Mike is working a production line as usual when the power blinks before going out completely. He can hardly see, and the windows are only allowing so much light to come through. Not wanting to trip over anything, he grabs his phone and turns on the flashlight setting, then carefully makes his way to a space where his coworkers have started to gather.
The conversation at first centers on what to do at the moment, but soon turns to talk of ‘why don’t we have a plan?’
A situation like this is undesirable and potentially dangerous. Since Mike and his coworkers have never been briefed or told about what to do in cases like this, they are left stumbling in the dark without a clue. Their company will likely lose money during this downtime, and workers may sustain injuries.
When a factory or other industrial facility has a power outage, it can cause undue financial loss and stress for employees. If there is no preparation, time, money, and even equipment could be at risk. No one can control when an unplanned power outage occurs, so it’s best to stay prepared.
You should always have an action plan in the event of total power loss.
Causes of Power Outages
There are many different things that can cause a power outage. Some of the most common causes include:
- Severe weather: Storms, hurricanes, tornadoes, and other weather-related events can cause widespread damage to power lines and other electrical equipment.
- Equipment failure: Power outages can also be caused by equipment failure at power plants, substations, or along transmission lines. This can be due to aging equipment, wear and tear, or manufacturing defects.
- Human error: Human error can also play a role in power outages. This can include accidents such as car crashes into power poles, or mistakes made by workers during maintenance or construction.
- Animal interference: Animals, such as squirrels and birds, can also cause power outages by coming into contact with power lines.
- Planned outages: Utility companies sometimes need to schedule power outages in order to perform maintenance or repairs on electrical equipment. These outages are typically announced in advance so that customers can prepare.
The Effects of Power Loss
According to Pro Circuit Incorporated, one in four companies will experience power loss at least once a month. When you lose power suddenly, panic and stress can set in. Workers may be plunged into darkness with no idea what to do next. If you and your workers are unprepared to deal with and fix the situation, the extended downtime could also cost money.
Beyond that, injuries can happen to employees and equipment can be damaged. The goal is to get back up and running as quickly as possible while avoiding mishaps that could cause injury and necessitate costly repairs, but also to plan for such outages.
A Loss In Production
Besides the initial panic that stems from a power loss, another result is the loss in production. The entire production line may have to wait for the return of power. As more time passes with the power out, the more financial losses that occur. Losses from a power shutdown can be prevented with proper planning.
Planning for the unexpected is crucial to industrial work, as any significant change in the usual course of production can have negative consequences. Aside from the potential financial loss, a sudden power outage could result in injuries to employees. If chemicals are being processed or used for production, a power outage could cause a chemical spill or accident to occur.
Being Prepared for Power Loss: Ready Or Not, Here It Comes
When your facility experiences a power outage, there will be a lot of confusion and personnel may not be able to effectively communicate with each other. If there is a plan in place, employees can follow it to get to safety if they need to or get production back online.
Compare it to the procedure schools follow in the event of a fire. For many schools, each class follows their teacher to the nearest exit, and everyone stands at a significant distance from the building for safety reasons and to allow room for firefighters to pull up and save the day. If schools didn’t have a procedure for events like this, there would be chaos and an increased risk of someone getting hurt or killed in the confusion.
Everyone should have a plan in place in the event of a power outage. The actual plan will differ from place to place, but it’s best to assemble a small group of workers whose responsibility would be to take charge whenever an outage occurs.
The group could check in with other employees to see if the outage is only in one part of the facility or throughout the whole building, check for injuries among workers, and/or connect and activate any available generators. Your workers should also be supplied with battery-powered flashlights that they can use if they can’t see.
Solutions For Controlling Power
It would be wise to invest in industrial generators that kick in during an outage so production can continue. In addition to owning generators, you will need to maintain them. Make sure a small group of employees is assigned generator duty.
Inform them of what they’re supposed to do for year-round generator upkeep to ensure they run when they’re needed, and teach them how to activate and use the generators.
If you don’t already have back-generators, there are some things to consider first, before you buy. For example, according to PMI Services, you must be aware of the running load of each emergency circuit so you know what size generator to get. You might also want to consider a rental agreement for one if purchasing it is not ideal.
It’s important that fuel tanks are filled and that you know where to get more fuel if there’s an outage. Upon purchasing and installation, inform employees on how to connect and use the generator(s).
Other Solutions For Controlling Power
In addition to industrial generators, there are a number of other solutions for controlling power, including:
- Uninterruptible power supplies (UPS): UPS systems provide backup power to critical equipment during an outage. They are typically used for computers, servers, and other electronic devices.
- Power conditioners: Power conditioners protect equipment from surges, spikes, and other power quality problems. They can be used for both critical and non-critical equipment.
- Load shedding: Load shedding is a process of temporarily disconnecting non-essential equipment from the power grid in order to reduce the load on the grid and prevent a blackout. Load shedding is typically used by utilities during peak demand periods or during emergencies.
Choosing the right solution for your business will depend on your specific needs and budget. If you have critical equipment that needs to be protected during an outage, you may want to consider a combination of solutions, such as a UPS system and a generator.
Here are some additional tips for controlling power:
- Conduct a power audit. This will help you to identify areas where you can reduce your energy consumption and save money.
- Implement energy efficiency measures. There are a number of energy efficiency measures that you can implement to reduce your energy consumption, such as upgrading to energy-efficient lighting and appliances.
- Consider renewable energy sources. Renewable energy sources, such as solar and wind power, can help you reduce your reliance on the grid and save money on your energy bills.
By taking the necessary steps to control power, you can help protect your business from outages and save money on your energy bills.
Are You Prepared For An Outage?
Being prepared for an outage means having an action plan and knowing what to do. Aside from planning, workers may need training to ensure they know alternate ways to navigate and operate parts of the facility when electrical power is unavailable.
Is your facility ready for a power outage? Here are some preparation tips:
- Create an emergency kit that includes food, water, flashlights, batteries, a first-aid kit, and other essential items
- Stay informed by monitoring weather and power outage conditions in your area
- Test your power outage plan regularly and practice electrical safety
- Invest in backup power generators
- Be sure to have landlines or radio communication available for reliable contact
- Inspect emergency lighting regularly for functionality
- Ensure your smoke alarm system has batteries as a backup
- Have a way to get disabled workers down to the ground floor when elevators are not powered
- Inform workers on how to manually close and open electrically powered doors
To help prevent power outages, it would be wise to identify circuits properly, conduct proper testing, and be sure schematics get updated as needed.
No matter what the cause, power outages can be disruptive and costly. Businesses can lose revenue, and individuals can lose food, medicine, and other essential items. It is important to be prepared for a power outage by having a plan that everyone knows and is prepared to follow.
To learn more about planning and preparation for power loss, call us at 205-812-5402.