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Back Up Power Generation: Are You Ready?

I cannot stress the importance of having a proper power generator on standby in case of emergency. A back-up diesel generator or back-up natural gas generator is critical in a number of circumstances when there is an emergency loss of power. With Hurricane Season rapidly approaching this summer, the necessity of having portable standby generators on-hand is paramount to the faculty you maintain. Not to make a bad example of those stricken with hard times, but there were several examples of organizations and municipalities after Hurricane Sandy that failed to maintain working generators. Most notably, there were a number of hospitals in the New York area that greatly underestimated the need for standby generators for back-up power.

Preventative Maintenance

Beyond the need for a back-up generator in case of emergency, it is equally important to ensure that once your facility does have one on-site, that it is in working order. The last thing anyone wants is for disaster to strike and have to rely on a generator that was not properly maintained in its downtime. The best way to be prepared for such circumstance is to take preventative maintenance measures on your back-up diesel or natural gas generators. Sufficient preventative maintenance includes:

  • Annual, semi-annual, and quarterly maintenance checks
  • General and thorough inspection
  • Regular lubrication service
  • Servicing the cooling system when needed
  • Servicing the fuel system
  • Testing and servicing the starting batteries
  • Periodic and regular engine exercise

In doing so, the first step is to take inventory of your diesel and natural gas generators. I always urge facilities to place all in-house generators together and perform the necessary preventative maintenance checks at the same time. This way it saves time and you get to compare each to see how they perform differently or the same. As for the maintenance checks, they should be performed at least four times a year, with more thorough checks performed twice a year. This also goes for general inspection, which is basically just an overall diagnostic check of the generator to ensure everything is working properly. Additional maintenance should also be performed, such as frequent lubrication services, as well as checking the cooling system for any faulty features. The fuel system also needs to be checked regularly, as it is one of the most crucial aspects to the generator’s operation. Furthermore, it may be equally as important to check on the starting batteries, making sure they can still function as designed. Lastly, just like a car, periodic and regular engine use or exercise helps to keep the generator in working condition.

The vital aspects of power generator preventative maintenance may seem to be arduous tasks, and equally easy to put off or never get around to performing, but they are also the most critical when it comes to emergencies. There have been countless examples during emergency situations where facilities with generators that should have otherwise been able to perform the necessary duties, were instead rendered useless due to downtime neglect. In other words, the generators were not able to serve as a back-up power supply because the aforementioned preventative maintenance had not been performed properly or at all.

With Hurricane Season soon upon us, the importance of preventative maintenance has never been more critical. Doing a thorough functional check before Hurricane Season — when disaster is more likely to strike — is the least that should be done. That way, in the worst-case scenario, your facility can recognize a faulty generator, and either fix or replace it depending on the issues.

Whether it is a hospital, non-profit community organization, or municipality, performing preventative maintenance checks on all back-up and portable generators is crucial for power generation during a disaster. So, go find all your generators in storage, dust them off, and make sure each is still capable of supplying proper back-up power to your facility. Trust me, come Hurricane Season, you’ll be glad you did.