Recent events & disaster preparedness

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Recent events in Virginia sparked discussions today about if something like that happened to us. All that national attention is akin to getting slashdotted, especially any emergency page we may think to prepare. This is why even in this day and age old fashioned media is the best way to get a specific message to LOTS of people. The wwu front page as it exists RIGHT NOW would melt the web-server should something that nationally recognized occur.

That said, given warning we could put together a server that can handle slashdotted loads. We know how. A static page works best, and we have enough web-servers scattered about that running the page through the BigIP to fork loads over 12 servers will allow us to keep up to loads. Heck, I still maintain that the MyWeb servers could handle those loads if given the go-ahead to run by itself.

Running a server with a database of all the students, staff, campus visitors, and Bellingham residents who are confirmed to be Not Dead, the sort of information most in demand by those concerned about aforementioned people, is a lot more work and a lot more resource intensive. Anything database driven has orders of magnitude more resources required to support that level of load.

This isn't something we've felt the need to prepare for, though. We do have an emergency page that can be hosted off site, somewhere, but it isn't designed for this type of disaster. It was designed with a Katrina-level (or more likely in our case, a &*!$ big earthquake in the area) disaster, where the school is closed and the whole region is suffering. Something like the previous paragraph could be hosted in town, even. Heck, even Mt. Baker popping wouldn't do us in because:
  1. We're up wind, so the ashfall wouldn't hit us.
  2. WWU is not in any of the historic lahar paths.
  3. Baker has no history of 'catastrophic flank collapse' eruptions (Mt. St. Helens in 1980).
Who knows. These sorts of events are the type that change disaster planning nation-wide.

1 Comment

Thanks for writing this.