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The Hidden Costs of a Power Outage

Despite planning and preparation, things can go wrong. A power outage is a prime example. Although, most users have dealt with some sort of power loss, these outages are extremely stressful for plant managers.

The Vicksburg Post, located in Vicksburg, Mississippi,�published an article warning it’s citizens about the city-wide boil water notice�in November 2015.

A blown fuse at a water well and a faulty generator were the apparent causes of a power outage that shut down the Vicksburg Water Treatment Plant on Haining Road for about three hours this morning, forcing city officials to issue a citywide boil water notice for the water system�s estimated 10,000 customers.

On the surface, the primary damage caused by a power outage is apparent. If commercial power fails at your remote site and you lack a reliable back-up plan, the site will eventually go dark. This translates into network downtime, lost revenue, and frustrated customers. It can be a real nightmare for everyone involved.

But the long-term damage is often understated. A complete power loss at a remote site can affect your equipment and operations � long after power is restored. Here are five reasons why you should consider investing in a reliable monitoring and power backup plan.

Thermal shutdown from failed air conditioning

Don�t forget about the need for air conditioning in the event of a power outage. Just because you may have a DC battery power plant for revenue-generating equipment, you still need an alternate AC power for air conditioning. Thermal shutdown from failed air conditioning is ultimately a greater expense than a site that simply fails from a power outage. When thermal shutdown occurs, equipment cannot be restarted until the temperature normalizes� which happens long after the power outage is over. Think increased recovery time and lost time�a bad combination.

Battery damage

Most backup batteries are not designed to be completely drained. In fact, this can cause permanent damage. Heat will dramatically shorten the useful life of batteries. Check here for more information about how heat affects battery life.

Increased personnel costs

Time is money. Anytime you send a tech to a remote site to check on an issue, you are losing money. For this reason, it is critical that your power-loss recovery plan include an adequate source of backup power, and a way of switching to automatic backup power. Because of this, it is imperative to monitor the status of your backup power supply. That calls for regular testing of battery levels to ensure they are adequate and constant monitoring of backup generators to ensure they are functional.

It�s pretty simple: If the battery is not monitored, you won�t know it until you really need it. Another way to cut down on uncertainty is to regularly exercise your backup generators. Here are some tips for testing out your backup generators.

Loss of remote visibility

If your remote monitoring equipment is offline during a power outage, you will not be able to check the status of backup power supply or receive important alarms. You lose the ability to control equipment remotely, among other things. Put simply, you lose control of your operations.

Financial impact

The financial effect of a power outage includes everything from lost revenue to the costs of restoring service. Unless you have an adequate backup plan in place, power outages mean increased costs and lost revenue. Why not take a proactive approach today to save yourself from future anguish? It pays to be prepared.

These scenarios can be anxiety inducing, but it doesn�t have to be this way. There is a viable solution. The answer is SCADA. SCADA (Supervisory control and data acquisition) is an industrial automation control system at the core of many modern industries, like water and wastewater.

A well- planned and implemented SCADA system not only helps utilities deliver power reliably and safely to their customers, but also helps to lower costs and achieve higher customer satisfaction and retention. With real-time HMI/SCADA solutions, operators are instantly notified in the event of an adverse situation. In turn, they can respond to accurate information as conditions and alarms occur. They receive advanced reporting on operations, maintenance, and analysis efforts. All aspects of operations can be retrieved from anywhere, anytime, and on any device. This feature allows access to the necessary data so that important operational decisions can be made quickly in the event of an unforeseen problem.

There are many ways in which automation solutions like SCADA can improve upon the processes you already have in place. Take the following factors into account when making your decisions:

  • Technology Fit: Understand what technology will best serve your unique situation, while adhering to safety and compliance concerns.
  • Protection: Understand how security practices are impacted in the event of faults and restoration.
  • Operations: You need to determine how operational procedures apply automation and how automation will impact those procedures.
  • Communications: Consider how communication impacts the performance of your automation program and if it will deliver when it�s most needed.
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