you don't have to make a trip to work you save energy."

Practicing what it preaches, the WSU energy team researched and promoted a "virtual office" concept 11 years ago, developed policies and procedures, and set up its computer systems to accommodate telecommuting. As a result, about 95 percent of its staff can work from home.

After the earthquake violently shook its Olympia office building and forced its evacuation, Sjoding sent the people on his staff home within 20 minutes of the quake to ensure the safety of their families. They were then able to work from home that afternoon and the next day while their office building was inspected and readied for re-entry.

Sjoding reported he didn't have people standing around in the cold weather for a long period, or losing a lot of work time. As the manager on the scene, Sjoding said, "It was so nice to tell people, 'We are a telework organization. Go home and telework.'"

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