Lights Out: Lessons Learned from the Great Northeast Blackout

Basic steps needed to help prevent power outages

Just as the most sophisticated weapon requires ammunition, the most secure electronic alarm system is entirely reliant on its power supply. Even the best generators are useless without fuel. Establishing a reliable and secure fuel supply for your generators is essential. When fuel supplies are disrupted or interrupted — something that is especially common in the most serious emergencies and natural disasters — firms that have not made an investment in an emergency fuel program will almost certainly find themselves in a difficult position. The best emergency fuel-services providers have extensive infrastructure and resources at their disposal that make it possible for them to issue an ironclad guarantee that fuel service will be maintained in even the most challenging circumstances.


Sweating the details

The technical architecture supporting your generator array is oftentimes as important as the generators themselves. Some generators require time to power up, and ensuring a steady supply of power requires the implementation of an uninterrupted power supply (UPS). While the cost and specific functionality of various categories of UPS can vary, all perform the same basic function: providing the immediate emergency power source to bridge the gap between an outage and generator startup. Consult a specialist to ensure that the functionality and technical specifications of your UPS meet your specific power/generator requirements.


Making the call(s)

A crisis communication plan is a critically important (and frequently overlooked) part of every effective emergency-response plan. Too many otherwise thoughtful emergency plans that looked great on paper have proven to be ineffective when it counts simply because of the inability to relay important information in a timely manner to the right parties. Once the immediate power and security needs are addressed in the wake of an outage, establishing those lines of communication and communicating important messages and updates to employees, clients and professional partners should be a top priority. In many cases, it is impractical or impossible to fully secure the infrastructure, information and operations without those communications. The mechanisms used to facilitate those communications vary, but the most popular and effective include emergency-notification services (blasting group messages to phone or email lists) and social media channels. In fact, even the simple step of ensuring that employees are familiar with the firm’s Twitter feed and Facebook page can go a long way toward addressing the most pressing emergency-communication concerns.


Train and maintain

It may seem counterintuitive, but once an effective and comprehensive emergency-response plan is in place, that is when the hard work actually begins. Training your team and affirming and reaffirming the efficiency of employee response and the effectiveness of each aspect of the plan should be priorities that do not diminish over time. Regular, rigorous and repetitive drills and training protocols can help ensure that your emergency procedures and technical infrastructure are working as intended. Organizations and technologies change over time, and your security profile evolves accordingly.

If your plan is not updated and maintained, its efficacy will erode over time. Outside consultants and technical and security specialists can help outline the essential elements of an effective plan, but it is up to in-house security and IT professionals to integrate these best practices and adapt them to meet the unique operational, technical and security requirements of their own firm. Those who can do so successfully will find that they are prepared for and protected against the worst impacts from even the most severe power outages.


Bob Kenyon is executive vice president of Sales and Business Development for Atlas Oil Company and is responsible for overseeing the company’s sales and marketing efforts.In addition, Kenyon is responsible for business development for existing channels of trade, M&A opportunities and new product and service offerings. Kenyon joined Atlas Oil Company in 1997 and has held a variety of positions including Commercial Sales Manager, General Manager of Atlas Indiana, VP of Strategic Initiatives, VP of Sales and Operations and VP of Sales and Marketing. Kenyon’s petroleum career spans more than 18 years in the industry. He previously worked at Clark Refining as a Market Support Team Leader and Emro Marketing Company where he was District Manager.