natural disaster

Backup power critical to hurricane preparedness

Tips for weathering tropical storm season and other natural disasters
Thursday, May 18, 2017
By Clayton Costello

The start of hurricane season is around the corner and it’s important that facilities are prepared. In fact, May 15 to 21 is Hurricane Preparedness Week.

Many facilities rely on backup power when a natural disaster occurs. Backup power, while critical for hospitals and government facilities, is for anyone who doesn’t want their business to experience downtime due to a hurricane. Ensuring backup generators are regularly serviced will keep systems running.

The following suggestions are not just for hurricanes, but also for tornadoes and other naturally occurring disasters that have the potential to knock out a facility’s prime power source.

Backup power sources

Hurricanes or large storms don’t typically wipe out infrastructure, but they can cause widespread power outages for significant periods of time. Tornadoes can wipe out the infrastructure and create major delays in getting prime power working again. Having power when a natural disaster occurs is not just for comfort but critical needs as well.

That’s why it’s important to make sure that facilities have a backup generator. When functioning and regularly serviced, this equipment will mitigate any risks associated with prime power failure. Managers of facilities that don’t have a backup generator in place can reach out to their local generator distributor to have one sized accordingly.

Long-term preparedness

Facility managers need to make sure that backup generators are regularly serviced according to the manufacturer and distributor’s recommendations. This will deter many of the potential problems that can occur, particularly when a disaster is imminent.

During a routine generator service, a technician will inspect for wear and tear of the belts; leaks and cracks in the fuel system; broken gauges and warning lights on the control panels; and loose connection, corrosion and general condition of the batteries. The technician will also check the operation of the battery charger and block heater as well as the coolant and engine oil levels.

Annual and semi-annual services are much more detailed. These services include regular preventative maintenance of systems throughout the generator.

Semi-annual services include inspecting and maintaining the cooling system; fuel system; air induction and exhaust; lube oil system; starting system; engine monitors, safety controls and control panel; generator/gas engines; and automatic transfer switch.

Annual services include changing the oil and filters as well as the fuel filters; maintaining the water separator; sampling oil as scheduled; lubricating the fan pulley; greasing the generator bearings; and taking a coolant sample.

It’s also recommended that generators undergo annual load bank testing if the unit does not run at 50 per cent or greater load at least one hour monthly. Load bank testing eliminates wet stacking by burning off un-burnt fuel, oil and carbon in the cylinders and exhaust system. It also exercises and tests the unit’s fuel and cooling systems and causes moisture from inside the generator and engine to evaporate.

Additionally, regularly test and make sure the transfer switch is functioning properly. Depending on the facility, have a plan in place to deploy mobile generators to job sites. Those mobile generators should follow the same service schedules as the backup generator.

Imminent danger preparedness

Step one: Call the facility’s service provider, who will walk the facility manager through subsequent steps that need to be taken. This will include firing up the generator and checking for any fault codes. If the facility has a diesel generator, make sure it’s full of fuel. If the facility has a natural gas generator, make sure the gas line is working properly. Checking the transfer switch will ensure the backup power kicks in the moment primary power goes down.

With hurricane season starting June 1, it’s important that facilities in locations prone to this type of disaster are prepared. That said, hurricanes are just one of the potential disasters that can knock out the power in a facility. Ensure the lights stay on and all systems work with a backup generator that has been properly serviced and maintained.

Clayton Costello has been working at CK Power, a leading manufacturer of power units and power generation solutions for a variety of markets and customers, for over five years, with a focus in account management and operations. This article originally appeared on the CK Power learning center.

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