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Protecting Your Facility from Power Surges

It’s no secret that most organizations rely on computers and electronic equipment to do business. This means they need to be aware of the major damage electricity can cause—in the form of stray voltage, a power surge or a lightning strike.

These surges aren’t small matters. It’s estimated that power surges cost $26 billion a year in lost time, equipment repair and replacement costs. Additionally, the Graziadio Business Review estimates that 40 percent of accidental data loss is due to hard drive failure and surges and another 3 percent of data loss is linked to hard drive destruction from lightning, fires and floods.

To bring the figures closer to home, EMC Policyholder Services Manager Sandy Smith says an average business experiences more than 25 small surges every day, and most equipment users don’t even realize these surges occur.

“Each one of those mini surges causes a little bit of deterioration to your equipment and your surge protectors, which is concerning because you don’t even know it’s happening.”

What to Do

Many people don’t realize that surges can affect more than just computer equipment. It’s important to understand which pieces of equipment in your business can be affected. In addition to computer equipment, Sandy notes that phones, motors in manufacturing equipment and heating and cooling equipment, and most items connected to an electrical outlet, require protection.

She recommends following the suggestions outlined in the EMC Electrical Surge Protection Tech Sheet. Steps include proper grounding and installing surge protection devices (SPDs) in zones. Zone one, the front-line zone, diverts large surges to ground. Zone two protects branch circuits, distribution panels and lighting systems. Zone three protection includes SPDs on individual components such as communication and data lines, as well as computers.

Purchase SPDs that are 1449 UL rated and approved to be sure they will handle the level or zone of power surges you need. “There are counterfeit items out there, so be sure you know what you are getting and that it truly is rated to handle your job,” Sandy says. “Buy the right tools for the job, as you do for equipment purchases. This ‘invisible’ protection is just as important to your business as the more visible equipment your employees require to perform their jobs.”

Have an electrician periodically test your SPDs to make sure they are in good working order. “You’ll need to replace these items every few years because those daily surges take a toll on their usability. If you don’t maintain your protectors, your first notice may be an electrical fire or a total loss of your computer or phone systems,” she says.

Research best protection practices and if necessary, hire a professional to help you figure out your protection needs. “After all, an electrical surge that takes out your computer system and phone system can wipe out your business,” she says.

Be sure your insurance policy will cover any losses. Contact your EMC agent if you have questions or need to increase your company’s coverage.

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