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Monthly Archives: October 2012

I was attending a local Business Continuity Institute (BCI) forum the other day when someone mentioned the fact that there had been a ‘flu pandemic the other year. From a technical world health view this is correct, but from a Business Continuity (BC) perspective in the UK, I believe that this is dangerously misleading. As a consequence, I stated the view that as far as BC professionals are concerned, there was no ‘flu pandemic.

Why do I hold this view? Well, quite simply, the ‘flu pandemic did not cause any more disruption to UK organisations than the ‘flu normally does in any year. In other words, it was a “business as usual” type of disruption, which could be treated by local management as just one of those day to day issues that need to be handled. Yes, I know that lots of organisations, particularly in the public sector, convened weekly meetings of managers to monitor the situation, just in case they needed to invoke their Business Continuity plans (or special’Flu Pandemic plans), but the impact of the incident was very small.

It’s a bit like saying that an organisation suffered from a fire just because someone burnt the toast. Yes, technically there was a fire, but it would have been quickly put out, there would have been very little business disruption, and no Business Continuity plans would be invoked. It would be dealt with as a  “business as usual” type of disruption.

Does this matter? Well, yes, I think that it does. To talk about ‘flu pandemic in the way that it was being talked about at the BCI meeting implies that there had been a business disruption and  that Business Continuity plans had been successfully invoked. There was no significant business disruption , and although ‘flu pandemic teams met,  no Business Continuity plans were invoked. In other words, the threat of the ‘flu pandemic was not realised, even though there was, technically, a ‘flu pandemic.

My message is simple. Don’t fool yourself into thinking that your plans dealt with the threat. It didn’t happen.



I do wish that government departments and business continuity professionals would stop describing random events, such as a severe flood, in terms of how many times that the event is expected to happen over a period of time, as in it’s a “once in a hundred year event”. Why? Because most people that I meet misunderstand its meaning.

A “once in a hundred year event” means that the event has a chance of 1% of happening within the next year, not that it happens only once in a hundred years. If the event happened last year, then the chance that it will happen this year is still 1%, it doesn’t mean that it won’t happen again for at least another 100 years. Given the fact that random events seem to come in clumps, or groups (like buses), the fact that the event happened last year should make people think that it could well happen again in the next few years.

I would be much happier if government departments and business continuity professionals would start describing random events in terms of the chance of the event happening within the coming year, such as in “there is 1% chance of a severe flood in the coming year”. This would be far less likely to be misinterpreted.