L.A. Controller Urges Better Information Technology Preparation for Disaster

Posted on August 30, 2017

Los Angeles -- Los Angeles needs better strategies to protect its critical information-technology (IT) systems in the event of major disasters, City Controller Ron Galperin said. Today, he released a report that recommended a comprehensive approach to ensure that vital City IT functions such as emergency dispatching continue during and after a disaster.

Read the report here.

Los Angeles -- Los Angeles needs better strategies to protect its critical information-technology (IT) systems in the event of major disasters, City Controller Ron Galperin said. Today, he released a report that recommended a comprehensive approach to ensure that vital City IT functions such as emergency dispatching continue during and after a disaster.

L.A. currently has a fragmented approach for the recovery of critical IT systems in the event of a major earthquake, fire, terrorist attack or other disaster. While the City has a robust Emergency Management Department (EMD), and individual City departments have their own emergency plans, what’s critically missing is a plan to maintain the key IT operations that underpin everything the City needs to do when disaster strikes, Controller Galperin’s report noted.

Controller Galperin called for the City to create a Steering Committee to develop a Citywide approach to IT business continuity and disaster recovery. The group would bring together the silos of individual departments’ planning.

“When it comes to planning for a major disaster in Los Angeles, history tells us it’s a matter of when, not if,” said Controller Galperin. “With the safety of 4 million people at stake, we need to protect critical IT operations if we don’t want all of our other emergency planning to be compromised. This report shows we still have work to do.”

Nine IT systems, including the LAPD’s dispatch and network communications systems, and the City’s financial management and payroll systems, were identified as mission critical due to their impact on public safety and services for Los Angeles residents. The report assessed IT disaster recovery plans for nonproprietary City departments and whether Los Angeles’ IT systems are positioned to continue to function after a disaster.

Controller Galperin also called on the City to invest in IT as critical infrastructure, noting that policy makers need to realize IT is more than just software or computers. He suggested using bond financing instead of relying on year-by-year budget requests that often fall short of critical funding needs.

“We must invest as quickly as possible to ensure that IT systems -- which impact City key functions including emergency communications, crime monitoring, and financial management -- are functioning to their fullest,” added Controller Galperin. “In the event of a serious emergency, it’s critical that our residents, our neighborhoods and our City are all prepared.”

Officials in the Information Technology Agency (ITA), Emergency Management Department (EMD), the Police Department (LAPD) agreed with findings that City departments should coordinate on IT disaster recovery and have begun implementing several of the recommendations.

"The resiliency of our communications infrastructure is crucial for the continuity of government and operations for response and recovery. Effective emergency response depends on communication, and the consequences of communications infrastructure failure during a disaster can be the difference between life and death for those affected,” said Aram Sahakian, general manager of the Emergency Management Department. “Investing in our City’s IT infrastructure and building alternate communications methods to back up our primary systems are critical!"

Controller Galperin strongly urged City leaders to support the ITA, EMD, LAPD, and other City departments as the work to fully implement these recommendations will require a significant investment.

“As technology becomes more essential to L.A.’s operations, continued investment in IT disaster recovery is important to ensure City services are available during an emergency,” said ITA General Manager Ted Ross. “We thank the Controller for his recommendations, and look forward to working collaboratively with the Mayor’s Office, Controller’s Office, and City Council on this important citywide effort.”

Key audit findings:

  • Los Angeles does not have a formal Citywide IT disaster recovery strategy or a Citywide business continuity plan.

  • Responsibility for IT business continuity and the corresponding disaster recovery is fragmented and no one City agency is responsible.  

  • Department-level staff do not participate in planning or testing and lack formal IT disaster recovery training.

  • City IT disaster recovery planning and testing does not include an adequate number of disaster scenarios.

 

Key audit recommendations:

  • Establish a Steering Committee to achieve greater clarity on the role of EMD as a lead agency for IT disaster recovery planning.

  • Develop and implement a Citywide recovery strategy and IT business continuity plan.

  • Require key City disaster recovery personnel to undergo training and participate in disaster recovery testing plans and test cases for a variety of disaster scenarios.

  • Ensure core infrastructure components are redundant, back up both data and systems, and facilitate remote access so that IT interruption is avoided or minimized in the event of a disaster.

  • Increase funding to expedite an upgrade of key IT infrastructure.


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