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When the power goes out

Power outages can disrupt your operations, affect your revenue, and present potential safety and health problems. These tips can help you prepare and cope.

With the increased potential for wildfires this weekend, some electric utility companies in western Oregon are preparing for safety-related power shutoffs. (See outages maps here: PGE, Pacific Power, Consumers Power)

For business owners, the loss of power can disrupt operations, decrease revenue, and cause safety and health problems. Short-term and long-term preparation can help minimize the effects.  

“Bad things happen when the lights go out. It gets worse when the power goes out. The simplest task now becomes complicated because of the loss of the one thing that made the task easy: power,” said Ed Hoeffliger, SAIF senior safety management consultant.    

“For instance, do you know how to manually run a credit card? When the power goes out, a point-of-sale system goes with it. Without a plan, a power failure means having to turn valuable customers away.”  

These tips can help you prepare and deal with power outages.  

Prepare short-term 

  • Do assessments for potential hazards. Basic safety measures like making sure the area is clear of items that people can trip over will make a big difference.  
  • Check emergency lighting to make sure it’s in good working order.   
  • Know where flashlights, emergency kits, and other safety items are kept.  
  • Keep emergency phone numbers at hand.   
  • Know the emergency plan for exiting the building.  

During the outage 

  • Turn off and disconnect equipment, programs, and systems.   
  • Don’t stand next to machinery that could come back on unexpectedly.  
  • Stop as soon as lights go out if using potentially dangerous equipment like a forklift.  
  • Follow protocols for fires, earthquakes, and other emergencies to help employees and customers exit the building safely.  

Long-term planning 

  • Develop a plan. "Even a basic business continuity plan can help," says Hoeffliger.  
  • Ensure everyone knows about the plan and is trained in it.   
  • Identify critical operations that need power, such as computer systems and machinery, and take steps to protect them.  
  • Set up contingency plans, such as surge protectors, alternate locations for data and operations, and back-up programs and systems.   

“Advances in technology have made many things in life and business easier, but most of these advances require power,” said Hoeffliger. “Planning, along with training, can keep your business afloat and your employees safe during a power outage.”