Safety is of the utmost importance for businesses. That’s why companies tend to take time annually to discuss what to do in the wake of an emergency, such as fires, tornados, and active shooters. This preparation helps keep employees safe during these dangerous scenarios.
However, companies don’t often make the same effort to prepare businesses for power outages, as they don’t see the potential danger in these scenarios. But knowing how to prepare your business for a power outage is also important for promoting safety at your company.
The Importance of Power Outage Readiness
Power outages have become more frequent in the United States in recent years. According to one source, as many as one in four businesses have at least one outage a month. This makes power outages more likely than the other scenarios we mentioned.
These outages can be costly for businesses, increasing downtime, disrupting communications, and damaging or spoiling products. They can also create hazardous conditions. Fall hazards increase when the lights go out, and when the power does come back on, it can create surges that can damage equipment and potentially cause fires.
Steps To Preparing Your Business for a Power Outage
Identify Potential Risks
The first step to preparing against a hazard is knowing the hazard exists. For power outages, this means identifying both potential causes of power outages and places that can become hazardous if the lights go out. The latter is especially important for keeping employees and customers safe.
A few risk factors to be aware of include:
- Tripping hazards
- Elevators or escalators that people can get stuck on
- Refrigerators or freezers that contain perishable food
- Security systems that may go down during an outage
- Places where surges may cause arc flashes
- Electrical appliances that are prone to surge damage
While fall hazards or perishable food may be easy to spot, hazards associated with electrical surges are often more difficult to identify. That’s why it’s good to contact electrical engineering consultants to help detect these risks.
Have a Safety Kit on Hand
It isn’t easy to find necessary supplies when the lights go out. So having a kit with useful tools is essential. A power outage tool kit for businesses should include flashlights and extra batteries, a battery-powered or crank radio that you can listen to for updates, and potentially a set of walkie-talkies or other communications devices.
Additionally, it’s a good idea to keep a first aid kit next to the power outage kit. That way, if there are any injuries, you won’t need to waste time searching for the kit to help address them.
Train Your Staff in Safety Protocols
One of the most important tools in a crisis is information. If your staff knows what to do during a power outage, they will be able to take the steps they need to keep themselves and your customers safe without panicking. This means establishing a safety protocol and training your staff in it.
Your safety protocol should include information on:
- What to do immediately after the power goes out
- Whether customers will be required to leave the premises
- How to contact the authorities about the outage
- Whether they will be allowed to leave early
There should also be a communication system established between you and your employees, so they know where to look for updates about the situation.
Have a System for Documents
Losing precious business documents is one of the more difficult consequences of outages. And, given outages are typically unexpected, they can be difficult to prepare for. The best way to avoid losses is to have all documents backed up to the cloud as employees work on them.
Protect Against Surges
When an outage is over, electricity comes rushing back into the system. This often causes an overload of a system called a power surge, which can potentially damage electrical devices or equipment that are plugged in during the outage. Investing in surge protectors can help protect your equipment in this event.
Invest in a Generator
In most cases, power outages don’t last longer than a few minutes or hours. However, in some cases—such as after severe storms—outages can last for a few days or even weeks. This can severely disrupt your business’s productivity. In these cases, it’s a good idea to have a generator on-site to help provide your company with much-needed power.
What To Do When the Power Goes Out
Report the Outage
If the power is out for more than a few minutes, it’s important that you report the outage to the company controlling the power in your area. If you aren’t sure which company you need to contact, consult your power bill, search your state’s website, or contact your landlord if you don’t own your property.
Disconnect Electronics and Equipment
Not every electronic device in your facility may be attached to a surge protector. The best way to protect equipment that isn’t is to disconnect it from the wall as soon as the power goes out. This will keep it from getting overloaded with excess electricity.
Keep Refrigerators or Freezers Closed
This is especially applicable to food-related businesses and grocery stores but can also apply to any business with a refrigerator in the breakroom. Cold air will stop being pumped into refrigerators or freezers when the power goes out. The best way to keep perishable items cold longer is to keep the doors closed to stop the cold air from escaping.
If Necessary, Close Your Business
Sometimes, the safest choice for you and your customers is to close the business early. Doing so helps minimize the liability associated with customers walking around your business in the dark.
It also helps protect your business and products. Historically, long-term power outages have—at times—led to vandalism and looting, in part because safety mechanisms like cameras are offline. When the customers have left your business, consider locking the door and putting up a notice that you are closed for the time being.
At Dreiym Engineering, we know safety is important to you and your company. That’s why we provide consultation services to help you navigate the ins and outs of power outages.