Small Businesses Are Unprepared For Power Outages - Facility Executive Magazine - Creating Intelligent Buildings

Emerson survey reveals that a majority of small U.S. companies do not have back up power systems.
Emerson survey reveals that a majority of small U.S. companies do not have back up power systems.

Small Businesses Are Unprepared For Power Outages

Small Businesses Are Unprepared For Power Outages - Facility Executive Magazine - Creating Intelligent Buildings

If the power goes out, will America’s small businesses be prepared? Not really, according to the results of a recent survey commissioned by Emerson Network Power, a business of Emerson.

The survey results indicate that the issue is not really “if” the power will go out but “when.” Consider these statistics:

  • 79% of the small business decision makers surveyed experienced at least one power outage in 2007.
  • 67% of respondents anticipate experiencing outages again in the next 12 months.
  • 42% of the small businesses that experienced outages in 2007 had to close their businesses during the longest outages.

And while small business decision makers ranked outages above fire, government regulation, weather damage, theft, and employee turnover as threats to their businesses, only 39% of them have back up power systems, leaving 61% vulnerable to the negative business impacts of outages.

“Keeping the lights on, the computers running, and employees working during a power outage is important for any business, but particularly for small businesses,” said Ed Feeney, an Emerson executive vice president who heads up Emerson Network Power’s Systems business. “Their margin for error is thinner, and the competition’s tighter, so even a brief outage can do significant harm. This makes back up power systems a fundamental part of business continuity.”

In a tight economy, a plunge into darkness could put a small business in the red. On average, power outages cost about $80 billion each year, with most losses—98%—borne by businesses, according to the U.S. Department of Energy.

“Emerson’s survey findings are alarming considering that more than 99% of all American businesses are small businesses, with these companies generating 45% of the total U.S. payroll,” said Steve Strauss, nationally syndicated business columnist and author of The Small Business Bible. “It is critical that small enterprises have a business continuity plan that includes back up power systems to keep the business running when the main power source goes down.”

John Zagara, owner of Zagara’s Marketplace, a Cleveland, OH area supermarket, needs no convincing. “During the massive blackout of August 2003, the power went out mid-afternoon. Our back up power system automatically switched my electrical source to a natural gas powered generator which ran all registers and certain refrigerated equipment,” Zagara said. “Our front end staff continued to check out customers until closing at 9 p.m. Our customers were in awe of our service delivery.” Zagara’s back up power equipment enabled him to not only continue serving customers, but to save meat and frozen foods, valuable perishable inventory.

Zagara utilizes a back up generator and an ASCO power transfer switch. A power transfer switch automatically detects a loss of power from the main power source and turns on a back up generator within seconds. When the main source of power returns, the switch safely shuts down the generator and reconnects to the main power source.

To help small businesses understand the impacts of power outages, Emerson Network Power has launched a back-up power information resource at It includes an online tool small companies can use to measure their vulnerability to the impacts of outages.

Emerson Network Power released the findings of the survey in conjunction with the fifth anniversary of the Great Blackout of 2003, which began on Aug. 14, 2003, when an overgrown tree tangled with sagging power lines in Ohio and triggered a series of human and technology gaffes that resulted in the largest power outage in North American history. The blackout left 50 million people in the Northeastern United States and Canada in the dark—some for days—and cost the economy an estimated $6 billion in productivity.

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