Government Technology: How did IBM get into this line of business?

Woodworth: For a number of years, IBM has looked at the area of providing some type of security and protection to help its customers prevent disasters and recover from them quickly.

Back in 1989, IBM announced that it was in what you would call the "hot-site" business -- the recovery business. That business was primarily focused on providing key customers with an alternative that if they lost equipment, or it was damaged, destroyed or inaccessible, they could come run, if they were subscribed to the service, at one of the designated IBM sites.

As time progressed, one of the things we looked at was that just protecting the IT infrastructure, the network infrastructure, is really not enough. If a company is going to survive through difficult, crisis times, you have to look at a full measure of business-continuity protection; in essence, looking at everything from protecting employees -- clearly the most valuable resource and asset a company has -- through the company's reputation, through the facilities the company has, their operations, their interaction with the local community. The IT operation clearly is important, but all types of financial and operating functions need to be examined.

Our first real experience in responding to a major disaster came in January 1994 with the Northridge earthquake in Southern California. Ever since then, we've been extremely busy.

The crisis team as a whole, to give you a little background, really performs three major functions. One of them is working with commercial customers, local, state and national governments to help them prepare, mitigate, respond to and recover from a major disaster. We do a lot of those things on a fee basis and on a retainer basis.

Our team also works very closely internally with all of our risk and insurance management teams worldwide, and we also provide this type of protective service and response, recovery and planning services for IBM's plant sites in critical locations throughout the world.

Finally, the last piece of what we do is humanitarian type of relief and response. That came about through some conversations I had with our corporate community-relations folks in looking at IBM's very positive, over the years, response to worldwide disasters and wanting to be a very good corporate citizen in providing help and services.

For a long time, we donated funds and provided some equipment, but we didn't necessarily have a direct team that could come in and help manage that recovery effort. The IBM Crisis Response Team took on that responsibility and is now dispatched worldwide when invited in by those countries to provide humanitarian relief services, at no charge, to those governments in need during a time of crisis.

GT: There are obviously different situations at each incident you respond to. Are there some similarities in those situations as well?

Woodworth: Yes, there are similarities in the disasters and the type of issues that you face in each one. We've seen a wide variety of incidents, ranging from hurricanes to floods to landslides to volcanic eruptions to civil unrest to war to acts of terrorism -- such as Sept.11 in the United States and the Oklahoma City bombing -- and to massive earthquakes, which seem to dominate as far as large-scale disasters are concerned.

There are similarities in how the response works in countries that have limited financial means, in Third World countries per se, and in the United States across the board as far as what the needs and requirements are. They range from the basic needs of food, water and shelter through needs associated with technology services, management of the disaster itself and developing and implementing systems that will help people make