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Electric Safety in the Office: Preventing Damage from Outages and Power Surges

What happens when the power goes out in your office or, worse, if a power surge occurs in your office circuits? Most offices are far less prepared for the risks of failed electrical safety than they realize. This is because we tend to assume our office and home electrical systems are absolutely safe. After all, they must be to pass code during the building and maintenance process, right?

It’s true that modern architecture is very resistant to electrical fires. A master electrician is required to check and sign off on all building wiring done in both commercial and residential construction, renovations, and wiring changes. However, even when every wire is connected correctly and the right safety outlets are used, there is still some risk of electrical fluctuation in the office.

 

The Risk of Power Fluctuations in the Office

Your light fixtures will likely be fine if the power goes out and returns, or even if there is a power surge. But what about your computers and more delicate electrical devices? What about your office servers? And what about business continuity when the power is unreliable but your presence online is not an option?

Let’s address those questions one by one. During an electrical outage, your computers shut down. The servers drop, the PCs stop what they’re doing and turn off. All but the laptops power down without saving or backing up their files, and any peripherals like monitors also stop working. This can cause massive interruptions and data loss, even if your business has cloud backups. What isn’t backed up on the cloud may just have been completely lost, hopefully able to be restarted when the power returns. While we are all prepare to deal with the occasional city-wide outage, even power blips and rolling brown-outs can cause this kind of chaos.

When there is a power surge, even more can go wrong. Too much electricity coming down the line is extremely dangerous for computers and related equipment. There is nothing more frustrating than the popping sound and the smell of singed circuit board on an expensive piece of equipment, much less a valuable device or workstation in use every day.

The solution is two-prong, if you’ll pardon the power supply pun. The first answer is surge-protecting power strips. The second is UPS, not the post office but an Uninterruptible Power Supply.

 

Surge Protector Power Strips or Built-In

A surge protector is designed based on fuse and breaker technology. You are familiar with fuses like the ones in your building or home fuse box – also known as breakers and the breaker box. The difference is that old-school fuses are designed to burn out, while a surge protector is designed to last – and therefore to redirect power instead of burning out.

How it works is a combination of electricity detection and circuit redirection. When a traditional fuse is overloaded with a sudden surge of electricity, the wires in the middle burn out. This means the fuse must be replaced, but the house was protected from catching fire and some devices may have been saved. Breakers can be reset and don’t burn out as often. With a breaker, the switch is ‘thrown’ and the electrical connection is disconnected to prevent a surge from traveling past that breaker point.

A surge protector is more like a breaker. When it detects that too much electricity is about to go forth into your devices, it redirects instead. The extra charge is grounded and discharged before your devices can be fried. Then, when the surge is gone, power is restored and is supplied as usual. No need to flip the breaker – or buy a new router.

The most common type of surge protector is a power strip, a little heavier than usual and with an extra light or two on the case. These wide power strips are popular for offices, especially home offices. However, you can also have surge protector outlets built into your office walls for that added level of protection and convenience.

 

UPS Creating Business Continuity During Outages

A UPS is an Uninterruptible Power Supply. What this means is that it continues providing power to the devices plugged in even when the building power goes out. It does this the same way a laptop accomplishes the same feat: with a built-in battery. Most UPS units are extremely heavy for their size because they include a hefty lead-acid or lithium battery inside. In addition, a UPS usually sports about a dozen power outlets so that devices can be plugged into it and protected from power outages.

Most of the time, your UPS acts as an extra-large power strip. But it’s also charging up. When the power goes out, your UPS will start to provide battery power to all the devices that are connected to its ports. Your servers, your routers, even your workstations can be supported for a short period of time while the building power is out (or a real breaker is blown).

A UPS lasting power during an outage depends on the size of the battery and how many things are plugged into it. Many begin beeping loudly to let you know that you’re on limited battery power. Some have a digital readout to tell you how much time/power remains before the backup battery is drained.

This gives you time for two things. The first is uninterrupted business. If the power outage is brief (if brief outages are common in your area) or if there is a quickly fixed problem with the building power, then no one has to stop working. The UPS ensures customers can access your resources and the team stays online during brief failures of power.

The second thing a UPS provides is time to shut down. If you don’t know how long the power will be out, a UPS gives you time to save your progress, sign off with clients, and properly shut down your systems before the emergency power runs out. This can prevent thousands of dollars in damage and potential weeks of damage control efforts simply by having a few extra minutes to wrap things up.

 

Protecting Your Business from Power Surges and Outages

Blackouts putting your business continuity at risk? Have power surges fried one or more of your pieces of equipment? Whether you are addressing a current problem or making sure that these issues can never cause disaster in your company in the future, the solution is surge-protectors and UPS units installed at strategic points in your office. Contact us today to explore your options.