Power outage — two words that either keep or wake facilities managers up at night. Rather than tossing and turning or turning over disaster scenarios in your mind, prepare for this inevitable occurrence by assessing the risk in your power architecture and protecting critical systems to lessen the impact of short duration events.
We define critical power as: providing conditioned, reliable power to essential loads in the industry and infrastructure spaces, including power for assets like process equipment, facilities systems and critical appliances. Breaking this down further, we define typical power architectures.
- Building entrance/utility power- This is power provided by your electric utility and connected to the majority of electric loads.
- Essential power – In many cases, a generator, fueled by oil or natural gas, is part of the electrical system to provide power when an interruption from the utility occurs.
- Emergency and/or critical loads – Certain electrical loads (examples are emergency lighting, data centers and electronic devices) cannot lose power during the delay between a utility power loss and the establishment of power to these sensitive or emergency devices.
The impact of a short duration power loss could be as mild as the inconvenience of no lights, to worse, loss of product production and, the gravest, in the case of hospitals and other healthcare organizations, loss of life. Which systems you protect will depend on the possible effects.
Asking the right questions will ensure you are best prepared and will safeguard the most consequential systems. If power is lost will there be damage to equipment? Could customer data be exposed? Will manufacturing operations cease? Are human lives at stake? How long will it take to get systems up and running again?
It’s important to pose power loss scenarios to the right people as well — those who support the equipment at the ground level and are working the processes everyday will best understand the impact.
Then, power architecture assessment should start from the bottom up. Any organization will have several systems and processes in place in a facility. Within those systems and processes, there are machines or appliances. Within the machines or appliances, there are intelligent devices on the network. The farther down into the layers you go, the more meaningful the abstraction to identify your risks becomes.
Taking a holistic look at your facility’s power architecture, you might find it’s best to have centralized UPS protection versus protection each and every machine.
Let’s say you have eight machines and two networks that tie everything together, but only two machines are tied to critical process and have challenging recovery times. In this case, best practices would be to install a UPS that protects the critical machines and network versus including the other six machines that don’t present much risk.
Critical Systems Assessment in Healthcare
For context, let’s take an imaging center in a hospital. An MRI has long cycle time and is a large pay point, so it makes sense to put a UPS on it. On the other hand, CT systems and X-ray machines have short cycle times and are not as high value. There’s no need to individually protect them.
However, when you roll all the machines up and look at the overall imaging system, for the sake of continuity, it may make sense to create a power distribution architecture to protect everything.
Of course, in hospitals, losing power could also mean life or death. Surgical equipment, pumps, monitors and other life-supporting medical devices can never go down. While all hospitals have back up power in place, the moments between power loss and the generators powering up are critical.
For further detail, I’ve created a risk assessment grid; taking power architecture examples from a hospital environment and breaking them down into systems, branches, subsystems and feeders and ranking the various impacts of a short duration power loss.
The cumulative grid score provides a value calculation for individual UPS systems applied to each machine or subsystem and for centralized UPS protecting multiple systems. The results reveal some obvious areas for power protection investment and help weigh cost versus safety.
Use the risk assessment as a guide to help determine which pieces of your infrastructure need to be protected and why; then you’ll be able to implement the right power protection solutions for your organization.