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After his journey to Key West, Charlie advises business continuity professionals to look at access to their organisation’s site as a possible single point of failure and consider the impact of any potential road closures.

Today I have been taking a short break between running a number of exercises, so I decided to go to Key West. I have heard all about the Keys and thought it was a good excuse to go there for a couple of days. I hired a car at Miami airport and headed south. The route to Key West is across lots of dual-lane bridges. It can be a bit nerve-wracking when you drive in a foreign country on the other side of the road and you need to concentrate more than when you drive in your own country. I was extra vigilant crossing the numerous bridges, as I thought if I had a crash I could block the whole route south, because there is only one road in and out. In the event of a car crash, which must happen every so often, they must be fairly adept at clearing up the scene and getting the traffic going again, but I would hate to be responsible for bringing the whole Keys to a standstill.

When I was running an exercise earlier in the week, the scenario was flooding that had washed away the one road into the plant. This made it difficult for staff and products to get in, causing the recovery team to look at an alternative location for the headquarters staff, who were also on the same site.

This got me thinking about risk assessment. When you are undertaking your risk assessment, you need to look at access to the site as a possible single point of failure. I know many sites where there is only one route in and out and if that was lost to flooding, road subsidence, a crash or bridge failure, there would be a massive short-term impact on the site. In most cases, the impact would be short-term as the issues could be sorted fairly quickly. For those of you who have this single point of failure, it might be worth having a look at alternative routes into the site. If there are other routes, you might make changes to the existing routes to make them available at short notice or you should at least know how long they would take to bring into use. Don’t forget it is not just the physical infrastructure you need to look at, there may be local issues or by laws which might need to be changed to let you use the route in extreme circumstances.

It is also worth looking at the wider infrastructure and where your staff are coming from, as a two day plus loss of a major crossing bridge or motorway may have a massive impact on staff getting into work. In Edinburgh in 2015 the Forth Road Bridge was closed at short notice due to corrosion. There was an alternative route, but this added a couple of hours to people’s commute, plus there was all the extra traffic on routes which were not designed to take the volume. During this period, many organisations had to invoke their business continuity plans and had numerous staff working from home. It also had a huge impact on freight companies, as their normal routes were not available.

So, one more threat for us to think about and on my way back on Saturday, I will make sure that I concentrate driving across those single points of failure!

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