FAA's FTI has hurricane backup plan

If Hurricane Ivan should make an unexpected turn toward Florida in the next few days, employees at the Federal Aviation Administration's FAA Telecommunications Infrastructure Primary Network Operations and Control Center will be prepared to switch at a few hours' notice to a backup location.

When Hurricane Frances appeared ready to take aim at the PNOCC last week, officials moved the center to a previously prepared backup location in Chantilly, Va.

The PNOCC, in Melbourne, Fla., is the main operations center from which the FAA's nationwide FTI network is monitored and managed by Harris Corp. personnel.

'The PNOCC is essential to managing and monitoring FAA air traffic control operations nationwide,' said Steve Dash, FAA telecommunications manager. 'We are extremely pleased that the switchover to the backup site, which is part of the normal emergency response plan, went so smoothly. ' There was no impact whatsoever on the National Airspace System.'

Don Nickens, FTI program director for Harris, said the company has had plans in place to switch operations to the backup location in the event of a Category 3 (or higher) hurricane that could threaten the PNOCC's facility.

'We make the decision no later than 72 hours beforehand,' Nickens said. 'Generally most of the forecast models are accurate out to three days.'

Harris makes use of National Weather Service hurricane forecasts, a projection prepared by the Navy, and forecasts prepared by its own meteorological group, to decide if a hurricane poses a risk to the center.

While it takes about four hours to make the electronic transition to the backup location, the decision is made days in advance because personnel need to be moved to safety as well, he said.

Moving operations back to the primary center also took just four hours, but employees moved to the backup site weren't sent back to Florida until today.

When Hurricane Charley made its unexpected turn to the east, officials considered going into backup mode then, too. 'We were looking at [using] some of our corporate assets to redeploy' people, Nickens said. 'Getting people out of the area was more of the problem'we were going to use corporate jets, for instance, to fly people out to the backup site.'


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