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Get Your Emergency Power Supply Ready Now … Before 6 Months of Hurricane Season

Hurricane season can mean electricity blackout across entire cities, like when large and small businesses in Manhattan had not prepared with emergency power supply

Getting your emergency power supply ready now and having a backup power generator can keep your doors open and your customers happy during a hurricane season power outage. Summer brings the start of a six-monthlong U.S. hurricane season, and small businesses that are lucky enough to avoid major storm damage often must close shop for another reason: power outages. (Remember when Hurricane Sandy caused a blackout across Manhattan?)

“Whether you’re in a residential home or running a business with refrigeration or other critical energy needs, backup energy can be comforting, property protecting and lifesaving,” the NRG Energy Inc. website states. The Houston-based energy company serves 7.5 million customers in 24 states, many of which are in hurricane zones.

Who Needs Emergency Power Solutions?

Hurricanes hit the U.S. each year (see NOAA hurricane map) between May and November. Businesses in hurricane zones can limit their losses, however, by preparing before the next hurricane.

This map from NASA shows the extent of power outages across Florida two days after Hurricane Ian slammed into the state on Sept. 28 and 29, 2022. This strength of hurricane, a category 4 hurricane with sustained 150 mph winds, causes electric power outages that can last weeks to months, according to the Associated Press.

But businesses don’t have to stay in the dark. Smart business owners can prepare now with emergency power systems, emergency power backup or both.

NASA image of Florida emergency power outages day after Hurricane Ian shows where small businesses could have benefited from emergency power
Power Outages in Florida after Hurricane Ian – 2022

What’s the Difference: Emergency Power vs. Standby Power?

Many people use the terms “emergency power system” and “standby power” interchangeably, but the terms are different. It’s important to know the differences because the terms have different legal requirements and uses.

Emergency Power System

Emergency power systems turn on automatically within 10 seconds when the flow of power is interrupted. The National Fire Protection Assocation (NFPA) requires emergency power systems to power safety equipment including smoke detectors, elevators, exhaust fans for toxic fumes, lifesaving medical equipment and emergency communications such as exit lights.

An emergency generator ready for hurricane season provides emergency power for small businessesEmergency power systems also must have power supplied separately from the main power supply. This requires emergency power generation, or generators. And these generators must have their own, dedicated fuel sources — usually gasoline, propane or diesel. For this reason, emergency power systems have a higher upfront cost than standby power systems. The upside is emergency power backup that’s ready to go whenever it’s needed.

The amount of fuel required to power a commercial emergency generator for days is more than you can transport from your neighborhood gas station. (And without electricity, gas station fuel dispensers don’t work anyway.) Liquid fuel for commercial generators should be stored on-site in bulk fuel storage tanks with enough capacity to supply demand and outlast fuel supply chain disruptions common after hurricanes. NRG recommends businesses with emergency power systems keep enough fuel stored on-site to run their generators for at least one week.

Standby Power

Standby power is a type of backup power, too, but it’s different than emergency power systems. Standby power doesn’t automatically come on when the flow of power is interrupted; it requires manual activation and can take a minute to kick on. What’s more, standby power doesn’t require a separate power supply from the main power supply, although it can have a separate power supply.

Some standby power is legally required; some is optional.

Standby power for heating, refrigeration and sewage pumps, for example, is required because those systems when not operational could create further hazards or hinder human rescue operations.

Standby power for other equipment, to prevent data loss or for comfort is optional and may or may not be tied in with legally required standby power sources.

Emergency Power Safety Checklist

The following tips from Texas-New Mexico Power, an electricity transmission and distribution provider with residential and business customers in 20 Texas communities, can keep employees and customers safe around generators.

  • Read the generator manufacturer’s instructions to avoid dangerous missteps.
  • Set up the generator outside at least 20 feet from open windows. Generator exhaust is deadly.
  • Use a heavy-duty extension cord rated for outdoor use. (If the generator has a three-prong plug, use a three-prong extension cord.)
  • Use a battery-operated carbon monoxide alarm.
  • Connect appliances directly to the generator.
  • Do not wire the generator directly to your breaker or fuse box. (The power you generate can flow back into power lines and injure or kill a neighbor or utility crew trying to restore power.)
  • Turn off connected appliances before starting the generator.
  • Turn connected appliances on one at a time.
  • If you are wet, standing in water or on damp ground, don’t touch a generator.
  • Never refuel a hot or running generator.
  • Ensure you have enough gas for operation stored safely in gas containers.
  • Don’t leave a running generator unattended.
  • Turn off the generator overnight and when away.

Emergency Power Resources

For more information about emergency power, emergency power backup and related topics, visit these resources.

  • Input your zip code to see which gas stations have fuel and power, no power, limited fuel options, and no fuel and power.
  • Waze App: Get real-time traffic, road information and gas prices shared by other drivers.
  • PEI/RP1400: Design and Installation of Fueling Systems for Emergency Generators, Stationary Diesel Engines and Oil Burner Systems
  • OSHA: Using Portable Generators Safely
  • Hurricane Preparedness for Businesses: Be prepared.
  • Double walled fuel tanks for emergency generators.

Need Help? Ask the Experts.

For help in choosing the right fuel storage tank for disaster relief, emergency power systems or everyday operations, it makes sense to ask the experts.

Unity Fuel Solutions is North America’s leader in double walled storage tanks. For advice on the tank and system that’s right for you, call the Unity team at 800-234-1689.

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