Does your Facility have an Emergency Portable Cooling Plan?

April 25, 2013
Though a “planned emergency” sounds like a contradiction in terms, building managers can benefit from an emergency portable spot cooling plan designed to protect people, equipment and critical processes and minimize business interruption. Here’s a six-step plan that will help you get there.

This time of year I find myself talking frequently to building managers about the importance of planning for emergency cooling during the hot summer months. Though a “planned emergency” seems to be a contradiction in terms – kind of like “jumbo shrimp” or “guest host” – the concept of emergency preparedness is widely known and certainly applies to cooling a building. When it comes to protecting people, equipment and/or critical processes and minimizing business interruption, the best strategy is to expect the unexpected by planning ahead.

Here is a recommended six-step emergency portable spot cooling plan for your facility:

  1. Make sure there is a backup generator that will provide sufficient power for portable cooling. Many times, backup generators are not large enough to power the central air conditioning system. Spot cooling of critical areas offers an effective alternative: But even though electrical requirements will be reduced, you will still need adequate generator power to do the job.
  2. Pinpoint specific areas to be cooled. Typically, portable air conditioning is used for critical applications within hospitals, nursing homes and extended care facilities that are not equipped with 100 percent emergency power, as well as data centers or server rooms to keep computers and other vital equipment functioning in all types of facilities. Working with a portable air conditioning specialist, you’ll need to factor in room size, type of activity in the space, heat loads generated and other factors to calculate the cooling requirements (in BTU and tonnage) for the areas to be served by the temporary spot cooler(s). You will also need to consider ceiling types, venting options and other installation concerns.
  3. Consider special vulnerabilities. Power outages are not the only factor to consider. Buildings with rooftop air handlers or other outdoor units may also be vulnerable to A/C equipment breakdowns due to damage from fallen trees or airborne debris during windstorms. It’s a good idea to have portable backup cooling equipment “on call” in these situations.
  4. Look for nearby power outlets with the required voltage and phase. If they are not available, determine the requirements for electrical cables, extension cords or other accessories.
  5. Establish a written emergency cooling plan using the information collected above. It should include a list of the specific areas to be cooled, a full inventory of the needed spot coolers and accessories, and emergency contact information for the portable air conditioning supplier. Make sure the supplier has a large inventory of locally-stocked equipment and a proven track record in emergency response.
  6. Whenever possible, specify equipment delivery before a hurricane or other anticipated event. The fact is, when disaster strikes and a panic mode sets in, the demand for portable cooling equipment exceeds the local supply. Ordering ahead is the only way to ensure that you will have the equipment you need for your facility, when and where you need it.

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