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Preparedness exercise leads to major privacy incident

A set of cartridges containing private data was lost in transit during a preparedness exercise
A set of cartridges containing private data was lost in transit during a preparedness exercise

Disaster preparedness exercises are an excellent way for municipality and government officials to assess a given region's readiness level to cope with emergency conditions wrought by a severe weather event, or other catastrophes.

In order to ensure that these exercises are successfully undertaken though, it would be wise to partner with a continuity of operations consultant to devise a strategic preparedness initiative that takes into account anything that could go awry and lead to greater damage than the disaster itself.

This issue recently surfaced in United States headlines after a disaster readiness assessment being undertaken by the California Department of Child Support Services went very wrong.

According to an article written by The Associated Press, the California child support system sent several computer storage devices to an IBM office in Boulder, Colorado, with the intention of testing whether the system could be successfully operated remotely in the case that a disaster disrupted operations in the primary facility.

However, after the testing exercise was completed in Colorado, the cartridges were lost in transit on their way back to California, leaving 800,000 records of adult and children that included private information such as names and Social Security numbers vulnerable to fraud.

"We believe that the container was not properly secured, thus allowing the container to open and then spill out," said Christine Lally of California's Office of Technology Services.

In order to avoid messy problems such as this in the future, it would be wise to develop and execute preparedness plans with the assistance of professionals.

One excellent way to gather this assistance is by sending municipality representatives to attend the Continuity Insights Management Conference 2012 taking place in Scottsdale, Arizona, from April 16 to 18.

During the workshops at the conference, officials will enjoy in depth analysis of the best practices for conducting preparedness exercises to ensure that a task meant to enhance readiness doesn't lead to more problems.