Tuesday, November 06, 2012

269 and Peer 1

So there is some discussion this year of a 269-269 electoral college tie. The level of thinking involved, though is shallow. This is an important lesson in disaster planning. Peer 1, and their customers, didn't plan well. You can read the story here. The connection will be come clear in a paragraph.

The quick summary is that Peer 1 relied on the fuel pumps of the building (75 Broad Street) that were in the basement near the fuel tanks. But those fuel pumps failed when they were flooded by Hurricane Sandy as well as a water main break. They went to heroic efforts with a manual bucket brigade, and even avoided downtime (it was so close that some customers chose to shut down to prevent data corruption). However the failures in planning became very clear. Their generators could not operate so long (a week) without downtime. They clearly didn't consider a flood. They were only prepared for a power outage, like a substation explosion. Nothing more. No extended outages, nothing. From the description it isn't even clear they had two generators. This comes from failure to consider the possibilities, and a complacency about the current model.

In a 269-269 tie, Congress votes on the president. But there are other possibilities. An Elector is not legally required, let alone automatically counted, to vote for the candidate he or she is pledged for. If there is a 269-269 tie, the first thing that will happen is that the winner of the popular vote will pressure electors for the other side to switch. If just one switches, it is over. Look for the Democrats to do that this time, because in a 269-269 tie, they are most likely the winner of the popular vote, and more importantly they stand to lose in the house. So even if they lose the popular vote, look for another argument.

When preparing for the unknown, you have to think beyond the current model, and test its assumptions with different scenarios, and then see if those scenarios are worth planning for in advance (cost/benefit or any other perspective or priority you have).