Power Up

The weeks following hurricane Katrina and the way Johnson's team was able to respond to the evolving disaster is a testament to the importance of disaster recovery planning

We Will Return

At the time of writing Entergy had stated publicly that the ultimate goal is to return to New Orleans and its headquarters in the CBD. But a lot has to happen within the city before that can happen, much of that not in Entergy's hands. "There's a lot of cleanup to be done and restoration of the basic infrastructure there," says Johnson. The good news thus far has been the word that draining of the city will take less time than originally estimated.

What has been in Entergy's control is the restoration of power to its customers. As of September 15 at 5pm the company has restored electrical service to more than 860,000 of the 1.1 million customers affected by Hurricane Katrina, with 230,000 remaining without power.

The number of employees returning to full-time work at Entergy in some location or another changes every day, says Johnson. Temporary headquarters were slated to be ready for business on Monday, September 19. "We expect we'll be giving a substantial number of employees directions on where they need to report as we start getting them interim housing arrangements based on their situations," Johnson says.

It's an attempt at a return "normalcy", but only in relation to a situation that's been anything but. "We were faced with a combination of major hurricane, followed by flooding event that had levees not failed would not have been nearly as bad, followed by civil and social challenges," says Johnson. "We drill for even really bad hurricanes, and we couldn't have realistically plan for something that bad."

The company has created a specific task force called the Entergy Virtual Office team that has begun to look at what it will take to operate efficiently in Entergy's new incredibly distributed office environment, leveraging existing and new technologies.

Down the Road

Someday things will return back to "normal" normal and then Johnson and other members of the core restoration team will pull together their lessons learned, as they do after every disaster recovery effort and drill, and revise the plan for next year. "The sheer magnitude of this makes it a kind of one-time event and we hope this will never happen to this degree again," says Johnson. "But you can't go through something this significant and not find ways to do better."

One thing that probably won't be on that list - but is as surprising as anything else that's happened - was just how much Johnson, his peers, and his employees could take. "I don't think anyone ever felt overwhelmed. Even in the darkest period, no pun intended, when there was no power at the Power House, there was never a sense of panic," Johnson says. "We had a lot of people worried about their homes and their city, but they went to work collecting facts to figure out where we should start and what we should do."

For the next few weeks, the business continuity work continues for Johnson, who currently calls the Jackson Hilton home along with his wife, and two daughters and his dog - at least for the four or five hours a day he isn't working.

Should he start to lose focus, Johnson stares at his computer screen. It's adorned with a picture taken the Sunday after the hurricane and the subsequent flood swept through New Orleans. It depicts a few office buildings in a small section of the CBD that Entergy was able to restore power to in the early going. "You could see that little piece of the CBD lit up and reflecting off the river. It was just a few days after Katrina and it didn't get much media coverage. But I made it my screensaver," says Johnson. "It's just one small area. But it gives you hope."

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