Preparing for Disaster with a SCADA Recovery Plan: A Case Study

Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition (SCADA) systems provide monitoring and control of many critical systems across numerous industries. However, SCADA systems are vulnerable to various forms of internal and external “attack,” including natural disasters, security breaches, equipment failures, human error, etc. One crisis situation can bring your SCADA system—and your utility operations—to a screeching halt.

Pinellas County is the most densely populated county in the State of Florida. It maintains and operates two water plants, three wastewater plants, a solid waste facility, six pump stations and approximately 330 remote lift and pumping stations to service the residents and businesses of the county. Its SCADA system is “the brain of the entire water and wastewater operation throughout the county,” said Mike Stoup, PE, instrumentation and control (I&C) group manager for McKim & Creed. “Loss of this system, or critical components of it, could be catastrophic.”

In the spirit of Maya Angelou’s quotation, “hoping for the best, prepared for the worst, and unsurprised by anything in between,” Pinellas County has completed a disaster recovery plan for its SCADA system. The plan’s development and implementation were led by Mike Skrzypek, Pinellas County Utilities SCADA & security systems manager for the Water & Sewer Division. Mike Skrzypek worked closely with Mike Stoup and McKim & Creed’s I&C group to address the specific challenges the county faced: 1) a SCADA system with various programming techniques, deployment solutions and software platforms, 2) the recent departure of several technical veterans who knew and understood the system, and 3) insufficient documentation.

Pinellas County’s SCADA recovery plan mitigates such possible disaster situations as extended downtime, environmental spills and contaminated water distribution caused by a down SCADA system. It includes network architecture diagrams of the SCADA system (both existing and future), a comprehensive SCADA network device listing, geographical location maps, and backup and restore procedures tailored to the county’s SCADA visualization, database and historical data servers.

“By bringing the documents and drawings current with the existing SCADA system, and by developing a customized backup and restore procedure, the county is now prepared to return to operations should a condition happen to render part of, or the entire system, inoperable,” said Mike Skrzypek.