Lessons from Superstorm Sandy

01/25/2013 |

Don't be caught without an emergency generator and a plan

Can your organization continue to operate if the grid goes down? Without a generator, you could be out of luck for hours, days, or even weeks, much like the businesses that lost power during Hurricane Sandy in October 2012.

A generator may be a wise investment to minimize future downtime or at least shut the building down properly during a major weather event. However, not all generators are created equal.

To figure out which type is right for you, find the answers to these three questions.

1) How long could my organization need backup power?
Determine which pieces of electrical equipment absolutely must operate throughout the power outage, advises the Insurance Institute for Business & Home Safety (IBHS), a professional group for insurers and reinsurers and the provider behind disastersafety.org.

Consider how often the building has lost power in the past and what events are most likely to cause outages. A contractor can help you determine your wattage needs and voltage ratings. IBHS recommends choosing a generator rated to provide power at a frequency of 60 Hz.

2) How will my building interact with the generator?
If you have sensitive or critical equipment, you might invest in a stationary (stand-by) generator. These units are permanently wired into your building’s electrical system, often with a transfer switch that senses power loss, turns on the generator, and transfers the electrical load to it. They can provide longer run times and higher levels of power than portable generators, which can be moved around as needed.

3) Do I need to supply power to smaller machines?
If so, a portable generator may be a good match. These units are usually no more than 15 kW and 40 V, according to the IHBS. That means they’re less expensive, but also have a shorter run time than a stationary generator.

Liquid-cooled commercial units start at about $12,000 for a 20 kW unit, according to Condor Capital, an investment management firm. The price may seem steep, but it’s nothing compared to the cost of days or weeks of lost business.

4) What fuel is common in my area?
Choose a model compatible with local fuel sources. Many stationary generators use natural gas or propane. Diesel fuel is common for portable and permanent units.

To learn more about disaster preparation, see 5 Disaster Recovery Myths.

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