Last week saw another classic example of people refusing to acknowledge that life is sometimes different when you implement your continuity or contingency plans.

The incident I am talking about is the 48 hour Tube strike in London. Any of you living and working in a major city will appreciate that withdrawal of a service so fundamental to the smooth daily operation of the city is going to have a drastic effect. Life is going to be different!

The thing about the London Tube strike is there was plenty of warning, lots of media coverage and above all we have had these events before. The perfect lead up to a crisis event because you know when, what and you have previous experience of dealing with it – a walk in the park!

Why then do people flock to their normal stations or mass in their thousands for buses they know  can only carry around 100 people? The evening papers and news coverage showed the usual pictures of crowds peering through the gates of closed stations or standing on crowded platforms hoping they would make it onto one of the few trains running. I know that some people got lucky and got through relatively unscathed but a lot didn’t.

I’m not saying I had the model answer but I did consider a couple of key factors for my commute. Firstly I needed to avoid certain modes of transport because the reliability and capacity was never going to be there, and secondly, timing was everything i.e. basic formula of ‘same number of people x fewer transport options = problem.’

I knew I had to change my plans. I had to consider the range of options available to me because my normal plan was not going to work.

So not only did I change my method of transport but I radically changed the timing of my commute to avoid the crowds – it worked and proved to be relatively stress free. As I was leaving the hotel in the morning, a couple of girls were just returning from a night out in the city – a contrast in lifestyles I guess.

When we are planning contingency arrangements with our organisations we need to make it clear that the solutions are not going to be on a like for like basis compared to normal operations. Take a simple example of using a recovery site – these places are definitely not like your normal office environment. Function over design.

Other factors plays a part too. Staff may be required to work different hours, travel to different locations, use different equipment and certainly all the paraphernalia people accumulate in their normal workplace to personalise their environment is going to be missing. Such changes need to be accepted. Life has changed.

The great thing about the London Tube strike is, at the time of writing this, a further strike is scheduled for the same time next week. Excellent! Everyone has had a chance to practice, to learn what works and what doesn’t, so surely we will all make it to work on time and stress free. It’ll be a breeze for sure.

Maybe I’m an old cynic but if the strike goes ahead we will see the same pictures again and hear the same stories.

February 9, 2014 at 11:34 am
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Category: Crisis Management, Planning
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