What to do if there’s a power cut at work
A power cut at work can cause anything from a minor inconvenience to a massive disruption. This loss of an electrical supply can even bring everything to a standstill as computers, phones and machinery stop working.
And, with recent warnings from the National Grid that the energy crisis could lead to more power outages this winter – not to mention the stormy weather we’ve had lately – we’ll take a look at what you should do if there’s a power cut at work or at home.
Why do power cuts happen?
There are various reasons why the electricity network might lose power:
– Extreme weather
The most common cause of power outages in the UK is extreme weather such as strong winds, flooding and heavy snow. At the other end of the scale, extremely hot weather can also cause issues.
Intentional power outages happen when the power is cut off to enable essential maintenance work to take place. This is often implemented at times of low usage so as to cause as little disruption as possible.
– Damage to the network infrastructure
Failure of equipment on the infrastructure of the network or damage to transmission lines or substations can cause a power outage. However, these can usually be dealt with quickly and so generally have a short-lived impact.
– Power station faults
Are there different types of power outage?
Yes, power cuts include blackouts, brownouts, transient faults and rolling blackouts.
This is when all power is lost. A blackout can affect a single building right up to large areas where many people live and work. They can often last for several days because of the difficult and time-consuming nature of fixing them.
This is a loss of power that is less extreme than a blackout but it can nevertheless be extremely disruptive. A brownout occurs when there is a drop in the voltage of the power supply. The most obvious impact is on electrical appliances that are unable to work properly without high voltage.
– Transient fault
This is when power is lost suddenly because of a fault in the power lines, usually because of a problem with a mechanism rather than a power grid. It is therefore more localised and easier to repair, meaning that it rarely impacts a large area.
– Rolling blackout
This is the only type of power outage that is planned and it usually takes place to allow a fault with the grid or electrical infrastructure to be rectified.
What to do during a power cut
Power outages can be extremely inconvenient, disruptive and can sometimes cause worry or panic. But it’s important to remain calm and follow these steps, whether at work or home:
– Switch off computers, alarm systems and electrical appliances to protect them from power surges. If left turned on, they could be damaged or lose data unless fitted with a surge protector that absorbs the excess voltage when power is restored.
– Check how isolated the power outage is. Find out if other buildings or properties are affected to establish if it’s an isolated outage or a more widespread one. If it’s localised to you, it could be caused by a fault with the wiring or appliances, in which case an electrician can help.
– Leave a light on so it will alert you when the power is back on.
– If you rely on electricity for your heating, wrap up warm and try to keep as much warmth in the building by shutting all doors, including internal doors
– Report the power outage to your network operator by calling 105 for free and to get updates on the situation.
– If your business phone is not working, put out a message on email or social media to let your customers know how they can contact you.
Being prepared for a power cut at work
The huge effect that a power outage can have on businesses means that it is vital to be prepared.
Many organisations have a standby generator to provide back-up power in case of a power cut. They also have processes in place to ensure meaningful activity can continue safely and that staff are aware of what to do, including the option of working from home.
Also worth noting is that, depending on the duration of the power cut and the reason it occurred (eg, whether it was planned or not), homeowners and businesses may be able to get compensation. However, power network operators are not liable for loss of profits or damage to a business. Find out more here.