How to Plan for, Prevent and Manage a Power Failure

With summer upon us, meeting planners are busy gearing up for a variety of outdoor events. Organizing those events is no small endeavor, but all of your planning and coordination will be for naught if the power goes out at the big event. If it can happen at the Super Bowl, it can happen anywhere. While generators are an essential backup power solution, assuming you are covered just because your event space, venue or hotel has a generator backup system is unwise. Generators fail. Fuel runs out. And, even if backup power systems are present and operational, the venue may not have enough fuel or generator capacity to keep everything needed for your event up and running. Frequently, backup systems are designed to keep essential functions powered, and critical event infrastructure like portable lights and heaters, coolers, trailers and other large equipment may not be supported. If you are organizing a large event this summer, it is crucial to know how to plan for, prevent and power through potential power failures. Vet the venue. Outline all equipment needs (including lighting, heating/cooling, refrigeration, etc.) with your venue partner ahead of time to get an idea of its equipment inventory and capabilities. Identify any gaps that need to be filled so you know what equipment to secure outside of what the venue is offering. Once that equipment is lined up, ask specifically about the fueling logistics for that equipment. Does the venue have its own fueling partner that will guarantee the equipment stays running? What is the contingency plan if something goes wrong? If the venue does not have a sufficient backup plan in place, it is up to you to implement one. Have a backup plan for your backup plan. While most venues have generators and other backup power, even these can fail, and it happens far more often than you might suspect. The extraordinary demand placed on equipment that is often not properly serviced or maintained leads to many instances of backup systems failing at the very moment they are most needed. Consequently, you need to have your own plan in place. Identify potential weaknesses in advance and build a plan that addresses those weaknesses. While extra standby equipment and a fueling partner that can guarantee delivery are staples of any good plan, it is a good idea to brainstorm a range of potential scenarios and solutions (i.e., what do you do when a generator runs out of fuel unexpectedly and a key lighting grid or cooler is knocked out?). When a lot of people and a lot of money are riding on an event, there is no such thing as being too prepared. Sample local talent. When developing your backup plan, it may be necessary to engage additional outside local and regional specialty vendors. If you are running a major tour, outdoor festival or other large event, and the venue is not able to meet all of the requisite equipment, fuel or power needs, you may have already established relationships with those vendors. If you do not know where to start, however, ask your venue partner for recommendations. They often have a list of preferred contacts in the area whose work they are familiar with and whose service they can vouch for. Ask a lot of questions. When vetting a backup power or fueling partner for your event, you can never ask too many questions. Detailed, specific and persistent questioning is the single best way to ensure that a vendor or partner has the capabilities, know-how and experience to support your function. Ask about their delivery time window, and ensure they can deliver in tight timeframes, potentially during off-hours to avoid getting in the way or detracting from the event. Can they guarantee delivery? If power is lost because of a weather emergency or other major disruption, does your fueling partner have the ability or network to deliver fuel, no matter what? How is that guarantee enforced? Make certain they will be on-call 24/7 to deliver if something goes wrong. And finally, try and get a good sense of what the vendor’s team is like. If they need to be working on-site in an emergency or outage, your fueling partner may be interacting with event attendees. As a result, make sure they are professional, respectful and well-dressed. Even when you feel that you’ve covered all potential mishaps, it’s crucial to have backup power supplies in place for any large event. The best of plans can—and do—go awry, and you never know when disaster might strike. When it does, however, well-prepared planners will be ready to respond, and most assuredly will not be in the dark. Chad Wenzel is vice president of sales at Atlas Oil Company, a national fuel supply, logistics and services company based in Taylor, Michigan.