Thanks to Hurricane Irene in August and a freak Northeast snowstorm in October, I am now the veteran of surviving two extended power outages. When you have to do without the electrical grid and internet services for days on end, it certainly gives you a new perspective on how really dependent we all are on these services. Actually, dependent is way too mild of a word to describe it.

Think about your life and your business. What can you do without electricity? How dependent are you on the power grid and the internet? What contingency plan do you have in place in the event of an extended outage?

Now many of you are probably thinking that power outages are just minor temporary inconveniences that happen rarely and for only a few hours. Your business is more than likely in a well-developed commercial area with what seems like a solid power grid to support you. But our increasing dependence and growing demands on the power grid are not keeping pace with the abilities of the power companies to provide these services.

I’ve lived in very rural areas, completely urbanized big city settings, and for most of the last two decades in the well-developed and fairly densely populated land of suburban Connecticut. In all of those locations I’ve experienced plenty of power outages. I work in a basement office and always carry a small flashlight just in case. But in all the places I’ve lived or worked over the last 50-plus years I’ve rarely had to deal with outages longer than 12 hours – until this year. In this most recent outage, we lost power for five days and internet for longer. Some people were out for a week or more. In Connecticut alone, about 700,000 utility customers (most of the state) were without power, and for most it took the greater part of a week to get them back on line.

Clearly, modern utility companies and municipalities have not kept up with infrastructure demands. Proactive measures such as tree-trimming and keeping adequate emergency crews available have been curtailed by economic cutbacks. Most of the crews to fix our recent major outages came from out of state and as far away as Georgia.

So, you can’t count on the utilities or your local government. What can you do? Alternative power setups such as generators only go so far and likely are not really viable to run industrial manufacturing equipment for extended periods of time. Now is the time to consider your contingencies. Don’t wait until the lights go out.

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