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Steps for creating a power outage business continuity plan

Steps for creating a power outage business continuity plan

A power outage that causes significant disruptions is every business owner’s worst nightmare — no lights, no computers, and no way to conduct business. It can happen anytime, anywhere, and often without warning. That’s why it’s important to have a power outage business continuity plan in place so you can keep your business running smoothly, no matter what.

What is a power outage business continuity plan?

A power outage business continuity plan is a document that outlines how your business will continue to operate in the event of a power outage. It includes procedures for everything from backup power generation to customer communication. Although some businesses can operate without power, it’s necessary for most companies, particularly those that rely on computers and other electronic equipment.

Having a power outage business continuity plan can help you minimize the impact of unexpected downtime. It can also help you keep your customers and employees safe, and mitigate the financial losses that can occur when business is interrupted. Power outages can also damage equipment, so it’s important to have a plan in place to protect your investments.

What should your power outage business continuity plan include?

There are a few key elements that should be included in your power outage business continuity plan. These are the following:

  • A list of critical systems and processes that need to be maintained during a power outage
  • A list of backup power generation options, including generators and battery backups
  • Protocols for customer communication, including contact information for key customer service personnel
  • Protocols for employee safety, including evacuation procedures
  • A plan for mitigating financial losses, including insurance coverage and contingency funds
  • A plan for recovering lost data and files

The most crucial part of any power outage business continuity plan is assessing which systems and processes are critical to your business. These will vary from company to company, but typically include things like security systems, computer networks, phone systems, and data backup. Once you’ve identified your critical systems, you can begin to develop procedures for maintaining them during a power outage.

Factors to consider when creating a power outage business continuity plan

To create an effective plan, you first need to assess your risks. What are the chances of a power outage occurring, and how would it impact your business? After taking stock of your risks, identify the functions and processes that are critical to your business. These are the areas that you’ll need to focus on in your business continuity plan.

For instance, if you run a retail business, you’ll want to make sure you have a plan in place for keeping your registers and point-of-sale systems up and running. If you’re a service-based business, you’ll need to ensure your customer-facing employees have the tools and information they need to continue providing excellent service.

Once you’ve identified your most critical business functions, you can begin to develop procedures for maintaining them during a power outage. For example, if you own a brick-and-mortar store, you’ll want a plan detailing how you’ll keep your doors open and transactions running. This might include using generators to quickly restore power or using battery-operated point-of-sale systems or manual cash registers. Your plan should also include provisions for customer communication, such as posting signs in your store or sending out email blasts to let them know you're still open for business.

If your business relies heavily on data and computers, you’ll need to have a solid plan for data backup and recovery . This might include using cloud-based storage solutions or keeping physical copies of important files and documents. This is to make sure you don’t lose any important information in the event of a power outage.

All of these protocols should be detailed and specific, and they should be reviewed and updated on a regular basis. Keep in mind also that power outages can last for a few minutes or several days, so your business continuity plan should be comprehensive enough to cover all contingencies.

A power outage can have a significant impact on your business, but with a well-thought-out power outage business continuity plan, you can minimize the disruption and keep your business running smoothly.

Do you need help developing any type of business continuity plan for your company? Contact Kortek Solutions today and one of our experts will be happy to assist you.

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Unified Power

Power Outage Procedures for Businesses

In an era where reliance on electricity has never been more critical, even a momentary blip in power can trigger serious ― and extremely expensive ― consequences for your business. From equipment damage to data loss to wounded reputation, the effects of downtime can take a significant toll on any organization. Those that lack a sufficient power protection solution face even more devastating business impacts when an unexpected loss of power occurs. 

But the news isn’t all doom and gloom; organizations that properly prepare can significantly improve their chance of making a successful recovery when a power outage does strike. By implementing an emergency preparedness strategy, you can help prevent your entire operation from going lights-out, even when the power does just that.

