History has proven the importance of a business being prepared for what might appear to be an unlikely event. As the following major business continuity incidents from the 2016-2018 demonstrate, even businesses that should be well prepared for disruption have had opportunities along the way.
2017 – Atlantic Hurricane Season
Over a five-month period from June through November, no less than 23 storms and hurricanes pummeled the Atlantic coast. Hurricane Maria decimated the island of Puerto Rico so completely that it was nearly one year afterward before the United States territory finally had power completely restored.
On the mainland, Hurricane Harvey hit Houston, Texas in an exceptional way. After the hurricane made landfall in Rockport, Texas, it then dumped more than 40 inches of rain over southeast Texas and Louisiana. The Houstonian, a luxury hotel, fitness club and spa located on a 27-acre campus was hit hard by Hurricane Harvey.
The Buffalo Bayou located right behind the Houstonian started to rise. The building itself managed to weather the hurricane’s effects. Cher Harris, the hotel’s general manager noted that the hotel still had to accommodate 32 guests safely even after some were able to leave the area. She credited the Houstonian’s success at doing so because of the smooth execution of the company’s emergency plan that it had previously established.
2018 – Delta “Technology Issue”
In September 2018, the second-largest airline in the United States, Delta, issued a ground stop for all of its flights in the country. While this prevented any flights on the ground from departing, company officials insisted those Delta flights already in the air were out of danger and experienced no disruptions. Regional and international carriers that Delta works with weren’t affected and the company’s website and app were still up and functioning, according to Delta, during the hour-long “technology issue.” The next morning, Flight Aware, a flight-tracking site, showed three flights from Delta had been canceled.
That incident isn’t the first time Delta has contended with technology gone awry. In December 2017, a fire damaged both an underground power source and its backup at Delta’s hub at Hartfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport, the world’s busiest airport. Besides the more than 1,400 flights Delta was forced to cancel, the half-day-long blackout was compounded by a winter snowstorm. Together, these events cost the airline between $25 million and $50 million in pretax revenue.
Just the year prior, a computer outage at Delta prompted the company to cancel over 2,000 flights around the world. Fueled by a six-hour power outage, the airline’s technology problems left hundreds of thousands of customers stranded for hours or even overnight. Once the systems were brought back online, further technical issues slowed the recovery process. In all, it was two days before the airline’s systems were functioning normally once again.
2016 – Southwest Airlines Router Failure
Though it might seem as though Delta has cornered the market on disasters that interrupt the company’s business continuity, that simply isn’t the case. In July 2016, Southwest Airlines was forced to cancel 2,300 flights. This occurred after a router in one of the company’s data centers failed.
It wasn’t a simple router failure though because the equipment behaved as if it was functioning normally except it wasn’t directing traffic like it was supposed to. By the time the error was discovered — some 30 minutes later — critical systems for Southwest Airlines were backed up which made a complete reboot necessary. During the 12-hour process, critical functions including several key internal functions, as well as its smartphone app and website, were affected.
Even after Southwest Airlines’ systems came back online, the company’s problems persisted. Not only was there not enough information to resume all its flights, but the company couldn’t determine if its crews had rested enough to meet the requirements set by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). This meant that Southwest Airlines had to cancel even more flights over the following two days.
2017 – Atlanta Airport Power Outage
During one of the year’s busiest times, the busiest airport in the world — Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport — grounded over 1,000 flights in December 2017 after a power outage that lasted nearly 11 hours. While airlines at the airport canceled 1,183 flights that Sunday, even after power was restored late that night, its woes were far from over. Monday saw an additional 400+ flights canceled. During the power outage, the FAA ordered a ground stop for all planes landing or departing from the airport.
2017 – Medtronic’s Global Outage
Though airline mishaps result in headlines splashed across media outlets, they aren’t the only companies affected by unexpected disasters. Medtronic, a medical device company, experienced a global computer outage that affected the company’s ability to manufacture the devices it sells. As a result of the “internal technical matter,” the company was also unable to fulfill orders for medical devices from doctors and hospitals from across the globe.
In a letter to employees, Omar Ishrak, the company’s chief executive officer noted that no outside interference was suspected and there was no indication of a data breach.
While social media sites explode with stories from disgruntled employees and customers during disasters like the major business continuity incidents noted above, they aren’t the only casualties. The companies themselves are also affected during the event — and long afterward as well.
A company spokesman at Medtronic noted the company didn’t expect its global outage to affect its financial outlook for that year. Southwest Airlines admitted that the company would have an uphill battle earning the trust of its passengers again after its router failed.
Companies must be prepared to protect the continuity of their business functions now in order to guard against failures of this sort in the future. Both revenues and customer trust are relying on the advanced planning that needs to be in place prior to incidents like the ones noted above.
We hope you found this list of major business continuity incidents helpful.
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