Rebuilding Christchurch Business: Disaster recovery plan passes the test

By Kim Triegaardt

Photo / Geoff Sloan
Photo / Geoff Sloan

If the September 4 and February 22 earthquakes have highlighted anything, it's the importance for businesses of having a disaster plan in place.

CEO of Arc Innovations, a smart metering systems developer, Simon Clarke, says luckily the company decided about eight months ago just before the September quake, that they needed one.

"We had reached a level of maturity in the business that we realised there were these risks and it had been something on our risk profile for a while. We decided we needed to make that investment and went ahead."

He says because of the company's links to Meridian Energy, of which Arc Innovations is a subsidiary, they probably had a more "conservative DNA" anyway but it was something they talked about for a long time before actually doing anything about it.

After last month's earthquake the company "fell over to our disaster recovery system and it worked well," says Clarke.

"It has made a significant difference in being able to get back up and running as smoothly as possible."

Arc Innovations' advanced metering systems are installed in about 70 per cent of Christchurch homes creating the largest smart metering network in Australasia. The meters transmit power consumption data to Arc's back office through radio frequency mesh network as well as about 15,000 GPRS connections and 300 satellite connections across its two smart metering networks.

When communication systems are down, so is Arc. Clarke's priority after insuring that the staff were okay was to get the RF network that's use to transmit data up and running.

"The system goes down with the power but it was back up live quickly and since then we've been able to help Orion with information to let them know where there are still outages at a granular level, so individual homes."

The company had two separate plans in place to firstly cover the company's business systems and the second for the smart metering solution.

"Luckily we didn't need the first, everyone's mobile phones all worked and I even came back into the office and found my laptop on the floor but functioning and even with the email I was working on ready to go," says Clarke.

Arc Innovations also has a field service team of about 10 electricians which has been made available to Orion to help with repairs on their network.

"We're also lucky to have a strong supportive owner at a time like this. It's probably different for small businesses that have to rely on private equity and cash flow. We could afford to be generous to our staff and more understanding. There was was lots we could do because of the resources we had at our disposal.

"We were open a week after the quake. I think people just want to get going and be doing things."

Clarke says despite February's upheaval and the fact that 10% of his staff, including himself, are dealing with losing their homes, the company is still on track to triple the size of the business this year. "We have the right, domestically focused strategy in place and have already attracted the interest of several overseas utility companies, so the future is looking exciting."

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