Power cuts in Britain: the battle businesses face

At times, the UK’s weather is erratic to say the least. It can be gleaming sunshine one moment, but downpours the next. All of this can cause issues with the nation’s power supply. For example, in July earlier this year, Thorpe Park experienced a series a power cuts which left worried visitors stuck on rides. Although you would think this was the result of harsh weather conditions, it was in fact due to high levels of heat across the region. Around the same time, there were more than 15 reports of power cuts in 24 hours across Cambridgeshire, which were caused by lightning strikes in the area.

Some businesses have already set a plan in place to cope with such events, but a lot have not. Power cuts aren’t only difficult to deal with when you’re at home, but in a work environment, this can cause lost productivity – can your business afford it?

A problem faced by the nation

There have been several memorable power cuts over the years in the UK. You may be old enough to remember the miners’ strike in 1972, which caused major power issues – leading to a state of emergency being declared. A more recent power event that caused power outage to 40,000 properties was the result of Storm Frank in 2015.

There are more than 17,000km of electricity cables in the UK, meaning that there is a lot to contend with to ensure power cuts are kept to a minimum. However, some can’t be prevented.

Below, we have listed the most common types of power cuts here in Britain:

  • 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.

While power cuts can vary in types, it’s shocking to find that between 2003 and 2012, weather was responsible for 80% – highlighting the importance of advanced preparation.

Damages to your organisation

Businesses across the nation run off energy power. This means that is it crucial to ensure operations remain consistent and don’t put a stop to our productivity. Below, we take a look at how power cuts can actually harm a business.

Whether your business experiences a huge power cut or a small delay, it can be damaging and cause data loss. If this is the case, this could have a profound impact on any ongoing campaigns and prove difficult for you to meet deadlines on a range of projects and ultimately meet the requirements of a client. Imagine if all of your work is lost due to such circumstances – you might have to start your work from scratch.

A blackout or brownout is likely to last at least a day. This could potentially put a stop to all operations – and will definitely be a cost to you. As your staff are contracted to work (even though power cuts), you will still have to pay them. As well as this, if your business relies on communication by using the internet or phone lines – this could cost you sales.

It will come at a varying cost, too. Some small businesses state that one hour of no power could cost £800. Believe it or not, Google lost their power in 2013 and this cost them £100,000 each minute. But, downtime could come down to several reasons. If your business does not have access to electricity for example, employees will not be able to communicate with customers. If you’re a business that operates as an ecommerce, you won’t be able to monitor online sales and respond to website queries.

A recent survey discovered that nearly a quarter of IT professionals stated that an hour of business downtime had cost their organisation between £10,000 and £1 million. Each year in Britain, as a result of IT downtime, businesses can pay the price of £3.6 million collectively and lose 545 productivity hours.

This is the general formula to work out the average cost of downtime an hour:  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

Is it worth the risk?

Set your priorities to match your business’s requirements. If your company relies on computers and data, you should look at installing an uninterrupted power supply (UPS) that will allow your devices to run off battery power in the event of a power cut.

Internet connection is also important to most companies nowadays. This means it could be difficult to cope without one. If you set up a MiFi – which can operate as a WiFi hotspot – your staff will be able to connect to an ad-hoc network which can help you operate when a power cut does strike.

It’s important to think ahead and create a plan that your team know to follow. 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.

This article was provided by Flogas LPG, gas cylinder suppliers.

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