The erratic weather of late due to climate change is to blame for the number of power outages the UK has faced. In July, Thorpe Park was hit by a series of power outages. This resulted in some visitors becoming stranded on several rides because of the sweltering temperatures of the region’s heatwave, while more than 15 power cuts were reported in 24 hours in Cambridgeshire at the end of the month, which lightning strikes partly to blame.
A power cut at home is bad enough, but they can have a much more severe effect on your business. With costs to consider, including lost productivity and wasted running costs, it’s important for any business owners to fully prepare for these events to make sure they can keep their operations functioning as effectively as possible during power cuts. Here, with gas cylinder suppliers, Flogas, we look at what causes power cuts and how to prepare your business for them:
Power cuts in the UK
It’s no secret that we’re used to power outages in the UK. 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.
Although everyday operations can be harmed by all, power outages can 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.
According to Climate Central, approximately 80% of all power outages between 2003 and 2012 were caused by weather. Considering its unpredictability, it may be worth preparing your brand for future power cuts today.
How power cuts can affect your business
Of couse, in 2018 we rely significantly on power to run our business, so any disruption or cut-off of energy is extremely damaging. But how do power outages usually interrupt and harm a business?
Even a short interruption can lead to data being lost. 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 single hour of downtime can cause a small business to lose up to £800, with bigger companies experiencing more significant losses. 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. There is also the risk of losing unsaved material, which can be costly to small businesses.
According to research, 23% of IT professionals surveyed believed that an IT outage can cost them in the region of £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
If you can’t afford this scale of losses in productivity and profit, there are things you can do the alleviate the issue.
How to minimise losses during a power cut
Each company is likely to have different priorities when it comes to machinery and processes that need to be safeguarded in case there’s a power cut. 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.
In a power outage, it’s likely that crucial connections to the web will be lost. 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.
It’s also worth purchasing a surge protector so you can protect electronic devices and machinery hardware because any sudden rush of energy can cause your data to become corrupted. 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.
To try to minimise the damage that a power cut can cause to your brand, you should come up with a business continuity plan that outlines exactly what management and workers are required to do if one occurs. 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, be sure to always unplug your devices if your business has an interruption of electricity supply and only use your electrical equipment if it adheres to the strict regulations set out by the British Standards Institution.
Yes, power cuts are unavoidable, but that doesn’t mean they have to have a devastating effect on your business. Follow these steps and prepare your company for a blackout situation.