No business is immune from natural disaster. Whether it is the result of a hurricane, flood, fire, tornado, ice storm, blizzard, or earthquake, the interruption of operations at a plant can be devastating to a business’s profitability and viability. How prepared is your company to respond in the event of a disaster? Chances are, it has been awhile since you've considered this, so now is an excellent time to review and update your company’s disaster recovery plan—or put one in place, if necessary. This is absolutely essential to ensure a facility can get back online and in full production as quickly as possible after a disaster event is over.

According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOOA), natural disasters (hurricanes, tornados, flooding and severe weather) caused $46.8 billion in damage, 633 deaths and 3,533 injuries in 2011. SERVPRO, a firm that specializes in fire and water cleanup and restoration services, says the latest research indicates that 50 percent of all businesses close down after a natural disaster. Furthermore, the Insurance Information Institute estimates that up to 40 percent of businesses affected by a natural or human-caused disaster never reopen.

And those that do remain operational or are up and running soon after a catastrophic event can do so because they were ready beforehand. As part of that preparation, single-line drawings must be up-to-date, PLC and DCS programs must be backed up with the most recent iterations, and spare parts – particularly those which are long delivery or specialty components – must be available at a remote location for delivery to the plant site quickly. Having a contract in place with a company that specializes in electrical system maintenance and optimization can prove beneficial not only during this preparation phase, but also in post-disaster recovery. They will be familiar with the architecture of the plant, and be available to commit the resources necessary to get the facility back online while other sites are scrambling to find contractors.

When natural disaster does strike, the first step to getting up and running afterward is a damage assessment, followed by the identification of manpower and materials necessary to make temporary and permanent repairs. Substations may be damaged or flooded, switchgear, transformers, power distribution components, generators, and motors may be contaminated or corroded, and control systems may be wiped out. All of this equipment will either need to be repaired or replaced, and it is necessary to have a plan in place to establish priorities. Temporary power will also need to be established to allow other parts of the facility to begin recovery efforts as well.

Once temporary power and service is available, the meticulous process of disassembling, cleaning, decontaminating, and reinstalling or replacing components begins. Temporary housing will need to be available for contractors, and temporary fabrication facilities will need to be set up onsite, since hotel rooms will be in short supply and local repair shops will be going through the same recovery process. If the plant has access to a network of available replacement parts or can have them made onsite, the repairs and re-establishment of operations will go much more quickly.

Partnering with a company that has access to these key components of the electrical power recovery process – portable temporary power, mobile fabrication/repair facilities, and manpower – will afford a business the best possible opportunity to get back up and on-line quickly after a natural disaster. By establishing an agreement with such a company in advance who can come in and assess and document a plant’s power systems, the facility ensures that it has access to a knowledgeable, dedicated contractor when the need for normalization arises. National Field Services is such a company, and is ready to help businesses prepare for, and recover from, natural disasters of any type.

Contact NAT’L for a system assessment and solutions to ensure disaster response and recovery are in place.

Related Links
Arc Flash Mitigation, Part 4 – PPE & Personnel Safety
OSHA Challenge


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Additional Resources

Access the following free information for assistance in your company's disaster preparedness efforts:

www.ready.gov/business/: Federal government website, sponsored by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.

www.bt.cdc.gov:  CDC’s website section on Emergency Preparedness & Response for weather-related preparedness.