Small Businesses Unprepared for Power Outages

Aug. 13, 2008
If the power goes out, will America's small businesses be prepared? Not really, according to the results of a recent survey commissioned by St. Louis-based Emerson Network Power.

Some of the statistics from the survey include:
  • Seventy-nine (79) percent of the small-business decision-makers surveyed experienced at least one power outage in 2007.
  • Sixty-seven (67) percent of respondents anticipate experiencing outages again in the next 12 months.
  • Of the small businesses that experienced outages in 2007, 42 percent had to close their businesses during the longest outages. 

And, while small-business decision-makers ranked outages above fire, government regulation, weather damage, theft, and employee turnover as threats to their businesses, only 39 percent of them have back-up power systems, leaving 61 percent vulnerable to the negative business impacts of outages.

"Keeping the lights on, the computers running, and employees working during a power outage is important for any business, but particularly for small businesses," says Ed Feeney, an Emerson executive vice president. "Their margin for error is thinner, and the competition's tighter, so even a brief outage can do significant harm."

In a tight economy, a plunge into darkness could put a small business in the red. On average, power outages cost about $80 billion each year, with most losses - 98 percent - borne by businesses, according to the U.S. Department of Energy.

"Emerson's survey findings are alarming, considering that more than 99 percent of all American businesses are small businesses, with these companies generating 45 percent of the total U.S. payroll," says Steve Strauss, nationally syndicated business columnist and author of The Small Business Bible.  "It is critical that small enterprises have a business-continuity plan that includes back-up power systems to keep the business running when the main power source goes down."

Emerson Network Power released the findings of the survey in conjunction with the fifth anniversary of the Great Blackout of 2003, which began on Aug. 14, 2003, when an overgrown tree tangled with sagging power lines in Ohio and triggered a series of human and technology gaffes that resulted in the largest power outage in North American history. The blackout left 50 million people in the Northeastern United States and Canada in the dark - some for days - and cost the economy an estimated $6 billion in productivity.

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