I can remember the original fuel crisis we had in the UK just over 10 years ago. Basically the tanker drivers went on strike so once the stocks of fuel in petrol stations had been exhausted, which happened very quickly because everyone rushed to fill their tanks, there was no more petrol or diesel available.

For a few days it was almost like living at Centerparcs because everyone was suddenly using alternative means of transport such as bicycles and walking. Fortunately the strike occurred during a period of good weather which no doubt eased some of the pain and just when the effects were starting to be felt by organisations and individuals the issues were resolved and the tanker drivers returned to work.

At the time it had many organisations and Business Continuity practitioners scratching their heads. After all this was an unprecedented event and had not featured on many, if any, people’s risk radars so most of us went into it unprepared.

So, have we learned anything? Have we done things better in the recent fuel crisis?

In a way the government faced a ‘damned if you do, damned if you don’t moment’.

A lot of people were quick to jump on the apparent crisis caused by us all panic buying fuel and temporarily exhausting local supplies but if I can play devil’s advocate for a minute one could argue that there were some positives that came out of the steps taken. Remember, 10 years ago there was little advanced warning – the strike was upon us before we had chance to think.

So, what changed?

The public was made aware of the potential for a strike with good time to prepare. OK so the first reaction was to stock up on fuel whilst it was still available – a natural and foreseeable reaction. Supplies then continued to be replenished, albeit it took a bit of time to catch up. Did this actually constitute a crisis?

But what else happened? People followed the news about the potential for a strike. People started to think twice about the need to use their vehicles. People changed their buying habits and kept their tanks topped up. Organisations started to examine more closely the impact of a fuel shortage on their operations. In short everyone was better prepared in case the strike went ahead.

At the time of writing no strike has been announced but as the days and weeks pass by, any organisation that is not ready with contingency arrangements could face some tough questions from their stakeholders.

When I asked the question in my on line discussion about alternative actions the government could have taken it all went very quiet so judge for yourself – good crisis management or an example of getting it wrong?

May 19, 2012 at 2:28 pm
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Category: Crisis Management
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