How Long Will Natural Gas Flow During A Power Outage Business Continuity Management for the Utility Sector – Ascent

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Business Continuity Management for the Utility Sector – Ascent

After every natural disaster, people are deprived of basic amenities like water, food and electricity. On the other side of the coin, the utility industry is always under attack and succumbs to any type of disaster, whether man-made or natural. In this scenario, this sector needs a comprehensive business continuity management strategy to serve people even during crisis.

The services provided by these utility companies are crucial for the economic and social well-being of society. Therefore, the continuity of utility sectors like Electricity Distribution is a critical issue that needs to be considered by senior management and concerned authorities.

A business continuity management strategy helps you prepare for the worst. However, the worst may not happen many times. So why do we need a special policy and dedicated resources for prophecy?

Risk management versus business continuity management

Business continuity is an integral part of risk management. Organizations cannot ignore the possible external effect on business. Sometimes internal risks can surprise and affect both organizational and operational levels.

BCM is often mistaken for a disaster recovery plan, which is mostly limited to technology and data protection. However, it refers more to a top-down approach, where continuity management is required at each stage of the various operations in the organization.

An outage can be mitigated by risk planning and emergency measures. But it is very difficult to measure the extent to which this disruption can permeate multiple operations of an organization.

Let’s check some of the possible natural and man-made hazards that can disrupt the operations of utility companies, specifically the electricity industry.

Possible natural and man-made hazards for electricity distribution companies:

• Cyclones and flash floods – most of the Middle East, Malaysia and other coastal countries are prone to tropical cyclones, which lead to flash floods. Electricity distribution companies from these areas may suffer infrastructure damage, property loss and may have to relocate their operations while continuing to provide their services.

• Power outages – Generator and grid failure are often predictable outages and connected cities can be left in the dark without electricity and gas supplies.

• Fire – Electrical short circuits or any human negligence can expose businesses to fire accidents. Many vital records can be burned and even affect their IT

• Physical and cyber attacks – Physical attacks are very rare. However, utilities are vulnerable to internal strife and terrorist rampage. Here there is a probability of loss of people and property to some extent.

While cyber attacks are inevitable due to hackers and anti-governance groups. Although data theft may not directly affect power, but it can interrupt billing and other operations. This in turn can fluctuate cash flow and lead to an imbalanced balance sheet

• Pandemic – Epidemics like Ebola are very unpredictable. However, rumors and fear can result in adverse incidents within the organization.

All of the above incidents can damage an organization’s reputation, properties and data, demotivate staff and disrupt supply and demand operations.

At this moment, every power company is expected to be successful

• Timely return to work

• Monitor business and operational risk

• Address technology outages, employee unavailability, inoperable facilities, critical supplier outages

• Manage network reliability and the large number of interrelated business processes that support this goal

• A holistic approach to business resilience and disaster recovery

• Understanding the risks and impact of disruptions on business processes

Now, the question is, “are you prepared and equipped for any incident?”

If yes, then check if you can meet the above mentioned parameters.

If not, then:

• Hold some initial meetings of the hierarchy board

• Check the strength of internal business continuity management

• Consult an external Business Impact Analysis (BIA) expert i

• Facilitate the internal BCM team with some test cases or crisis simulation workshops

Some of the case studies of electricity distribution companies in the Middle East and other countries reported the need for automation of business continuity management. Many companies aim to consolidate all their BCM processes and records into a centralized environment to proactively monitor and mitigate business interruption threats at the click of a button through BCM software.

This major initiative towards BCM is also a step towards compliance with regulations issued under Section 3, Part 1 of the National Emergency and Disaster Management Authority (NCEMA) standard 7000:2012. These regulations have been compiled to regulate the water, wastewater and electricity sectors in the Emirates for the development of BCM and BCP in accordance with NCEMA 7000:2012.

Some of the NCEMA 7000:2012 regulations include:

• Define your own organizational criteria and trigger for executing a business continuity response in accordance with the appropriate Business Continuity Program in the event of a disruption

• Define the scope of BCM in terms of mission-critical processes and functions

• Establish a BCM committee to address organizational, functional and operational issues

• Appoint a business continuity coordinator

• Conduct BIA – determine and document RTO & RPO for all critical processes and functions

• Identify threats and assess the impact of threats, the vulnerability of these impacts, the probability of identified threats and finally calculate and assess risks

• Measure BCM with internal audits, management reviews and measurement against KPIs

• Provide awareness and training and conduct test cases and exercises

• Above all, organizations should religiously review and update their BCM regularly

Conclusion

In conclusion, utility companies respond well to local emergencies. However, the challenging economic environment and changing scenarios are forcing companies to put aside their long-term concerns. Looking at the changing landscape, the time is right to revisit business continuity management and demonstrate the urgency of continuity readiness.

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