If you work with computers, your vocabulary has been expanded. Terms like "nag," "upgrade," "hackers" and "backup" are now part of the lexicon.

If you work with computers, your vocabulary has been expanded. Terms like “nag,” “upgrade,” “hackers” and “backup” are now part of the lexicon.

A “nag” is a not so gentle reminder that the computer user needs to take certain steps to protect the health of the computer. It may involve “upgrading software” and “backing up” or making a copy of information stored electronically on computer disks.

The state’s audit of the city of Pine Bluff’s finances in 2010 encouraged the municipality to “upgrade” its plans to recover electronic data in the event of a disaster.

Most Southeast Arkansas residents would define a disaster as a flood, fire or tornado. For electronic data, add many other potential dangers, including electrical power surges, when disaster potential is considered.

Sure, a fire, flood or tornado can destroy valuable records. But the potential for a major disaster is multiplied many times over when it comes to protecting electronic data:

– Payroll records;

– Personnel records;

– Accounts payable and receivable records; and

– Ordinances and resolutions.

Finance Director Steve Miller and Fire and Emergency Services Department Lt. Earnest Jones told Pine Bluff aldermen at their Dec. 19 meeting that they are working on plans that would allow city officials to recover electronic data in the event of a disaster.

The Legislative Joint Auditing Committee audit noted issues with the computer systems in the municipal Finance Department and District Court.

“There was no formally documented and approved Disaster Recovery Plan,” the audit report emphasized. “This situation could cause the entity to be without computer processing for an extended period of time in the event of a disaster or major interruption and could place undue financial and personnel burdens on the resources of the entity.”

Newspapers utilize computers in just about every step of daily operations, from advertising to circulation to news. Reporters may take notes with pen and paper, but the stories, editorials, columns and photographs pass through a computer several times before reaching the pressroom.

When an electrical storm approaches, we know it is time to backup data that can’t be replaced quickly. The municipality is following similar steps in response to the findings noted in the state audit:

– Network administrator Wes ODonohue has contacted state officials for advice and guidance, taken training courses and begun developing a disaster recovery procedure for municipal operations with the assistance of Jones and the finance department.

– The city obtained a $25,000 grant from the Arkansas Economic Development Commission to fund steps that must be taken in developing an emergency plan to recover data.

– Jones is working with a consulting firm to make sure the plans developed meet state and federal guidelines.

Miller noted the statewide effort to implement disaster plans beyond computer systems so a municipality can continue to operate in the wake of a disaster, with Jones telling aldermen the plan will be in place before May.

Pine Bluff woke up to the potential for disasters in the December 2000 ice storms. Hopefully, we learned our lesson.