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ITIL on Fire - A Parable

     Our story, like many stories, begins with an Event. In this case, the Event is a few trace particles of smoke attaching themselves to ionized oxygen and nitrogen particles in the air between two opposingly charged plates in a household smoke detector.

     The Event Correlation Engine at the Event Monitoring Operations Bridge of the home security monitoring company recognizes that this Event signifies an ongoing Incident, so it triggers an Alert for the operators to see and respond to. The Incident Management Process is automatically initiated by the Event Management tool, opening an Incident Record. This Incident Record is picked up by an Incident Manager from First Level Support in the Operations Bridge, whose job it is to manage the Incident on the customerís behalf.

     The Incident Manager tries to contact the customer in an attempt to verify the potential Impact and Urgency of this Incident, so it can be determined how high of a Priority it should be assigned. They donít want emergency services swarming upon the house for a burnt dinner. If the customer either confirms that this is a High Priority Incident, or the customer canít be reached within a three minute threshold, the Major Incident Process will automatically be initiated.
     The emergency services Service Desk and the home security monitoring company have cooperated to design a Major Incident Response Process that works effectively and efficiently across the two organizations. They have a clear understanding of one anotherís responsibilities and roles in the Process. When the Incident Manager at the home security company initiates the Major Incident Process, it bypasses the standard Incident Management Process used by the emergency services Service Desk in the event of someone calling 911. The home security monitoring companyís Incident Management tool opens a connection to the Incident Management tool at emergency services, automatically generates & populates a High Priority Incident and establishes an audio/visual communication line between the Incident Managers at both sites.

     The home security Incident Manager does reach the customer, who confirms that his house is on fire, he is trapped in the second floor bedroom and he is unaware whether his two children have escaped. She stays on the telephone with the customer to gather as much information as possible, which she populates into the Incident Record and initiates the Major Incident Process. She is also providing First Level Support to the customer by giving him survival advice until help can arrive. The third, and perhaps most significant, aspect of her job at this point is to keep the customer informed & assured Ė she tells him what is being done to rescue him and his family.

     Following the Major Incident Response Process, our emergency services operator escalates to the Fire & Rescue Department. He also involves the emergency services Operations Bridge, so they can plan the ideal route to the fire and control the traffic lights.

     The Fire & Rescue Department is largely a volunteer force. It has a few employees whose sole responsibility is fighting fires, but most of the fire fighters work other full-time jobs and must be called away from those responsibilities in emergency situations such as these.
     All the individuals in Fire & Rescue team are well aware of their own responsibilities. The Fire & Rescue Chief is the Process Owner and, as such, has ultimate accountability for the outcome of the Process. The Associate Fire & Rescue Chief is the Process Manager. She arrives on site with the team members and manages all ongoing Activities.

     The emergency services Incident Manager shares all the acquired information with the Associate Chief, who will then disseminate that information to the team members and utilize it to coordinate efforts. The Associate Chief also performs a Hierarchal Escalation to inform the Chief of the Incident.

     The home security Incident Manager, still on the telephone with the customer, informs him that help is on the way and is expected to arrive in four minutes.

     The first responders cordon the area and act as traffic & crowd control. The fire fighters assess the situation first-hand and work to find the best way to rescue the people trapped inside. Once the people have been removed to a safe distance, a health assessment is performed, first aid is administered and, if necessary, they will perform a Functional Escalation to the on-call hospital paramedics. The top priority of the rest of the Fire & Rescue team now shifts to fighting the fire and ensuring the building and surroundings are safe and stabilized.

     Itís right about this time that the fire investigator shows up on the scene to try and solve the Problem of what caused the fire. The fire investigator will review the Incident Record, look around for evidence from outside the scene and interview witnesses during his search for evidence, but the Associate Fire Chief will not allow the investigatorís work impede the work of Fire & Rescue team. The fire fighters will do what they can to preserve evidence during the Incident, but not if it impedes the Process.

     Once the Fire & Rescue Associate Chief allows the investigator access to the scene he can really begin his Root Cause Analysis. The investigatorís team determines that the cause of the fire was an electrical outlet in the living room, but the wiring was up to code. They could see no apparent cause. They decide to open a Problem Record for further investigation.

     Back at the office, the investigators run some statistical trend analyses to find other Incidents & Problems similar to this one. The knowledge management system they use is a report generator front end placed upon data warehouse middleware, which federates data from all past Incidents & Problems, as well as home construction configuration databases, building permits, population data, federal crime & accident records, and every other data source they could connect with logical relationships within this data warehouse. They find that in over 90% of Incidents with similar conditions nationwide, the homeowners had the same brand of circuit breaker installed, but there are over forty thousand homes with these circuit breakers in the city that have never caught on fire Ė many of them had been using this brand for well over a decade. Further analysis of available information uncovers that the houses that did burn all had these circuit breakers with BX cable wiring, while none of the houses with more modern Romex cabling had burned. While there is an evident risk to all houses equipped with a combination of BX cabling and these, specific circuit breakers, it is not conclusive whether the houses with Romex cabling are at risk. Since managing a project to change the circuit breakers in the more than forty thousand homes would be unwieldy and cost prohibitive if there is no valid risk to the homeowners or their property, the remediation path is unclear and needs to be assessed by a body with greater authority.

     Upon reviewing the investigation findings, the City Council decides the best Strategy would be to hire a consultant that specializes in testing home wiring to perform a Risk Analysis. The result of the Risk Analysis indicates that the homes with Romex cabling are at no risk, but the homes with BX cabling face a 65% chance of fire.

     The City Council decides that the best Strategy is to Change the wiring code to prohibit the dangerous combination, assess current property configurations and put together a risk remediation project to address the homes that currently fit the risk profile.

     A Request For Change is generated and submitted to the Mayor for approval. The Mayor takes issue with the timeframes for required homeowner compliance and negotiates with the City Council until an agreement is reached and the RFC is approved. A remediation committee is convened.
     The team generates a Change Record under the umbrella of the RFC, and assigns it to the city building code department, requesting they make the changes to the wiring code. Meanwhile, the committee builds a remediation & public awareness plan under a separate Change Record, under the same RFC.

     Once the code changes and the remediation & public awareness campaign are drafted they are submitted for Release and reviewed by the City Council and every other department that would have a stake in the outcome of the plan. Upon approval by the Release Process, they are put on the Schedule of Change as High Priority Change Records. At the weekly Change Approval Board meeting, the Change Records are approved and sent off to be Deployed.

     The Change Records, RFC, Problem Record & Incident Record can now be closed and will all be closely scrutinized, looking for ways to improve the Process executions and integration.

Never The End

March 04, 2011, 10:04:27 am

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