RALEIGH, N.C. – “Is Business Ready for Black Death?”

Some headlines stop you dead in your tracks. The one above on a press release from the North Carolina Technology Association certainly grabbed my attention.

Talk about timing. Just as the NCTA issued an update on its forthcoming “Five Pillars” conference that will focus on security in a “non-secure world,” an American is quarantined for an infectious health risk (tuberculosis) for the first time since 1963. Plus, AT&T issued a disturbing survey on business continuity and disaster recovery that showed many firms are not prepared for a “worse case scenario,” as AT&T put it.

You would think that business leaders would hardly need to be reminded about security against man-made or natural disasters given what happened on 9-11-01 and during hurricane Katrina.

The NCTA is bringing together speakers to talk about a wide range of threats, including bioterror. For example, if a plague breaks out and companies are shut down what can they do to stay in business?

The traveler quarantined in Atlanta is infected with a highly contagious form of TB. While TB is relatively rare now in the U.S., what if he had infected other people aboard several airline flights and in numerous cities while he was traveling? TB is still deadly. It kills almost 2 million people a year worldwide.

What if he had been a terrorist seeking to spread the “Black Death,” or Bubonic Plague, as NCTA asked in its release?

Remember the movie “Outbreak” with Dustin Hoffman?

Some findings in the AT&T survey are especially disturbing.

• “With 30 percent of companies citing that business continuity planning is not a priority, the results suggest that companies may have a false sense of security.”

• “The private sector does not give much credence to warnings issued by the government. Of businesses hit by a disaster, only 41 percent take action when the federal or state government issues an alert. This is compared with an even lower figure of 33 percent for those companies that have not been affected before.”

• “More than one-third (36%) of small/medium-sized businesses indicate that business continuity planning is not a priority/not important. Smaller businesses are also less likely to have a business continuity plan in place.”

AT&T also surveyed businesses in 10 markets and ranked the cities in terms of preparedness. Topping the list is New York. At least 9/11 lessons have been learned in the Big Apple. Houston, the home for so many Katrina refugees, ranked second.

Atlanta, where the TB traveler is hospitalized at the Centers for Disease Control. Ranked sixth.

The list:

1. New York
2. Houston
3. San Francisco
4. Boston
5. Memphis/Nashville
6. Atlanta
7. Chicago
8. Los Angeles
9. Minneapolis/St. Paul
10. Cleveland

How well would your company fare in the disaster survey?

Do you have a plan? If so, has it been updated?

Have you practiced the plan?

No matter your answers, be sure to check out the agenda for the NCTA conference on June 7. What you learn there could be priceless in value the next time a disaster strikes.

Hurricanes or hackers, plagues or a “dirty bomb,” flood or terrorist attack – no one knows what disaster is coming. But odds are, Murphy’s Law will strike somewhere, some how, some time.

You and your business had best be prepared.

(Note: For more information about the importance of disaster recovery planning, see the Web link for an interview with the chief technology officer of Hosted Solutions.)