15 Power Outage Safety Tips for Small Businesses
For most small businesses, a power outage in the workplace can create a huge drain on the bottom line. In addition to power outage safety concerns, outages mean lost time, lost customers and lost productivity, which all translate to lower revenue. Luckily, with a few basic power outage tips, you can minimize the impact of when the power goes out.
Why It’s Important to Prepare for a Workplace Power Outage
Knowing what to do during a power outage at work is key to keeping your employees and customers safe and profit losses down. For instance, if you have a brick-and-mortar location, a power outage means that customers may not be able to visit your store. An outage also means no internet—and not being able to respond to email inquiries in a timely fashion.
In fact, weather-related outages have doubled since 2003, and have caused thousands of American businesses lost revenue. In the worst-case scenario, a longer-term outage could force you to close your business entirely. Therefore, to safely deal with a power outage in the workplace, you need a plan in place ahead of time.
Follow the Power Outage Safety Tips Below to Get Started
It may sound intimidating to have to come up with power outage procedures for small businesses, but these 15 power outage tips will help you to get back in business quickly.
To download our printable small business power outage checklist, click the image below:
What to Do before a Workplace Power Outage
- Have a plan for your small business during a power outage. Do your employees know what to do in a power outage at work? When the lights go out, a power outage emergency response plan (like the small business emergency plan discussed with Anita Campbell of Small Business Trends) will not only keep your employees and customers safe but also protect your appliances and equipment from damage.
- Make sure your employees (and customers) are safe.Take power outage safety steps to ensure that customers and employees don’t use elevators or escalators. If nearby power lines are down, make sure that no one approaches or attempts to drive over them. Finally, keep a safe water kit on hand in case the tap water at your business is no longer potable.
- Have an emergency kit accessible for you and your employees. Every business should keep on hand a kit stocked with emergency water, first aid supplies, flashlights, some rope and other basic items. It should be kept in an easy-to-reach place, and employees should be trained on where it is and how to use it.
- Check your backup systems in case of a power failure. During an outage, safety systems such as smoke alarms, sprinklers and illuminated exit signs need a way to remain powered, so consider investing in safety systems that have a battery-powered backup option.
- Know how to safely operate your generator. With a generator, you can continue to run critical aspects of your small business during a power outage, but they must be operated safely. Generators need to be used with adequate ventilation to avoid risk of carbon monoxide poisoning. Never plug generators directly into power outlets, as this can injure utility workers. Never use a generator under wet conditions, and always let the generator cool off before refueling.
Pro Tip: If you haven’t already invested in a generator, there are a lot of options and features to choose from. Use this generator buying guide to get started.
- Invest in surge protection for your small business’s equipment. Surge protectors keep your equipment from malfunctioning when there is a sudden change in voltage. During a storm or power outage, the risk is especially high. The cost of surge protection equipment is far less than the cost of replacing damaged computers or manufacturing equipment.
- Understand the difference between a blackout and a brownout. Not all outages are created equal, so you should know the difference between a brownout vs. blackout. A brownout is a temporary reduction in your power system’s overall capacity, whereas a blackout occurs when the system goes out entirely. For more ideas on power outage safety, visit Ready.gov.
What to Do during a Workplace Power Outage
- Call your utility and report the power outage, or call 911 in case of immediate danger. Immediately after an outage, your utility needs to know when and where it occurred. Use your utility’s designated line to report a power outage, and let them know if you are aware of downed power lines or other hazards. This is one of the critical power outage procedures for businesses, as it allows the utility to respond as quickly as possible to any dangers.
Call 911 only if you or your customers are in immediate danger, as this line is for life-threatening emergencies only.
- Turn off and disconnect your small business’s equipment to prevent damage. During an outage, surges can damage equipment and create a fire risk. Turn off and completely disconnect all your business’s large appliances, assembly lines and other equipment so that nothing is damaged. This is another of the most important power outage procedures for small businesses—after all, you can’t keep your doors open without the equipment your company relies on.
- Use MiFi devices to complete critical operations for your small business. The importance of paperless document storage might only be obvious when it’s too late and your small business’s data is already lost. Don’t let this happen to you! Plan ahead with a cloud server. You should also prepare a system of personal wireless hotspots, or MiFi devices, so that even when the internet goes down, you can finish important tasks requiring web access, such as setting up an email auto-response.
- Keep doors closed on refrigeration equipment until power is restored. When the power goes out, food safety is imperative. Keep a thermometer inside all refrigerators: if the temperature rises above 40 degrees Fahrenheit, perishables are no longer safe. Keep refrigerator doors closed to prevent cooled air from escaping. For longer-term outages, coolers loaded with dry ice can maintain a safe temperature for food.
What to Do after a Workplace Power Outage
- Confirm that power is restored for your small business before resuming operation. When power is restored, major appliances and equipment still may not be safe to use. Test power by turning on a light first. Then, only turn major equipment back on after 10 to 15 minutes.
- Check the equipment and appliances in your small business for damage. Inspect your business equipment for any damage before resuming operation. Look especially closely at plugs and other electronic inputs. Keep an eye out for exposed or loose wiring.
- Turn off your generator in a safe way. Make sure both you and your employees know how to safely turn off and store your generator. To avoid causing electrocution and equipment damage, generators need to be turned off using a specific process. For instance, don’t forget to turn off before unplugging all equipment your generator is powering.
- Tally your losses and recover your small business. Understanding how much your business lost and determining what changes to make so that you lose less revenue during future outages are important ways to keep your business growing—even in an area where power outages are frequent. Be sure to review your insurance coverage and follow the correct procedures for initiating any claims. Losses can also be intangible, so take the proper steps to recover important data after an outage.
Pro Tip: Knowledge is power. Get more power outage tips in this toolkit for business owners.
Know the power outage at work laws in your state.
Power outage at work laws vary by state. Wages still have to be paid to employees during an outage, but laws may differ for exempt versus nonexempt workers. (For instance, exempt workers generally must be paid a full day’s wage for any part of the day they worked.) Familiarize yourself with your state’s laws to avoid a minor power outage turning into a court case.
With these power outage tips and tricks, you’ll be ready when the inevitable outage strikes. With greater peace of mind that a power outage won’t threaten the safety of your employees or customers—and that you’re prepared to minimize lost revenue—you can focus on what matters most: growing your small business.