PlanB Consulting

Fuel crisis

I was just writing a bulletin about ghost ships (yes there is a relevance to business continuity!) but I thought I should write something on the possible fuel crisis. For those who are not aware of this potential incident, the tanker drivers in the UK who supply petrol stations have just voted to go on strike although no date has been set yet. Due to this, I thought I would share my points with you.

1. It always amuses me, and this is a fact of human nature, that if the government tells people to be aware of a possible fuel crisis but not to panic buy, they will automatically go out and panic buy fuel, which can have the adverse affect they were hoping for. As people fill up early they run the petrol stations out of fuel adding to the demand for fuel in the still open petrol stations which in turns causes those to run out of fuel, which causes more panic and more people wanting fuel! So petrol stations are running out of fuel before the strike has even been announced! As a business continuity manager should I go out and fill our car as a precaution as we need to be prepared or in doing so are we adding to the incident?

2. I always think if there is a crisis which is affecting the whole country, then we are slightly ‘in it together’ so if we do not deliver the normal level of service to our customers or stakeholders then it is understandable as they are probably being affected by the same incident. I think the worst type of incident is one that only affects your organisation, as you don’t get any public sympathy and people won’t understand why you cannot deliver your service.

3. The last fuel strike showed the fragility of some of our supply chains and how quickly there is an impact, especially if a crucial component of the supply chain fails such as fuel supply. I remember on the Thursday of the last fuel strike going to the cinema along a deserted road as nobody had any fuel to go out or were saving it for essential use.

4. I often say the next incident is always one we have not thought about but this has happened before so we should have thought about it!

5. The solution of dealing with the fuel strike is the same as planning and dealing with all other potential threats. Identify your critical activities and concentrate your efforts on keeping them going and make use of the limited resources you have. If fuel is essential to your business for example if you are a transport company, then you should have already have plans in place for dealing with a strike, such as having your own fuel supplies which can keep you going for a number of days. Stagecoach, a Scottish company who run over 8,100 buses in the UK have recently invested £1m in improving their fuel storage for just this type of incident. Having your own fuel storage cannot be done at short notice so this will only be an option to organisations which have foreseen this as a risk and have prepared themselves. If you have not done this preparation, you like the rest of us are going to have to decide upon who are your most critical customers and provide a service to them.

6. If we have done our business continuity planning properly, probably unnoticed, this is the opportunity to show off your business continuity plans and show how business continuity and you can add value to the organisation!

Must dash off to refuel my car!

About Charlie Maclean-Bristol

Charlie Maclean-Bristol is one of the Founders and Directors of PlanB Consulting. He is also the Training Director of Business Continuity Training Ltd., a UK-based training provider accredited by the Business Continuity Institute. Charlie is a former Business Continuity Institute board member and one of the very few Fellows of both the Emergency Planning Society and the Business Continuity Institute.

A former Infantry Captain in the British Army, Charlie held several emergency planning, business continuity and crisis management positions within the energy and utility industry before founding PlanB Consulting in 2007. Over the past twelve years, Charlie has delivered business continuity consultancy in 6 of the worlds 7 continents, frequently providing full business continuity roll-outs to organisations of all sizes and in all sectors.

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