On Friday, I wrote a post called Playing the Outage Blame Game, about powerful figures criticizing the utility companies for failing to bring power back quickly enough in the wake of the October 29th freak snow storm in the Northeast that dropped heavy wet snow onto the region breaking trees and bringing down power lines.
It’s nine days later, and there are still people in Massachusetts and Connecticut without power and they aren’t very happy with the utility company responses. On Friday, I wrote about the freak nature of the storm, about the extent of the widespread damage to trees and power lines and I was somewhat sympathetic to the plight of the utility companies.
Today I’m not, especially after reading that in one town, the utility company responsible had barely shown up last week to clean up, and according to a story in the Daily Hampshire Gazette, residents gave Massachusetts governor Deval Patrick an earful when he visited at the end of last week. Patrick was not terribly happy to hear about the lack of response and vowed to take action.
I had to laugh on Saturday when I got a taped message from Western Mass Electric Company (WMECO), the company that runs my town’s electricity, that the electricity was back on, and if it weren’t we should call them to let them know. I laughed because I didn’t need a message to tell me that, and if I hadn’t had electricity, my VoiP phone wouldn’t have worked to get the message.
As a commenter on my Friday post pointed out, part of the problem in his area was that a regional electric utility that taken over his town’s electricity business had failed to trim trees around power lines, and if that were the case here — and clearly it was — part of the fault did sit with utilities for failing to undertake basic maintenance, which would have greatly minimized the damage from the storm.
Which brings us back to the enterprise. Sure, sometimes there are freak circumstances that happen that are well beyond your control, but there are some basic maintenance tasks that maybe you should be undertaking to make sure when a disaster hits it isn’t magnified.
Whatever the IT equivalent of tree trimming around your power lines is in your department, you need to do what’s necessary to ensure your critical applications and web properties continue to run to the extent possible when things go wrong.
Sure, sometimes people inside your organization will try to score political points even when there’s nothing you could have done, but you have to make sure you’re as prepared as possible with plans in place to deal with everything under your control, or you might deserve the wrath of those affected when things go wrong.
Sometimes you have face it and admit you could have done more, and that in some instances, it really was your fault — directly or not.