Five Disasters Caused by Human Error

Man holding laptop looking horrifiedYou know that natural disasters can wreak havoc on your business. We’ve already seen plenty proof of that this year: the polar vortex in the Midwest and Southeast, the tornado outbreak in the South, the San Diego firestorm, etc.

Sometimes, though, disasters aren’t naturally occurring phenomena, but rather the unfortunate result of human error. That’s why it’s important for your business to be prepared for all types of events, regardless of the cause.

Over the years, employees’ mistakes have cost businesses downtime, reputational damage and monetary loss. Below are five notable examples.

Data for 19,000 Colorado Employees Goes Missing


Late in 2007, an employee of the state of Colorado misplaced a USB drive while transporting it between work sites. Unfortunately, the device contained nearly 19,000 current and former employees' Social Security numbers and possibly addresses. The employee was disciplined for not following protocol, and IT officials were tasked with the arduous process of determining whose information the USB drive contained so all 19,000 individuals could be notified.

Train Runs Stop Signal


In 2008, a Metrolink commuter train engineer caused a wreck considered "the nation’s deadliest rail disaster in 15 years" when he ran a stop signal in Los Angeles and collided with a freight train. The accident decimated the train and resulted in 25 deaths and 135 injuries. Investigators determined that the engineer had been texting while operating the train. His last text had been sent 22 seconds before the crash.

Kansas City Hotel Walkway Collapses


More than 1,000 partygoers at an event being held at Kansas City’s Hyatt Regency Hotel in 1981 became victims of an engineer team’s design flaw when a skywalk on the fourth floor collapsed. The structure dislodged other structures made of steel, concrete and glass, which resulted in the deaths of 114 people. The engineers were stripped of their licenses.

Incorrect Command Wipes Pixar Server


The creators of Pixar’s "Toy Story 2" nearly saw two months and hundreds of hours of hard work disappear when someone ran an incorrect command and erased the server where the movie’s files were stored. Thankfully, one of the company’s directors had a backup (the only one) stored on her computer at home, and the movie was saved.

Power Outage Affecting Millions of Customers


In 2011, an Arizona Power Service employee single-handedly caused a power outage affecting Arizona, Southern California and Mexico. The worker had been performing routine maintenance at a substation in Arizona, but instead triggered a cascade of outages affecting millions of customers across the power grid.

Human error is inevitable, but when it affects your business’s success, be sure you’re equipped to deal with the aftermath.

To start creating or re-evaluating your plan, check out our Business Continuity Plan Checklist.

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