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Drama for Business Continuity Awareness Week

As I’ m sure you’re aware, this is the annual ‘Business Continuity Awareness Week’.  As in previous years, the Business Continuity Institute have laid on a wide range of on-line events to promote Business Continuity (details on the BCI website).  Meanwhile in Wales yesterday, there was real-life drama as a power surge halted rail traffic in and around Cardiff for several hours.  It’s not clear if the power company responsible, Western Power Distribution, were aware that this is Business Continuity Awareness Week or if this was just a coincidence. 

As with the ongoing problems at the Fukoshima nuclear power plant in Japan, we had a situation here where a single event took out both the mains power supply and the generator backup.  Flawed mathematics is often invoked to demonstrate that the probability of both main and backup systems (eg generators, backup servers) failing is infinitesimally small but this approach ignores the potential for common-mode failures as illustrated in these two events. 

This incident was also a good example of effective crisis communications with Arriva Trains Wales taking full responsibility for communicating with their customers and not attempting to shift the blame onto Network Rail or Western Power Distribution.