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Way back in 2005, Solar Solve’s Operations Director, Carl Johnson attended a DISASTER RECOVERY seminar and subsequent training day. It resulted in our company creating and implementing the SOLAR SOLVE LTD DISASTER RECOVERY PLAN. Its purpose is obvious – A plan of what we would do if we turned up at the factory one morning and there was no power or the factory had burned down during the night, or any other kind of disaster in between.

For the past 8 years all we have done is regularly check the plans contents and update them as circumstances changed. However, last year we decided to go a step further and carry out a Disaster Recovery exercise but for various reasons it didn’t happen.

Obviously setting fire to the building was not exactly what we had in mind although it would have been a 100% total disaster exercise. Instead, just before Christmas we set a date of Tuesday morning 21st January to come to work early and switch off the electrical power to see how well we could recover from it. It’s not really something that occurs more than once or twice a year and in the past the power failures have never lasted more than 4 hours at most and we just sat around at work waiting until power was restored. However, motivated by the increasing number of Blackouts, mainly resulting from severe flooding in other parts of the UK so far, the chairman and MD thought it would be a good team building exercise and that we would learn a lot from it in case they became more prevalent in the Tyneside area .

Everyone was somewhat apprehensive about it because we didn’t know what to expect and if it would cause any inconvenience to our customers but I am delighted to report that it was a great success. “Yes” we did cheat a bit because we knew exactly what was going to happen and when, so we did our homework as much as we thought necessary. We assessed what were the priority needs, made sure we had plenty of torches, extension leads; bought a petrol driven generator and brought a can of fuel in so we were pretty well set to go as soon as the power went off. There were lots of things we hadn’t thought of or fully covered but everyone experienced for real the actual environment and what we can and cannot expect to be able to do when a real blackout occurs.

As part of the exercise I had written out an order for a test SOLASAFE screen that he wanted to be properly processed as an order through the office and then manufactured and packed in the factory to Solar Solve’s normal high standards. Not only was it achieved within 2 hours of the power going off but 2 orders for customers were also produced at the same time. Every member of the team was involved and really got into the spirit of the exercise.

With the report now prepared, the lessons learned will be put into effect so that whenever the next real or simulated blackout occurs it will take us no more than 30 mins to run out the emergency generator, cables etc to the designated priority machines and lights and get the place underway again.