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SmallBiz Unprepared For Blackouts: Study

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SmallBiz Unprepared For Blackouts: Study

August 14, 2008
By Brendan B. Read
Senior Contributing Editor
Five years ago today the largest ever power blackout in North American history hit the Northeastern U.S. and most of the Canadian province of Ontario.
Unfortunately, most small businesses i.e. with 99 or fewer staff are still ill-prepared for the next outage, large or small. That places their operations: customer service, sales, support, billing, HR, administration, along with their revenues and employees at risk.

A recent survey commissioned by Emerson Network Power (News - Alert) found that only 39 percent of American small firms have backup power such as battery-energized uninterruptible power supplies (UPSes).
Nearly 80 percent of these companies had seen their power go out once at least once in 2007 with almost 30 percent experienced three or more shutoffs in 2007.  42 percent of firms had to shut their doors during the longest outages that year.
Backup emergency power such as that delivered by UPSes is essential to permit not only continued operation—most outages last for less than 10 minutes-- but also to allow orderly shutdown including data backup, contact rerouting, and employee evacuation for longer events.
While there has been much work done to prevent a repeat of the 2003 blackout, the U.S .power grid is still vulnerable to outages especially when compared to other countries.
The Emerson report cites figures from the Electric Power Research Institute showing that the average U.S. power company customer loses power for 214 minutes each year. That compares to 70 minutes in the United Kingdom, 53 minutes in France, and six minutes in Japan. Further, the average Japanese customer loses power once every 20 years, while the average American customer, excluding hurricanes and other strong storms, loses power once every nine months.
Ironically, most companies surveyed believe power outages are substantial threats. They rank ahead of fire, government regulation, weather damage, theft, and employee turnover. 56 percent of those surveyed also agree that back-up power systems represent a competitive advantage.
The key appears to draft a business continuity plan or BCP. Once enterprises start the process they begin to see the role backup power plays in ensuring that they stay in business when disaster strikes.
The Emerson report says most small businesses—62 percent—that have a BCP also have back-up power.
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Brendan B. Read is TMCnet�s Senior Contributing Editor. To read more of Brendan�s articles, please visit his columnist page.
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