Hurricane Preparedness: Protection Provided by Power Generators

Seventy percent of all power outages are caused by inclement weather. There is no time to be more wary of this than during hurricane season. The erratic and powerful winds, flooding and lightning that accompany hurricanes put homes, businesses and entire communities at great risks for power failures. The loss of electricity during a natural disaster is both extremely dangerous and extremely expensive. Therefore, it is important to be prepared for such a calamitous event. The best way to do this is by procuring a backup generator.

Statistics show that the frequency and severity of hurricanes have been on the rise for the past several years. A single storm can cause thousands of power outages and result in billions of dollars in losses of productivity and goods, beyond the cost of physical damages. For those who own or operate businesses, there is a simple method of calculating the financial losses you would incur in the event of a power failure:

(1) Determine the daily dollar amount of your business that is reliant upon electricity. (If your business operates completely on computers or telephones this may already account for your entire revenue!)

(2) Add up the total value of assets that would be damaged or destroyed in the event of an outage—this could include perishable goods, sensitive software or machinery, or even long-term client relationships (due to the perception of unreliability).

(3) Account for any extraneous electricity costs that will be incurred from having to reboot powerful computer equipment or restart heavy machinery.

(4) Total the amounts of items 1-3; this is the lost revenue you can expect from a single day without power.

Of course, a single-day outage would be the best-case scenario if a severe storm were to strike. In many cases, areas affected by hurricanes go several days, weeks, or sometimes months without power. This will drastically compound the losses to your business. Still, even more importantly, people’s (perhaps employees’) lives can be endangered by a power loss during a natural disaster. A sudden outage can immediately put people in harm’s way: aborted machine cycles could cause heavy components to come tumbling down upon their operators or failed lighting could impair the balance of individuals walking down staircases. During a long-term outage, people remain in further jeopardy; essentials such as air flow, hot water, visibility and emergency communication can be compromised by the lack of electricity.

These dangers can be avoided by using a backup power generator. If your business is located in an area that is prone to hurricanes, you would be wise to consider purchasing a new or used generator. Although this is a somewhat expensive investment, the equipment will doubtlessly pay for itself in the long run by enabling you to avoid financial losses from power outages. You can roughly calculate the amount of time it will take to see a return on your investment by using the formula, outlined above, for outage losses:
(1) Multiply the amount of daily losses by the average number of annual outages in your area.
(2) Divide the price of your generator by the result of item 1 (your potential annual savings); the result is the length of time it will take to recover the purchase price.

In some cases, the purchase price of a generator can be recovered within a single year or even within the timeframe of a single severe outage. Plus, permanent backup power ensures continuous preparedness. A backup generator will be wired into a business’ main electrical panel via a transfer switch, so that when a loss of primary power occurs the generator source will immediately take over without any interruption. According to the National Hurricane Center, hurricane season lasts a full six months (June 1 – November 30), so a permanent backup generator can be an invaluable safety net for businesses in at-risk areas.

Some businesses simply do not have the available capital to purchase their own generators; others may take a calculated risk to avoid the substantial purchase because they operate in an area that is less prone to devastating storms. Nonetheless, it is wise for any business that relies on electricity to have a contingency plan in case of an unforeseen outage, particularly during hurricane season. In 2008, after ravaging the Gulf coast, Hurricane Ike continued to blow northward through the mainland, causing power outages as far north as Ontario; in total the storm caused over $30 billion in damages. Prior to that, business owners in the Midwest most likely never imagined that they would need insurance against hurricanes.

Luckily, for those who are caught unaware (or under-budgeted), emergency generators can be acquired as contingency rentals. A savvy business owner should become familiar with generator sets available for rent and have a power generation company contact on standby in case of an unexpected outage. If you find yourself in need of a contingency rental, you can once again calculate the difference between your savings and expenditures by using the outage-loss formula: this time, simply compare your daily losses to the daily cost of the rented generator. Keep in mind that less than reputable companies will try to capitalize on disasters by charging exorbitant “emergency fees;” this is one good reason to research and decide upon a rental provider prior to an actual emergency. When dealing with contingency generators, fair rental agreements should have a fixed rate and allow for unlimited use.

Hurricane season is quickly approaching, so make sure you are prepared. Having access to a backup power generator is the only surefire way to avoid the potential financial losses and personal endangerment caused by disastrous outages.

If you are looking for quality new and used generators available for purchase or rent, or if you would like any additional information on this topic, please call us at 713-434-2300 or e-mail us at