Ice Storm Leaves Carolina Businesses Vulnerable

March 12, 2014

By Michelle Nicolson - Power Protection Contributing Writer

An ice storm that hit the Carolinas last week affected more than 583,000 customers, leaving businesses and residents scrambling in its wake. While the storm has moved on, its effects are still being felt by some of Duke Energy’s (News - Alert) customers.

“We expect this to be a multi-day outage,” Lisa Parrish, a spokeswoman for Duke Energy, told the News & Record of Greensboro. “We’ve had a lot of different reasons for outages. There are a lot of power lines down.”

Areas with widespread outages included Greensboro, Burlington, High Point, Chapel Hill, Sanford, Lewisville, Durham, Henderson County and Kernersville.

The storm required local residents to get creative when it came to getting some work done. Power outages of this magnitude typically affect all types of communications and production systems, including telephone/VoIP systems, computers, network servers and peripherals, security systems, and industrial applications.

Cameron Harris, a sales representative for UniFirst Corp. in Kernersville, worked from home as long as his mobile devices’ batteries would last. He then started up his car to recharge them, burning about a half tank of gas to make calls and recharge his phone and iPad.

"You can't slow down in my business, even for a day like today,” Harris said in an article in the Winston-Salem Journal. “Besides, I'd much rather take a vacation day at the beach than for this.”

The storm, not unusual for this time of year in the area, brings to light questions about how businesses can improve their ability to continue operations in extreme weather events.

“The business community and virtually any other type of organization are highly dependent on continuous, reliable power in order to maintain the availability of servers and network peripherals, telephone systems and security systems,” said Bill Allen, director of marketing for Minuteman.

The key, Allen said, is planning for these events. “Not much business gets conducted without power, and it’s highly incumbent on these institutions to make sure they have a viable disaster plan in place that includes power availability contingencies,” he continued.

Allen recommends companies invest in power protection solutions, including small to large-scale uninterruptible power supply (UPS) products, surge protectors, power distribution units and remote power management systems to supplement business operations. These types of products, available from companies such as Minuteman, help save key business data during power outages.

Edited by Rory J. Thompson