Published On: Wed, Sep 26th, 2018

Keeping a business running through a blackout

2018 has had some weird and wonderful weather, ranging from the Beast from the East in February bringing unusually cold temperatures and lots more snow than is normal for Britain, to the heatwave four months later that brought so much sunshine and warm weather that it seemed ludicrous to think the country had been covered in snow just a few months prior! It’s no wonder that the weather is being cited as the cause for a few of the country’s woes this year, including the surge of power cuts.

Keeping a business running

In July, mid-heatwave, Thorpe Park was hit by a number of power cuts that left unlucky visitors stuck on rides under the blistering sun. Then, over in Cambridgeshire, more than 15 blackouts were reported in 24 hours as a result of lightning strikes.

Power cuts are never a welcome occurrence, much less so for a business. Productivity and costs both suffer in a blackout, so it’s important for business owners to be ready to deal with a power cut.

UK’s history of power cuts

The UK is no stranger to power outages. In 1972, the miners’ strike caused major power issues and even a state of emergency to be declared, while Storm Frank in 2015 caused the loss of power to around 40,000 properties. Considering the UK has more than 17,000km of electricity cables, there’s a great deal of maintenance to keep on top of, which means a sudden storm or unexpected heatwave can cause significant issues.

There are a few different types of power cuts. These include:

  • Transient fault: lasting only a few seconds. This is a temporary fault, but power is automatically restored.
  • Brownout: reduction in mains power supply that can last for a few days (e.g. lowered light levels) and cause machinery malfunction.
  • Blackout: absolute power loss. As the most severe case of power outage, blackouts are often the most costly and difficult to recover from.

The weather was cited as causing 80% of all power cuts between 2003 and 2012, according to Climate Central. Considering its unpredictability, it may be worth preparing your brand for future power cuts today.

How blackouts impact businesses

In 2018, most, if not all, businesses rely on electricity. But how do power outages usually interrupt and harm a business?

Even a momentary lapse can cause the loss of a lot of data. This may affect your company’s ability to achieve client deadlines on projects, if work and information is irretrievable and thus forcing your staff to start again. Blackouts and brownouts that last one or more days can mean your production lines simply cease to exist in practice. Of course, your staff are there and willing to work, which means they need paying regardless. However, your business won’t be able to create the products it needs to make a profit that day or even break-even. Similarly, if your business relies on a sales department, think of how much revenue you could lose if your team can’t contact people via phone or email to clinch new customer accounts.

For a small company, an hour without power can cause an £800 loss, and for larger companies, the cost can be even higher. When Google lost their power in 2013, they experienced losses of £100,000 per minute!The reasons behind the losses vary. Not having access to electricity can mean that employees cannot communicate with customers and are therefore losing out on potential sales. For an ecommerce company, they do not have access to their website to monitor sales and client requests.

Data loss can be particularly costly, especially to small businesses. According to research, 23%of IT professionals surveyed claimed that an IT outage cost them between £10,000 to more than a £1 million an hour! In fact, IT downtime in the UK costs around £3.6 million and 545 productivity hours a year. To work out the average cost of downtime an hour, this is the general formula:

Employee cost per hour x fraction of employees affected by the power cut x average revenue for each hour x fraction of the revenue that was affected by the outage

 Doubtless, you cannot afford this level of lost costs and production. It’s important to know how to deal with blackouts at work.

Lower losses

Companies will all have different priorities when it comes to a power cut. If your brand relies on computers and data — as do most in 2018 at least to some degree — install a UPS (uninterrupted power supply) for all your computers. This will let the device run via its battery and will give the staff enough time, if a blackout happens, to save crucial documents and properly shut down the computer to ensure data is not damaged and can be recovered to keep projects on track. Saving on a cloud is also a great way to keep critical files safe.

During a power outage, companies will lose vital access to the internet. By setting up a MiFi — a device that can operate as a Wi-Fi hotspot — your employees’ devices can connect to an ‘ad-hoc’ network to help you stay online and working in the event of a power cut.

Investing in a surge protector is a smart move to keep your expensive equipment protected from a corrupting surge of power. An industrial generator is also a good investment to make. Industrial generators are robust and designed to comply with legal obligations for optimum efficiency in times of need. If your brand relies on the continuous operating of equipment and machinery, it’s vital that you invest in a generator to protect from major productivity and revenue loss as a result of power outages. However, a generator may not be enough, so consider LPG gas bottle refill receptacles to help power machinery and equipment in a crisis, too.

Minimise the impact of a power cut by having a plan in place. Do this by creating a team or committee that will determine the specific risks to your business — a small IT company will have different points to consider compared to a large factory — and then draw up a detailed process for mitigating these risks. Plus, remember to unplug devices when your business has an interruption of electricity supply and make sure you only use electrical equipment that adheres to regulations set out by the British Standards Institution.

Power outages are unavoidable, but you’re not powerless when your building is! Follow these steps and prepare your company for a blackout situation.

This article was created by Flogas LPG, suppliers of gas bottles.