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Investments in power reliability compete for budget dollars that, in today's economic environment, are almost always scarce. To make the case for investment, facility managers should show top management a range of options.
"By hearing out IT personnel who have initiated a request for higher power reliability, the facilities management team can consider a number of workable solutions that are compatible with conditions at a given location and present those options to management for consideration," says Feldhaus.
Whatever the risk, some items need to continue operating, according to experts:
1. At the minimum, consider life-safety of building occupants by ensuring that lighting is reliable, even if it doesn't run all lamps in the system.
2. Make sure computing, business transaction and automated processes aren't abruptly stopped. Gone are the days when reliability consisted of a small battery system that allowed computer systems to power down safely.
3. If applicable to your organization's mission, maintain temperatures for foods, medicines and other perishables.
4. Consider also the effect across your organization. If your facility provides computing capacity to remote locations and your facility loses power, the remote locations won't have the tools they need to service customers — even if they still have power.
Because C-suite executives are used to thinking about and considering numbers, quantify the costs of life-safety liabilities, damaged equipment and loss of profits related to outages. It can be hard to quantify, but even educated estimates should cause management to take note of the potential losses. The larger the financial exposure, the harder facility managers should press for power reliability.
Patel says that in the early to mid-2000s, studies were done in the aftermath of hurricanes and massive, prolonged outages. At that time, he says, 60 to 75 percent of small- to medium-sized businesses did not have appropriate power reliability.
"Power reliability is no longer the niche product it was 20 years ago," he says. "Since those studies were done, things have improved but I'd estimate that perhaps 35 percent small- to medium-sized businesses still are not capable of dealing with prolonged outages."
Whether new construction or a retrofit, the bottom line, of course, is that power reliability is about the bottom line.
Loren Snyder, a contributing editor for Building Operating Management, is a writer who specializes in facility issues. He was formerly managing editor of Building Operating Management.
Certification Provides Proof of Technicians' Skills
While there's no such thing as a guarantee that the power will never go out, a good technician can help make that possibility remote — or get it up and running again quickly, if necessary.
To help make sure good technicians are available, the Electrical Generating Systems Association (EGSA) oversees the Electrical Generator Systems Technician Certification Program. EGSA is an association of more than 750 companies worldwide that make, sell, distribute and use on-site power generation equipment such as generators or switchgear.
The program requires candidates to undergo testing of their knowledge of installation, service, maintenance and repair of on-site power generation systems. Candidates have to have at least three years' experience as a technician and pass (75 percent correct) a 200-question, multiple-choice exam that covers topics ranging from basic electricity to multiple generator switchgear and controls. Passing the test allows technicians to wear an EGSA Certified Electrical Generator Systems Technician insignia and allows service companies to use EGSA certification in advertising.
The certification is not a one-time thing; recertification is required every five years. While the certification and recertification tests are the same, they are updated as warranted due to changes in technology and practices.
The program is overseen by a certification committee, which is a subcommittee of the EGSA board of directors. Ferris State University administers the program and testing.
For more information, visit egsa.org/EducationbrCertification/TechnicianCertification.aspx
— Casey Laughman, managing editor
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How Unreliable Power Can Affect the Bottom Line
Show Top Management Options to Win Funding for Power Reliability