The Importance of Creating a Power Outage Procedure for Your Business 

As climate change fuels more frequent and severe weather events such as hurricanes , wildfires and snowstorms, longer blackouts are becoming an even greater threat. In 2021, the U.S. power grid collapsed multiple times during incidents unleashed by Mother Nature, with the average electricity customer experiencing 7 hours and 20 minutes without power, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration’s annual power industry report . Even more, a 2018 Bloom Energy survey found that one in four companies experiences a power outage at least once a month. 

From severe weather to wildlife interference to vehicle accidents, there’s certainly no shortage of blackout risks, making proper outage planning absolutely essential. The consequences of downtime from unexpected power outages can be huge, including lost revenue, equipment damage, data loss, missed transactions, reduced productivity and spoiled inventory, among other unpleasant effects. While the average cost of downtime can vary dramatically by industry, the U.S. Department of Energy estimates that power outages cost U.S. businesses $150 billion each year. But the results of a power outage aren’t always easily measurable; damages can extend far beyond ruined goods or lost sales if your business’ reputation is tarnished from being unable to effectively serve customers. Furthermore, profits aren’t the only negative consequence of power cuts; in the medical world, for instance, the briefest disturbance in electricity can also cost lives . Many small businesses have even been forced to close their doors in the aftermath of an extended blackout. 

While this collection of statistics is certainly ominous, it underscores the importance of developing a comprehensive business continuity and disaster recovery strategy ― with power outage planning representing a key aspect of that plan. 

How Businesses Can Prepare for a Power Outage 

The Boy Scouts had it right when they coined the organization’s motto of “Be Prepared.” Indeed, it is much wiser to consider what is needed during a power outage before you’re left in the dark. That’s why the first order of business is to create a business continuity plan (BCP), a document that consists of critical information a business needs to continue operating during an unplanned event such as when an outage occurs.  Unlike disaster recovery (DR) planning ― which outlines how to restore business processes within a certain timeframe in the aftermath of a disaster ― business continuity programs are designed to keep critical functions continuing with minimal downtime during an unplanned interruption. By evaluating which aspects of your business would be most vulnerable during an outage and detailing the steps to address them, a well-thought-out BCP decreases the risk of detrimental and costly consequences from a loss of power. 

When developing a power outage plan for business, it is important to consider the different types of backup power solutions available and which will best meet your individual needs. While an uninterruptible power system (UPS) is the first line of defense in safeguarding critical equipment and processes, many businesses opt to deploy additional measures to bolster their level of protection. For example, extended battery modules (EBMs) facilitate longer runtime during a power loss. Another key element is selecting a power management software capable of performing an automatic, orderly shutdown of connected devices and saving all work-in-progress. Additionally, installing surge protection devices will help shield electronic equipment from power surges or spikes that can damage sensitive electronics.

A solid response plan may also include investment in an emergency generator to provide power during an extended outage. Regardless of the type of backup solution you deploy, before an outage strikes, make sure that the proper personnel know how to operate all backup equipment. Furthermore, it is crucial to properly maintain your backup solution to ensure it performs as designed when you need it most. 

Other proactive steps that should be considered prior to an outage include determining procedures for disconnecting and powering down equipment; establishing processes for data backup and retrieval; assembling an emergency kit; determining personnel matters such as how long employees will remain on site during a power outage and possible work-from-home requirements; addressing workplace safety issues including installing emergency lighting; and defining procedures for entering or exiting the facility. Finally, make sure all information and resources, as well as safety tips, are shared with your employees.

What Business Should Do During a Power Outage 

You’ve compiled your BCP, conducted routine power outage drills with your staff, and in the midst of your work day, the lights just went out ― so now what? Keep in mind that specific procedures will vary based on the type and size of the business, among other factors. For instance, power outage procedures for restaurants will differ from those in critical healthcare settings. But regardless of the industry, safety will always be the highest priority during a power outage, so the first order of business should be to check on all customers and employees and call 911 if there are any emergencies.

