Is your business prepared for an unplanned power cut?

By Paul Nicholson, Northern Powergrid’s Emergency Planning Manager
Being prepared in business is key – but have you thought about how a power cut might affect your business and what you could do to minimise the impact for you and your customers?
Investment by Northern Powergrid, the company which manages and maintains the electricity network that helps power your business, means that power cuts don’t happen very often. In fact we’re so used to electricity being at our finger tips at the flick of a switch, that being ready for an unplanned power cut may have slipped down the ‘to do’ list when it comes to business resilience planning.
So, here’s some advice to help you be prepared – especially if you’re operating a business that’s totally reliant on having a constant supply of electricity – and ensure you know:
  • how to assess the risks and potential impact of a power cut to your business 
  • what areas to consider when making an emergency plan 
  • what to do if you have a power cut. 
Even with £1 million invested every day in the region’s power network, there are still some circumstances that can affect the 60,000 miles of overhead power lines and underground cables across the region.   
Severe weather events (wind, ice and flooding), metal theft from the power network, emergency maintenance, trees damaging power lines and accidental damage caused by third parties can all result in an unplanned power cut with disruption lasting anything from a few minutes to several hours – or a number of days in extreme situations.  
The unprecedented floods seen in parts of the Calder Valley on Boxing Day 2015 caused significant damage, meaning electricity couldn’t be delivered through the power network for several days. The extent of flood damage also meant that many properties were unable to safely receive electricity for many weeks.

What simple steps can you take to ensure you’re electrically prepared?

Firstly take some time to think about the impact that a short, medium or long-term power cut could have on your business. Next, take the risks you’ve identified and make a plan for how you would respond to minimise the impact. Some areas to consider might include:
  • Uninterruptible power supply devices (UPS) - Consider purchasing a UPS device, which will provide a few minutes of emergency back-up if you have a power cut. These devices can protect your computers and wireless networks, as well as larger devices such as servers and data centres. 
  • Generators - Consider purchasing or renting a back-up generator, which will enable you to continue to carry out your daily business/safeguard refrigerated items without a sustained loss of power if there is a power cut. If you decide to do this, make sure the generator is connected properly by a qualified electrician and regularly tested. Also make sure you notify Northern Powergrid (contact details below). 
  • Computers and tablets - Save your work and back up to an external drive regularly and enable auto-save on your software if it’s available. If your Wi-Fi is without power, you may be able to use the hotspot on your smart phone or purchase an internet dongle from your network provider to continue working. 
  • Sales equipment - Many mains-operated tills, electronic scales and other types of equipment have a memory to store sales and date/time information. Ask your supplier how your retail system may be affected by a power cut. If your electricity goes off unexpectedly, switch off your systems and unplug them straight away.
  • Telephone systems - Many telephones use “line current” and will operate during a power cut. However, if your telephone has a mains plug, check to see if it has back-up batteries to ensure it works without power. Commercial telephone switchboards vary; some will shut down during a power cut, others will automatically divert calls to one or two lines. Check with your telephone system supplier.
  • Security shutters - These might not work during a power cut if they’re mains operated. Check to see if your shutters are fitted with a manual over-ride system or come with a battery back-up. Ask your installer for more details.
  • Goods and passenger lifts - Lifts with electrically operated motors will stop during a power cut. There should be someone on site trained to manually operate this type of lift if the electricity goes off unexpectedly.
  • History of flooding - Notify your electricity distribution network operator if you work in an area prone to flooding and your meter is below potential flood levels. Make sure appliances are placed in elevated locations if possible. You can speak to your local council to get hold of flood defence equipment.  
  • Emergency kit - Prepare a ‘grab bag’ containing emergency contact details, including 105 the free number to call to report a power cut, and useful items such as a spare phone/battery back up, wind up/battery operated torches and/or lamps.
  • Alternative premises – If the worst happened and your business could be without power for sustained period of time, would you have access to or could you quickly line up an alternative place to work? 

What to do if there’s an unplanned power cut 

If you have a power cut, check whether it’s affecting just your property or whether adjoining premises are affected too. If they still have power then the problem could be with your own equipment. 
If it’s safe to do so, check whether there are any lights visible on your electricity meter. If the lights are flashing this means that electricity is coming into your premises.
Check your fuse box. You can do this by turning off the mains power using the main trip switch and then all of the smaller trip switches; then turn the mains power back on followed by the smaller switches one at a time. If one of the smaller switches refuses to stay in the upright position and continues to trip this usually means there’s a problem somewhere in your building and you will need to call your landlord or a qualified electrician.
If there’s still no power, you can report or get updates about a power cut by visiting on your smart phone or calling 105

Floods and electricity 

If your premises have flooded, don’t touch any electrical appliances, cables or equipment standing in flood-water or any appliances that have been immersed in water. If water is about to enter your property, turn off your electricity supply via your isolator switch or fuse box, but only if it’s safe to do so.
Call Northern Powergrid if any of your equipment has been under water or if your electricity supply is off.

Northern Powergrid is the company responsible for the electricity distribution network that powers everyday life for 8 million customers across 3.9 million homes and businesses in Yorkshire, the North East and northern Lincolnshire. If there is a power cut, we’re ready 24/7 to fix it.  The electricity network operator offers a range of useful resources:

  • 105 – the free number to call to report a power cut 
  • Online power cut map providing real time updates about power cuts  Whether planned or unplanned, you’ll be able to locate your power cut, find out what’s happened and when your power is due back on. You can also report a power cut.
  • 24/7 customer support on Facebook and Twitter (@NorthPowergrid)
  • Guidance videos to help you check your property if there’s a power cut – cut
  • Additional advice can be found at
  • Northern Powergrid’s customer care team can provide a letter confirming the details of the power cut for you to pass on to your insurers in case of damage to your contents or property
Northern Powergrid manages a network of more than 63,000 substations and some 60,000 of overhead lines and underground cables spanning 9,650 square miles.  Its team of 2,700 employees is dedicated to delivering a safe and reliable electricity supply to customers, and it’s investing and innovating today to deliver the energy systems of the future to support the economies and communities it serves.