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How to Help Businesses Prepare for a Power Outage

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Businesses have different power needs than residences, and they also have different challenges when the power goes out. Utilities can help them through these situations by promoting preparedness. Here are some suggestions utilities can share.

Ensure Employee and Customer Safety

Businesses should think in advance about how to ensure the safety of employees and customers in the event of a power outage. One consideration is downed power lines around the premises, which could prevent people from safely entering or leaving the building. Another is elevators and escalators, which may become impossible or dangerous to use in the event of a power outage. Management may also want to educate employees in advance about things like safe exit routes, the location of emergency kits and equipment (see below), and how to lock the business to limit the possibility of burglary.

Have an Emergency Kit Ready

Each business should create an emergency kit containing items that would help during various types of emergencies, including a power outage. Contents will vary depending on each business’ situation, but some possible items include tools, blankets, flashlights, first aid supplies, rope, duct tape, and fresh water. The kit should regularly be checked and resupplied as needed. Employees should be instructed as to its location and intended usage. Some items, such as flashlights, should additionally be distributed throughout the premises.

Protect Critical Equipment

Equipment that’s considered critical will vary by type of business. For example, according to the U.S Department of Homeland Security, high-priority systems include:

Restaurants

  • Refrigerators and freezers
  • Ovens, grills, and deep fryers
  • Ice makers and drink dispensers

Factories

  • Machinery and conveyor belts
  • Safety systems
  • Order processing and receiving

Offices

  • Computers, printers, and copiers
  • Network or server access
  • Lighting

All types of businesses should install fire detectors and sprinkler systems with backup batteries, to protect equipment in case of electrical fires started by power surges.

Install Surge Protection

To prevent power surges, which are much more likely during a power outage, businesses should install surge protection equipment. According to the Insurance Institute for Business & Home Safety, “[power surges] are one of the most severe, common and immediate dangers to modern, sensitive electronic equipment. In fact, Business Week estimates that power surges cost $26 billion a year in lost time, equipment repair and replacement costs.” There are several types of surge protectors that businesses should investigate to see which are best for their needs.

Maintain the Generator

Businesses that have a backup power generator are doing the right thing in terms of emergency preparation. But it’s also critical that employees understand how to maintain it and how it works. First, the generator must be the appropriate size for the business’ needs now and taking into consideration future growth. The most important safety concern is ensuring the generator is well-ventilated, with a carbon monoxide detector installed nearby to monitor levels. Employees should review generator literature to understand other safety and usage requirements.

Another piece of equipment that can prevent headaches during a power outage is an uninterruptible power supply (USP), which allows employees to continue working a bit longer if the power goes out.

Businesses should develop a written plan that outlines all of the above information, and distribute it to employees. Utilities can help by publishing the above information as well as a sample plan on their website, on social media, in printed materials, or all of these media. Utilities may not always have the ability to prevent power outages, but they can lessen the impact through helping businesses prepare for them.

Is your utility helping businesses prepare for power outages? If so, how? Please share in the comments.

Karen Marcus's picture

Thank Karen for the Post!

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Discussions

Nikolas Kornaros's picture
Nikolas Kornaros on February 5, 2019

Overall an excellent piece, but I believe there is more to this conversation. Working with high availability customers ... there is an increasing concern that the condition of our infrastructure warrants looking into power availability with different optics than we are used to. These risks need addressing while most are not interested in getting into electrical generation as their new full time "job." Everything from silicon foundries - datacenters - even the warehouse that needs to be available have to address these matters of power availability when the local utility may not be able to guarantee power.

 

The crisis in Northern California with the federal judges who have indicated they will order the grid shut down if conditions warrant is but one exapmle of many. So we are going to need more islanded facilitites that are running grid parallel. In other words full on generaton with the grid as back-up. We provide the desig, implementation and operation of these solutions and therefore undertstand the new era we are in.

Karen Marcus's picture
Karen Marcus on February 6, 2019

Thanks, Nikolas, great points. I would be interested to know from you or others of specific stories about companies that made this transition.

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