Brittany Lutke Thunder and Lightning and Blackouts, Oh My! Part 2: Worst Case Scenarios and What You Can Do About It

July 23, 2013 by · Leave a Comment 

Last week, we discussed the increasing number of power outages during the summer.  If you missed it, check out Thunder and Lightning and Blackouts, Oh My!.  Continuing on that note, we wanted to discuss the worst outages and on a more positive, proactive note, what you can do to protect you business.

Some of the most notable and memorable power failures have occurred during summer months.  For example:

New York City, 2003
Cause: Surge 

When a surge of electricity hit western New York and Canada just after 4 p.m. in August 2003, power failures and blackouts left many areas of the Northeast and the Midwest without power, triggering the largest blackout in US history.  The FAA reported many flight delays, and 600 New York City subways were stranded as well as elevators in buildings across the city. Power was restored to most by 10 p.m.  According to the Electricity Consumers Resource Council (ELCON), the outage cost between $7 and $10 billion, and companies across industries and geographies.  General Motors reported the blackout affected 47,000 employees at 20 different locations.  Kroger reported 60 stores were without power.  Duane Reade drug stores reported a loss of sales totally $3.3 million.

New York Blackout 1977

Source: Wired.com

New York City, 1977
Cause: Lightning 

They say lightning doesn’t strike twice, but this was not the case in 1977.  Around 8:30 p.m. on July 13, the first lightning strike tripped two circuit breakers, and a loose locking nut prevented the breaker from closing.  The second strike led to the loss of two transmission lines and the loss of power from a nuclear plant, leading to the overload of two other lines.  Ultimately the succession of these events led to a loss of power across New York City by 10:00 p.m., and power was not restored until later the next day, with some areas experiencing outages for over 25 hours.  The city experienced increased crime and looting.  It is estimated that the blackout cost over $300 million.

India

Source: NPR

India, 2012 
Cause: Monsoon and Power Use 
In July of last year, India experienced the largest power outage–two days in a row.  680 million people (nearly 10% of the world’s population) had no power for over 10 hours. While India’s power grid is infamously unreliable, it had never experienced blackouts to this magnitude before.  Factors such as heat, monsoons, and agricultural demands led to increased power consumption and the rolling blackout.  Following the blackout, Indian officials investigated the causes of this event and have planned to invest heavily in their energy infrastructure in the future.   The blackout cost €75 million, which is over $97.8 million.

How Can Your Company Protect Itself Against Power Outages?

  • Monitor power outages: Most energy companies provide tools that monitor and measure power outages, minor and major, in their areas.  These sites are helpful for Louisville and surrounding areas in Kentucky and Indianapolis and surrounding areas in Indiana.
  • Prepare for the worst: Companies who best survive power outages (or any disaster for that matter) have effective and tested disaster recovery and business continuity plans.  For example, Baron Financial Group tests their business continuity plan at least once a year to evaluate overall effectiveness and ensure consistent client service.  A proactive approach provides the most security.  For more information on disaster recovery planning, read our whitepaper Top 10 Tips for Disaster Recovery.
  • Select a secure data center:  Often because power outages are localized, it can be beneficial to select a data center that provides geographic redundancy.  Not only should the data center be located an appropriate distance from your location.  Additionally, as you evaluate data centers, be sure to ask about their power, redundancies, and generators.  For more guidance on how to choose a data center, check out our whitepapers: 10 Things to Consider When Choosing a Data Center and 7 Critical Things to Look for When Touring a Data Center.

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