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How Businesses Should Prepare For Blackouts

When planning for a power loss that lasts for several hours or days, you should have a complete emergency preparedness plan in place, especially if the blackout is caused by severe weather in your location. Are you and your crisis management team prepared to keep your employees and company safe in the absence of electricity, heat/air conditioning, or even safe drinking water?

Rolling blackouts and power outages

There are several sorts of power outages, each with varying degrees of severity. First, there are transient faults, which occur when an area loses power for only a few seconds to a few minutes, generally due to a power line failure. Then there are "brownouts," which happen when the voltage in an electrical power source drops. This phenomena gets its name from the dimming impact it has on the illumination in the vicinity. Brownouts, on the other hand, can cause difficulties with electrical equipment and its functioning. Finally, a blackout happens when an entire area loses electricity owing to extreme weather or power plant difficulties. Blackouts might be minor, taking only a few minutes of effort to restore electricity, or they can be severe, requiring many weeks of work to restore power.

When power plants shut down sections of the electrical system to avoid a full blackout, the phrase "rolling blackouts" is used. Rolling blackouts can happen for a variety of causes, including inadequate power generation (due to too many people using too much electricity at once) or extreme heat waves. All of these possibilities should be included in your emergency preparation strategy.

Plans for preparedness in the event of a blackout

You should first analyze your risk while planning for a power loss and create an emergency preparation strategy. If your company is located in a location that frequently sees severe weather, such as a tornado-prone area or along the coast and at danger of hurricane damage, you should be aware of the potential for blackouts.

Regardless of whether you live in a high-risk location for blackouts or not, as a business leader, you are responsible for developing a crisis management strategy that your company may use to prepare for a power loss. Preparation, training, security, emergency supplies, backup power generators, and even recovery activities should all be included in this plan. You can find yourself scrambling in the dark if you don't have an emergency preparation plan.

Crisis teams and company preparation: Protecting your business

Form a crisis management team made up of your most capable staff, and make sure they're familiar with your blackout readiness strategy. When planning for a power outage, it's not enough to just have a plan; you also need to practice it. Perform tabletop exercises to ensure that everyone on your team understands their responsibilities in keeping your company and workers safe.

Blackouts can be abrupt and unexpected since they are frequently triggered by severe weather. As a result, your crisis management team should be well-organized in order to help handle the fear that might arise when power goes out unexpectedly. Your disaster preparation team should be able to communicate through an emergency message system that does not require external power, such as mobile phones or radios, or anything else that isn't powered by the grid, such as battery, solar, or generator-powered devices.

Additionally, restricting the use of power during the day, particularly the use of air conditioning or heating, may be part of company-wide preventative and emergency planning for rolling blackouts. If you're aware that rolling blackouts have occurred in the region, there are a few things you can do to help your staff prepare for a power loss. You might, for example, issue a letter to the whole organization reminding employees to send essential communications early in the day and avoid making calls during peak hours. You may also leave a message on your phone system that sounds something like this: "There may be blackouts in our region, and you may not be able to contact us at this number. 

How to get ready for a power outage

When planning for a power outage, your emergency preparation strategy should include not just forming a crisis management team but also prepping your personnel. This involves backing up all of your electronic information, having backup batteries for mobile phones and computers, and acquiring backup power generators (if you don't already have them). Even if you already have backup generators, it's a good idea to learn more about how they function, as well as what they're capable of powering and for how long. During a blackout, certain generators may switch on automatically, while others may need to be manually turned on.

Additionally, keep in touch with your property management team and property engineers while planning for a power loss so that you know exactly what will happen if a blackout occurs. Will your backup generators simply provide electricity for emergency lighting or essential services? If that's the case, you'll need to think about food safety, power servers that may require cooling before they overheat, problems with security systems and alarms, and, most importantly, communication.

Extreme temperatures, shelter, food, and water

You may have to utilize the workplace as a shelter for a lengthy amount of time if your surroundings is disrupted by severe weather. If this is the case, food supplies and safe drinking water should be included in your disaster preparation plan. Many municipal water systems may not be able to disinfect drinking water for long periods of time, so if you and your workers rely on tap water for cooking, drinking, or brushing teeth during a power outage, it may not be safe to use for cooking, drinking, or brushing teeth.

When planning for a power outage, especially one that lasts a long time, make sure your company has all of the emergency supplies that your employees will need during the outage, such as water, food rations, flashlights, first aid kits, prescription drugs, blankets, and lanterns.

Furthermore, even in the short term, severe heat or cold can have an impact on the structure and its occupants. If your air conditioning is turned off due to high heat, you must do all possible to minimize the impact on your staff. Make sure your emergency preparation strategy includes keeping clean drinking water on-site to prevent heat sickness, heat stroke, dehydration, and heat fatigue. 

You should aim to keep everyone cool by limiting the amount of manual effort that your staff undertake. Heat may alter how your employees think if they can't keep cool; be on the lookout for disruptions and mental friction, which are common in hot environments.

If the blackout happens in the winter, your emergency preparation plan should cover extended exposure to extreme cold, which might trigger fear among your staff. Keep your staff as warm as possible by bringing them together and ensuring that everyone is dressed appropriately or has access to emergency blankets. Keep an eye out for hypothermia, frost bite, and any kind of shock, and never use alcohol to warm up your body.

Carbon monoxide is a poisonous gas

When planning for a power outage, it's crucial to be mindful of carbon monoxide production, particularly carbon monoxide produced by backup generators. For example, if you and your employees are trapped inside during a blackout and rely on internal backup generators, make sure they are not situated near a ventilation system, as carbon monoxide might spread throughout the facility. Carbon monoxide has no odor or taste, and it has slow-acting, fatal symptoms, so there is no way to tell whether your staff are suffering from carbon monoxide poisoning.

If you're planning for a power loss by utilizing generators or space heaters to heat the facility, ensure sure the generators are adequately ventilated. Smaller businesses frequently buy backup generators without understanding where to put them safely. Protecting your employees from carbon monoxide poisoning should be part of your disaster preparation strategy; learn how to operate the generators or space heaters in your facility. Additionally, you should never use an outside grill to heat a structure since the gases may be harmful to your health.

Recovery from a blackout

After the electricity has been restored to your facility, your disaster preparation plan should include recovery steps. You'll have to get all of your systems up and running without causing a power outage. You should also double-check that your facility is ready for your staff to return, and that there are no electrical risks for them to cope with, such as downed power lines or other issues. Your local power provider will most likely manage the repair and restoration of your electricity; nevertheless, your emergency preparation plan should include a waiting period during this time, since these firms may be short on employees.

Following a blackout, electricity providers will dispatch experts to the affected region to ensure that the grid is fixed, which means you may have to wait for repairs.

Preparing for a power outage is mostly a waiting game, and your job as a business leader is to keep your company, your crisis management team, and the rest of your staff safe while you wait for the power to be restored.


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