How to Protect Your Home or Business During Power Outages

June 27, 2019

By Erik Linask - Group Editorial Director

With weather patterns as unpredictable as they have been recently, power outages are regularly impacting businesses and residences nationwide.  Whether it’s heavy rain and flooding, fires, high winds, winter storms, or even hurricanes and tornadoes, Mother Nature is causing damage resulting in loss of power all year.

Utility companies naturally have their hands full dealing with downed power lines, blown transformers, tree limbs, and other damage, but they also are fully aware of the inconveniences of power outages – as well as the risks they pose to customers.  To help avoid unnecessary injury or damage to property, Avista, an energy company serving customers in eastern Washington, northern Idaho, and parts of Oregon, took the time to point out a few power outage safety suggestions to its customers.

  • Stay away from downed power lines and assume they are live and carrying electrical current.  That includes not touching, moving, or even driving over them.
  • Turn off any appliances that may have been left on during an outage.  It’s also best to unplug any electronics.  Leaving a light on, however, is a good way to easily signal when power has been restored.
  • If you’re using a generator, do not wire it directly into your home electrical system without a transfer switch that can toggle between the generator and your utility’s distribution system.  That includes backfeeding power through a dryer outlet.  Any backfeed into the power lines could injure or even kill utility workers working on restoring power.
  • Only use your generator according to its manufacturer’s specifications.  Do not overload it, and only run it outdoors to avoid carbon monoxide poisoning.

Business customers face similar risks, particularly damage to the technology allows them to operate.  From servers to switches to security appliances to storage devices and more, companies have invested heavily in their infrastructure, and should make the same investments to protect them from damage.

Power surges and spikes – which typically accompany outages, but can happen at any time – send higher voltage currents than business systems are designed to handle.  The resulting blown circuits take those systems offline, requiring repair or replacement.  Depending on availability of technicians and replacement equipments, the operational outage can last days or even weeks – much longer than a power outage.  The cost to businesses is two-fold:  In addition to the repair costs, there’s also significant lost revenue opportunity from not being sustain operations.  In extreme cases, small and mid-sized businesses may not be able to recover from such a disaster. 

There are, however, steps every business can and should take, regardless of size, which can avoid devastating power-related situations.  That includes investing in power protection systems that are designed to regulate line voltage coming into businesses, ensuring only clean electricity reaches systems, eliminating risk of damage.  Also, just as consumers are told to shut down equipment, UPS features give IT teams an opportunity to manually shut down equipment to avoid damage or data loss.  Some power protection systems feature remote power management capabilities, allowing IT to shut down systems remotely using the mobile devices.

There’s no sure way to avoid power outages, but business and residential customers can both take appropriate steps to protect their businesses and homes and the investments they’ve made in technology.  That will at least minimize the impact of any power outage.

Edited by Erik Linask