Tag: Business Preparedness

Power Outage in the Workplace


Updated March, 2019

Power Outage in the Workplace

A Common Emergency Than Can Turn Into a Disaster

It’s Friday morning, you arrive at work and are greeted with . . .

“Guess what! Power is out!”

As people pull in and start to crowd around the front door, questions ring out. . .

  • “Who’s in charge?”
  • “Don’t we have a generator somewhere?”
  • “What about next door, is their power out, too?”
  • “Has the outage been reported?”
  • “How long will it last?”
  • “Does the boss know?”
  • “Shouldn’t we turn stuff off so it doesn’t all go on when the power comes back?”
  • “What was on?”
  • “What about the deliveries we’re expecting?”
  • “I have appointments today. Should I cancel them? Can we meet somewhere else?”
  • “Who’s in charge?”

Power outages are happening more often and lasting longer.

Inside Energy reported that in 2014 in the United States, the five-year annual average number of outages doubled every five years from 2000 to 2014.

Three years later, according to the US Energy Information Administration, the length of the average power outage nearly doubled from 2016 to 2017 – to almost 8 hours. Then came this addition: “. . .and the total duration of interruptions caused by major events was longer.”

Why the increase? Most notable: more and stronger hurricanes, massive winter storms, raging wildfires.  And lurking behind it all, the vulnerability of the grid itself.

We’ll be watching for statistics from 2018, and later for 2019, which has started out as bad or worse than ever before.

Note: Are you familiar with Allianz, the global insurance company? Their 2019 Allianz Risk Barometer now adds cyber incidents to the list of top business interruption risks.

A power outage in the workplace is a lot more problematical than one at home.

You may be able to get along at home because you have immediate access to extra food, clothing, etc. But to respond to a power outage in the workplace YOU NEED TO HAVE PREPARED IN ADVANCE!

Here are three simple questions you can use to start the preparedness conversation.

  1. What equipment will go off? Will it be damaged or dangerous if it shuts off suddenly?
  2. Who needs to know about the power outage? How quickly do they need to know?
  3. How will we communicate with employees, customers, suppliers, regulators and the news media when the power is out!? Who will do the talking?

Resources for planning for workplace outages.

Fortunately, there are some super resources out there to help out in this regard. One of the best is: Agility Recovery. Started 30 years ago, Agility is now serving businesses of all sizes in 44 states. While you may or may not be a candidate for their services, be aware that their website’s library has excellent videos and checklists for every business. The case histories of specific industries (banks, healthcare) are particularly interesting.

Agility has been on my radar for a couple of years now. I’ve attended their training webinars online and talked to several of the sales people, with very useful results.

Four suggestions for taking action to prepare for power outages in the workplace.

1- If the questions in this Advisory have hit any nerve at all, head over to Agility and grab Agility’s free Power and Generator Checklist. You’ll see a complete list of things to do BEFORE an outage, with specific questions to ask your electrician. The checklist adds safety recommendations as well as steps to increase security during an outage.

2- If you’re concerned about having some basic equipment available to help you through the outage — like lighting, power for computers, or a generator — check out our Emergency Plan Advisory: Fire related power outage

3- If it’s time your company considered the bigger picture, I recommend our own book: Emergency Preparedness for Small Business

It too has checklists – many of them! They start at the very beginning to help you get over procrastinating, identify ALL the possible risks (not just power outage), and get you started on pulling together a real business continuity plan step by step. (We describe Joe’s secret weapon that he discovered and developed when he was in military intelligence.)

4- In any case, consider assigning someone from your company to attend the upcoming webinar being offered by Agility on May 15, 2019, 12 – 1 p.m. MT. These webinars last just one hour, and are crammed with interesting info. May’s topic:  Ask the Business Continuity and Disaster Recovery experts. You can reserve your spot here: https://www.agilityrecovery.com/event/free-webinar-ask-the-bcdr-experts/ 

(In case you’re wondering if I have any particular affiliation with Agility Recovery, I don’t. As you know, I am constantly researching resources, and I simply feel very comfortable recommending them.)

With 70% of businesses anticipated to lose power sometime in the next 12 months, this is an important topic for all of us at Emergency Plan Guide. I urge you to take steps now to protect yourself and to keep an outage from becoming a disaster.,

Before you leave, please read the P.S. for just a few more examples of what happens when power goes out at work!

Your Emergency Plan Guide Team

P.S. We all have a good idea of what happens when the power goes out. At least, what we notice immediately. BOOM!  No lights! Meeting rooms, offices, halls, closets, bathrooms, stairwells – all dark except for emergency lighting.

But look a little further, and you may discover . . . .

  • Automatic gates and doors are frozen open, so you have no security.
  • Communications are down.  No landlines, no internet access, and the heightened potential for increased cyber vulnerability.
  • Bathrooms don’t work if you have power assisted toilets or water faucets.
  • UPS systems everywhere are pinging, pinging, pinging. (How long will they last?)
  • There’s no power to the kitchen = no coffee, no microwave, no refrigerator. (Medicines may be compromised, food starts spoiling immediately.)
  • Time clocks and timers may shut off.  (How to track employee time, industrial processes, scheduled communications?)
  • A/C and air handlers go off, same with pumps in the basement and any electricity-driven medical devices (Environment may become uncomfortable, even unsafe.)
  • Your out-of-gas vehicles can’t refill their gas tanks or recharge their batteries.
  • The only tools or pieces of equipment that work are those with battery backup or that run with rechargeable batteries. (What about dental drills? Auto repair tools? Restaurant stoves and freezers?)

What will happen in YOUR workplace when the power goes out? You need to know, so you can be prepared. Otherwise, this outage could truly become a disaster for the business.