Syska Hennessy Group Experts Address How Business Can Survive Power Outages
August 14, 2003

By Staff
Appeared in BusinessWire

LOS ANGELES & NEW YORK--(BUSINESS WIRE)--The massive power outage that crippled the East Coast today should force businesses to reassess their power sources. Thousands of companies and airports across the nation are ill-equipped to deal with major power blackouts, according to Ann Banning-Wright, chief strategy officer of Syska Hennessy Group ( The firm's OnlinEnvironments team creates high-tech "critical" facilities nationwide. Banning-Wright says there are several key issues that all companies must address to insure they will stay connected to customers in the event of a power interruption, and that employees and customers remain safe:

1. Are the back-up generators the right size to run all the essential computer equipment and telephone systems?

Firms that grew rapidly over the past couple of years probably paid little attention to the amount of back-up power they have on-site. Emergency generators should be tested to assess if they can support power loads beyond what's needed in a life-threatening emergency (elevators, fire alarms, emergency lighting and sprinklers). Companies should consider upgrading their facility's electrical distribution infrastructure and also renting temporary generators instead of waiting several months to obtain a permanent machine. Locking into a rental contract can cost several thousands of dollars a month, but a firm without power loses millions more in business revenue. Surprisingly, security systems -- including screening facilities at major airports -- are routinely left out of a backup plan.

2. Has the company performed essential tests on critical infrastructure equipment?

When OnlinEnvironments tested more than 500 generators in preparation for Y2K, one-third of them failed. Companies must perform regular testing of generators and Uninterruptible Power Supply (UPS) systems to insure they will work when called upon.

3. Does the company have contracts in place to have emergency fuel delivered as soon as it's needed?

Suppliers of the diesel fuel that runs about 80 percent of all back-up generators may be hard pressed to meet last-minute demands. Back-up tanks should be installed and filled now and contracts signed to assure emergency deliveries. Firms that use natural gas-powered generators should install propane tanks for back up so they won't be at the mercy of utilities when winter storms or earthquakes affect them. When remaining online is paramount, it's essential for companies that use natural gas-powered generators to have contracts for non-interruptible service. The higher cost of this service must be weighed against the millions of dollars in lost revenue when a business has to shut down.

4. Have executives ensured that sensitive data and customer connections are protected?

Companies are increasingly eyeing remote sites to house operations in case prime facilities are crippled by electrical outages. Preparedness lies not just in securing a remote site, but also in knowing precisely the people, infrastructure and systems necessary to restore critical functions.

5. Have executives identified the components and key software applications that are most essential to running the business?

Every firm should establish a threshold for the hours or days that different operations or applications can be down before essential services must be moved to a new site. Typically, customer call centers need to be back online immediately. In contrast, an internal function such as accounting may be offline longer without a significant impact on operations.

6. Are documented plans and processes in place to transition from the crippled facility to the new site?

If personnel cannot easily transfer to the remote location, skilled labor should be available nearby to get business back on track. Time limits should be set for recreating essential support services. For example, a trader may have phone lines, but he can't operate without access to market data or customer accounts.

7. Are regular drills performed to keep the staff prepared for any disaster?

The current disaster plan should be tested on a regular basis because massive power outages like the one on Aug. 14, 2003 gave no warning to the estimated 12 million people affected in the United States and Canada.

Syska Hennessy Group ( is a national leader in consulting, engineering, technology and construction. The firm's clients include many of the world's leading corporations, fast-growing and high tech companies, healthcare, research and educational institutions, design professionals, real estate owners and developers, as well as government agencies. In 2003, Syska Hennessy Group is celebrating its 75th year of continuous client service, bringing the world's most technically sophisticated and energy-efficient buildings to life.

OnlinEnvironments is the leading critical facilities team in the country, providing turnkey services to deliver total reliability and 24/7 uptime for businesses nationwide.


For more details, the following expert sources can be interviewed at Syska Hennessy Group:

West Coast: Brittany Dianat, 310-312-0200,

East Coast: Cyrus Izzo, 212-921-2300,