This week I want to talk about power, or rather the loss of power. One would expect in this age of modern technical capabilities and risk awareness that such incidents would be preventable or at least cause minimal impact. One only needs to follow mainstream news, however to see that this is not the case.

Every organisation I have worked for has suffered a power failure at some stage with varying impacts and recovery times.

Even where backup generators have been in place issues have arisen. One organisation I was working with were delighted when the backup generator sprung to life as planned only to be disappointed when it blew one of the switches that were necessary to deliver the power to the building.

Generators in concentrated areas of our major cities also seem to be ‘socially unacceptable’. One organisation I worked with had all manner of complaints from nearby residents when they planned a test of their backup generator one weekend. I dread to think what the fallout would have been had they had to rely on it for a real incident.

If your organisation hasn’t already got a backup generator, installing one is not always straightforward – particularly in a built up area. The device will need to be located appropriately yet accessible for refuelling, made secure to prevent damage and theft plus made compatible/functional to work with the building infrastructure. Even ship-in solutions can run into challenges in these areas.

UPS systems are another part of most organisations’ armoury but again they need to be planned, installed and maintained properly to be of any benefit.  These devices are very short term solutions – usually shorter than organisations realise. Several years back I heard a story, (and maybe it was just a story) that the IT team at one well known organisation had connected the TV and vending machine in the staff restaurant to the UPS!

Power outages are generally expected to be short term incidents but every now and then we see reports of major geographical areas without power for several hours or even days. The media always report the number of homes without power but rarely how the incident is affecting businesses. What would it mean for your organisation?

The key points to consider:-

  1. Plan, maintain and test your UPS regularly.
  2. Plan, maintain and test your back up power arrangements regularly – end to end not just the generator itself.
  3. Check the ‘load’ required regularly to ensure UPS and backup power capacity is sufficient.
  4. Don’t assume power will be restored immediately – better to start your response than to wait and hope.

Refer to your Business Impact Analysis when the power supply is lost and organise your priorities.