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NCSS prepares for tech issues

Photo by Howard Reed

Photo by Howard Reed

COVINGTON -- The technology department at the Newton County School System is working to develop a technology disaster recovery plan in the event of a technology emergency.

Infinity Network Solutions recently created and delivered a network assessment training class that included lectures and hands-on exercises to the 10 school-based technicians at NCSS in order for them to plan, develop and implement a disaster recovery and business continuity plan. Each technician passed an assessment and will be part of plans for more training.

Gary Shattuck, director of technology for NCSS, said he budgeted this item for this school year and is preparing his department for it as a result of a technology loss at Alcovy High School in September 2006. Soon after the school was opened, a contractor cut the main power line to the school.

"When power was restored, there were many computers that no longer worked, and there was some question about the health of the networking equipment," Shattuck said. "The biggest problem I had at that time in knowing how to respond to this emergency was evaluating the accuracy of the information I was receiving from the school. I realized at that time that the most important thing I needed ... is timely and accurate information."

Since then, Middle Ridge Elementary School experienced electrical power surges caused by severe thunderstorms in October. A team of technicians and a network engineer responded to assess the situation and mitigate any damage within four hours.

Later, Newton High School experienced technology failure when construction crews cut power when working on the adjacent Newton College & Career Academy.

"Since a school technician is usually the first technology person to be on site in the case of an emergency or disaster, it is important that these technicians have the knowledge and training needed to accurately assess a situation and report their finding back to me or my network engineers," Shattuck said. "Accurate information is crucial in deciding how to respond to any emergency or disaster."

Now, crews are more effective at alleviating any potential problems.

"Although this training will be very valuable in case of any future emergency or disaster, we have found that it is already proving extremely valuable in our everyday activities as well," Shattuck said. "Now all the school technicians have the ability to communicate to the network engineers issues at their school that deal with networking equipment. Building this common language and common knowledge and skills is making the technicians in my department work more efficiently and more expeditiously."

Over the summer, a limited mock technology disaster will be staged for NCSS technicians in order to evaluate the technology department's effectiveness and efficiency in assessing and responding to technology-related disasters. Afterward, the department plans to evaluate the mock training and develop plans to determine how and when further training will take place.

"What we are doing is very limited in scope in that it only involved technology personnel and the focus is only on technology issues," Shattuck said. "Technology needs are very specific and specialized training is needed to carry out an emergency response plan."