Almost every business is dependent on electricity for normal day to day operations. Without electrical power, it is almost impossible to perform the necessary tasks for a business to operate. This can translate to lost revenue, safety issues for workers, spoilage of perishables, equipment damage, and many other potential problems. With electrical power being a fundamental factor of business continuity and disaster recovery plans (DRP’s), this topic discusses how an emergency generator might fit with your business disaster planning strategy.
In business continuity planning for electric power failures, there are two scenarios. The first would be for a permanent on-site electrical power system. The second would be to work with a local rental company and an electrical contractor that could supply a generator and then connect it to the building’s electrical loads.
A permanently installed automatic emergency generator system has several benefits, and they can range from a generator sized to only run essential loads, to a highly engineered system with backup power redundancy. With proper testing and maintenance, you can expect that the generator will automatically provide backup power quickly when there is a power outage. It also eliminates the need to search for a temporary generator, and the delays associated with having it delivered. The only drawback would be the initial cost.
The use of a temporary or rental generator would require an ability to disconnect the utility power feed from an electrical panel and to quickly tie a portable trailer-mounted generator into it. Having the ability to quickly connect a temporary generator into a building requires pre-planning and some electrical work.
The pre-planning includes identifying the equipment that needs to operate, performing a sizing analysis, and determining a source for the temporary equipment.
The electrical work could involve grouping the desired equipment circuits into a common electrical panel, or an ability to turn everything off except the desired equipment. Another desire may be to install a manual transfer switch, which would provide a quick method of disconnecting utility power to a panel and connecting the equipment to the generator. An additional step to make connecting the generator quicker would be to have a Cam-Lok (or quick-connect) connection panel. This would allow an industry-standard Cam-Lok equipped electrical cable to be quickly connected.
As a note of caution, in times of high demand it may be difficult to locate a rental generator quickly as they are typically available on a first-come, first-served basis.
If an electrical backup plan is desired, there are a few steps that can be taken. The first step would be to assign a responsible party in the organization to lead the investigation. If others need to be involved in any decisions, they should be identified as well.
The next step in planning the emergency electrical needs in a building is to survey all items that need to operate during a power failure. Usually, these items will be business-critical equipment such as phone systems, computer servers, and emergency lighting. The essential equipment should be identified and recorded.
The next step would be to run a sizing analysis to determine the size of a backup generator to power the loads (Clifford Power Systems can help with this analysis). If a rental generator system is the desired method of backup, remember to consider rental rates, the amount of daily hours the equipment is expected to run, freight costs, insurance costs, and a means and cost to fuel the generator while the equipment is in your possession.
Whether you plan to install a permanent backup system or use a temporary generator, bringing some trusted electrical contractors in to review installation requirements, asking clarifying questions, offering alternative solutions and finally providing some budgetary quotes for consideration will help an organization decide on the feasibility and cost of having an electrical recovery plan.
In a complex installation for a permanent backup generator system, it may be necessary to enlist the services of a qualified Electrical Engineer. This may be especially true in the event of a large permanent installation.
Once the generator is sized, budgeted, and there is an understanding of the electrical installation cost, an overall budget can be developed and a final decision on a direction and time-frame can then be made.
If a permanently installed emergency generator system is installed, the final piece of the puzzle will be to establish a sensible maintenance program to ensure the equipment will perform when it is needed.
If a rental option is your final choice, here are some additional details to consider for planning purposes:
- The rental equipment provider of choice should be identified.
- At what point is a decision made to get a generator, and who is responsible for the decision? For example, ff a power failure is expected to be resolved quickly, it may not make sense to go through the expense only to have utility power restored before a temporary generator can be delivered and connected.
- If a predictable weather event is expected, making a decision quickly before the event happens is essential. Hurricanes, ice storms, and blizzards all create high demand prior to a potential storm hitting. Equipment may not be available locally once the storm hits.
Having a good electrical disaster plan requires up-front planning, written documentation, regular review, and someone who has the primary responsibility to put the plan into action.
Clifford Power Systems can help and guide many of the steps outlined in this report. If you would like assistance, please let us know how we might be able to help.
For additional information on permanently installed generators, see our Equipment page.
For additional information on rental generators, see our Rentals page.