It’s always recommended that you report a power outage to your utility company. Some providers will have a dedicated point of contact assigned to your business; if this is the case, be sure to record that information in your BCP. Next, disconnect or shut down electronic equipment if you do not have power management software that will do so automatically, and ensure that your standby generator has powered on. Once these tasks are completed, you should account for all employees at predetermined meeting areas. Depending on the outage information that may be available from the utility company, management will need to decide whether to send employees home for the day, have them work remotely or stand by to return to the office. During any lengthy power outage, be sure to communicate regularly with employees on the status of the event.

Some companies rely on MiFi during an outage. This portable broadband device allows multiple end users and mobile devices to share a 3G or 4G mobile broadband Internet connection and create an ad-hoc network. In addition, some businesses may move to a defined alternate location where they can resume operations if the primary location is not usable.

What to Do After a Power Outage

When the lights finally flicker back on after a power outage, the immediate threat may have passed but there is still important work to be done. Once you’ve confirmed that electricity has been reestablished, be sure to check all electrical equipment for possible damage. If your business has a generator, you will also need to turn it off. Once these tasks have been completed, you can turn your attention to assessing any losses that may have resulted from the blackout. 

How to Build a Plan 

Although the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) estimates that as many as 75 percent of businesses without a BCP will fail within three years of a disaster, many organizations neglect to put a strategy in place. Business continuity and disaster recovery planning doesn’t need to be an ominous task. A company’s IT administrators often create the plan with input from the executive staff. However, any personnel with knowledge of the business and oversight can participate in the process or even draft the document. 

When compiling your BCP, be sure to include power disruptions into risk assessments and business impact analyses. These examinations will help identify ways to prepare for electricity losses and how to mitigate the severity of an outage to your business. Your plan should include instructions for periodically inspecting building infrastructure and power protection equipment; determining who should perform what actions during a power event; and how to share the plan with employees. Help your staff prepare by scheduling training on your BCP, as well as conducting routine power outage drills. Don’t forget to review and update your plan on a regular basis.

Contact Unified Power for the UPS Equipment Your Business Needs 

For more than two decades, Unified Power has been providing critical power equipment and services to companies across the country, including preventive maintenance and emergency response. We offer comprehensive power solutions customized to fit the needs of every business, including UPSs, backup generators, DC plants, power distribution units (PDUs) and more.

Our solutions and services will ensure you are back in business as quickly as possible after a power outage. Contact us today to learn more about how we can help you keep power losses from becoming business losses.     

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business power outage

How Your Business Can Survive a Power Outage

Can your business survive a power outage?

No matter what kind of business you have, no modern business can survive without electricity. Whether it’s a short-term issue like a line or a transformer down, or a bigger issue like a hurricane, tornado or winter storm, successful businesses have a back-up plan for a business power outage.

Businesses that successfully weather a power outage have these three things in common:

  • A business continuity plan
  • Business interruption insurance
  • A backup generator , if their business involves goods that can spoil.

All three of these require advance planning. Here’s how to get started.

How to Create a Business Continuity Plan in case of a Power Outage

A business continuity plan is key if you’re to survive an unexpected business power outage. This continuity plan can serve you in any unexpected emergency — like a hurricane or a flood.

Think of a business continuity plan as a big “what if” scenario.

Talk it through with employees. Identify the items that must be covered during an electrical outage or emergency scenario. And then come up with a plan to maintain coverage.

Here are items that should be included when you are creating your business continuity plan:

  • Identify essential tasks. What are the key functions that must be covered to keep your business going?
  • Identify essential personnel. Who are the key people that will staff those key functions?
  • Identify risks to raw materials and goods. If you are a restaurant, grocery store or other business that has spoilage issues with an electrical outage, what are your plans? How long do you have, per health code, before everything must be discarded? And how quickly can you restock?
  • Identify risks to data storage. Is data backed up regularly in an offsite location? Are employees saving data to a central location, or to their individual computers? Can they access their work remotely?
  • What employee coverage is needed? If the issue is a natural disaster employees will be focused on getting their family to safety, which of course is the first priority. Identify which employees are key to operations. Could they continue working from a safe location?
  • Do you need to develop cross-training plans? If certain employees won’t be available during an unexpected emergency, you need to identify that up front. Then make sure others are cross-trained. Document daily tasks that will need to be covered. Include a step-by-step written guide to each process.
  • Do key employees have computer access? If your business depends on data, most of your employees can work from home during an electrical outage. Make sure your key employees have laptops. And make sure you have an off-site back-up of your systems.
  • Will your phone system work? If your small business deals with the public, you’ll want to update your phone system. Document how to update your phone system to forward calls to a different location. Alternately, document how to change the voicemail message to alert customers to your electrical outage.

