You’ve been in the office a few hours and already it feels like your good morning is going to become a great day. Your drive in was with the sun shining brightly on a highway of light traffic; the line at the coffee shop was short and quick; your inbox was empty except for that one important email with numbers you needed before 10am; and that dreaded meeting was postponed for two weeks. Yes, it’s going to be a good day. But then, just as you’re about to hit “save” on the proposal you’ve been working on, everything suddenly goes dark – computers, lights, phones, and yes, the coffee maker - all inoperable. Unbeknownst to you and your staff, a tractor-trailer full of hazardous material just took out a utility pole on your power grid. It’s going to be a while before power can be restored. Is your tech company prepared for this scenario?
Power outages sit at number three in the top five reasons for business disruptions. That’s to say 57% of operational disturbances are from power failures.1 For companies today, power outages are no longer just about the lights going out. With more and more business operations and devices relying on electricity, power outages can inflict disruption and loss like never before. Nearly all company-related documents are stored either on computers or the internet, services and business processes are internet or computer software-based, and stationary phones require internet or cable – all reliant on electricity. A power outage, particularly long-term, can leave a tech-dependent company dead in the water. And power outages are most often out of your control. The best you can do is unearth the cause and duration, but the latter is often vague, if calculable at all.
Now more than ever, power outages should not be taken for granted. Every organization should have a full-scale business continuity management program (BCMP) with solid, tested business continuity plans (BCP) and incident management (IM) covering both short-term and long-term outages. Below are a few crucial components to consider when devising your plans. By no means is this a complete list, but they are certainly must-dos.
The Critical Checkboxes for Power Outage Preparedness:
☑ Determine Power Reliant Items
To thoroughly construct power outage BC plans, you must first systematically identify all devices and utilities that require power: computers, lights, phones, elevators, security and alarm systems, refrigerators, heating, air conditioning, electronic lock entries, etc. You must address how the loss of these items will affect you during the outage. For example: most electronic locks possess a fail-safe that automatically unlocks during a power failure. However, the locks will remain unlocked until power is restored – meaning your office is left unsecured until that time. Should the outage extend beyond business hours or into days, how will you secure your office?
☑ Establish Alternate Communication Methods
Not only will your local network be down, but most likely your internal phone lines as well. Gone are the days of true “landlines.” Now, non-mobile phones are subject to electricity necessity: either voice-over-internet-protocol (VoIP) or cable-based. With either one, your internal phones are down for the duration of your outage and other emergency notification means are a must. Be sure you establish alternative communications not only for employees, but for your third-party vendors and other business associates as well.
☑ Obtain Power Substitutes
Of course short-term outages impact you, every minute of downtime costs money. But long-term power loss is when you can feel serious shock. Procuring backup generators could save you from the repercussions of a long-term outage. But find out the costs of operating various generators to determine how long you can run them at what price. And make certain designated staff know how to operate your chosen generator, including fuel requirements. Also, certain types of generators need to be operated occasionally to function properly. Find out and regularly test yours. When you need it is not the time to discover it’s down, too.
☑ Backup Data Off-site
If you’re storing your backups on-site, then you’ve lost access to those as well. Keep backups easily accessible off-site. The cloud is always a good option. It’s secure and accessible anywhere you have connectivity to the internet. If you can work off-site then you can access your data.
☑ Determine Alternative Operations Site
Do you have a nearby satellite location? Are employees equipped with laptops or other devices to work from home? If you don’t have the option for viable power replacements or yours fail, establish another location where the operational necessities can get done.
Powered and Prepared
Power outages are sparked by a variety of sources: faulty wiring, circuitry overloads, EMPs (electromagnetic pulses), and powerline damage caused by trees, vehicles, and small animals; and outages can be incidents within incidents, events that take out power in addition to wreaking other damage: severe storms (wind, snow, ice, lightening), floods, and fires. All these potential hazards bump power outages up to the third most-common cause of business disruptions. Not a threat to be taken lightly. You must be prepared for all the repercussions a power outage can send your way. Make certain your BCP and IM programs can “turn the lights back on” when you lose power.
For more industry tips and to keep up-to-date on current business continuity issues, subscribe to the Assurance Software blog.
1. BCI Emergency Communications Report 2017, Business Continuity Institute, 2018
Written by Angie Longacre
As a writer for Assurance Software, Angie devotes her craft to promoting business continuity and disaster recovery awareness, and trumpeting Assurance Software’s invaluable benefits for both. When she’s not commanding the keyboard, you can find her outside for a run, searching for her next antique treasure, or lost in a good book.