The overnight winds on Wednesday delayed my Thursday morning journey as we stopped between Kelvedon and Silver End whilst fallen trees were cut and lifted from the road.

On arrival at the office, I signed in, late, and turned on my computer. Before I could log on Sue visited to tell me that one of the doors to the air conditioning unit outside had come off and was lying on the ground.

I took a look and couldn’t decide whether it had fallen after the lock had come away or whether it had been crow barred. I plumped for the latter and returned to my desk to call out the engineers to see if parts had been stolen from our downstairs units that are already out of action! During my call I discovered the door had fallen the previous evening so the engineers were already booked to visit.

9.30; half an hour gone – nothing yet done.

A busy morning followed involving a number of calls until towards the end of lunchtime – 13.50 to be precise – a loud BANG was heard and all the lights went off. We’ve had power cuts before, often not long and normally during storms where the building gets hit by lightning, but this turned into something else…

The staff were disorientated when it didn’t come back on in five minutes. What could they do? No power, no computers meaning no accounts or more importantly, no tax return processing in these technological days.

I went for a wander round the estate. Our business neighbours were also out and most were talking about where the loud bang had come from. It appeared to be somewhere down Notley Road and so I returned back to the office and looked out the electric bills to report the fault – not as easy as it sounds as the ‘report a fault line’ is hidden on page 3, but we got the call through.

I arranged for texts to my phone updating on the position and noticed the staff had taken the opportunity to tidy up the office in the absence of productivity. We arranged for the remote close down of our servers before the UPS machines ran out of juice, then discovered that the lack of power was also preventing our part time Mum’s from leaving the car park to get to the school run on time. To get them out, the air con engineers were helpful and took the security barrier arm off.

Upstairs, old working paper files were being boxed up to go to what Paul calls somewhat tongue in cheek our “State of the Art Storage Unit”. I accessed the Disaster Recovery Plan we had written in 2005 to see what it recommended. I discovered that I was on the Disaster Recovery Committee along with others including Chris – who retired last year.
The plan itself was sound – for 2005 technology – and suggested that we should go to our other offices in Chelmsford and Maldon to work. I imagined for a moment turning up at our ex-colleagues office in Chelmsford – no it couldn’t happen! Working in Maldon or London wouldn’t work these days with all staff logging on remotely to one place. That plan needs an update I thought!

I opened the blinds as it was getting dark outside and considered putting in an order for 50 head torches and then the power came back on. Just after an hour. The planned “State of the Art Storage Unit” delivery visit was cancelled and we waited for the servers to be turned back on. We had to wait for the phones too.

Having taken the car park security barriers off their hinges, we decided to put them back on in case they were stolen overnight. Just as John began – it was he who was shown how to take them off – the dark skies opened and the heavens descended in a torrent of water. It was horrible. We rushed out to assist with a variety of umbrellas but it was a little late for John who was soaked.

Having got the barriers re-attached, screwing in the nuts proved problematic. John’s kit was old money, the screws new and when we got to the second arm, cold hand syndrome had seriously set in. John wasn’t helped by one of the umbrellas that protected his head but we noticed the water running off landing on the back of his jacket. A second umbrella helped ease the flow.

I returned to the office to discover we couldn’t access an outside phoneline. I called our phone supplier. A review of the software showed there might be a blockage up the line so a call to the next supplier. They arranged for the line to be redirected to my mobile whilst the line was checked and from that moment all hell broke loose with calls coming in thick and fast with messages taken and offers to call back. There was some good news – I might have picked up a new client but he needs a tax return before 31 January. With the processing time lost today I would have to break that news gently I thought.

At around 18.45 I took a call from a BT engineer who said he couldn’t find a fault on the line at their end and he might have to visit. As he was at the Braintree Exchange, I said he was less than five minutes away and he could come round. He did, checked the line and it was our box so another call to the provider. We disconnected the power and thankfully it reset, but it took half an hour to power down and up again.

At least I had my phone back for the morning. I emailed a message round to my fellow partners before packing up and tried to set the alarm. It wouldn’t set. Typical, I called the provider to go through a series of steps so that it reset itself and rushed out to get in the car. It was now 20.00.

Half a mile down the road the petrol light came on. It was one of those days!

Now one of these nights I really must look at my tax return…

Post by Nick Forsyth




The views expressed in this article are the personal views of the Author and other professionals may express different views. They may not be the views of Lambert Chapman LLP. The material in the article cannot and should not be considered as exhaustive. Professional advice should be sought in connection with any of the issues contained in the article and the implementation of any actions.

Lambert Chapman Chartered Accountants

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