The current disruption to air traffic caused by a volcanic eruption in Iceland has had far-reaching consequences. Beyond the immediate impact on passengers, airlines and the rest of the travel industry; as the disruption persists, the effect on many companies’ supply chains is starting to be felt. Much will be written on these issues in due course but at this stage I should just like to highlight 3 general lessons for Business Continuity.
It is usually the risks that aren’t on the risk register that cause the most problems. The risk of volcanic ash causing the suspension of all UK air traffic does not appear in either the 2009 or 2010 UK National Risk Register.
People are overly optimistic when faced with a crisis situation. The attitude of governments, regulators, and most airlines demonstrated a great deal of optimism in believing that the situation would be resolved quickly. It was only after a few days that people began looking for solutions to the problem and querying the need for a total ban on air traffic.
Prepare to communicate. Organisations involved in the crisis have seen a surge in call volumes and website hits. This includes not only those that are directly involved – the main NATS website had to be suspended due to the number of hits – but also ferry companies, car hire firms and train operators. Follow this link to download the article ‘Hanging on the Telephone‘.