Biggest Business Disasters list comes with built-in surprises

By   Information Security Buzz Editorial Staff
Chief Editor , Information Security Buzz | May 17, 2016 07:00 pm PST

A new list of the biggest business disasters of the last 12 months contains plenty of the unexpected, as well as some surprise entries that demonstrate that serious business disruptions can come from a wide range of sources.

What do two burst pipes, three fires, three storms, one power cut and a bridge failure have in common? Give up? They’ve all threatened UK business in the last year with severe disruption, according to new research by business continuity experts IT Specialists (ITS).

The company looked at incidents which caused significant issues for UK businesses ahead of the Business Continuity Institute’s Business Continuity Awareness Week (BCAW) 2016, 16-20 May.

Although the damage caused by the three worst storms (Katie, Abigail and Desmond) of this last winter was extreme – affecting more than a quarter of a million (280,000) UK homes combined and leaving billions of pounds of damage in their wake – less cataclysmic events were also incredibly disruptive. For example, major fire incidents left a combined 7,000 homes without power in the last year alone. Interestingly, considerable disruption was caused by far less obvious issues, such as a 19-day closure to the Forth Road Bridge in Scotland and the even more mundane burst pipe.

One of the latter knocked out power to the Royal Berkshire Hospital’s A&E department, leaving medical staff using head torches, while a burst water main in Kennington inundated a major junction in central London with up to 0.5 m of water.

Whether man-made or natural, flooding is the most expensive and prevalent issue to affect the UK, perhaps unsurprisingly given the geography and the weather, but the cost is surprising indeed. Accountancy firm KPMG has estimated that the total cost to the UK’s insurance sector, businesses, individuals, communities and government as a result of winter 2015/16 flooding will top out at between £5-5.8bn.

However, at least some of these costs can be avoided by businesses with a solid business continuity strategy. Without this in place, there is a risk of negative consequences such as lost inventory, reduced productivity due to employees being unable to work remotely, property damage and the all-important revenue loss.

“Investing in forward planning can save valuable time, protect the organisation’s revenue and preserve its customer base,” said Matt Kingswood, UK head of ITS, which provides business continuity solutions, including a disaster recovery as a service (DRaaS) solution, BlackVault Managed Recovery Platform.

“We urge businesses to formulate a business continuity programme to identify inefficient processes that cost the organisation money on a daily basis and can prove a barrier to disaster recovery.”

The full list of 10 business disasters is below.

Top 10 business continuity disasters

  1. Holborn Fire – 09/04/2015

Cause: Underground electrical fault

Burned for 36 hours

5,000 people evacuated

3,000 properties left without power

  1. Kennington Floods – 29/06/2015

Cause: Burst water main

Water 0.5 m deep on road

10 fire engines and 72 firefighters needed

15 properties affected

  1. Royal Berkshire Hospital Power Cut and Flood – 31/07/2015

Cause: Burst underground pipe

A&E closed to all but critical patients

2nd small fire in coronary care unit – patients moved

Fire crews from 3 separate stations pumped water for 3+ hours

Medical staff worked through night using backup generators

  1. Heathrow Airport Power Cut – 04/08/2015

Cause: Issue with power supplier

3,000-4,000 people without bags

50 British Airways flights left behind cases and other equipment

Power out 3 hours

  1. Hampton-in-Arden Fire – 26/09/2015

Cause: Accidental fire

Factory supplies 25% of UK’s toffee apples

Gas cylinders and oil drums on-site meant neighbours also at risk

5 fire crews and 25-30 firefighters worked 2 hours

  1. Storm Abigail – 12/11/2015

Cause: Extratropical cyclone

84 mph gusts

20,000 properties affected

Ferry services cancelled and schools shut

  1. Forth Road Bridge Closure – 04/12/2015

Cause: Crack in truss under carriageway

80,000 vehicles diverted daily for 19 days

ScotRail added 6,500 train seats, 33 buses and 11,000 seats on key commuter services

£1.4bn replacement bridge

  1. Storm Desmond – 05/12/2015

Cause: Extratropical cyclone

Wind speeds up to 81 mph and severe rain

60,000+ homes without power

1,000+ people evacuated from homes

  1. Storm Katie – 28/03/2016

Cause: Extratropical cyclone

Winds of up to 106 mph

130 flights diverted

200,000+ homes without power

  1. Saltley Recycling Site Fire – 29/03/2016

Cause: Accidental fire

800 tonnes of metal and plastic ablaze

100+ firefighters tackled fire

Power supplies to 4,000 homes cut off


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