5 tips for ensuring storm preparedness, minimizing disruption to operations

Posted on 11 July 2013

By Scott Spidle, Worldwide Power Products

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If you do not have a standby generator, there is time to get one, and you may not need to purchase it. Some generator-supply firms both sell and rent standby generators.

With the 2013 Atlantic hurricane season expected to be more active than normal – and both the Atlantic and Pacific basins off to a blustery start – drilling companies potentially in the line of fire that haven’t prepared for tropical cyclone season should do so quickly. Offshore drilling rigs usually shut down in advance of a hurricane or other extreme weather event, but onshore drilling rigs – and the land-based operations of offshore drillers – need to be prepared, as well. The same advice holds true for companies that could potentially be impacted by a typhoon in the Pacific Ocean. Although the season runs through 2013, most tropical cyclones form between May and November, leaving a wide swath of the Pacific basin at risk.

Even operations far from landfalling systems can no longer consider themselves immune from the threat of heavy wind and rain and related power outages. The US is a prime example.

During the past few seasons, US cities more than 1,000 miles away from the nearest coast have experienced the furor of tropical events. Superstorm Sandy in 2012 affected 24 US states, and its impacts were felt as far away as Michigan and Wisconsin. Hurricane Ike in 2008 caused widespread damage across 11 states, including Illinois, Indiana and Michigan, as well as parts of Ontario in Canada.

These abnormally far-reaching storms should have drilling contractors anywhere near high-risk areas considering whether they are adequately prepared for the 2013 season. Here are five tips for companies to protect themselves against business damage and disruption in the event of a tropical weather event.

1. Revisit your disaster recovery program

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Worldwide Power Products provides a calculator on its website to help determine the size of the generator needed.

Many companies don’t have a formal disaster recovery plan, and those that do, do not always keep it updated. If you have a plan with related documentation and equipment, have you updated it in the past six months? If not, this is a time to perform those updates. Questions to ask include:

• Have designated key personnel left the company or transitioned to a position where they would be unable to perform assigned, planned execution and procedural tasks?

• Are second-line responders still with the company? If not, identify new candidates and acquaint them with tasks to perform in the event of a disruption or disaster.

• Has your company grown in size, and if so, does your plan adequately address new personnel, facilities, equipment and other elements of the business that have grown, as well?

• Is maintenance up-to-date on standby power supplies, and have they been tested recently?

• Have technology configurations changed in such a way that it will take longer to power down or complete backups for your IT systems?

• Are all personnel familiar with emergency procedures if a disaster strikes?

• Are all new key personnel adequately trained for their roles in executing the disaster recovery plan?

If you don’t have a disaster recovery/business continuity plan, or if it is out of date and you are concerned about its viability, there are resources that streamline the development of a functional program. For example, the US Federal Emergency Management Agency offers a website at www.ready.gov, which provides templates, tools and videos for disaster recovery and business continuity planning. It targets US businesses but is available and largely applicable to anyone, worldwide.

2. Plan for power continuity

Companies with fully developed disaster recovery plans should have already planned for power continuity based on several scenarios (i.e., overnight outage, weeklong outage, long-term disruption). Such determinations need to be made in advance. At a minimum, a few hours of power after an outage are necessary to evacuate the building safely, ensure data backups are completed, power down IT infrastructure and sensitive machinery, and take other protective measures. If you plan to stay in operation at a minimal level, anticipate needing power for much longer.

Don’t assume that when a hurricane or typhoon hits, you will have time to perform basic shutdown tasks before a power outage occurs. Tropical cyclones are unpredictable and can gain intensity in a few hours. Over land, they spawn deadly tornadoes whose timing cannot be predicted.

3. Put a power plan into action

If you do not have a standby generator, there is time to get one, and you may not need to purchase it. Some generator-supply firms both sell and rent standby generators. Worldwide Power Products provides a calculator on its website at www.wpowerproducts.com to help determine the size of the generator needed.

If you have no use for a standby generator, other than for tropical cyclone season, a rental may be suitable. Before you sign a contract, however, it pays to ask a few questions:

• Can the generator be stored off-site and guaranteed for delivery in advance of an event, or must the rental unit be delivered to the site right away?

• If it can be delivered only on demand, how long will it take for the unit to arrive?

• How is the pricing structured? Is the price tiered for different usage periods, such as a standard single-shift rate versus double-shift or triple-shift rates, or do you have unlimited usage for a single set rate?

• Can the rental firm handle setup, including making necessary electrical connections, or will your company need to handle setup separately?

• Will the rental company maintain and service the unit for the life of its placement at the site?

If you perceive a possible use for a permanent generator – perhaps as a backup for a primary or continuous unit you already have, or to facilitate expansion plans – then a purchase may make more sense. Surplus new and well-maintained, low-hour used generators eliminate the long lead time associated with a new generator purchase and can result in substantial savings.

4. Maintain what you have

If you already have a standby generator, don’t assume it is being properly maintained. Because standby generators are not used very often, they are frequently overlooked and under-maintained. Compounding the problem, generators that are not used daily can fail more quickly without maintenance than continuous or prime units. Ensure your standby unit will not fail when you need it most. For maintenance:

• Have a knowledgeable staff member or third-party service provider conduct an audit of maintenance records to ensure they are complete. This process includes checking maintenance logs and bringing them up to date, if necessary. Also, check maintenance intervals, which should be based on the calendar, not on hours of use.

• If records indicate maintenance has not been performed on a regular basis, schedule an annual maintenance service, with fluid checks/changes and load, as soon as possible.

• Confirm with technicians that they have the availability to stay updated on maintenance.

5. Confirm your supply chain

As a final component of your preparedness activities, have purchasing and IT departments confirm that key deliverables, such as core inventory and system recovery files won’t be affected by an extreme weather event. In the case of manufacturers, if they are located in a storm-prone area, they should have alternate plans to restock your goods – or you should identify alternate providers.

Where data backups (and any other files you store remotely) are concerned, your data storage provider should maintain redundant, or mirrored, data storage at geographically dispersed data centers located in areas that are not subject to the same disaster. Phoenix and Atlanta, for example, can each be affected by disasters, but it is highly unlikely they could be impacted by the same disaster.

Taking the recommended steps is time consuming, but it will give employees and management peace of mind. Furthermore, should a tropical weather event affect your business, you’ll be ready to ride out the aftermath with as little damage and disruption as possible.

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