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21 Mar 2012

Business continuity example

Here's a neat illustration of the different elements or phases of business continuity management in action.

When the standby generators failed during a power cut, surgeons in a Canadian hospital completed an operation by flashlight, M*A*S*H-style.

The power grid is designed for, and in fact generally achieves extremely high levels of, resilience.  As a whole, it is a well-engineered high availability system and a massive investment for Canada.

The first standby generator is a recovery mechanism for the hospital.  It takes over when the grid fails.

The second standby generator is a further recovery mechanism.  It's not entirely clear from the article whether the second generator is run in parallel wth the first, sharing the load, or a full-capacity system available as a backup if the first fails. 

The flashlights located around the hospital, along with the willingness of employees to remain focused on getting the job done and do whatever it took, despite the adverse circumstances, are contingency arrangements.  They demonstrated resourcefulness in the absense of resources.

Sure, they need to look at the generator failures (reportedly they overheated, which implies either inadequate cooling or more likely overloading - a common problem in this IT-enabled age) but the contingency arrangments saved the day.  The article doesn't specifically mention UPSs which are another resilience option to maintain critical electrical supplies such as life support systems, along with battery-powered emergency lighting, but I suspect that's just the journalist's oversight.  The UPSs would need to be generator-backed in any case to cope with extended grid failures, so the genny failures would have been a problem anyway.

Gary (Gary@isect.com)

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