This year brought numerous power outages to Britain, thanks to a combination of wildly fluctuating weather patterns and climate change. Through the heatwave, Thorpe Park suffered a series of power cuts that left people stranded in the sweltering heat aboard rollercoasters. Elsewhere, Cambridgeshire was hit by a series of more than 15 power outages in 24 hours, with many blaming the lightning strikes in the area.
Of course, blackouts are never welcomed, but they can cause real chaos to businesses. Company owners need to be prepared, or risk lost productivity and wasted running costs.
Britain’s history of power cuts
The UK has dealt with numerous power outages in the past. 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.
Not all power outages are to the same degree. The different levels 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.
Climate Central cites the weather as the primary cause of 80% of power cuts between 2003 and 2012. Considering its unpredictability, it may be worth preparing your brand for future power cuts today.
The effect of a blackout on a business
It’s highly unlikely that you’ll find a business in this day and age that doesn’t rely on electrical power. But how do power outages usually interrupt and harm a business?
Even a short power outage can cause data loss. 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.
A blackout that lasts an hour can cause an £800 loss for a small business, and even more for larger companies. 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.
The loss of unsaved data during a power outage can be wildly problematic. 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
There are things you can do, however, to avoid and control the damage.
Lowering losses during a power cut
Different companies will want to protect different things during a power outage. 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.
Many firms use the internet in one way or another, and a power cut will disconnect your business. 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.
A surge protector is a good investment to shield your hardware and equipment from potentially corrupting electronic surges, and an industrial generator could be another smart move. 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 cylinder refill receptacles to help power machinery and equipment in a crisis, too.
Implement a continuity plan to keep your business running through a power cut. 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. Also, always 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.
You might not be able to stop a power cut, but you can stop it from having a huge impact on your business. Follow these steps and prepare your company for a blackout situation.