The US experiences more power outage than any other developed country in the world, so it’s important for businesses to be prepared. Power outages are on the rise and are nearly four times more likely to occur now than in 2002, according to statistics cited by Cintas. The average US power customer loses power for 3.5 hours per year, dramatically exceeding the average compared to countries like Japan, whose average customer experiences only six minutes of power loss per year.
According to Agility Recover and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), about 70 percent of businesses will experience a power outage in the next year. These interruptions could significantly disrupt your operations and hinder your profitability, especially if the power outage is long-term. Luckily, there are some preventative measures you can take now to limit disruptions to your company. Learn how to prepare for power outages in your facility with help from the experts at ServiceMaster DCS.
How to prepare for a power outage
Power outages can happen as a result of a number of issues, making it one of the most experienced and perceived hazards for businesses, according to the American Journal of Economics and Business Administration. Bad weather, faults at power stations, damaged electric transmission lines and other factors can easily cause an outage in your area. Knowing how to prepare for each situation, especially when long-term loss of power happens, can help you limit your company’s losses.
Before a power outage occurs, prepare your office by taking the following steps:
Build an emergency kit.
In the event of a power outage, you must have certain supplies on-hand, including a first aid kit, a tool kit, blankets, flashlights with extra batteries, a list of important phone numbers, and a detailed floor plan of your office that shows the emergency exists and the shutoff points for gas, water and electricity. Use our emergency preparedness kit checklist for more details on what supplies you may need to include.
Create a Continuity of Operations Plan (COOP).
Continuity plans help ensure that you can still operate your business while responding to and recovering from emergencies. To develop your own COOP for power outages, use this outage preparedness checklist from SRP.
Train your employees.
Everyone in your office must know how to correctly respond to a power outage, both to keep themselves and your customers safe. To reinforce their training, run regular practice drills with your staff. If any improvements need to be made to your plan, you can adjust it before a disaster actually strikes.
Get power surge protectors.
When the electricity turns back on, it can cause power surges that may damage or permanently destroy your vital business electronics. Surge protectors help prevent these outpourings of energy to keep your equipment safe. If you cannot invest in significant power surge protectors, shut off all electrical equipment during the outage to avoid a power surge once everything is restored.
Install fire detectors.
If you haven’t done your part to prevent power surges, your equipment could cause dangerous electrical fires once you’re back on the grid. To save you from costly damage, smoke detectors and commercial sprinkler systems can save you from costly damage. Install these on every floor to help prevent uncontrollable flames.
Invest in a backup generator.
To keep operations running smoothly, an alternate source of power is crucial. Learn how to use your generator before the unexpected happens, and consider developing a generator maintenance, operation and fueling plan to help keep business as usual throughout the year.
Sign up for outage alerts.
Most power companies offer free emergency services to alert you about power outages. Text updates can be sent directly to your phone to keep you updated on the outage, as well as when you can expect power to return to your facility.
What to do if a power outage occurs in your business
When a power outage occurs, it’s most important that you stay calm and stay safe. First, assess the situation fully by examining your facility and the weather outside. Afterward, check for information from your power provider, either by calling them, visiting their website on your smartphone or getting information through text message alerts. Based on this two-part assessment, you must then use your best judgement to decide how to proceed. Some things you may do if a power outage happens include the following:
- If the outage was not weather-related, power may be down for only a few minutes. Consider using a generator to continue business operations.
- If your power provider says the outage may be long-term, determine if your generator has enough power to hold you until restoration. Otherwise, consider closing your doors until you’re back on the grid.
- If the outage was weather-related, you may be stuck inside the building for long periods of time. Place the emergency supplies nearby to help customers and staff stay safe, comfortable and warm during the power outage.
At the end of the day, the most important thing you can do is stay safe. If you need help building out your own plan, including checklists you can use to test your staff, space and systems, use FEMA’s power outage toolkit for businesses. Remember that with the proper training and preparation, you can help keep your business running smoothly.