How to prepare a disaster mitigation plan for your facility

It’s important to prepare your business properly by creating an emergency action plan in the event of a natural disaster. Four recommendations before a disaster and three recommendations afterward are highlighted.

By Chad Kennedy, Schneider Electric November 10, 2018

While ensuring human safety is the top priority in any natural disaster preparation plan, it is also important to consider how best to protect your business. Natural disasters can result in decreased productivity, lost data, and reduced efficiency—consequences businesses cannot afford in today’s increasingly competitive business and consumer economy.

Awareness and preparation are the keys to ensuring uptime and business continuity ahead of a natural disaster. General awareness level is higher today than a decade ago due to the increased frequency and severity of hurricanes and other natural disasters. However, many businesses are still dealing with aging infrastructure and need to make careful preparations.

A proper disaster mitigation plan requires a significant amount of preparation, but taking crucial precautionary steps can make a world of difference when disaster strikes.

Four recommendations before a disaster occurs

  • Maintain updated records: Document the electrical system and ensure the information is current and accurate. Consider maintaining a backup copy of this information offsite or having an easy access copy to take with you. Prepare how to conduct an orderly shutdown of the electrical system with employees. Have a general idea of what equipment could be impacted and how you would manage the repair or replacement.
  • Plan a pre-evacuation to-do list: It is important any necessary actions be documented and readily available. Potential actions include gathering system documentation to take with you, unplugging appliances and turning off main power sources and electrically powered equipment. If there is an onsite generator, test it before an evacuation becomes mandatory to ensure functionality. Hazard alarms such as carbon monoxide detectors should be verified along with any battery backup supplies.
  • Create a team: Create a team of emergency personnel, each with clearly defined roles, for disaster preparedness and response. Publish the list, complete with contact information, to appropriate building personnel such as the owners and key business managers.
  • Have a communications plan: Some disruption is to be expected following a natural disaster. Building owners, occupants and employees will be far more understanding if there is regular communication about the facility’s conditions as well as expectations for disruption and recovery efforts.

Three recommendations after a disaster occurs

  • Take caution with electricity: In cases of severe catastrophe, it may be impossible to completely avoid disruption. Following certain precautions can ensure personal safety, avoid costly damage to physical equipment and minimize financial losses. If electricity is still not on upon returning, have qualified personnel check the electrical distribution panel for any blown fuses or tripped circuit breakers.
  • Do not clean equipment: Do not attempt to clean any electrical equipment that has been contaminated with water or other contaminants. Do not apply cleaning agents or abrasives to any current-carrying portions of electrical equipment to remove debris, residues or other substances. If the repair or replace decision has not been pre-determined in your disaster recovery plan, contact the equipment manufacturer for instructions. Attempting to reuse damaged equipment can result in an immediate failure or a gradual deterioration failure and is potentially hazardous to personnel and property.
  • Bring in a professional: Only qualified personnel should replace equipment. Where no damage at the site is evident, the system loads should be switched off and power gradually restored. It is recommended that an electrical professional be contacted to inspect the system for hidden damage and to ensure proper system operation and safety.

Employee safety should be the first priority for any facility. The emergency action plan should be communicated before a disaster, but if it has not been, a careful inspection of the work area is required before allowing workers back in to the facility. A proper disaster mitigation plan can provide a business with the foundation necessary to maintain continuity through catastrophe. Ensuring you and your employees are prepared will provide some peace of mind.

Chad Kennedy is the industry standards manager for power equipment at Schneider Electric.