Planned power cuts, or power outages can be a pain to plan for, but, at least you have the advantage of foresight. An unexpected power cut can be extremely troublesome to your business to say the least, regardless of the industry you operate within. Having a business continuity plan, should the power cut off is something to consider.
In this article we are going to cover, the different types of power cuts, the areas in the UK that are most affected, the aftermath and downsides to a business as a result of power cuts and finally some tips on how to produce an adequate continuity plan.
What are the different types of power cuts or power outages?
Generally, these can be classified as:
- Brownout – these are quite uncommon in the UK, but these are when the voltage drops in an area due to excessive demand, but it does not cause a power outage. The lower voltage leads to some more sensitive equipment shutting off and these can cause damage to electrical equipment. The name is derived as the lights will generally run dim during a brownout.
- Blackout – A complete loss of electricity, a power cut in an area for an unspecified amount of time.
- Permanent Fault – A loss of power and electricity in an area, sometimes large due to failure of equipment within the grid.
Whilst power cuts can be planned or unplanned, long or short term they can all be described by one of these terms.
What causes a power cut?
The obvious and most common answer is the weather. Wind, snow, storms or rain can all contribute or cause power cuts. You would expect trees and branches blowing into lines overhead to cause some issues, but there can also be problems with rain or flood water making its way into underground cable routes.
All electricity providers work hard to ensure their grid and infrastructure is maintained to prevent downtime, however, failure of equipment can happen and cause longer term power outages.
Unexpected power cuts can be caused by animals or accidental damage to lines or cables by construction or wildlife.
Finally, most planned power outages or power cuts are for providers to maintain or replace equipment.
With the strain on the national grid and the power requirements ever increasing, power cuts are likely to become more frequent as time goes on.
How can a power cut affect your business?
- Loss of instant/current revenue – the most obvious downside of power interruption for your business is a loss of revenue. The vast majority of businesses rely on some form of electronic presence of communication. Whether this is email, selling on channels such as eBy or Amazon and being unable to process orders or potentially your website or online presence suffering if you have a server in-house.
- Loss of future revenue – if your business has a sales team, a loss of power means a potential loss of prospecting time. In turn, this affects your sales funnel and pipeline meaning the revenue is not only lost during the outage, but also a potential loss of future sales which can be very hard to quantify.
- A loss of margin/profit – any business with staff or premises costs has to cover these whether the business has had a good or poor day of trading. Even a fairly short loss in power could directly impact the profitability of your business for that period. If your business is within peak season for products, even a few hours downtime could impact the bottom line dramatically.
- Health & safety – other less considered impacts are health and safety issues. Does your business use electrically powered fire systems? CCTV? The safety of your staff (or customers in a public environment) could be compromised and leave you liable should anything happen.
- Security – If your business has a stock holding, valuable equipment or even data storage on-site, with CCTV and alarm systems off you could be exposed to theft and it may make your insurance invalid if it states within your terms you are protected by CCTV.
This is not an exhaustive list of the potential effects to your business from power cuts or outages, but it should give you some thoughts to consider.
Now you may be thinking…
‘How can I protect my business from power cuts?’
The answer is quite simple. You need a contingency plan in place to cover who has responsibility for certain emergency tasks and procedures in line to prevent downtime.
For example, who is responsible for contacting the power supplier, who will ‘lock up’ and arrange security if appropriate. Furthermore, having backup mobile phones for internet/data usage and for outbound calls would be beneficial. All things considered, by the time you invest in equipment to prevent downtime, it is quite often easier to invest in a diesel generator to backup your business in the event of a power cut. Diesel is safer and can be stored for longer periods of time vs. a petrol generator.
The lifespan of a diesel genset, and especially the diesel engine is vast, with some diesel generators happily providing over 10,000 hours of usage providing they are maintained and serviced as required.
There are other options, such as backing up your business with solar, wind or battery banks which each have their positives and negatives, but a diesel generator is a very ‘stable’ option which, providing you are checking your fuel and battery level should always be there to help.
You can view our range of backup generators here. We offer single phase 230v and three phase 400v options so regardless of your business type we are likely to be able to cover your standby power needs.