With unreliable weather conditions here in the UK, many businesses can experience power cuts nationwide. In July, Thorpe Park was hit by a series of power outages that left some visitors stranded on rides due to the sweltering temperatures of the region’s heatwave, while more than 15 power cuts were reported in 24 hours in Cambridgeshire at the end of the month, which were partly blamed on lightning strikes.
What does this mean for businesses? With lost productivity and wasted running costs to consider, it’s vital for business owners to be prepared and ensure their operations keep functioning as effectively as possible during power cuts.
Power cuts across Britain
The UK isn’t shy of the odd power cut. 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.
Here are the different types of power cuts:
- 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.
Believe it or not, the weather was responsible for 80% of the power cuts between 2003 and 2012. Considering its unpredictability, it may be worth preparing your brand for future power cuts today.
The impact on your business
Across the UK, our businesses run off energy and if this energy is cut, it could be damaging to our operations. But how do power outages usually interrupt and harm a business?
Power cuts or slight delays can be detrimental and could cause businesses to lose data. 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.
For a small business in particular, one hour with no power could lead to a receipt of £800. 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. There is also the risk of losing unsaved material, which can be costly to small businesses.
According to 23% of IT professionals, downtime can cost £10,000 to £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
Reducing losses as a business
Of course, each situation will be specific to the type of business you run, so you will have different priorities when it comes to power cuts. 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.
If you use the internet, this is something that must be considered. 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.
Have you considered a surge protector? 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 tank to help power machinery and equipment in a crisis, too.
You should outline a continuity plan to help direct your workers is a power cut occurs. 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.