The Result, Volume 1, Issue 1. In this issue: Ebola and Utility failures

Welcome to Volume 1, Issue 1 of “the Result”, a weekly look at resilience issues that may have hit the headlines, but not in any great depth. Each week we search for news items, articles and opinion pieces that just don’t make the full cut in all the mainstream media. Where possible, all sources are referenced for your further reading.
This week, the resurgence in Ebola and the problems with utility outages have really drawn my attention. I hope you find this useful.
On Thursday this week, the World Health Organisation (WHO)declared the spread of the Ebola virus as a Public Health Emergency of International Concern (PHEIC). This formal declaration follows the spread of Ebola to the city Goma in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC).
Goma and its twin city Gisenyi straddle the border of DRC and Rwanda, a densely packed city of over a million residents. The cities are also located on major transport routes with regular bus, car, ferry and aircraft traffic.
At this stage, the WHO warns that the risk of Ebola in the DRC and the Region remains very high, but outside the region remains low. The WHO has also stated that restrictions on travel and trade are unnecessary at this stage.
The history of Ebola in Africa is a long and heartbreaking one. Distances and access to transport tended to keep communities suffering from Ebola close to home, allowing the disease to run its course in a close local community.
The emergence of large cities, mobile workforces and cheap transport worldwide, challenge the traditional models of disease control. Already in this outbreak, there has been two deaths in Uganda (a child and his grandmother) meaning that the virus has proven its border crossing ability. Its emergence in a city of over a million people has resulted in WHO Director General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus stating, “It is time for the world to take notice,”
A quick google search shows flights allow transport from Goma to London (16 hours), Frankfurt (13 hours) or Bangkok (14 hours), then into any major Australian city within 28 hours. This means a person infected with the virus could board a plane symptom free and be presenting at border control, having become infectious during the long Europe/Asia/Australia leg of the flight.
From the perspective of Australian business, there is currently little to fear from this outbreak. Closer to home, the ongoing measles outbreaks and seasonal flu require immediate attention but the warning signs are there.
Personally, if I were travelling to Africa and passing through one of the immediate hub airports, I would consider asking for the Ebola vaccine as part of my vaccination program.
Sources: BBC World Service, WHO, American Society of Microbiology – Journal of Virology

Utility failures
Its been a pretty poor couple of weeks for failures in utilities across the globe. Last weekend, power outages struck New York on the anniversary of the 1977 power outage. Here in Australia, the Telstra network sent retailers into meltdown as the EFTPOS network failed during Thursday afternoon and evening (I will be writing more on this next week).
With this much big news, its easy to miss the little news but this story from Cambridge (a suburb of Boston) is an eye opener for any business continuity planner. In short, The Mt Auburn Hospital which provides a range of services including an emergency medicine department and is affiliated to the Harvard Medical School lost power for 10.5 hours after both its power feeds failed.
While there was a backup generator, air-conditioning became an issue with the generator only able to provide full services to the priority areas of the hospital. Services were maintained, but patients were relocated from upper “hotter” floors to the lower floors of the building.

Hospital had system to prevent power outage, but then came surprising double cable failure

It appears to have been an excellent continuity and emergency service response to the problem, but its also a stark reminder that multiple failures happen.
Thanks for reading and have a great weekend!

Scroll to Top