There’s been a number of power cuts in the UK this year, with the unpredictable weather and climate change both being cited as potential causes. Thorpe Park was badly hit in July, which left thrill-seekers trapped on rollercoaster rides during the sizzling heatwave. Meanwhile, in Cambridgeshire, more than 15 power cuts sparked in 24 hours at the end of July. It is thought that the cuts were caused due to the after-heatwave lightning storms.

Power cuts are never enjoyable, and much less so if you run a business. Lost productivity and running costs can both cause problems during a blackout for a business, so it is crucial that business owners are prepared.

UK power cuts

Britain has dealt with its fair share of blackouts. 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.

There are a few different types of power outages. These 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.

80% of all power cuts between 2003 and 2012 have been attributed to the weather by Climate Central. Considering its unpredictability, it may be worth preparing your brand for future power cuts today.

The impact of a power cut on business

In this day and age, you’d struggle to find a business that doesn’t rely on electrical power. But how do power outages usually interrupt and harm a business?

A short blip in our power supply is enough to cause data loss. 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.

An hour of downtime can cost small businesses £800, and larger companies risk even more. 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.

The risk of data loss can be hugely detrimental to small businesses. Plus, according to research, 23% of IT professionals surveyed claimed that an IT outage cost them between £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 

Avoid these losses with these preventative measures outlined below.

Reducing risk during a power cut

Of course, every company will have different priorities to protect during a power outage. 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.

All companies rely on the internet in some way, and a blackout jeopardises that. 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.

A surge protector is a worthwhile investment to protect machinery and hardware from any surges that could corrupt or damage your machines. You may also want to invest in an industrial generator. 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. However, a generator may not be enough, so consider LPG gas bottle refill receptacles to help power machinery and equipment in a crisis, too.

Minimise the risks by having a continuity plan that management and workers can follow in the event of a power cut.  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, always remember to unplug devices when your business has an interruption of electricity supply and make sure you only use electrical equipment that adheres to regulations set out by the British Standards Institution.

You can’t stop a power cut, but you can control how much it rattles your business. Follow these steps and prepare your company for a blackout situation.

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