Sunday, June 7, 2009

Incident Response: A walk in the park

So if you follow me on Facebook or Twitter you may have heard our family had a bit of excitement over the weekend. My wife and two youngest children (2 and 7) got stuck at the top of a ride at Busch Gardens due to a "technical malfunction". I know that mechanical and/or technical failures happen all the time at theme parks, but when it's your family up there and you're on the ground, it sucks.

Busch Gardens did everything right, they quickly informed everyone on the ride of the malfunction, asked them to stay calm and at the same time sent emergency responders up to the top of the ride to help get everyone off safely. No running around crazy, no unnecessary escalations, no waiting on approvals, no idle hands... Everyone played their role. It got me thinking about the obvious parallels in incident response (well parts of it at least)

The ride was designed with safety mechanisms including emergency exit and communication mechanisms. The "owners" had procedures that were extremely well tested, communicated and executed by the "administrators". Everyone had their role, understood it and was authorized to just "do it" and it worked out. Once completed, they accomplished the repair, tested the ride, re-tested it from another perspective and then once approved by management they put the ride back into production for the park visitors ("users"). Sure the visitors had to wait a few minutes, but everyone was understanding once they had the right information made available to them. Certainly, I'd prefer this sort of thing to never happen, but that's unrealistic given all variables in place at a Theme park in Florida with millions of visitors. I'm just happy everyone was safe and we were able to enjoy the rest of the day. and then just when you think it's over...

Not more than 20 minutes later we saw another ride fail. The sky-ride (gondola) got stuck mid-ride for over 10 Minutes. Luckily, we were not on that ride. I'd have gotten a bit suspicious at that point :).

Actually, at that time we were on a train ride enjoying a peaceful ride through the park, pointing out animals to my two year old, when a grumpy Rhino tried to prove to the train that he was in control and decided to give it a little shove to encourage the train to keep moving along. I'm not sure if it was a full moon, an everyday occurrence for the park or Murphy's Law that caused all the excitement.

It just goes to show you that you can't predict what's going to go wrong, just that something will go wrong - it always does. We must prepare for as many types of Incidents as we can and enable our teams to react effectively, and expect that they will. Obviously, a lot of pre-planning, risk assessment, exercise activities, documentation and training goes into the equation. Everyone has to become involved, if a barely over minimum wage them park worker can be trained to play a role during an emergency, certainly we can figure out how to more effectively involve our "owners", "administrators", and management in our incident response activities.

Ok, enough excitement for one evening I'm off to bed, I can't wait for next week's cruise and the lessons that will bring..

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