The lights go out for a surprising average of 15 million power customers each year, and the outages don’t discriminate; in addition to homes, hospitals, medical buildings, schools, and other commercial buildings are often affected. As a Facilities Manager, it’s usually you and your team’s responsibility to ensure that all building occupants and equipment remain safe during a power outage; regardless of whether it’s planned or unplanned. Emergency lighting and safety procedures are a critical aspect of maintaining safety during a power outage, especially when the outage affects the entire facility. Backup exit and emergency lighting is designed to function automatically when power is lost, and it’s vital to maintain and repair these safety tools before a power outage occurs.
Now that summer is just around the corner, here are a few things all Facility Managers can do to prepare for a planned or unplanned power outage.
1. Inspect emergency equipment thoroughly.
Have your team inspect all of emergency equipment and check for loose or exposed wiring to make sure it’s secure. Ensure that electrical units are mounted to the wall or ceiling securely, and keep an eye out for parts that look like they may be in the process of deteriorating. Additionally, the uninterruptible power supply (UPS) or generator should be scanned with an Infrared Scanner prior to any shutdown in order to provide important feedback of the UPS’ operation and functionality (or if it needs any repairs).
2. Inspect all exit and emergency lighting.
For most commercial buildings, emergency and exit lighting must undergo a functional test at least every month. These tests are designed to check for physical damage to the exterior of the lights and to help verify that the lights are functional at the time of the test.
Certain buildings or organizations may also be required to ensure that lights function using only battery power for an extended period of time. It’s a good idea to repair or replace units that don’t function correctly right away.
3. Inspect and repair backup generator(s).
Most commercial buildings have an emergency backup generator onsite. Though these rarely require a lot of maintenance, performing timely oil and filter changes in addition to repairs when needed can increase the generator’s lifespan and improve its functionality. Because the generator is such a vital part of emergency operations (and is oftentimes the sole provider of electrical power to critical areas during a power outage), maintaining it properly and keeping it functional is extremely important.
4. Create a contingency plan with emergency procedures.
A solid emergency plan with specifically laid out safety procedures can go a long way during an unplanned crisis. An emergency plan should cover four key issues:
- Identify the critical systems that must be kept running.
- List of everyone who regularly occupies the building.
- List of critical equipment and other property that must be checked on in case of a power outage.
- Checklist for every action the facilities management team needs to take during the power outage or other crisis.
In the event of an unplanned outage or emergency, it can be difficult to think clearly and remember everything that must be taken care of. That’s why lists like the one above are so essential for Facility Managers to have on hand; creating a solid plan and safety checklist before a power outage can ensure the occupants of the building remain safe and the facility’s equipment isn’t damaged.
5. Maintain records of inspection.
Written records of inspection tests should always be kept for later review, either by the Facilities Manager or the property owner. Keep a record of any equipment or parts that were replaced or repaired, and document any equipment or lights that were not able to be tested. These should be listed by location, along with the reason that particular test couldn’t be completed. A good way to document maintenance and repairs is through a cloud-based software like SmartCSM, rather than on paper; this prevents any data loss and ensures you have all of the information in one place.
Power outages occur more often in the U.S. than any other developed nation in the world, and with the number of annual storms on the rise, having properly maintained emergency equipment and lighting is critical to ensuring the safety of your building occupants.