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22 Feb 2008

Does your DCP cover frozen hydrazine tanks crash-landing?

A US spy satellite "the size of a bus" (the SI unit of satellite size) that went out of control shortly after being launched a year ago, has been blasted by a US missile over the Pacific Ocean. They aimed (literally) to blow the satellite to smithereens (the SI unit of satellite size following missile impact), ostensibly to prevent the frozen hydrazine fuel tank smashing to Earth and giving someone a nasty surprise. Any secret weaponry allegedly on board would also, presumably, have been destroyed.

What if the missile had missed its target or they had not been able to fire the missile for fear of creating an international security incident amid fears of the Star Wars initiative? And what if the spy satellite had landed, intact, on your data center? What if the missile landed on your data center? What if ...?

Now I don't expect your contingency plans to mention falling spy satellites, frozen hydrazine or missiles explicitly, but that's really not the point. The point is that your plans perhaps ought to mention and should definitely cover commonplace and credible disaster scenarios, but should also cover the more extreme, outlandish and incredible incidents too, the nature of which is presently unknown and, in fact, unknowable. That is the essence of true contingency planning: "We don't know exactly what might happen but we are as ready as we can ever be to cope with any disaster that comes our way."

The US military's contingency plan for the spy satellite going out of control presumably reads:
- Have large missiles available in strategic locations worldwide
- Launch large missile at satellite
- Handle PR nightmare as well as can be expected given circumstances
- Reassure Chinese and Russians that WW3 is not declared
- Fire designers and builders of out of control spy satellite

For you and me, a specific contingency plan to cover the spy satellite scenario might read something like:
- See flaming ball of fire approaching at 22,000 mph
- Take cover under large immovable object, quickly
- Hear flaming ball of fire explode, releasing no-longer-frozen hydrazine gas
- Hold breath
- Crawl out from under large hot immovable object
- Staunch bleeding, dampen fires
- Seek fresh air
- Call insurer to make incredible claim

A more general plan might read:
- Have large immovable object or similar, under which to take cover
- Have first aid kit with all essentials
- Have disaster survival kit with all essentials
- Have insurance policy
- Watch for news of imminent disasters, Google "hydrazine" and refine/enact plan accordingly

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