Back to Basics, Emergency Preparedness and Response

Back to Basics: Are You Ready for a Power Outage?

Back to Basics is a weekly feature that highlights important but possibly overlooked information that any EHS professional should know. This week, we examine how to assess your readiness to return to business after a power outage.

The last few months have seen plenty of severe weather events: Hurricanes, tornadoes, forest fires, and extended rainstorms that have wreaked damage on a wide swath of the U.S. Often these events result in a loss of power, which can be devastating for local businesses.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency’s (FEMA) Ready.gov provides resources that businesses can use to prepare for an extended loss of power. According to Agility Recovery, 70% of businesses or organizations will face a power outage in the next 12 months.

Included in the Ready Business Power Outage Toolkit is a Back-to-Business Self-Assessment designed to help you determine how much risk your business faces from a power outage. According to the self-assessment’s planning scenario, your community is hit with a severe weather event that knocks out power for three days. As a result, you will not be able to access anything in your facilities that requires power for at least three days.

Based on the scenario, you must answer eight questions to identify your risk.

  1. If the power outage affects the phone, internet, or cable, can your organization operate without any of them?
  2. Can you deliver your product during the power outage?
  3. Can your employees work in the business without the following electrically-powered systems: heating, venting, and air conditioning (HVAC), water heating/distribution, elevators, or lighting?
  4. Is your inventory and facility safe from water or temperature damage if environment control systems fail without electricity?
  5. Can you access your facility without electricity and will safety alarm systems operate?
  6. Can your employees get to work without an operating mass transit system?
  7. Are you able to pay your employees and vendors, or receive payments without electricity?
  8. Can your organization operate without production systems (e.g., assembly line machines, restaurant equipment, office computers)?

For every question that you answered no, you should address the specific issue in the Ready Business Preparedness and Mitigation Project Plan or in your business continuity plan. The Ready Business Power Outage Toolkit provides step-by-step instructions on how to develop a plan to mitigate power outages based on your responses to the questions above. This includes meeting with your utility provider and other community entities to understand their role in preparedness and mitigation before, during, and after a power outage.