Power Outage Lesson

The recent power outage has again reminded us how much we depend on infrastructure over which we have little control.    Our Penrose office was in the black out area for most of Sunday.

Back in olden times, communication equipment was housed in a telephone exchange.  During a power outage the exchange would fail over to generators, keeping all of our landlines functioning.  Over time a lot of the exchange based equipment has been pushed out to smaller junction boxes that don’t enjoy the same levels of backup power.  Those same boxes also house internet equipment.  The result being that during the power outage both landlines and internet went down.

Even if you were lucky enough to get your hands on a generator – you still had no phones and no internet.

Kinetics Auckland office was inside the blackout area.   As I drove from Sandringham to the office, my mobile coverage dropped out.  I believe that two factors conspired to reduce coverage.  The first being that Cellphone towers had to run on batteries, as each tower failed it increased the load on the next.  The other factor was with landlines down mobile usage went up, overwhelming the towers.   During the time I spent in our office, more often than not I could not get a signal.  When I did get a signal, the network was congested and I was unable to make a call.

Phones and Email – without them most business have a major problem.   Failover sites are one solution, but a solution that comes at a cost and may not suit everyone.  The use of failover may also depend on how long an outage is.

Here are a couple of inexpensive tips to help you prepare for next time.

Email

I’m a fan of external mail scrubbing, this is when spam and viruses are removed from email before its delivered to your servers.   If you have KARE mail scrubbing, when your internet goes down your email is queued out there on cloud based servers.  All of our KARE mail scrubbing clients were able to use their home internet accounts to access that queued mail during the outage.

Phones

Every business has instructions on how to fail over landlines to mobile.   Make sure these are printed out and copies are kept off site.  Along with the instructions, keep a list of staff mobile numbers.

Have a Plan

At Kinetics we set up a phone tree.  On the Sunday Managers contacted Team Leaders who in turn contacted their staff.   Everyone was advised that if power is still out on Monday, do not drive into the cellphone dead zone.  Our plan had engineers heading towards the outskirts of the city. Account Managers would work from home if they had coverage or join the Engineers on the city boundary.  Jobs would be funneled to Team Leaders who would then manage their delivery team.  A simple and effective structure familiar to anyone that organises school trips or sporting events.

Be Prepared

These are not mid/long term solutions.  But having them in place meant we were ready to respond and we already had in place the means to coordinate the longer term solution if needed.  If you don’t have KARE Mail scrubbing and would more information, or are interested failover options, talk to your Account Manager, Engineer or email info@kinetics.co.nz