VA811 Business Continuity and Root Cause Analysis

Within several hours of being notified of ISO certification, one of the fastest moving and longest last-ing storms in history, a Derecho, hit the Mid-Atlantic states. Hurricane force winds reaching 91 miles per hours caused widespread destruction.

Rick Pevarski, President & CEO of VA811, emphasizes the importance of the One Call Center’s role in damage prevention to every employee. As part of providing a premier damage prevention program,
there is a high emphasis placed on business continuity. The company has a well-documented and controlled Business Continuity Plan. The purpose of the plan is to prepare VA811 in the event of extended service outages caused by factors beyond the control of the company. The plan encompasses all VA811’s systems and operations sites and is not simply a daily problem resolution procedure.
Recognizing the role of the One Call Center is to provide communications to operators even during disasters, VA811 continually practices the Business Continuity Plan by holding mock disasters.

As a means of enhancing process improvements, VA811 made a decision in 2012 to apply for International Standards Organization (ISO) certification across all departments within the company. The standard includes a number of quality management principles including a strong customer focus, root cause analysis, continual system for improvement and, ultimately, business continuity.

In June of 2012, British Standards Institution (BSI) conducted the initial VA811 ISO audit. On June 29, BSI notified VA811 of the successful completion of all audits and the recommendation for ISO certification.

Within several hours of being notified of ISO certification, one of the fastest moving and longest lasting storms in history, a Derecho, hit the Mid-Atlantic states. Hurricane force winds reaching 91 miles per hours caused widespread destruction. As trees snapped, millions of homes and many companies lost power. 911 Centers were unreachable, shopping malls and restaurants closed. The vast power and telecommunications outages lasted more than a week. As utility crews throughout the state worked frantically to repair the damage, VA811’s missioncritical “call before you dig” hotline was a vital component of Virginia’s restoration efforts. VA811’s Business Continuity Plan, created and audited through ISO certification, enabled
VA811 to weather the perfect storm and gain critical insight into disaster readiness.

After surviving the Derecho in 2012, an ice storm in 2016 caused a temporary telecommunications
outage. When first realized, the priority was to focus on the restoration of telecommunications. With assistance from telecommunication partner stakeholders, systems were quickly restored.

  Telecommunications providers assessed the issue as loss of electrical power to all central offices. Initially, this appeared to be completely outside the control of VA811. Due to extensive
ISO training on root cause analysis, VA811 executives did not accept this finding. VA811 began a thorough root cause  analysis, utilizing the fishbone analysis process. Part of a fishbone analysis includes the “Five Whys,” a
process utilizing repetitive questioning. It is used to examine and analyze the cause-and-effect relationship underlying a specific issue or problem.

The ice storm caused all telecommunication carriers to lose electrical power to their central offices. By not performing a thorough root cause analysis, VA811 could have easily accepted the findings initially provided and would not have initiated internal changes. However, by utilizing the fishbone analysis approach and repeatedly asking “why,” VA811 was able to peel back the layers of the outage and identify a means of continuous improvement. Thorough root cause analysis showed all tele-communications providers outside of the VA811 facilities were receiving their electrical power from the same electrical power grid. VA811 implemented corrective actions by adding telecommunications infrastructure from alternate electrical power grids, thus preventing a reoccurring outage in similar conditions.

While attaining ISO certification is not necessary for sound root cause analysis procedures, it does provide a structured approach to the analysis as a component of a certified company’s quality
management system. Non-ISO certified companies  procedures. Companies should never be satisfied
with initial findings and should always drill down to determine any potential means for continuous
improvement of their business continuity plan.

Deb Hofbauer is Director, Information Technology at VA811. She will be speaking on this topic at the CGA 811 Excavation Safety Conference & Expo in Orlando, March 14-16, 2017.

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