Updated: Nov 18, 2019
Hands up all those Resilience and Business Continuity professionals who were saying “I told you so” after the widespread national grid power failure on 9th August 2019. What a wake up call this event was - and it will happen again, it’s just a case of when and where.
Mains utility failures are one of the biggest BC challenges because they are largely outside of your control. Utility companies cannot always give accurate recovery times - it could be minutes or many hours. Planning your response and resilience strategies in advance is key. Here are some points to consider.
Staff: Apart from potentially losing their tech and phones, staff will be in a building with limited services; air conditioning may fail during the power cut causing air quality to drop quickly. How will they react? Don’t under estimate the human response! If any member of staff has special needs or disability, do you have someone on site to assist them? If the transport systems are affected and staff can’t get home for a while, what then? Consider options for emergency transport home and plan them in advance!
Buildings: Understand what resilience your building services have. Are there resilient power feeds into the site meaning part of the site might be unaffected? Is generator support available? If neither is in place, plan in advance what your work area recovery options are.
If you have a contract with a work area recovery supplier, make sure you have tested with them in advance. Many work area recovery sites have their own generator support, which should kick in if their site is also caught up in the power failure. Ask questions of your work area recovery suppliers about their power resilience in advance - especially when any site generator was last tested, and will it support the whole site? You might also need transport for your staff to their site - how will you deal with that?
Tech & telephony: If you have on site generator support, understand what it does and doesn’t support. And test it regularly - at least annually. How does your data centre or comms rooms cope with a power failure? If you have UPS, what does it support and how long will it last? If it’s a limited time, do you have the means (automatic or manual) to ensure kit is shut down in a controlled way before it crashes (especially if it is out of hours and you have no IT staff on site)? If it needs manual intervention, can IT staff remotely dial in, or can IT staff get there and get into the site in time? (taking account of any site access security protocols).
Here’s a reminder that, no matter how big your organisation is, power failures can happen anywhere to anyone… Microsoft Azure Power Outage
Start planning now for the next time the lights go out!