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Power Disruption at Peterborough District Hospital

Peterborough District Hospital suffered a fault with its high-voltage power supply overnight 1st/2nd November. Initially the disruption was very limited with only 7 operations having to be cancelled on the 2nd. The precise details of what then happened are not clear but by the 3rd of November the situation had clearly deteriorated with ambulances being diverted, elective surgery cancelled and restrictions on visitors. The problem was finally resolved with the restoration of mains power later that day.

This example illustrates an important principle of Business Continuity planning: unexpected things will happen. Losing mains power for 2 days and failure of backup generators to work as planned are both very unlikely events so the likelihood of both occurring must be miniscule. However the important point for planning is not the likelihood of specific events, each of which we can dismiss as being highly improbable, but the likelihood of something unexpected happening. We cannot predict precisely what will happen, or when; but it is safe to assume that we will continue to be surprised by ‘unlikely’ events in the future.

The incident also highlights an important point for effective Crisis Management: when you find yourself dealing with an incident, one of the first questions that you must ask is “How could this possibly get worse?” Only by actively looking for and discussing these potential problems at an early stage can you prepare to mitigate them should they arise.

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