Most items in your business continuity plan will be dependent on the type of business you have. It’s important to identify which items are deemed “must have coverage” versus optional tasks that are not core to your business function.

Should I Buy Business Interruption Insurance?

In short. Yes.

Business interruption insurance, also known as business income insurance, can be a lifeline for your business and your employees

The following are typically covered under a business interruption insurance policy:

  • Profits . Profits that would have been earned (based on financial statements)
  • Fixed Costs . Operating expenses such as rent and salaries
  • Temporary Location . Your coverage may allow you to set up shop in a new location temporarily.
  • Civil Authority Ingress/Egress . If the government mandates business closure due to a natural disaster, you can collect on lost revenue

Your business interruption coverage period is determined by the details in your policy. It will typically cover you until your business is back in operational.

In addition, you can purchase contingent business interruption coverage . This type of coverage pays out if you are unable to operate due to a natural disaster impacting one of your suppliers.

These are all items that you should discuss with your business insurance provider.

Should I Get a Backup Generator in Case of a Power Outage?

If your business relies on electricity to survive — like a convenience store, dry cleaner, bakery — you should consider getting a backup generator for your business .

This is especially true if your business is in a hurricane-prone area like the Texas Gulf Coast or Florida. Or a blizzard or snow-prone area like Ohio or Connecticut.

What type of generator should I get?

A stationary or standby generator will connect to your electricity line, and turn on automatically if you have a power outage. Portable generators are less expensive, but also typically not capable of powering your business for an extended period.

What size generator will I need for my business?

The size of the generator you buy will depend on how many watts of power you will need to run your business during a power outage. That will vary dramatically depending on the type of business. If you have a small business and just need power to keep office lights, networks and computers running, that’s different from a bakery or machine shop.

Time needed:  5 minutes

How to determine what size generator you need for your business continuity:

Pull copies of your electrical bills over the last 12 months.

Identify your highest wattage usage at any given time, also known as peak demand. This will be on your bill under demand charges

To make sure you have enough power when you need it, multiply your peak demand number by 1.25 to build in a 25% margin.

Step 2 and 3 will give you a range of wattage you will need for your commercial generator in case of a power outage.

What type of commercial generator should I buy?

When shopping for a commercial generator, make sure to talk to the dealer or electrician about your needs . That way you can confirm that you are buying the right size.

Once you have decided the size of generator you need, you will need to decide the type of fuel. Here are some of the fuel choices for your commercial generator :

  • Natural Gas: Natural gas is our top recommendation. With a natural gas line at your business, you don’t have to worry about storing any fuel on-site. It’s readily available, affordable and convenient.
  • Diesel: The most popular fuel type for commercial generators is diesel. It’s readily available and runs efficiently, and cheap to run and maintain.
  • Combination: Purchasing a commercial generator that is a combo-fuel, with natural gas and diesel, gives you options, and that’s a great plus in a natural disaster or electricity outage.

You can find out more about commercial generators, such as run-time, noise, location and installation by reading this Guide to Buying a Commercial Generator.

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About Kelly Bedrich

Kelly Bedrich co-founded ElectricityPlans in 2016 with the goal of simplifying the complicated process of buying energy. As president and chief technology officer, Kelly keeps our development team focused on providing a user-friendly website. When not reading the latest on technology and finance, Kelly enjoys celebrating Taco Tuesday, listening to live music at local venues, and hiking.

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