The Auckland Power Disaster of 1998 and the Lessons Learnt From It

In February 1998 the city of Auckland, New Zealand found themselves largely without power for a period of five weeks after the four power cables which supplied the city failed one – by – one. This left many businesses stranded, resulting in the some 20 – block area deserted for the first few days of the outage. Initially, some businesses attempted to bring products out onto the street and sell them there, but heavy rain made this unviable.

The effect of the outage saw some 60 000 of the 74 000 employees in the area reassigned to other offices, and some 6 000 residents in the area relocate. Some businesses estimated that the outage cost them NZ$60 000.

Drawing positives from a disaster, Peter Barnes and Andrew Hiles (in ‘The Definitive Handbook of Business Continuity Management’) identified the following four key lessons that can be learned from the Auckland Power Disaster:

  1. Businesses that had identified their critical business processes and analysed the impact of the risks to business continuance appeared to be able to assess the significance of the disaster early and take timely action.
  2. Businesses that chose appropriate back up and recovery options based on a business impact analysis appeared to cope well with the disaster. The biggest concern raised in this sense is that many businesses who did not have BCP and DR actually couldn’t put monetary value on how much the disaster had cost them.
  3. Businesses that progressed business continuity to a formal planning stage appeared to cope with financial, operational and intangible aspects of the disaster.
  4. Operational issues need to be considered in the business continuity plan, for example:
  • Logistical factors such as fuel and servicing for generators;
  • Know your building and the power cable structure within it;
  • If generator supply is a strategy, check that the uninterruptable power supply will cope.

Although South Africa has been fortunate to not have had a run in with load shedding or the like in the immediate past few years, power supply remains a critical aspect to a multitude of business operations. The above lessons from the Auckland Power Disaster should be well considered when looking at the sustainability of your business operations.

Make sure you have taken all the necessary steps to keep the lights at your business on, literally.

Published by Dean Black