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Top tips for power continuity using backup generators

The US Diesel Technology Forum has provided a checklist of ten areas that need to be considered by business continuity planners when using backup electrical power during power outages:

  • Safety first:  electricity is dangerous.  Always follow manufacturer manuals and heed safety warnings. Connections, installation and servicing of generators should be left to licensed professionals.
  • Assess the needs:  identifying a facility's critical loads to protect is an important first design step that determines generator size and fuel options. Make smart fuel and technology choices, considering things such as if natural gas pipeline service were to be disrupted in your community.
  • Consider response time for standby generator: frequent outages of a few seconds, a few minutes, or more, can have significant cost implications for businesses. While some other generators take up to two minutes to engage, diesel-powered generators are uniquely able to provide full load power within 10 seconds of a grid outage.
  • Have sufficient fuel storage:  diesel fuel's energy density and the engine's high efficiency allow for smaller fuel storage facilities compared to other fuels, which provides a cost savings to owners. Make sure that you have sufficient fuel storage capacity onsite for an extended outage.
  • Maintain your equipment: proper maintenance through service contracts ensures maximum reliability and uptime.  As required by electrical and safety codes, standby generators should be exercised periodically to ensure they will operate as designed in the event of an outage.
  • Recheck your system and set up:  one of the big lessons from Hurricane Sandy was that even the best generators won't work underwater when subjected to extreme flooding.  Check unit location for protection from flooding and ensure you use the proper gauge extension cord. 
  • Never operate a generator in an enclosed area:  never use generators or other gasoline or charcoal-burning devices such as heaters in an enclosed area or outside near an open window. Carbon monoxide fumes can build up and poison people. 
  • Check your load:  have you added any new demands or critical circuits to protect?  If you've added new computers or other power-hungry devices, consider updating switchgear. 
  • Follow the rules:  if you're a business operating a stationary unit, make sure you have the proper permits and records on operations.
  • Contract rental power:  if installing your own standby generation is not feasible, consider a rental generator power for use in the event of an extended outage.

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