By Ed Spears
While many consider June 1 to be the unofficial start of hurricane season, Hurricane Agatha made landfall off the Pacific coast of Mexico in late May, marking an early start to what top forecasting organizations are projecting to be an above-average season of activity.
An overactive storm season can cause headaches for facilities across industries in the form of outages and unexpected downtime, making this a crucial time to reevaluate disaster preparedness strategies. In this article, I’ll offer some tips for facility executives to consider when deploying power management equipment to keep critical IT infrastructure up and running through the unpredictability of hurricane season.
Digging Into The Digital Age
While digital transformation made inroads in many facilities prior to the Covid-19 pandemic, the pandemic itself served as the impetus for many facility executives to revisit their IT strategies. Facilities across a range of industries, from healthcare and manufacturing to education, shifted resources from a more centralized IT architecture to a distributed model with multiple edge locations. At the same time, many facilities experienced changes in the composition of their respective IT staffs, reinforcing the idea that today’s IT teams are leaner than before. It all adds up to fewer staff managing the needs of more facilities, and maintaining uptime remains vital to keeping critical services online in places where IT support may not be available.
Take, for example, a healthcare facility, where power outages can have life-threatening consequences impacting everything from a patient’s dialysis to a significant surgical procedure. An outage impacting a clinician’s ability to check patient medical records may be a moderate inconvenience, but something like the loss of lighting during a surgery can have severe ramifications, including risk to the patient and legal liability of the provider.
To help facility executives prepare for these worst-case scenarios, an integrated approach to power management can prove valuable to avoiding downtime and safeguarding critical equipment from surges and other outages. A few key elements of a comprehensive backup power strategy include:
- Uninterruptible power supplies (UPSs) – A UPS is responsible for ensuring that facilities have reliable power during an outage and keeping vital IT functions running until generators come online. Recent developments in UPS technology include the incorporation of lithium-ion batteries, which offer longer life than traditional battery technology in a smaller footprint, as well as integrated network cards that manage the battery system and enable enhanced connectivity and security to software and services. Together, these deliver much needed reliability, stability and safety.
- Disaster avoidance software – Disaster avoidance software is essential to maintaining control over power infrastructure, particularly as more facilities feature limited IT support staffs. Software applications integrate with power management equipment to enable a proactive approach to remote monitoring and management of critical infrastructure, enabling IT to triage power events before they result in damaging outages.
- Predictive analytics – Advanced preventative monitoring services for power management devices work in tandem with power management software to better anticipate the deterioration or failure of critical components before they occur. Predictive analytics can analyze data and notify facility managers when to schedule important services, such as maintenance, repairs or updates, before system components fail. This helps facilities avoid emergency service calls and schedule updates using convenient maintenance windows.
It’s important to keep industry-specific requirements in mind when deploying the appropriate power management components. Using healthcare as an example again, these facilities would want to consider leveraging IEC 60601-1 compliant UPSs, as well as medical-grade power strips and surge protectors, to ensure the best protection.
Under Lock And Key
Cyber security may not be the first thing facility executives think of when considering weather-related emergencies, but it’s an important piece of the overall disaster avoidance strategy – especially considering the sensitive nature of the IIoT data that many facilities work with and the consequences of a potential breach. As a security measure for backup power systems, network management cards with UL 2900-1 and IEC 62443-4-2 certifications are available to help secure UPSs against potential hacks.
Another important consideration when crafting an end-to-end disaster avoidance strategy is physical security. Employing simple tactics, such as installing smart security locks on IT racks, can help protect IT equipment, ensuring that power management equipment remains safe and that only authorized personnel can gain entry.
Riding Out The Storm
While hurricane season won’t impact every corner of the country, extreme weather events in other forms are always a possibility. Mother Nature can wreak havoc in a number of ways, any of which may leave facilities dealing with devastating outages. Luckily, solutions are available and can be integrated to help protect IT systems and services when disaster strikes. With a comprehensive backup power strategy in place, facilities managers can take solace in knowing they’re prepared for whatever it is that Mother Nature has in store.
Ed Spears is a technical marketing manager in Eaton’s Critical Power Solutions Division in Raleigh, NC. A 40-year veteran of the power-systems industry, Ed has experience in UPS systems testing, sales, applications engineering and training—as well as working in power-quality engineering and marketing for telecommunications, data centers, cable television and broadband public networks. He can be reached at EdSpears@Eaton.com.