Are You Prepared For An Extended Utility Outage?

The last two winters have brought ice storms to South Central Pennsylvania causing extended power outages for facilities that lasted for two or more days. In fact, your facility may have been of the many affected by these storms. If not, were you prepared for these power outages, or just lucky? The summer season is the optimal time for educational facilities and campuses to evaluate their emergency preparedness as building occupancy is at its lowest during this time of year. Now is a good time to find out for sure if you are ready for an extended outage before it occurs with a building full of students and staff.

A good first step is to develop an inventory of what loads are currently supplied (or thought to be supplied) by emergency power. You should perform a power outage simulation and a walk-through test to verify that the intended loads are operat­ing effectively. You should also start up and measure the actual load on the generator for connected equipment to determine what spare capacity exists. You may find that many items essential to your emergency operations are non-functional, par­tially functional, or need to be added.

You should be sure to consider the following items as deficiencies are commonly found in these systems:

Emergency Transfer Equipment

Were loads transferred in the required time frames? Did generator start au­tomatically?

Code Required Egress Lighting

Does lighting illuminate as it should? Are lamps burned out?

Additional Lighting

Should additional lighting be supplied for continued building operation or emergency gathering?


Should HVAC equipment be supplied for continued building operation or emergency gathering?

Building Freeze Protection

Are boilers, pumps, heaters, etc. required to keep the building tempered and avoid frozen pipes and coils?

Computer Network Equipment

Does your network need to continue in operation? How about the air-condi­tioning systems dedicated to the equipment?

Access Control & Security Equipment

How is building access affected?

Fire Alarm Systems

Are the main panel and the extender panels connected to the generator?

Telephone, Mass Notification or Paging Systems

Test these systems to ensure that needed communications can occur during an outage.

Receptacles for General Use or Equipment Power

Think about refrigerators, telephones, computers, etc. that you may need during an extended outage.

Don’t wait for an actual emergency to occur to realize there are deficiencies in your mechanical and electrical systems. Now is a great time to improve your facility’s emergency preparedness.

If you would like more information or have any questions about how to prepare your facility for an extended power-outage emergency, please contact Michael Rader, PE at or (717) 845-7654.

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