I held a meeting of the business steering group for our “Backing Kent Business” campaign yesterday afternoon. Among other issues we needed to discuss, there was much debate around this week’s power outage in Dartford, where since Monday lunchtime, around 84,000 consumers were left without electricity.
Obviously this impacts on domestic consumers, and plans were immediately put into action by Dartford Borough Council to ensure that the elderly and vulnerable were not left without heating or hot water. But my colleagues told me how the cost to businesses would run into millions, with some smaller companies potentially going bust as a result of the problem.
It set us thinking how we could work better together in the event of something similar happening in the future. Could we, for instance compile a list of empty accommodation in public or private premises, which at short notice could be called into use to house stranded businesses? Could we create a list of secretarial service providers to offer emergency support? Should we create a “battery swapout” service to provide at least a basic capacity for computers and phones?
The last few years, with an increasing terrorist threat or natural disasters like the earthquake in Folkestone back in April 2007, has heightened public sector awareness and the need for high level resilience planning. But if Dartford teaches us anything, it’s surely the need for KCC and its partners to have in place simple, basic, low-level accords and agreements which will keep business moving at times like these.