Keep the Lights On: How to Institute an Emergency Power Generation Plan for Your Facility in Twelve Steps

by Eric Plebuch

Do not wait until disaster strikes to look for emergency power. Build a contingency plan around a thorough survey of your site. Then test it to make sure it works as designed. It is your best assurance of business continuity in a crisis.

1. Choose a Connection:

There are several ways to connect a back-up generator to your facility’s power supply, and the connection you choose should be appropriate to your organization’s needs.

2. Choose a Location:

After choosing the means by which you will connect your generator, you should determine its optimal placement at your facility.

3. Plan for Exhaust and Emissions:

All diesel engines produce exhaust, but by planning ahead you can keep it out of your building. Do not park your generator near your building’s air intakes or under covered areas or overhangs where fumes can collect.

4. Determine Your Noise Abatement Needs:

Generator noise can be a nuisance. Do you plan to operate your generator in a noise-sensitive environment? While most quality rental generators are enclosed in sound-attenuated housings, noise can still be an issue—check your city or county ordinances, as noise regulations vary from place to place. You may face restrictions on running your generator at night.

5. Plan to Provide Service Access:

Service access is an additional point to consider in situating your generator: all generators need periodic maintenance and regular fueling.

6. Prepare to Refuel:

You should plan your generator’s fuel needs in advance—people often overlook this aspect of emergency response planning.

7. Provide Airflow:

Mobile diesel generator sets need a steady supply of “breathing” air for combustion, and they are also typically air-cooled.

8. Determine Your Voltage Needs:

Do you need to power equipment that operates at different voltages? For example, does your facility need 120/208V “house power” in addition to 480V power for process equipment or air conditioning? Without the necessary transformers, a single generator set can cover only one voltage.

9. Secure Your Site:

Like all high-voltage electrical equipment, your emergency generator poses risks of injury and liability, and you should allow only qualified personnel access to it.

10. Obtain the Necessary Operating Permits:

Many jurisdictions require an operating permit to use a temporary generator. You may not need it for emergency power, but if there are permit rules and restrictions, you should secure them in advance.

11. Identify Your Key Contacts:

With your generator in place, you’ll need to prepare a list of key contacts to reach in an emergency: these are the personnel who will be responsible for carrying out your plan.

12. Test Drive Your Plan:

Many organizations work hard to create a contingency plan, but never test it—when their power fails, it’s as if they never made a plan at all.