The Super Bowl Blacks Out in New Orleans

By Kim Smiley

The Super Bowl is always one of the most talked about television events of the year and this year the game was even more interesting than usual.  An impressive comeback attempt following a game delaying blackout made this one to remember.

The question of what caused the highly publicized blackout can be analyzed by building a Cause Map, an intuitive, visual format for performing a root cause analysis.  The first step in building a Cause Map is to fill in an Outline with the background information for the issue.  The goals that are impacted by an issue are listed on the bottom of the Outline.  In this example, the schedule goal is impacted because the Super Bowl was delayed; the material goal is impacted because a component called an electrical relay device needs to be replaced; and the customer service goal was impacted because the delay changed the momentum of the game significantly.    Individual fans may disagree, but the companies who have profits impacted by the Super Bowl probably consider the momentum shift a pleasant side effect of the blackout since the last 17 minutes of this game were the most watched.  Once the Outline is complete, the Cause Map is built by asking “why” questions.

Starting with the schedule goal, the next step would be to ask “why” the Super Bowl was delayed.    This happened because the game wasn’t able to be played because of a partial loss of power.  The electrical company has announced that a component called an electrical relay device failed, but the exact reason it failed hasn’t been determined.   Another cause that can be added to the Cause Map is that the backup power was insufficient to power the whole Stadium.  This cause is worth considering because a possible solution to this problem could be to add a more robust back up system to mitigate any future power issues.

The relay had been installed during major system upgrades that were performed during the previous two years to ensure that the stadium was ready for the demands of hosting the Super Bowl.  The relay was added to protect the Superdome electrical equipment if there was a cable failure between the incoming power lines (operated by the electric company) and the lines that run through the stadium.

This power problem is still being reviewed and it is still being determined if an independent review of the issue is necessary.  Once more facts are known, they can be easily incorporated into the Cause Map.  The final step in the Cause Mapping process would be to develop solutions that would help mitigate the issue and prevent future power failures.

See more power outage cause maps:

The Costa Allegra Loses Power

Power Outage Stretches from Arizona to California

Chile Power Outage 

Want us to cause map a specific power outage for you? Contact us at and we’ll give you a “lights out” root cause analysis.