Government buildings and their employees are responsible for handling their community’s legal and civic affairs. When the power goes out in government buildings, they can no longer serve the community or continue their essential tasks. Power outages also create safety concerns among employees and visitors at your location.
Preparing for power loss can help you address these concerns and reduce harm to your facility and operations. Learn what to do when the power goes out at work below.
The Importance of Preparing for Power Outages
If the power goes out in a government building, it’s important to be prepared. You never know how long power will be out, so planning is essential. Preparing helps ensure the safety of employees and visitors present during the outage. Some outages are caused by hazardous events, such as storms or downed powerlines. Prepping for situations like these allows you to be equipped with the necessary tools to maneuver the outage safely.
Power surges can damage computers and electrical equipment carrying vital data or keeping the office operational. Preparing for a power outage also prevents the loss of any essential information stored digitally. You’ll also be able to stay functional and connected with the community while you wait for the power to return. You can maintain an internet connection to let your community know you’re experiencing an outage and keep them updated when power returns.
Depending on your level of preparation, people may be able to visit your location in person if you have a way to keep the power running. This prevents any setbacks that a lack of power could cause and allows you to continue supporting your community.
Long-term outages caused by severe storms or other events can halt operations for an extended time. Making arrangements ahead of time can prevent long-term closures and keep business running as usual during these circumstances.
How to Create a Plan for Power Outages
Your power outage plan should address how you will continue offering services to the community when the power goes out. Work with your staff to determine what situations you should prepare for and how they will impact your business. This will help you decide what steps you need to take to ensure the safety of all personnel and keep operations running.
All employees and building personnel should know what to do if an outage occurs. Safety procedures should be created and taught as part of employee training. Employees should also know how to properly handle all equipment and appliances during an outage to reduce the chance of damage.
With that in mind, you can prepare for a power outage with these steps:
1. Set up an Emergency Kit
An emergency kit will allow you to have everything on hand if the power goes out. Your emergency kit should be located in an easily accessible location, and all employees should be able to reach it. Employees should also know how to use the kit when an emergency arises. A comprehensive emergency kit should include:
- Water and food: When the power goes out, you’ll want to have access to the essentials. A water supply and non-perishable food should be a part of every emergency kit. If you’re in an emergency and water supplies are running low, you can have emergency water delivered to your location.
- First-aid kit: It’s always a good idea to have a first-aid kit on hand if someone gets hurt. Your first-aid kit should include alcohol wipes, gauze, bandages, gloves and other necessary medical supplies.
- Flashlight and batteries: Before you can get your backup power system up and running, you’ll need to have a way to get around safely. Include a flashlight and plenty of batteries in your emergency kit so you can see while you work on your backup power system.
- Portable power supplies: Portable chargers or other power supplies are a great way to keep phones or other small devices charged so you can get in contact with emergency services during a power outage.
- Thermal blankets: When an outage occurs, your heating and air system will also shut down. Keep thermal blankets on hand, especially if you’re in a colder environment.
These items can help you through an emergency, but you may want to add additional things to your kit based on your specific needs. Some government buildings will require other items, such as safety vests, tool kits or important documents. Consider what you would need when the power goes out and add it to your personalized emergency kit.
2. Invest in a UPS System
An uninterruptible power supply (UPS) system keeps temporary power running to specific devices when the power goes out. These systems start working instantly when the power goes out, and investing in one allows you to protect your vital operating systems.
A UPS system will allow you to maintain short-term power to critical systems in the event of an outage. You can install a UPS system to safely shut down computers and other equipment so you don’t lose any important information or experience any damage. The UPS system can also power your equipment long enough for you to get your backup power system working. It will also keep safety systems, such as exit signs and fire alarms, working if you experience a loss of power.
It’s important to remember that a UPS system will only keep power running for 10-15 minutes, so use that time to safely power down essential equipment and start up your backup power supply.
3. Invest in Generators and Fuel
Purchase generators as part of your outage plan if you don’t already have them. Generators can keep you operational during an unexpected power outage so you can continue to support your community and stay on track. The type of generator you need will vary based on what you require to remain operational. Some government buildings require more power than others, so determine how much power is necessary to keep you in business.
If you invest in a generator, you’ll also need to have fuel on hand to power it. You may choose to invest in a fuel tank, especially if your generator will need to power a large building. You can have backup power fuel delivered to your location ahead of time and in emergencies. In general, it’s a good idea to have enough emergency fuel to last multiple days in case a long-term power outage occurs.
4. Know How to Operate Your Generator
Every employee should be trained on safely operating your generator to be prepared in an emergency. Understanding how to run yours properly is the best way to be ready for an outage and prevent loss.
You should operate your generator in a dry, well-ventilated area because generators burn fuel to run and expel carbon monoxide. In a confined space with little to no ventilation, carbon monoxide can build up and result in a dangerous situation for everyone in the area. Store and operate your generator in a room or location with plenty of airflow. Have a carbon monoxide detector in the same area, too.
