Understanding Emergency Power Needs for Your Business

In our last blog post, we talked about the importance of having adequate emergency lighting in case the power goes out at your place of business.

But what about your entire electrical system? Whether it’s a thunderstorm, a downed utility pole, or some other cause, you must be ready to protect the safety of customers and employees in the event of a power outage. It’s also important to keep your most critical equipment functioning.

There are many organizations that publish minimal standards for emergency or standby power for places of business. Different state and local regulations will also determine the level and type of backup power you need.

In addition, requirements will vary based on your specific industry and building type. For example, a hospital and an office building may have the same square footage but different emergency and standby power needs.

The National Electric Code (NFPA 70) describes three levels of emergency or standby power:

  1. Emergency power
  2. Legally required standby power
  3. Optional standby power

#1: Emergency Power Systems

Emergency power is required for systems that are essential for safety to human life and that could affect rescue and/or escape operations.

For health care facilities such as hospitals, NFPA 99 requires emergency power for Life Safety systems, which are needed to protect the safety of patients and hospital personnel. These systems must connect to an alternate power source with an automatic transfer switch that allows for an uninterrupted power supply.

#2: Legally Required Standby Power Systems

Legally required standby power pertains to additional illumination and equipment whose failure could create safety hazards or hamper rescue or firefighting operations.

The NFPA 99 has similar requirements for “Critical” systems related to patient care and other important activities in health care facilities.

#3: Optional Standby Power

Optional standby power may be used for equipment whose failure will not impact life safety.

It is similar to the NFPA category of “Equipment Systems” for health care facilities, which are less critical to patient survival, safety, and care. These may be delayed, automatic, or manually connected to alternate power source.

Components of Backup Power Systems

Here are some of the key components and design considerations to keep in mind with respect to your emergency or standby power needs.

  • Power source. Typically a generator, backup utility, stored/battery power, or other alternative to electricity provided by your main utility service.
  • Transfer switch. This is the device that transfers your electric loads to emergency or standby power sources in the event of a power outage.
  • Wiring and system design. Sometimes emergency loads will need to be kept separate from less critical loads. This includes any systems or equipment that are critical for life, health, and/or safety purposes.
  • Basic arrangement. In many cases, it may be acceptable for the entire electrical system to be connected to the same alternative power source.
  • Complex design. Sometimes emergency and standby loads will need to be on separate sources of power. In hospitals, for example, systems that are vital for patient health and safety might be connected to a power source that is separate from less critical equipment.

What are your organization’s emergency power needs? Do you have adequate backup to ensure the safety and well-being of patrons and employees?

Complete Electrical Solutions can help. Contact us at anytime to assess your current setup and determine if any improvements are needed.

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