Category Risk Management

Companies should have grid collapse plans in place says South African Risk Body

30 March 2023 The Institute for Risk Management South Africa’s (IRMSA)

While reassurances have been given that the chances of a total electricity grid collapse are low, it’s now become incumbent on the South African risk community to develop clear plans should such an event occur.

The Institute for Risk Management South Africa’s (IRMSA) Chief Risk Officer Christopher Palm says while on-site visits to the country’s power stations by the new Electricity Minister are to be welcomed as well as his confident pronouncements about the future, the country’s power supply still remains worryingly constrained with a winter allocation outlook that will inevitably put more pressure on the grid. Notes Palm: “Preparing for the worst eventuality is what the risk profession does and we believe the country has reached a stage where preparation for a complete blackout, which could last up to a fortnight, now need to be factored into a strategic planning for the remainder of the year. It is better to have an unused plan that none at all.”

Palm says a first step would be to plan and set up a command or control centre comprising key personal including the CEO, the CIO, the head of security, the head of Human Resources, the head of communications, as well as risk leaders in the business. Such a room need to have an ancillary power supply to enable optimal use. Secondly he says would be the development of a plan of approach and action which would need to be communicated to all employees and taking staff associations and unions into confidence. A communiqué to key external stakeholders also needs to be developed, particularly around potential supply chain disruption.

Palm says communication – the key to managing any crisis – needs to acknowledge that this type of event would have wide-ranging implications for businesses and individuals alike, and could cause significant disruption to operations and services. Practical tactics also need to be formatted he says. “In the event of a total grid collapse, businesses should take steps to ensure their continuity plans are up-to-date and that they are prepared to respond quickly and effectively. This could include steps such as having a larger alternate power source ready, and a process for quickly restoring essential services. Businesses should also be prepared to adjust their operations to accommodate long periods without power and should be aware of the potential for cyber security threats.” Palm says employees should also be advised on how to deal with such an eventuality off site, including having an emergency kit ready and ensuring they have sufficient food and water stored in the event of a prolonged power outage. “ Palm says IRMSA remains confident at this time that power collapse risk level is low but it is both responsible and prudent to remain vigilant and prepared.

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