When it’s time to start your generator, check your fuel levels before turning it on. Only refuel generators when they’re cooled. Use a special attachment cable to plug in your generator rather than plug it directly into an outlet.
It’s important to maintain your generator so it works when you need it. That means you should run maintenance and conduct tests regularly. Maintenance will consist of checking fuel and oil levels and looking for any damage or parts that need to be fixed or replaced. A professional should also service your generator at least once a year to change the oil and filters.
5. Get Surge Protection for Your Equipment
When the voltage suddenly changes or power drops out, your equipment and electronics could be damaged or destroyed. Repairing or replacing equipment can be costly, and waiting for new parts or equipment can result in unexpected setbacks.
Investing in surge protectors protects your equipment and electronics from damage when there’s a storm or a power outage. They’re also much cheaper than replacing equipment. Surge protectors allow you to run multiple pieces of equipment or electronic devices at once and prevent your outlets from becoming overloaded, as well.
There are different types of surge protectors you can purchase. Some surge protectors better protect your sensitive equipment, such as computers with essential data. Other surge protectors are used outdoors where electricity runs from a utility pole to your main breaker. Determine what types of surge protectors you need to prevent damage to your electronics and equipment.
What to Do in a Power Outage at Work
If a power outage occurs, there are steps you can take in addition to having an outage plan. Follow these tips if the power has gone out in a government building:
1. Call and Report the Power Outage to Your Utility Company
When a power outage occurs and you’ve started your backup power system, the next step is to call your utility company and report the outage. Let them know when and where the blackout happened. Also, tell them if there are any hazards to be aware of, such as floodwaters from a storm or downed power lines.
Your utility company should have a specialized line where you can inform them of any outages. You may also be able to report an outage online.
Alerting your utility company means they can respond to your outage as soon as possible. They can also address any dangers, such as downed power lines. The sooner your utility company knows about the outage, the sooner they can get you up and running again. You’ll be able to return to business as usual and lessen the load placed on your backup system.
If you’re in a dangerous situation, call 911 rather than your utility company. Only report the outage if you are safe to do so.
2. Turn off Equipment
Surges in power accompany power outages. These surges can damage equipment and even cause a potential fire hazard. When a power outage occurs, turn off all your sensitive equipment and electronics. This includes computers, HVAC units, LCD televisions and other large appliances. You should create a list of all of the equipment that will need to be disconnected or unplugged during a power outage so you can check off each as you go along.
Turning off equipment and preventing damage is one of the most important steps to take during a power outage. Damaged equipment is expensive to replace, and waiting for the new materials can put you behind in your daily tasks. You can better serve your community if you’re able to operate at 100% when the power comes back on.
3. Turn off Your Generator When the Outage Is Over
Once your utility company has restored the power, you can turn off your generator. Before turning it off completely, make sure power has been completely restored. You can test this by trying to turn on a light. If you’re successful, you can try to power up major equipment after waiting approximately 15 minutes. If you’ve determined that the power has been fully restored, you can now turn off your generator.
Your generator’s user manual will have specific instructions on shutting down your make and model. In general, generators can be turned off and put away by following a simple process:
- Find the circuit breaker, engine switch and fuel valve and switch each of these into the off position. Some generators will have fewer switches, while others may have more. Consult your user manual for specific instructions.
- Let your generator cool off completely before storing it in a well-ventilated location.
- If you don’t think you’ll need your generator again within the next month, empty the fuel tank, as old fuel can damage the inside of the generator. Take the necessary steps to protect your generator and fuel supply so you can use each in emergencies.
- Disconnect all electronics, appliances and equipment connected to the generator.
Ensure all employees know how to turn off the generator safely and where to store it. Have the user manual in the same location as the generator or somewhere someone can easily find it. Take the time to train each new employee and demonstrate how the generator works and how to power it down.
4. Check Your Equipment for Damage
Now that the power is back on and everything seems to be running normally, take the time to check your equipment, appliances and electronics. A power surge can damage equipment, causing it to malfunction. Run all of your equipment to determine if everything is functioning as usual. A malfunction or inability to power on is likely a sign that damage occurred during the power outage.
Look for exposed or frayed wires and take the necessary precautions to restore a safe working environment. Also, look at each outlet, as these can sustain damage during a power surge and stop working. You can test each outlet safely by using a multimeter to measure the voltage. Conduct these tests carefully, as the power will be on. Invest in a pair of shock-resistant gloves to prevent a shock from happening.
Check your circuit breaker if you find an outlet that doesn’t work. The corresponding breaker may be between “on” and “off.” First, flip the switch to “off” before switching it back to “on.” This may restore power to your damaged outlet, but you may need to call an electrician to fix the problem.
Get Emergency Backup Generator Fueling From Foster Fuels Mission Critical
A backup generator is an excellent way to continue operations during a power outage. If you have a backup generator but no fuel to run it, you won’t be able to run your backup power supply when you need it most. Choose Foster Fuels to deliver fuel to your location to keep you up and running during power outages. Our emergency fuel services are available 24/7 every single day of the year.