According to a study by Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, blackouts cost the U.S. approximately $80 billion annually.
By building a contingency plan that includes rental generators and a complete support package, you can react quickly and prevent the loss of revenue when you lose power.
Rental equipment can keep your operations going at the level you deem necessary for as long as it takes for the utility to restore power.
Today’s blog includes the first two steps of the essential four-step guide for implementing an effective emergency response plan.
Step 1: DETERMINE YOUR ELECTRICAL LOAD
In a utility outage, there are several ways to restore power. You can provide it for the entire facility, particular pieces of equipment, or critical loads. Emergency standby generators only power life safety equipment, as required by code. Beyond that, critical loads must be identified.
If you prefer to keep your facility operating as it would with utility-supplied power, you need to establish the aggregate electrical load.
The easiest and most accurate way to determine the aggregate electrical load is with an energy study to determine your facility’s power requirements. This can be completed by qualified personnel taking ammeter readings of your electrical distribution boxes. The reading should be taken when your company is operating normally at peak load. You can also check your electric bill for peak usage data or contact the electric utility for this information.
If you prefer to strictly power critical loads, you should prioritize individual loads. While every facility is different, you can start by identifying the lost profits or related problems that will occur without a particular piece of equipment. This exercise will immediately help categorize your equipment by importance.
Other than life-safety electrical loads powered by your standby generator sets, as required by law, examples of critical loads include:
Elevators and escalators
Heating, ventilating and air conditioning (HVAC)
By prioritizing your equipment, you’ll identify the loads that require immediate attention during an emergency. This thorough preparation could be operation-saving as it typically takes several hours to secure rental equipment in a large scale emergency, such as a natural disaster.
In most buildings, a separate distribution box will feed critical loads. If this is the case, you may only need enough temporary power for the loads served by that particular set of circuit breakers. You can also decide to power specific critical loads served by separate circuit breakers within a distribution box.
Please consult your facility manager or an electrician to determine your critical loads.
Caterpillar offers an Emergency Power Planner, which is a worksheet for all pertinent information on your power needs. You can obtain your copy from your rental power supplier or at Cat.com.
Step 2: KNOW THE INS AND OUTS OF YOUR FACILITY
Better prepare for a possible power outage by understanding the logistical needs of your facility. You can start with the following considerations:
How will the generator sets be transported from the supplier tothe facility?
Most suppliers deliver, but if you pick up the equipment yourself, you need to determine the required truck size. Most generator sets are towed on semi-trailers and pull trailers, while some are skid-mountedand require lifting equipment for loading and unloading.
Where will you put the generator sets?
The largest generator sets measure 8 feet wide by 40 feet long (2.5 meters wide by 12 meters long). If tight quarters are a concern, two or more smaller units often perform just as efficiently. Be aware of the size restrictions at your facility.
Do you have an electrical termination plan to connect the generators?
Power cables must be used to connect the generator to your termination point, which may include transformers; load banks; bus bars; distribution panels; feeder plants; fuses, outlets and loadcenters, etc. Please keep in mind you could have dozens of cables depending on your load requirements.
How will you get cable from the generator sets outsideyour building to electrical distribution boxes inside?
Consider installing a weatherhead or a cable accessdoor in an outside wall of your facility that can be closedwhen not in use. Then, you won’t need to route cablethrough windows and doors that should remain closedduring off-hours or inclement weather.
Do you have a plan for extended use of the generator?
Generator sets come with a set amount of fuel on board; you’ll need to ensure you have a refueling plan and/or an auxiliary fuel tank for extra capacity. Check with your supplier to see the available options.
Do you have people on staff who can hook up the generator sets and check to ensure they will operate properly?
If not, make sure your supplier or an electrical contractor can do the hookup or have the supplier walk your staff through the procedure.
With a mastery of these first two steps, your operation can save significant time and money during an emergency. Please return for advice on finding a trusted supplier and conducting a dry run, which will appear in a forthcoming blog on this topic.
For more information, visit us online or contact your local Cat® dealer who will happily support you during a possible power outage.
We’re interested in your thoughts on developing an emergency power plan:
What has your experience been with rental power contingency planning?
What other ways can facility managers prepare for emergency power outages?
What tips can you offer on determining the priority of electrical loads?
What is the largest obstacle you’ve faced in determining your logistical needs?