Connecting through the eye of a storm

Hurricane Ike floods a public park on the waterfront in Texas City, Texas.

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Scott Jagow: The official hurricane season ends Sunday. Six storms hit the U.S. mainland. Ike did $8 billion of damage in Texas. And the drunken hurricane Fay hit Florida four separate times. That storm provided a test case for a web-based network dubbed "Hurricane Facebook." Dan Grech reports from Miami.


Dan Grech: Bizrecovery.org bills itself as a clearinghouse of information that businesses need to reopen quickly after a storm. The site aims to answer questions like: Were branch offices damaged? Are nearby roads and banks reopened? Are suppliers back up and running? The site also has a social networking feature that allows managers and employees to stay in touch during a storm. And like Facebook, it's free.

Yi Deng is dean of computer science at Florida International University in Miami. He helped develop the Business Continuity Information Network, better known as BCIN.

Yi Deng: After a major disaster like a hurricane, everybody is in the dark. Through this network, businesses are provided with accurate, reliable and real-time information. And with that, they can make a sound business decision.

You'd think a site like this would already exist. But it turns out collecting this kind of information in a single place is a mammoth undertaking. It took three years and half a million dollars to develop. This past hurricane season, 100 businesses in South Florida volunteered to pilot BCIN. Among them was IBM.

Juan Caraballo with IBM says BCIN sends a clear signal to businesses:

Juan Caraballo: You're not on your own. It allows us to find each other, and by doing that help each other. Think neighbor to neighbor. But in this case, it's business to business.

And businesses are eager to join, including Kaplan Higher Ed, the billion-dollar virtual-education arm of the test prep company.

Kaplan's Samuel Hoffner says BCIN finally brings disaster recovery into the Internet age.

Samuel Hoffner: There's nothing that I know about like this. In the past, what we've done, it's walking down the street and knocking on you

BCIN is expected to be rolled out across Florida in time for the next hurricane season. Developers say even if just a fraction of those businesses use the network to speed up their disaster recovery, hundreds of millions of dollars could be saved.

In Miami, I'm Dan Grech for Marketplace.

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